TuneDig is an in-depth and informed conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music — one album at a time.

In each episode, we go down the rabbit hole to spend a while in the strange world we discover. We take an honest look at creativity in all its complexity—from writing and production to history and cultural impact.

We promise you’ll learn something new every time, no matter how much you already love the album we explore.

Episode 51

I Want You

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye’s well of soul power ran mighty deep, and deep into his career, he pulled up a bucket of ice-cold, silky smooth champagne called “I Want You.” Come for the lush instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and Leon Ware clinic; stay for the stories.

For our return from hiatus, we observe a titan in his element, reflect on the pain that built him into one, and consider how to reconcile our feelings when complicated messengers deliver beauty to our door.

Transcript

Cliff: You’re listening to TuneDig, a conversation between two lifelong friends about the power of music, one album at a time. I am Cliff Seal.

Kyle: And I’m Kyle Stapleton. Each episode, we talk about a single album in depth, unpacking it through conversation to understand what makes it worth appreciating and learning a little bit about life along the way.

Cliff: If you’re listening for the first time because we’re covering an artist or a record you love, we can promise you will learn something new or gain a new perspective by the end of the episode.

Kyle: And if you’ve stuck with us for multiple episodes, you know, by now that you’re bound to expand your horizons as we share clear entry points for artists. You may have never tried to get into before. Today, we’re talking about, I want you by Marvin Gaye.

We are back.

Cliff: Once again, dragged into submission by the people that we’ve met out in this world who seem to think that you and I talking into microphones together about music create some sort of joy in their life. Which I continue to be both delighted by and shocked by.

Kyle: have such a hard time rectifying the, steadily deteriorating hell hole. That is the internet landscape with the great things that have been wrought from talking about music and throwing it into the internet void. like getting hit up by a. Vinyl bar in Bangkok, Thailand who were playing some of our music recommendations at their listening station.

Cliff: Yep

Kyle: How does that happen? Music is a, is a beautiful thing far beyond us. And I think we’re going to be talking about a particularly beautiful piece of music today. Quite excited about it. It’s the, I think, longest break we’ve ever taken from the one record at a time. We’ve done some really cool sort of diversions that I’m, pleased as punch with, namely deep diving into heavy music.

but it’s good to be back with like the OG format it is a little different now though, because it’s tied into this sort of new chapter that we’re exploring.

We somewhat psychopathically built a whole calendar, with a different album recommendation every day. Precision engineered for maximum diversity of all stripes day over day in your life. So 366 new albums taking the algorithm and the stupidity and the junk out of it.

Just one new thing to focus on each day in a little bit of meditative fashion and to your point, just like. gobsmacked that a one single human person that’s not us cares at all but just the volume and passion of the response has been crazy.

Cliff: all we can do is trust the joy that we are putting together and then putting back out about just music in general, but you know, we’ll probably talk more about this not only in this episode, but in future ones, we’ve got an, a special focus now, I think on learning to extract joy from music as a discipline, in any scenario, in any context, almost no matter what you’re listening to. And I’m sure we’ll talk more about. Some of the reasoning behind that calendar idea, but the way that having a predetermined thing to listen to each day puts you in a different position relative to music and gives you the challenge of saying, okay, I don’t get choice today. Today I get this one bit of music and today I’m going to figure out how to like it. and that’s a fun

Kyle: or you know, think about, think different thoughts, and then walk away and never listen to it again, but be glad that you did the thing.

Cliff: like is relative, I guess, but the ability to appreciate something, not just in a kind of bland historical sense, but in a like, I believe that there’s something in this that I can get out of it, no matter what it is, and that is easy enough we’re, we constantly find ourselves To be clever.

So, naturally, the calendar starts with something like Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, so that we could get a bunch of people on board with this idea who are like, oh yeah, I’m gonna be listening to a bunch of stuff that makes me feel cool every day. And then, it’s not too many weeks before you hit, uh Oops, I did it again, or something else that maybe otherwise confronts your idea of what sort of music you’re supposed to be listening to to keep up the pretense of who you think you are relative to all that music. I know that we found a lot of joy even just in that moment of hearing from especially Some white guys who were like, so you want me to listen to Britney Spears today? Like I do and I’m surprised that you’re surprised

Kyle: I will be doing it as well

Cliff: Absolutely. I had a great day. Yeah.

Kyle: I especially like, and have come to appreciate and reflecting after a few months of this exercise, that you are no longer the same person at the end of the day that you were at the beginning of the day. You either are thinking about a record you already know in the context of where you are in life now, or And like just being forced to listen to an album you like is different than selecting it yourself, like different headspace entirely, or you have been served something that, the tentacles of the algorithm wouldn’t get you to, it was just like total hard left back of the vinyl bin that you never got around to thumbing to.

And then you know, you know something different or you’ve been somewhere in the world or you’ve, you’ve traveled to a place in inner space that you’ve never explored, you know, just like all that excites me so much. And as we get older, as the shows and records and miles and life experiences accumulate, and it gets harder and harder to find the high, I guess, so to speak.

I’m more filled with gratitude than I’ve ever been. That music can still do for me what it did when I was three years old and my parents put on a record in the corner of the living room. I don’t know of anything else in the world that can do that.

Cliff: We’re gonna end up talking a lot about that idea how to apply it And then how to get really good at it. I think one thing that we are leaning into, me and you, and we’re trusting other people who have told us that we help them in this way, and we’re trusting ourselves because we help each other in this way, but we’re leaning into the idea that we have some amount of talent about doing this with pretty much any amount of music.

Kyle: I don’t know about any of that shit. I just know. I just know. I feel compelled to do it. I’m just going to keep doing it, whether there’s anything to do with it or not. It just is such a joy that there is to do with it and other people kind of get excited to do the same things.

Cliff: Yeah, 100%. But every time we lean into that idea and just share how we’re thinking about finding a way to experience a new bit of music, we hear from someone else who says, honestly, something just totally unexpected, either like we get a message about, I’d never thought to listen to this, or I can’t believe I’ve never listened to this, or I’ve never paid attention to it that way or I’m going to draw a visual interpretation of everything I’m

listening to every day because this is changing my life in a really specific way, like this idea that what we can do Not only in general, but specifically in these podcast episodes is not only talk about albums the way we have in the past, which we’ve heard from people are really fun to listen to.

And we teach something, uh, and we learn something and we learn to appreciate something different than we did before all that’s still true. And we want to carry all that stuff forward and we want to give interesting things and not just sit for an hour and give. Blank, dumb opinions about certain things and how we like certain genres and not, but instead to go really specifically into not only what about the music makes it interesting, but specifically, as we’ll talk about in this episode and others. Real legitimate listening exercises that we can do to extract things because it turns out that me and you, Kyle, are doing a lot of these things, whether we’re preparing for a podcast episode or whether we’re just trying to figure out if that new Escuela Grind EP is as good as we hoped it was going to be. In either case, we know how to sit down with a thing. And try to get some stuff out of it. And if we aren’t sure where to go, we can prompt ourselves with a few things and try to figure out how to listen actively or passively. And so that’s going to be intertwined into more of what we talk about and more of what we experience when it comes to these records, because we can teach other people how to see things that we don’t see yet, because they can have their own experience with it just by exercising some, honestly, just discipline.

Learning to listen to music and love it as a discipline and learning to get better at approaching it that way and seeing what else kind of unfolds in life when you do that.

Kyle: You know, it hadn’t occurred to me until just now, and you didn’t say it exactly this way, but like the idea that our opinions don’t matter. At all, what we think or don’t think of the music as part of our personal experience. I think what has made this podcast special to me is we’re just sort of laying ourselves bare and growing as we go and hopefully giving people permission to.

We’re inviting people to grow alongside us. it’s such a waste of time exercise to say, This is good or this is bad, or this record was better for this artist than this other one. You and I definitely have all those feelings and we air that stuff out constantly in our texts, but I think what’s valuable in the forum is just like what What can music do for us and what’s happening here with this album or this song or this moment?

That is like other things that we have experienced and grown from or what is totally unique And you know, how is that sort of a microcosm of the human experience? Anyway, all that’s very heady. so thanks for bearing with us on that. But I hope what you take away from that is that we’re excited to get back at it.

We were a little pent up, I think, from being away for so long. So with the calendar, we are taking one album a month to sort of zoom in on and talk at greater length because the calendar is just sort of here it is. Enjoy it. Endorsement implicit. but it’s nice to dig in and unpack and we didn’t get around to it right at the top of the year.

But April, the starting of the spring, the arguable real start, real first month of the year, is as good a time as any. And this is a great one. the late great Marvin Gaye.

Cliff: In classic form for us, a record That is complex to approach and enjoy, made by a human being. It was complex to approach and enjoy. At a time, that was complex to approach and enjoy. And we can hold all of these things together. And to your point, Not worry about whether it’s good capital G or bad capital B and try to put it into a column one way or the other because it’s a really, it lacks a lot of nuance and it steals a lot of joy to try to categorize things that way or to judge them before you get there. And so to that end, this is a fantastic record to think about. How we can not only let the music come to us and show us things and give us appreciation for Musicality, and production, and music theory, and instrumentation, and lyrics, and people moaning in the background.

Um,

Kyle: So much, moaning, dude.

Cliff: I learned so much about party records thanks to this album. Um, but we can have all of that, and we can still have the backdrop of understanding, as best we could, who Marvin Gaye was at this time. Who these people are that he wrote. Semi wrote this record about who he’s singing to their ages his ages like Relationships people involved like it’s such a web of people and things that come together to create these Monolithic albums that we look back on as singular points in history And so it’s a great opportunity for us to step right back in Pick a gnarly one apart and look at all the good stuff that that’s inside of it While also acknowledging some of the, the rough stuff that’s there as well.

Kyle: this record is, everything that’s great about music because it works. Sort of both wavelengths, right? You can put it on and no, no, like never seen a picture of Marvin Gaye. No, absolutely nothing about the man or anything we’re going to talk about and just be like, damn, this is something. but context also deeply enriches what you’re hearing and not just like you said on the literal sonic production.

And playing level, but sort of the, the stories that are behind it and help it pack a punch. So I think like exercise number one is if you’ve never heard it before, stop the tape, stop the tape now and go listen to the record. Totally cold. I would almost give anything to be able to have never heard it at all as a fully formed presently listening adult.

And then come back and let’s talk again and choose our own adventure.

Cliff: Yep. That’s always the first order of business if you pull up this podcast and you haven’t heard the thing we’re

Kyle: Start with them, not with us. Don’t let us be the first word on the thing.

Cliff: Oh, man. Yes, we really don’t want to shape your first time experience of music if we can help it. We’d much rather give you a thing to think about when you listen to it for the second, fifth, tenth, and fiftieth times later on cause that’s when the magic really starts to happen, I think.

Kyle: Normally when we record, I’m at like the 40th listen or so, and then it. And then we say a bunch of things, and then I think about those things when we go back to listen to it. And I, since we have started doing this podcast, have increasingly gotten this feeling that I never really started understanding or liking a record.

And we’ve talked about some of my favorite records ever until we’ve recorded the episode. Like I just, I, I love them so much more than I ever thought I could. So record episode back to the record as quickly as possible.

Cliff: And without putting too much formality around all of it, because we still want to keep this really conversational because that is how TuneDig works. But, we do have a few kind of tent poles that I think we’ve decided to set up for future episodes. And I think it’s good to just give a heads up that these are kind of the places we’ll be going. First of all, we’ve talked about this in past episodes, sort of. casually. But one sort of nearly religious maxim that we have here is if we are going to sit in front of microphones and talk about music and then put it on the internet for people to hear, one thing we want to avoid as best we can is just Raw conjecture. So not just I think a thing is good or bad, or I think a thing was good or bad, but also trying really hard not to fill in gaps from stories about what was going on for the artist at the time, or what was going on in the production, or what was going on with the music. It’s really easy to hear a story. And fill in those holes with like what you think about what that person was doing or going through And getting sort of telling yourself a story about the music And so we really want to try to avoid that as best we can not because this is the hardcore history podcast but because we would much rather you have a Factually based idea of what was happening and if we don’t know a detail we don’t know a detail That’s a gap. You can go figure it out when you listen to the music, or it can just be something that we don’t know. But we try really hard to just avoid sitting and spinning through things we think so much about the record. And so, in service of that, we want to do two kind of big chunks. Of context about a record first history and context So history and context, uh is never actually objective.

It has to be written down It has to be a story that you read back to yourself, right? So we sort of break reality immediately, but as much as we can trying to give you Like factual contextual information about the record to help you understand why, who, where, all that sort of thing. Right. Some of the interesting trivia and tidbits we’ve talked about over the years for records will still fit into that bucket for sure. But then related to that and sort of separate from it, though, we also want to make sure that we’re touching on what we find to be the artist’s intent around the particular album. And so, again, that is. Different than us trying to assume what intent is, that’s more about how can we go back and look at interviews? How can we go back and read liner notes? How can we speak to, ideally professionals or authors or experts on what was happening at a particular time when an album was made? and be inquisitive about the artist’s intent. Knowing that it is an inherently subjective thing to begin with. But, knowing that an artist had an intention for a record can help shape it in a particular way. That’s, you know, diametrically different from just a fact about that record itself. So, we want to give history and context. We also want to try as best we can to represent artist’s intent using source material, for pretty much all of that whenever possible. And then lastly, something that I think we probably allowed ourselves to be inspired from our own, podcast offshoot, uh, as we did Friday, heavy episodes, which were really focused on heavy music and were much shorter form in their episodes. One thing that we did was we talked much more about how to make cultural impacts and how the music from, Punk, hardcore, drone, all sorts of different genres created societal impact or energy to create further societal impact. And so in that sense, we also want to make sure that we’re touching on how music impacted the culture around us. And that could be. Something as straightforward as, you know, music that ended up being inspired, which we’ll talk about today, right? People who loved this record and did something with it later on as another form of music. But also as we’ll talk about from this record, I mean, the artwork itself has its own story that we could talk about for 30 minutes minimum. About not only where it came from, but what it may have inspired after that and who was involved. and so, thinking deeply again about what was going on at the time an album was made, what’s the history and context, what did the artist mean as best we can understand now from when they were actually trying to make this piece of art.

With, you know, usually a series of collaborators and then lastly, what do we see as the impact from this music so that we can not only interpret and enjoy it ourselves personally, but we can get a better idea of what music ends up meaning to people who. For the most part are generally just different from us And in this particular case, I don’t just mean people who are not white dudes Although white dudes have a unique opportunity to radically experience different cultures if they’ll open their minds to it on a pretty regular basis through music

Kyle: And if you’ve never seen a picture of us or can’t make inferences from the voices you’re listening to, we white. We’ve been Affleck,

anyway, that was longer windup than I think we’ve ever done on an episode. Let’s talk about, I want you released, right around the spring equinox, mid March of 1976.

Cliff: Absolutely. The record we’re talking about today, I feel the best quick summary to start with is this one sentence overview. Quote, It’s difficult. It’s horny. And it’s definitely not for everyone. That’s fantastic. You could probably apply that to almost any record that we cover on this podcast. I like it a lot.

Those are three things that align with my personal values. So

I want

Kyle: The, best, I’m constantly in search of the best title for a memoir, opening line of a memoir, and that is the new global high water mark.

Cliff: difficult, horny, and definitely not for everybody. This is a very good t shirt. I’m going to be advertised about on Instagram soon. I’m sure. So, I Want You was released March 16th, 1976. And just to be really clear and go ahead and put it in the context that we need from an artist perspective, right? This is the follow up to Let’s Get It On, which came out in 1973, which was the follow up to What’s Going On.

Kyle: With the soundtrack to Troubleman and a Diana Ross collab album and some other stuff sprinkled in between.

Cliff: Yeah.

Kyle: I said earlier that the album works beautifully with or without context, but there are two pieces of context that I think are critical. For fully appreciating what’s happening here.

Just like the first sort of wow moments for me. it is his 14th studio album released on, on Tamla, the subsidiary of Motown. 14 albums, 1976, 20 or so years in the biz at this point. this man has lived a whole ass Dewey Cox. Walk hard life by this point, there’s a grown up in DC with, to say he had a difficult relationship with his father is a wild understatement, especially if you know how the Marvin Gaye story ends, he’s a central fixture in the Motown scene, the rise of Motown, which would have been 10 nigh on 15 years.

Past at this point, he had a duets era with Tammy Terrell, who has died six years prior to this record coming out. he has a massive, massive hit in heard it through the grapevine, a song he covered, and was played over the opening credits of the big chill. So like central cultural figure, you could stop 99 percent of artists careers there.

And that’s like. That’s a full documentary, right? But then he makes a big political statement in 71 with what’s going on, which could have easily been the record that we talked about to dip into Marvin Gaye and is as phenomenal an entry point for an artist as humanly imaginable. And, on the short list of like, if you bury a time capsule of 10 American records.

probably one of them alongside Kind of Blue. he did the Trouble Man soundtrack, as Barry Gordy is trying to tow into Hollywood and be a big producer, and the Trouble Man soundtrack is as soul music gets for my money. then he does, or Trouble Man was after Let’s Get It On, but he does Let’s Get It On in 73.

Crazy record. And so the what’s going on, let’s get it on is like two massive, massive records back to back. And so all of that gives you a long simmering stew of influences that leads to. Sounds and subject matter that you get mashing together here into really like a blend. I think one of the first things you’ll notice when you put on the record is it doesn’t feel like it has a start and end point.

It’s almost kind of hard to know, where you are in the suite and like you, you really need to think of it as a suite. It’s 11 tracks, it’s eight unique pieces, but it’s like, It’s a little bit sleeps dope smokery because it’s, it fades in and out of parts and you get the, I want you motif two more times instrumental in addition, you know, and you get after the dance instrumental and then it’s the closing track.

It’s like, it’s a mess if you’re trying to focus and be like, it’s this song and then this song, it is hard. so there’s a lot going on there. You know, just think about also in his, like extrapolate from his life, zoom out in 1964 alone, you have MLK winning the Nobel prize. The Civil Rights Act, the murders in Mississippi in the summer of 64 that we talked about on the Sun House episode, the Beatles doing Ed Sullivan and arriving in America, Beatlemania, the Supremes start taking off LBJ bombing Vietnam and the Vietnam war.

You have the rise of the Jackson five and Michael Jackson, who was hugely influenced by. Marvin Gaye. You have the fall of Motown by the time this record comes around. So like he’s sort of outrun that whole thing. You have Woodstock and then you have Marvin took a significant amount of time off and like went totally recluse and grew a beard and started hanging out with two all pro dudes from the Detroit Lions and stopped smoking and partying and almost tried out for the Detroit Lions. so I just named at least a dozen things and any one of those things is like, Oh my God, what? And they all happened in 10 or 15 years of his life. So it’s it’s astounding to me It’s a minor miracle thinking about the million butterfly effect things that had to happen just for this one magical little document to exist And I think the richness of feel that comes to the surface, because this album is like pure 190 proof feel, doesn’t happen without every single one of those things.

And of course that makes me reflect on my own life everything that happened is because of all the good and bad stuff that happened before it. The difference between I Want You and My Life is I Want You also wouldn’t have happened, and this is by Marvin’s own admission, without a ton, a literal he doesn’t.

He cannot calculate amount of cocaine. so that, that’s all the first factor, right? Is the, the millions of factors leading up very, very deep in his career. Like he’s a ostensibly an old head by this point. but a, a huge cultural figure. The other thing is, I like, I can’t help but think of the Teddy Perkins, great things come from great pain, and you can draw the line from Michael Jackson.

Inspiring that episode right on back to Marvin, there are some deep psychological tensions that he never managed to resolve in his life, that I was really struck reading, uh, divided soul by David Ritz and, you know, there’s, there’s some problems with that as a document of his life as there always is with a biography, but, he had direct and intimate access and there are a lot of direct quotes from Marvin in that book.

So I, I think it’s worth a read if you want to dive deep after this. Yeah. I haven’t read, um, but it’s Michael Eric Dyson. So I would sort of recommend it on its face. A book called Mercy Me, art loves and demons of Marvin Gaye. so like, I don’t want us to play too much into the tortured artist thing, but if there was an archetype of it in the American popular cultural memory, Marvin was it to a T.

And then Janice, the. Then mistress, eventually wife, later ex wife, who this record was sort of pointed at also wrote a book many, many years later called after the dance, which as you know, is one of the song titles on this. So like there’s, TLDR, there’s like a, it doesn’t seem like a lot when you’re first listening to it.

It’s subtlety is very deceptive, but there’s like 16 tons of stuff. undergirding the sort of effervescence of this record,

Cliff: Yep, Janice Hunter, that you mentioned there at the end, who wrote After the Dance she will be a topic today because she was the topic very much of this album. But, point taken and agreed, right? We don’t want to, we don’t want to love on the tortured artist idea too much, but It’s also a good example of just what we were talking about earlier, right? Uh, what we can do in this episode and thinking about this album is instead of judging that concept of, does someone who had a truly ruinous childhood do they, become good or bad depending on what they do within their singular lifetime based on whether they’re able to overcome those struggles or not pass that pain on to other people. We can just go ahead and say he, he did, he did hurt other people, throughout his life. He also was hurt himself. That past that you talked about is, is truly awful. And no one deserves what he experienced either. So instead of us trying to encapsulate whether that means that a thing or a person or art is good or bad in some specific dichotomous way, instead we can just acknowledge all of that.

And like you said, understand that all of that went into this piece of art that now we can experience much later. It was a different purview, different point of view but we can have an understanding of what went into it, but we can look at it with the eyes that we have today and still pull something interesting out. and so to that end as well, at the time, you mentioned all of the things that were kind of going on in the lead up to this record, that’s not only a lot, but also focusing in on just kind of like the time right before this record began to exist as this record that belongs to Marvin Gaye. This itself. I want you has basically a long past of having existed in various forms and got the existence of some of these songs are in fact what got Marvin Gaye interested in creating another record after let’s get it on to begin with.

Kyle: which he was notorious. It was notoriously hard to get him to do that. And Barry Gordy struggled to like innovate new ways to trick him back into the studio.

Cliff: right. And there’s, there’s so much to cover as well that we won’t have time to talk about today that sort of illuminates. What that must have felt like at the time, because there’s, there are plenty of stories about sort of his relationship to Motown especially the, you know, if you’ve kind of

Kyle: was personal

Cliff: yeah, and if you’ve studied or learned about Motown very much at all, like one thing you’ll start to walk away with eventually is they were. Perfectionists as a label and as such often applied a high level of scrutiny to the type of subject matter, music quality, anything that would come out of what Motown was producing

Kyle: that they had a charm school. Like, I think that always puts it into perspective for me. They like sent their artist to finishing school, essentially.

Cliff: Yep. And so prior to this point, Marvin Gaye and Motown, we’ll just refer to the entity of Motown, right, kind of in one thing, but

there had already been a relationship there where not only had there been some relationship artistic tension with wanting Marvin to do certain things that aligned with what Motown was putting out prior to his own records, but then also remember that, what’s going on was effectively a thing that Marvin Gaye won against Motown, so to speak.

Like, yes, they all put it out together, but, Yes. In retrospect, everyone is really happy. That record exists more or less, but that doesn’t mean like we talk about with a ton of records, it doesn’t mean it was easy to convince anybody to put it out at the time. So there was already like a lot of

dense

Kyle: nobody was psyched about the iPhone until it was the biggest thing in the world.

Cliff: Yeah, exactly.

Kyle: then everybody’s like, wow, what a great idea we all had.

Cliff: Yeah. How obvious I could have thought to just have a phone that was only a screen, bro. Of course I could have thought of that myself. all those things were true and were leading up into this moment before I Want You existed, where Marvin was on a quote unquote religious sabbatical, and, his, Place in life at this time is not one where I think we should take any specific phrasing He said at any point as direct gospel of what he actually thought there is plenty of Trauma and drug use and all sorts of things here so that we you know Have a harder time understanding exactly what was happening then But, uh, what we hear from others is that he had basically sworn off ever doing a commercial record again. and what changed his mind was Barry Gordy, actually, who was co writing some hits with, like, Michael Jackson. And he was Diana Ross’s brother. There’s the story of Marvin Gaye involves a lot of people related to people in Motown Records. And so this was

Kyle: Also important to note, and, you know, I’m sorry to everyone that I should know this, and I don’t know the exact contours, but, Diana Ross, at least a muse to Barry Gordy, perhaps a love interest, but Diana Ross very much like the center of Barry Gordy’s universe, just professionally and as a human being.

Cliff: Yeah, so there was this song, I Want You, that already existed. I think this is a cool way to talk about this record and contextualize it, right? It’s, very few records have the total linear, we started from nothing, we wrote everything together only as this group of artists,

and then, You know, perfected and recorded it exactly as is.

It’s rarely like that. And I think folks know that, but especially around this time and with records like this, it’s cool to understand that this was more of a collection of things that Marvin Gaye put himself into. That might be too apt a description based on the subject matter. So let me say instead, this is something that Marvin

Kyle: Made his own.

Cliff: There you go.

Thank you. and so I want you already existed as a demo and got Marvin really excited. I fell in love with the song alone. And then it turned out that. As Marvin learned more about what could be done and started hearing more about other people’s music that had been written or other people he was inspired by, he started to get an idea for a total record that he could put together and eventually got pretty excited about.

Um,

Kyle: I liked the anecdote where they were working on, I think on I want you, but the very first demo and then. Leon Ware, who we’ll, we’ll talk about played some other stuff, like including some duets he’d been working on for Minnie Ripperton was playing some of his own stuff through the wall at the studio.

And Marvin came in and was like, I love all this. I want all of it. If you give it to me, like I’ll do the whole album. and this, this was like way before the era of the You know, future and Metro Boomin, where it’s like the music and the voice sort of massive super group that, but you can see like some sort of nascent strains of where that kind of thing would, would come to be, but it was like, not the mode of the time at all.

Uh, very unusual for like sort of a super producer, writer, single person and a super performer, musician, single person to, to join forces and, You know, with your powers combined, dot, dot, dot.

Cliff: yeah. And Leon Ware is a critical part of not only understanding what’s going on on this record, But also in kind of understanding more about what this record did afterwards and especially in the, in the very short time frame after that because Leon Ware also put out a record called Musical Massage, uh, I believe not long after this, and because of its association with the I want you and Marvin Gaye in general and all this, right? It sort of led to a swelling of appreciation for that type of music, which was still highly sensual, right? Led to genres like quiet storm. Uh, like I feel like referring to any of this stuff as R and B is pretty. Uh, it, it, it,

yeah, it doesn’t I, I understand why we start there and it’s important.

This influenced R& B for sure,

but it’s, uh,

Kyle: It’s really more of a, like, you, you can’t convey it in audio, like, only with us looking at each other. It’s someone where you, make eye contact and you’re like, you know, you know what it is. You, you know. Like I do every time, I go to talk about voodoo, ever since we did that episode. Well, what’s going on?

Why do you like that record so much? You know, bro.

Cliff: Yep, in fact, we can just, we’ll shortcut to a moment I’m sure we’ll mention later on. But basically if Voodoo, if D’Angelo makes your body react in any way, when you were listening to that record, make sure you listen to this one, there, there is a spiritual succession and relationship here that. It’s speaking of reductive, it’d be pretty reductive to just say like this created Neo Soul down the road.

That’s definitely not the case, but this it’s hard to make a case that Voodoo would have existed in its current form had this record not existed beforehand in its form.

Kyle: One of the things that stuck with me the most about Voodoo when we were getting to know it is you know, the method wasn’t like yes, we have all these influences let’s just go write songs. They Quite literally conjured their way to it. They would just play jam and jam and jam and, and, you know, woodshop these songs by Prince and Sly and all these people that they really liked, until it turned into jams and started mutating and became the songs.

And it, you know, it just came up out of the smoke and there’s a, even though Leon brought these songs. Mostly pretty fully formed to Marvin. Leon himself said, you know, the, the songs weren’t the songs until Marvin put his magic on them. So there’s a similar element of like organic conjuring, bringing it to a third place, a new level that it, it wouldn’t have reached before, like a cool alchemy.

That was just sort of like going, going unconscious, getting into flow state, and just go in and go in and go in and what you have is, is a beautiful piece without beginning or end that you can, you can live in for a really, really long time without getting tired of it.

Cliff: A quick note on that, maybe before we go into some ways to listen and experience this record, especially on your first time through, what you just brought up is a key thing about this record to sort of see and understand it in its context. yes, it was primarily. Songs already written in one form or another, but everyone who has spoken about this record, either at the time or in the time since, who was involved in it, whether it was the people who literally wrote those songs or lyrics or not, there’s a number of anecdotes, but at the end of the day, what everyone had to say in, in very close relationship was, um, was, was It wasn’t really anything until Marvin did what he did to it, and then it was fully his.

this whole body of work really came alive when he took it on. I might overuse the word fascinating, but it’s really fascinating here from an intellectual perspective, I think, on this record to think about how someone could perceive the work. Of someone else and so quickly apply it to a very emotional and sort of like hot in the moment experience that someone was having because in this sense, we don’t have to go too far into the tabloid direction of this stuff to just give the quick context of it, right?

Like, I want you is a work of. Erotic tribute, okay, to a very specific woman Janice Hunter, who he would shortly marry afterwards, but we can quickly give a tour of what was actually happening at this time, because that’s true. He was very much in love with Janice Hunter, who, we should be clear, was significantly younger than him although, uh, is

bet

Kyle: 17?

Cliff: So This is the hair I’m going to split really quick. As far as I know, yes, they met when she was 17. What I didn’t find was any hint that there was concerning documented behavior prior to the age of consent from adults. I try real hard to just like, if we have Consenting adults in a situation, and I don’t have any further insight into it. I’m just gonna kinda say, that’s a little interesting and leave it there.

Kyle: I will take the first train to back in my business ville.

Cliff: But, part of the reason why that matters at all because, you know, when Leonardo DiCaprio does it, it’s gross, and that is also valid. What’s really fascinating was, his prior relationship, so to speak, Marvin Gaye’s, that he was not

yet done with at this

Kyle: prayer. Yeah, yeah.

Cliff: The, the person he was in a relationship with then, whose divorce he had not finalized, was 17 years his senior, So he was never in a very age equal relationship across these two.

Um, and so we, yeah, so we can kind of hold that up, uh, without, Unnecessary

judgment towards what may be, appropriate or inappropriate between consenting adults but what we can say and what is important to see here is like, this was, he was passionate about someone he cared about who he had a very passionate relationship with afterwards, their love was important to him.

He’s growing, and these songs are about her. They’re to her, they’re about her, uh, and he feels really comfortable expressing, well, a lot,

uh,

Kyle: I just say though

Cliff: know.

Kyle: the record was put out by the brother of the first wife

Cliff: Mm hmm.

Kyle: and I just can’t I can’t imagine the dynamic. of singing and presenting these songs and my excitement about them to, still legally, my brother in law and my boss and check signer just that’s complicated. That’s, that’s complicated.

Cliff: Too rich for my blood.

Kyle: And that’s, I remember there’s a long form interview with Donald Glover when Atlanta first came out where they showed them the first season and they were like, what’s up with urn and van? Are they, when are they going to get married? When in the arc is that? And he was like, no, no, no. Like culturally that it’s just like your aunt has a friend that comes around.

and he’s like, I’m gonna be in trouble every once in a while, but he’s not your uncle. But like, yeah, and it’s just like, you’re just not worried about it. And the people, the well meaning executives of FX really, what, what do you mean? What, I don’t, I don’t understand. You know, to your earlier point in the non judgment thing, it’s just like, there’s so much.

To unpack around like norms and just like he was a complicated dude and um none of the setup of this is the life that I would have personally chosen or gotten any enjoyment out of but It was his deal for better and for worse simultaneously and it gave us this thing

Cliff: Yep.

Kyle: This undeniable, this completely undeniable thing

Cliff: Yep. And if the salacious details titillate you, there’s a whole ass book for you to go read, so go do it.

Kyle: There are like one by her and then large chunks of other ones,

Cliff: Yeah. So.

Kyle: but definitely not the focal point. So just like a, huh, you know, like absorb that in, into your pores and don’t ever think or talk about it again, just bury it, bury it way down deep.

Cliff: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And that’s, that is part of, I think, what we have practiced ourselves. And. Yeah. Can help other people think through yeah, sometimes like all right. I don’t listen to Chris Brown fuck that guy Okay, straight up

period end of sentence. Okay.

Kyle: I’m gonna send this clip to all of my friends who I love and respect, who still inexplicably enjoy his music. Just

Cliff: that’s not a hard choice for me But that’s the one that I want to make and if somebody else Wants to reconcile the fact that they really like a Chris Brown tune with the fact that Chris Brown is this person Okay, if that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. We can both Come to things non judgmentally and approach them and get things back out of them. And so as best we can here’s like,

Kyle: can’t listen to Gary Glitter anymore, but sometimes at sporting events I do miss the Hey song.

Yeah.

Cliff: so like a lot of things We just like we wanted to pick this little bit up because it’s really important for understanding what this record is about It’s not just like a generically sexy record. It’s not just

Kyle: It’s very specifically

Cliff: It is it is horny in a very particular direction like

and they were

Kyle: you talk about artistic intent, that was the artistic intent.

Cliff: Yup. There are lyrics in here like, I wanna give you head. It’s not confusing, okay? Like, we W W

Kyle: Cliff, do you want to tell them what image you have selected to be at the top of the episode outline?

Cliff: W W W W We had a big sign on the mixing board in the studio. It was kind of subliminal. It said, in all capital letters, HEAD.

We were in the studio messing around

Kyle: that’s 72 point ass punt.

Cliff: right? Right in front of his face. So like, there was a re Like, playful is probably an overly simplified way of thinking about it, but there was like a real, like, playful, improvisational vibe to, basically, How do you want

Kyle: Comfortable, vulnerable.

Yeah.

just like, self actualized in the joy of connecting to a person in this way.

Cliff: Yeah. So, that’s why

Kyle: that long interview with Leon Ware The Jason King, who’s now the Dean of the Music School at USC, did a great writer. Leon Ware was like we are two guys that wanted to make a record that, like, Your kids wouldn’t be embarrassed that you made. It was natural, not nasty.

You know, like, it’s just a fact of life type stuff. Thing to be enjoyed and appreciated.

Cliff: yeah. Leon Ware clearly feels to this day, whether other people feel the same way about what he did or not, that yeah, like what he made was like, pure, he’d be like, he literally, like you said, I talked about being able to show it to kids, like his kids, uh,

like,

Kyle: he say something like, um, people tell me all the time how many babies have been made to this record? And that’s like the metric of success of this thing for me, which is awesome.

Cliff: so that’s one way to look at some of the context that makes, This record especially interesting and helpful to digest outside of just, you know, subjectively taking in the music itself without knowing anything else about it. Um, so like with many records, including all the ones we talk about in this podcast there’s always something to be added by kind of understanding as much as you can about what was happening, uh, and what went into what got created.

Kyle: Yeah. I think our goal is let context add value, not subject the second it starts to subtract value. And the thing is still worth listening to, like bail out of the context stuff and just strictly vibes.

Cliff: Yep. If it starts to feel like trivia, walk out of the wing spot.

Kyle: Get it to go, get it to go play though.

Cliff: Oh, yeah. So one of the, one of the ways that we’ve talked now about then doing this idea of kind of historical context and artist intent and impact is we’ve pulled out some specific exercises that we can talk through and recommend for you to listen to this album Under. So basically some new ways that you can approach the music. I mean, naturally, however, however it is you wanna listen to music is fine. 100% fantastic

Kyle: know how to do that for you better than anyone.

Cliff: That’s right. But when you are looking for more or trying to get something different out of it, we’ve found some particular kind of prompts that help us do exactly that. So one of the main ones that we’ve done here, especially for this first section, thinking about As much as we can objective context of the record. Well, we’ve talked about writing down, how do we take it in fresh, but tune in for key moments on the record. So what we mean here is like, when you’re listening to an album for the first time, especially one that’s, you know, is complex or important if you’re thinking a lot about it. You’re sort of filled with a lot of information. You’re trying to process that record sort of by force. There are things that you feel like you need to be able to understand. So. Instead, what we would encourage you to do, uh, is try to take it in fresh, but be able to tune into things that surprise you and sort of allow yourself to write those things down. Sort of similar to meditation in the sense of when a thought arises, well, there’s a thought. And then let it go. Sort of in that same sense, we went through and said, okay, what sort of surprised you on your first listens to this record? What sort of stood out? What notes did you take afterwards when you were trying to remember uh, what, what caught your ear when you were going through it first? So for me one of the main things that stuck out that I thought was funny, the very first 30 seconds of the record reminds me that the foundations of some of my, musical connections and webs, uh, many of those webs are. For better or worse centered around the Mars Volta, because the very first 30 seconds of this record reminds me of the way that, especially on Francis the Mute but on several other records, I mean, they have real long songs and very episodic type of music, but they will do kind of like these interlude y things in between them, and they are Extremely related vibe wise to what is going on on this record the percussion The way that the guitar is played Uh, and then all of that just reminded me once again, which usually happens Hey, buddy, you’re just looking for eddie hazel. Hey that line you’re tracing. That’s just a line back to eddie hazel

Kyle: And Jimmy.

Cliff: yeah for sure

Uh,

Kyle: Eddie. Yeah.

Cliff: but those really stuck out to me specifically because of the kind of Cadence and organization of the record like you pointed out the way that they’ve got these They’ve got sections in the record and then sort of like intro jams into them And it just feels like you’re moving through chapters and all the kind of mood music in between the chapters is so funk disco Samba, everything sort of all around that vibe.

I could just as easily imagine, a seventies Santana and band filling in, in between the songs before they pick back up.

Kyle: Totally. I’m never in a million years. I’ve been listening to this record a long time. Never in a million years would have made um and I want you Francis the mute comparison and now I’ll never unsee it in the best way but you know, we’ve gotten to see them. a couple of times since they’ve gotten back together and I think there’s a lot of Leon Ware, Marvin Gaye, sophistication, and restraint in the older, wiser Mars Volta, the, the new members currently in the band.

I, I think they would invite and appreciate that comparison

Cliff: Yes.

Kyle: more. They’re still more scary than sexy, but, uh,

Cliff: about to say, I really don’t want to see them either. Either one of the people in the Marzavulta try to turn their sexy on too hard. but yes, agreed.

Kyle: It’s um,

they are both simply a mirror inviting you to, release your inhibitions and feel the rain on your skin.

Cliff: but yeah, I’d say beyond those things as well. And then I’d love to hear what stood out for you. A couple of things that I think are worth paying attention to. First of all, on after the dance, the instrumental version of that track.

Kyle: Taylor’s version. Mm hmm.

Cliff: are fun things happening there that my brain kept forgetting to remember because that’s a lot of times how I experience listening to music that I feel like is important. I’m trying to pay too much attention to you, right? I kept forgetting that what I was hearing in that song Was a synth, because it gets played a lot like a guitar. And

then, but then my brain would do the whole I’d go all the way around the circle. Because it’d be like, who’s playing guitar? That’s a cool way to play guitar. That’s not a guitar. That’s a synth. Oh, that’s cool that he’s doing an instrumental track on this solo album. Oh wait, who’s playing synth? Marvin Gaye. Oh! Oh shit!

Kyle: He’s still saying it, my boy.

Cliff: got it.

Kyle: I did also have the thought, Cliff is somewhere on a ski lift right now making mouth noises to capture the synth. That’s such a you thing to do, like, Bow, bow, bow. Like, I hope to god, I just hope he’s on a lift by himself and nobody else is like, My god, who is this man?

Cliff: And I’d almost feel a little hesitant to let someone know I was listening to this record by myself all day, I think

Kyle: Yep, yep,

Cliff: Hey, were you.

listening to you? I want you on repeat

Kyle: I have a wife! I’m a wife guy! No, no, no! It’s not what it loo I was in the pool!

Synth.

Cliff: yeah, so what stood out to you

Kyle: You know, once I read the David Ritz book, it was hard not to see everything about Marvin Gaye in dichotomies. and I know our brains are primed to see, Opposites and dichotomies and pairs and stuff everywhere, but, sort of a, the, the low end, ran so the flourishes could fly type thing.

The first thing, surprisingly, that I noticed once I noticed that I like wasn’t noticing vibing really hard for. A stupendously long time, I was like, Oh, I should probably actually focus. If we’re going to talk about this, it was like such a delightful thing, you know, like being on a lazy river and being like, Oh, I’m drunk.

I should get out. was sort of my first sensation. And once I pushed past that into any level of awareness, the first thing was actually the rhythm section, which is like not immediate in the mix. It doesn’t really need to announce itself, which is not a Mars Volta thing. It was kind of motoric, like I was like, Oh shit, this is kind of like a can record almost a little bit like they’re locked into a groove and it’s so tasteful and gentlemanly, there’s not a single hit or vibration or anything more than is absolutely necessary.

Nothing is delivered too hard or overtly because like if you overdid anything with the lyrical content. It would be kitsch. It’d be gross. So the restraint, the clear power and prowess of like fills and things like, it’s just so, so locked in. And there’s so much to appreciate just from a rhythm section perspective.

And to your point it’s funk. It’s just, it’s gentlemen’s funk. But then it’s full, the record is full of flourishes. it’s an embarrassment of riches. I love records that surface new layers of things. As you get familiar deep in the mix, you know, weird in a headphone channel or whatever, the mix is so subtle, like the delivery of the record itself.

And, it’s very much like. discovering new things about the person that you love and are choosing to be with in that way. So there’s like a beautiful mirror there. you talked about guitar like guitar and horn flourishes are way way deep in this so like in after the dance Parentheses vocal the last song in the record Uh, there’s great guitar and horn flourishes in the right stereo channel Um, there’s sort of a, you know, if you are a jam band person, which we are not there’s that middle section of songs, three, three songs sort of between interludes.

One of them is all the way around and just after the minute mark in there, there’s little high hat barks, the little and just the drum pattern. If you want to talk about killer drum stuff all the way around is the drum song for me on the record. Come Live With Me Angel is one of my favorite songs of all time and I came across it because it was sampled by G Unit and we’ve talked before about how sampling is my gateway drug.

Yeah, points for the G Unit reference. In the bridge, there’s I think a Fender Rhodes. It’s like almost clavinet y. It’s some kind of keyboard. between three and three and a half minutes. That really adds flourish and meet. there’s flute, I think in this record, there’s no flute in the credits, but I definitely hear like very sultry, low register jazz flute.

Very like very tasteful. You know, we’ve shared that Tom Waits, a gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t that like, there’s, I love Bobby Humphrey, but there’s no, like, this is jazz flute. and then, you know, I know we’re going to talk about vocals and like vocals are really the star of the show, I think.

but there’s also talking, there’s very like predecessor to hip hop, like talking my shit talking. So at the beginning of feel all my love, which is probably like the most erotic song on the record. He says, Hey, you got another J. And if you blink you miss it, but it’s just like, oh man, that that’s some G shit.

So it’s just like, it’s, it’s cool. You listen to it a couple of times here and you’re like, man, this record is cool. And I think it’s there. There’s a really tight base with a really clear flavor. And then it’s got little ingredients, little accents all over it. And every time you listen, there’s a new delight.

It’s so flavorful.

So those are all the sort of literal things, but, I guess my next question for you is like, how do you listen to the, like, where is this best appreciated? We’ve talked about, you know, road, road records, time and place records, headphone records, whatever. Like, where does this sit for you? in a cliff day.

Cliff: Yeah, this one’s fun because It we usually have fun creatively slotting Answers into this question for both of us.

Kyle: We should have made this episode a drinking game.

Cliff: This one in particular calling it like a difficult listen isn’t really gonna do the trick. One thing I took note of was that I found active listening of this record to be tough sometimes. Because I don’t really think, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing most of the time that this record is on. I don’t think it was really made for that.

Um,

Kyle: a bit like looking at a naked person in the light.

Not that you’re not supposed to do that, but it’s just like, it’s like, whoa, there, whoa. There it is. That’s what that is. Yeah.

Cliff: Which can be fine for a moment, but if you’re just standing there for several minutes,

Kyle: Okay. Now it’s getting weird. I’m going to, I’m going to put a robe on. Yeah.

Cliff: I mean to that end. Look, we’re all adults here. The, uh,

Kyle: you’re not an adult, please stop listening at this time.

Cliff: I mean, I don’t even think I’m going to tell you anything wrong, but like, uh, the, funny implication of what you could be doing while you listening, while you listen to this record is not a bad call. Pretty good vibes,

man.

Kyle: most obvious answer is not the worst one.

Cliff: Yeah.

Kyle: Well, well

Cliff: which, you know, this will, this has not been, is not, it will not be a podcast of things we recommend to have sex to, but not a bad choice here.

Kyle: for the sake of the listeners, Again, we’ve been friends almost a quarter century, and that is not a frequent topic of discussion in our friendship, so it’s certainly not going to be central subject matter

Cliff: your point about vocals though. Yeah, like so Kind of swinging then into, what, what really happened on this record, especially while it was being written, isn’t really a phase of this record, right?

It was sort of like rewritten, re interpolated for the version that we know now. so one big thing that was happening with a lot of intention that seems fairly obvious, but especially when you start shifting into things to really focus on or draw out about this record you mentioned the vocals. Okay. Uh, non Gaye is a. Fantastic vocalist, crossed the board, period, endlessly talented, very, very good, had already proven himself quite well,

uh,

Kyle: and an

inimitable,

he’s got that Sinatra thing where even if you try to sound like Marvin Gaye, you can’t, you can sound great, you can’t sound like Marvin Gaye, you know,

you know, when he opens his mouth, it’s Marvin Gaye,

Cliff: yeah, and he had that ability to, to seemingly effortlessly switch between, nearly forceful, high pitched singing, but then could switch into that like,

Kyle: but with melody,

Cliff: Yeah,

I

can’t even begin to make my voice as deep and smooth as he could do on demand, switching between those two, and that alone, is an incredible feat.

But he just had immense control over how he used his vocals. Um, he like famously was able to record vocals laying down, which is like not a thing that a normal person can do to begin with, much less record, you know, some of your favorite, most well known. Songs with vocal performances of all time. So he was an effortless master But on this particular record, I wouldn’t say that he Changed how much effort energy talent he was applying to it but he did seem to along with Leon Ware make a Um, really intentional choices to control his voice, in ways that weren’t as common, especially across the prior records, to the degree that, one kind of funny review from Robert Christgau, who we love to just read in general, cause he’s always got fun things to say. but. when he was reviewing this record a long time ago, he actually gave it a, a C plus, which is, he’s one of the people who’s I don’t really need to approve or disapprove of the ratings you put on a thing. I just really like to read what you have to say. But he’s always extremely thoughtful and obviously very intelligent, always worth reading what he does in his reviews.

Kyle: mean to me and you can impress whatever Rorschach on this that you want based on your, your personal views. He’s the Larry David of, of talking about music. Like he’s, he’s always got to take, it’s always totally his. It very often makes you think wow, I’ve never really thought of it in that way. And why would a human being have that train of thought?

And okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Well, most of the time when I’ve, I finished a Christgau review, I’m like, all right, but it always changes and very often expands my perspective.

So most of the time I’m like, what an asshole. And then I’m like, was he right?

Cliff: Sort of to that end, you know, one of the things he wrote in his review was, When he talked about I Want You, he said, As a Marvin Gaye record, it’s a Leon Ware record. Uh, Ware is the producer who co wrote every one of these which is more than Marvin Gaye can claim that he produced or co wrote on that same album. But was it where, quote, okay, But was it where who instructed Marvin to eliminate all depth and power from his voice? I mean, if you’re into insisting on sex, it’s in bad taste to whine about it. Which is

a very good sentence. Yes, a very good sentence. So whether, this is another exercise, right? You don’t have to agree or disagree. With that interpretation of what’s happening here, because what we can get from it, without judgment, is the fact that someone who very well understands not only Marvin Gaye, but a lot of music writ large, identifies that Marvin was intentionally restraining himself here on a record that is ostensibly about losing your restraint in certain respects. And so, again, for better or worse, whether

Kyle: feeling, but feeling safe to do so, you know, not, not being uninhibited for uninhibited sake.

Cliff: right. So, to make that choice is not only clearly intentional, but is an interesting thing to note from, you know, a world renowned vocalist cranking out this record. That is true at the same time that this is when Marvin was also continuing to build his reputation for not only being a really good vocalist, but also really good at understanding how to produce his own voice. So he was becoming more well known for creating his own backing tracks and learning how to perfect what that looked like. So one of the quotes from this record, uh, was for, I want you, Marvin did. The song for, I want you, the song Marvin did the background, the lead and the ad lib in a single night.

That’s three songs in one. That is all Marvin Gaye. It’s part of the quote, right? so, spiritually aligned with the many artists we’ve talked about on this podcast who are prolific or able to crank out a ton of ideas really quickly or totally control their sound or come up with the ideas that they want to produce exactly what it is that they’re envisioning. For Marvin Gaye, that is a control of his voice that goes, it’s like an order of magnitude beyond the thing that we’re thinking about when we think about being able to control your

Kyle: I also think it’s.

Cliff: he was constructing.

Kyle: acknowledging that there’s some of the Herbie Hancock thing in play here where he wasn’t afraid of new tools, and in fact, he didn’t let the tools dictate what he was going to do, but he saw how they could expand his palette of expression and Herbie Hancock, to me, is like the master of that over the years.

but for what’s going on, you could put more channels, more tracks to tape. That was when 4 16 and whatever track started becoming a thing in the studio. And that was the first time we started experimenting with that. And so a few records in, we have a guy that has like, not made it his thing.

It wasn’t like a novelty, but think it was like a craft that he had. Kind of mastered so you could listen to the record a hundred times and just try to focus really intently for all 40 minutes of the run time on vocals and just be like, my God, oh my God, wow, dude, wow. you could really sort of Zen out with how can one person hear that many layers in their head.

Cliff: And maybe I’m pulling or pushing on this a little too hard, but I think that helps align sort of spiritually with the record’s intent to, because being able to get far enough into that music where, you know, you were mentioning that rhythm section and how locked in they are. feeling that you can sort of get when you lock into the record along with everybody else. And there’s sort of, there, there begins to be this space between that rhythm that you locked into, and then whatever it is you’d like to put your focus on. And so to your point Not only do the vocals do that well in general, but this alignment to the idea of like, there’s a rhythm in our body that’s going on now, and we’re going to lock into each other, and there’s going to be a rhythm here, but we’re still talking, and whether that’s like literal speech, whether that’s singing, whether that’s eye contact for a moment, You’ve got that rhythm that’s locked in and it’s staying and then you’ve got this other thing that you’re sort of participating in and you’re, you’re putting all of your sort of energy and attention into so that you can pay attention to what your partner is telling you right then.

Right? I don’t usually find a great. Cliché way to listen to records, especially sexy records like this, but it works here. You can really lock into that idea of having rhythm with someone and then a separate but, simultaneous conversation with somebody where you’re just expressing. You’re saying shit that comes to your brain, they’re saying shit back to you that comes to their brain. None of it actually makes sense. If any, if either of you were to say any, either of those things, outside of that very particular context, you’d be like, shut the f shut up. Don’t ever say that again, right? But inside of those moments, it’s, it works. It works because you’re locked

Kyle: I mean you, you brought to mind, you know, I was talking about Fela Kuti, that idea of rhythm, helping to concentrate expression and elevate it, is sort of the sort of macro sociological political way into the spectrum is what Fela was always doing like music must be for revolution.

And this is the more intimate person to person. But I think it’s very much. I think they exist on the same continuum, for me, the moment and everything resonates with everybody differently. But for me, the moment, That typifies the greatness of this record, uh, is the beginning of since I had you, he just sing some descending notes and there’s not even really words attached to it, but he gets across more about love or lust in the literal notes and the delivery of those notes than most people do in a whole career of love songs. there’s goosebumps. There’s chicken skin type power in it. and the gift of Marvin Gaye was to do so much with so little. I mean, like it’s, you could play a 10 or 15 snippet of second snippet of just that song and be like, whoa, where’s more? I need more of that right now.

Cliff: to me, it is like the very beginning of a change that’s gonna come. And the way that Sam Cooke the first three words say more than a book you could

Kyle: I was born.

Cliff: about anything. Yeah,

Kyle: Other people,

other people recognize it too though. Like there’s a litany of great quotes from interviews. you know, there, there’s that long interview with Leon where that’s so good. Leon tells the story of the first time he played it for Barry Gordy in like a room full of 30 Motown executives and the whole room went quiet.

But then I love this one from the Michael Eric Dyson book. He was talking to Gary Harris, who’s an A& R at EMI. And he said, with the opening on soon, I’ll be loving you again with the congas and the strings. It’s like the sun is rising. It’s a very cinematic approach to the whole thing. It shows a thing Quincy Jones called ear candy, the voicings and the arrangements convey not only mood, but time, place, and image he’s talking about.

I dreamed of you this morning. It’s crazy. So the morning sunrise thing. The other thing about Marvin in the song is he always, no matter what he was doing, how many risks you would take, was a radical traditionalist and always held on to his doo wop upbringing. Those background harmonies, no matter how increasingly percussive he got, how funky, the background vocals were always steeped in that tradition.

So the dichotomy of wanting to go in more radical directions and doing it but Sort of having a really regimented foundation like the sort of like the dna of the music itself So I think the collaboration really clicked here because he found people Who contained the same sort of strict multitudes that he did.

Cliff: To that end, we’ve sort of talked about ways to step back a little bit and let music hit you and specifically how we could step back and sort of let this album just hit and notice and take a note and move on and move through it. But you mentioned a minute ago that vocals were one of the things that you could have a very rewarding experience focusing on. I was curious, what else? What else did you find could be something that you could focus on or isolate when listening to this record intentionally, you know, with more of an act of listening or trying to discover a particular part of it?

Kyle: you and I joke all the time about how Like, all you do is think, and my gift is that I simply do not. and that, we learn so much from each other, in the contrast of how that means we both listen to music. I can go years loving a song and being like, that’s one of my favorite songs ever. And then somebody says that something is in the lyrics, and I’m like, no they’re not.

And then I go look it up and I’m like, oh my god. Oh, my God. So, I live in a world of pure vibe at all times. so with that, the challenge of this record is not, is to avoid getting swept up in the hypnotic tide of the suite. Multiple people called it a suite in like a jazz or classical sense. And I really, that helped something click for me.

but the record has no obvious beginning or end. Like you, you could start on track five. And just go from anywhere it works on shuffle, frankly, it’s really beautifully organically created in that way. So I think my advice is to listen, not for songs, but for small moments to come back around to try and find a thing a second or third time, all the elements in the DNA of this thing are, are really, really cool.

you mentioned synths. Not normally a thing that I. Primarily listen for, but like, I think that after the dance instrumental version pulls that out if that sound grabs you, then listen for that all the way through. strings are certainly one and they’re not overdone here. In modern music, other than, like, Florence and the Machine, where it’s like part of the thing, strings normally signal, like, this is a serious song, or a beautiful song, or it’s for a movie!

but string arrangements just sort of lent to the air of sophistication. Of the proceedings, it was just like what you did. so the arrangements were done by Coleridge, Taylor Perkinson, who is a cat worth looking up. And I think in general, looking through the personnel credits and clicking the deep links is a really worthwhile exercise on this because it’s nothing but top guns on this thing, pursuant to your Mars Volta connection, percussion is a big one.

So like not. drums specifically, but congas and stuff. a couple of the loose collective known as the Funk Brothers played congas on this. So like, listen for the conga patterns on Come Live With Me Angel or Soon I’ll Be Loving You Again. Great conga work. And then if you really like that, go listen to Santana and, any other, like Tito Puente and go in that direction.

the rhythm section we’ve talked extensively about, James Gadson on the drums is a super bad dude, played on Donald Byrd and Aretha Franklin and tons and tons of, I think he has like over a thousand credits, maybe I’m confusing him with Chuck Rainey. Both of them are, are like.

You know, the most decorated veterans of their instrument essentially in 20th century recorded music, four people played bass on this record. Chuck Rainey kind of be in the biggest name. and the baselines on impartial come live with me angel. But especially since I had you are just like, there’s an ascending you.

Um, short ascending line as Marvin is going into the chorus, since I had you that, that sort of signals the like elevated heart rate, but it’s real subtle. it’s a blink and you miss it. It’s the like, the greatest choruses are the ones you only sing once in the song. It doesn’t overly announce itself.

melodic musical bass lines that are like, so beyond my comprehension. But they’re so cool. and then obviously voice control. There’s not one iota more of anything than there needs to be. that’s sort of the, expert level part of the whole thing.

Were there any, any, I know I just like ran down the whole list. What was it? Oh, the silence in between tracks. Well, I definitely appreciated that. What did I miss? What else did you like? Yeah.

Cliff: really good options. Synths, strings, percussions, the rhythm section And

the relationship then between drums and bass and voice control. Strings were the surprise hit for me, and it did not then surprise me to go back and read further interviews and quotes and all that from those strings being arranged at the time and people basically being literally shocked at how good they were. And how good they were coming out during the the creation of this record Because I think I’m not always the go listen to the surprising thing Person, I think that can lead you down some weird paths that aren’t always helpful in music but here the strings were A worthwhile thing to just listen out for on a regular basis because they, they had a, I think you’ve called a lot of the things here, you know, subtle a couple of times the intentional complexity. Sitting within a sort of subtle shell or packaging in a lot of this music is really rewarding to listen to and hear. One thing we definitely have to appreciate about Motown Records is they still sound really cool. they, they just, they have a pristine quality to them that really let you hear almost spatially the different layers that get recorded in. And so I appreciate those, uh, about Motown Records in general, but yeah, especially strings here. You know, I think we’ve mentioned some of the other surprises and fun things that can catch off guard with all the rhythm, but yeah, strings. And then especially if you are a vocalist and you’ve never spent time listening to Marvin Gaye on purpose, now’s a real good time to do it. just literally listening to every way that he opens and closes a given word, note, phrase, where he breathes, the way that he ad libs when he does. it’s a truly interesting exercise in, watching someone who has every right to use their voice as much as they want to, using it in very particular ways to try to, you know, more or less impress somebody else. That they were writing this record for

Kyle: he was notorious for. Not committing anything to tape until. Until it was like exactly how he considered it actualized. He spent 13 months on the vocals for this and it shows. So

I don’t think it’s overstating it. I think you’re exactly right. every choice to do or not do or do a certain way is deeply deliberate and considered.

And if you. are also a practitioner of the craft could do no better than to study everything he did or decided not to do. And if, if you would go right on a certain run and he goes left, think about what other possibilities that opens up. Just very, very inventive and unique in that way. And truly like reinvented the form of.

A vocal delivery. And I think that’s the story for me of this record in a lot of ways you know, we’ll talk about Ernie Barnes and the artwork in a minute. but I saw comparisons to other masters of the respective crafts that The signal to timelessness to me. So like Coleridge, Taylor Perkinson, the string arranger.

I love, love that you love the strings. I would, would not have picked that answer for you, but I, it makes me so happy. they talked about how he like. Evolved the form of classical composition from the Baroque masters and invoked blues and jazz and really sophisticated and interesting and not overt ways.

There’s a lot of like cool Trojan horsing, but not for the sake of being punk or anything, just because they have absorbed a lot of inputs and synthesize them smartly and uniquely. And I think everybody that touched this record did their own version of that. And I take a lot of inspiration from that.

sort of direction.

Cliff: so then to this end as we think about the impact that this record has had there’s a couple of like very specific Avenues that we can go down And so we’ll do both lightly well one of them you were

Kyle: It’s another one for the drinking game. We’ll do both, lightly.

Cliff: You were mentioning the artwork and that’s this is as close to a bit of trivia as we’ll probably get on this episode, uh, but it’s worth knowing a little bit more about that, I think, because it also then speaks to how pervasive, culturally, this thing was, even if every time we think of Marvin Gaye’s most important records, we don’t necessarily put this one at the top, or even at number two, so the album artwork, Is a painting, pre existed, prior to becoming the artwork for this. It was originally,

Kyle: you sensing a motif here? Leon Ware, Ernie Barnes?

Cliff: Exactly!

Kyle: I’m gonna find the stuff I like and make it mine, but not in a Drake way.

Cliff: Ha ha

Kyle: I’m gonna make it

Cliff: thank Canadian Jesus for that. Yeah. Good

Kyle: to picture my Jesus wearing

jeans on top and on the bottom.

Cliff: So this, this painting, uh, was called the Sugar Shack that was on that became the artwork for this album. Uh, it was painted and released by a, quote, neo mannerist artist named Ernie Barnes in 1971.

Kyle: about music genre, but like art, art, genre and movement labels are tight. I don’t know what the difference is. I don’t know how to parse it. I mean, this is the domain of my wife professionally. I should just ask her. but yeah, neo mannerist is cool. I would like to be called a neo mannerist, but not an R& B artist.

And I don’t know why.

Cliff: It’d be cool if they just used decades like the rest of us to describe a period of time instead of putting neo in front of an old thing that happened a hundred years before that.

Kyle: Yeah, all this is 1976.

Cliff: Right. Marvin Gaye was introduced to Ernie Barnes, the artist, of this album by a colleague. It led to him buying eight originals by Ernie Barnes, including this one, The Sugar Shack, and Marvin asked for permission to use the painting as an album cover, and then Barnes augmented the painting by adding references to the album, including the banners hanging from the ceiling of the shack promoting the album’s

singles. So if you were listening to us talk and being like, there’s no way this painting existed before the album artwork because I’ve seen the album artwork and it’s about the

album, like,

Kyle: affecting me right now? Yeah.

Cliff: you played yourself, bro. Yeah. Yeah, to your point, it’s another microcosm of the whole kind of overall story of this where it’s like, oh, a thing sort of exists that Marvin Gaye has looked at and said, that’s a thing. And I know how to make it. A better version of this thing that I want it to be. And so I’m going to use it and work with the artist, In either case, whether it’s the artwork, whether it’s Leon Ware, whether it’s the bandmates he worked with, like, It wasn’t a case of, I know how to do this better, so I’m gonna take what you did, go over here, and now I’ve done it, and look at what I did. It was always I’m digging what you’re doing, and I’d like to do this. I want to ask permission to take this and then work with you to make a version that represents the way I feel and think and am capable and all of

Kyle: A lot of one on one makes three, which I think is fitting for sort of the subject matter celebration he’s doing on the record.

Cliff: yeah. And later on then to, put these threads together too just like this album and its music would go on to not only influence a lot over time, but also continue to be, even to this day, a very real, prescient, influence that people are sampling, using, covering everything. So on top of that being true for the music, it’s also true in its own way for the album artwork itself. Ernie Barnes, the artist gained further recognition from art critics after this became known as one of the best black painters of his time. Uh, and was called at least by some people, the Picasso of the black art world. and then that original piece would then later be purchased by Eddie

Kyle: And he made a second version of it that was used, shown in the end credits of Good Times. and that was, even if you didn’t listen to Marvin Gaye, it was totally iconic in black popular culture. In many ways, and that was bought by a businessman who regularly who lives in Texas, I think, and regularly shows it, especially during Black History Month, uh, different universities and in museums around the way.

So it’s like could not be a more iconic piece of 20th century Americana. In in any conceivable way, but like I also saw pieces where he was compared to the legendary Flemish 16th century painter, Peter Bruegel, the elder, uh, he was compared to Edgar Degas, so like that you could even invoke, classical artists name dropping in the visual artist tradition, talking about the Marvin Gaye record about, you know, Getting down is like, is amazing.

It’s elevated. I think what makes it timeless and lasting is that it’s, elevated. It’s built to last, sort of separates it from a lot of the modern stuff about the subject and I don’t want to like sound boomery about it, but I think this record will last as, as long as the earth or the internet do.

Because they, they went for a cut above

Cliff: Well, and to reinforce that idea, though, of it being a different time in creating art that were, that would perpetuate into our future, Ernie Barnes, the artist prior to that, Was an NFL football player. Which thanks to CTE and its many wonderful gifts, we can’t expect many of our modern NFL players to become lovely, thoughtful, neo mannerist artists later in their

Kyle: I’m holding, I’m holding out for the great Latter day works of Travis Kelce, personally.

Cliff: pfft, pfft, pfft.

Kyle: I got a song about an octopus

Cliff: I hate you for that. Uh, When Ernie Barnes was talking about this work, though, I love that you pulled this quote out, Kyle. this really kind of wraps around and envelops the spirit of the record, even when he talks about the painting. Because he said, The painting transmits rhythm, so the experience is recreated in the person viewing it. To show that African Americans utilize rhythm as a way of resolving physical tension. And what’s nice about that is not only, not only is that a really nice just way of looking at it on its face but this idea of a culture that might be different than yours using physicality as a way to resolve tension is a sort of Mental motif, I think that you can play with when you try to go further into this record and understanding not only what was its sort of intention, which we’ve talked a lot about, right?

And who was it for? And how did it get made? But like, what’s being done? What is happening in the music? What was literally being experienced as it was being produced and what was conceptualized as like the feeling of then later being able to listen to it and experience it? And I can say Because other people have wisely said it, uh, and talked through it in different interviews and things like this that this record itself represents black eroticism in a way that not everybody is able, willing, or capable of really internalizing and accepting as just it is. A different culture that uses physicality potentially in a different way than you do or that you might be used to or that you haven’t observed before and how that kind of Ends up wrapping us up in our own shit when we’re trying to listen or understand or experience something different if we have if we’re all caught up in the ways that we Deal with things or think about things or use our bodies or whatever else It’s our fun too hard for us to understand what actually might be going on for different people in moments like this And so that idea that the painting itself represents that and that you can step inside of it there But then inside of the piece of art that that is the cover for you can further experience that right like literally resolving physical tension Figuring out how to move your body with somebody else in a rhythm in a way that feels good looks good works for everybody like That’s its own gift, uh, and it tends to be its own sort of sporadic thing that never repeats itself again.

Even if you can get something good going with somebody, you know, every time is a little bit unique.

Kyle: Yeah, I love that you have started to touch on the, like, what do you do if it doesn’t? resonate with you or it, makes you feel some type of way. you know, for anyone who might not feel much in common with it, certainly right away, Tom Jurek reviewed the record for all music and, at the risk of a pun, painted a picture.

Of what this record is for captured it really nicely. And he said the subject matter is as close to explicit as pop records got in 1976. The feel of the album was one of late night parties and basements and small clubs and the intimacy of the music evokes the image of people getting closer as every hour of the steamy night wears on.

One of my wife’s and my favorite records is A. M. by the Arctic Monkeys, which is very literally a concept record about going from the start of the night through the start of the next morning. And this does that in a way that sort of pushes it out of the linear time space continuum. He said the most astonishing things about I Want You are its intimacy, silky elegance, silky is a great word for this record, and seamless textures.

I Want You and its companion, Where’s Musical Massage, are the preeminent early disco concept albums, which are adult albums about intimacy, sensuality, and commitment. And decades later they still reverberate with class, sincerity. Grace, intense focus, and astonishingly good taste. So, even if that doesn’t mean something to you, it has meant that very deeply to very many people.

And there’s something to be said for sitting with the feeling of, that’s really cool that it has the ability to do that. And I would like to hear from those people. I would like to know, like, tell me your stories. Tell me what it evokes for you. If it doesn’t bring a picture or a feeling to mind for me immediately, I want to talk to somebody for whom it does.

And in that way, like, music has truly limitless possibility.

Cliff: I wouldn’t want to close out a conversation without at least mentioning some of the biggest highlights of musical impact from this record, including how it still gets used. So. I want to make sure we touch on some of that because we’ve also teased some of it out as we’ve talked. but this was one of those moments where we, we’ve sort of danced around this idea a little bit, but it was one of those moments where can’t say that everyone in the studio went there and said, we’re going to make a new thing now. Now is a new thing. Today, starting today, new genre, new thing, right? And we’re going to intentionally change the way everything else works. Even from that quote that you

Kyle: It’s your cousin, Marvin Barry!

Cliff: But you, uh, the quote you read mentioned, right, that the feel of the album was like One of late night parties in basements of small clubs like I even I joked at the beginning I learned a lot about party records over the course of learning more about this record Which just for for those of you have never heard that before I actually got there because I’m just gonna be vulnerable with everyone on the internet now.

Here we go I got very curious after listening to this record, um, What is, what is the history of using moans in music?

Who,

Kyle: I hope you search that in private browsing.

Cliff: I wasn’t born yesterday, my brother,

Uh,

Kyle: is TOR even for? Oh

Cliff: But I got really curious about it because it was like, This, the answer is either gonna be really stupid or really funny. Right? There’s, whose first idea was this? And then I got an answer that I didn’t expect, which was that, actually, there was an entire subculture creating vinyl records that weren’t available for people to pick up in the store.

They had to ask for them because they were hidden behind the counter. And they were called party records, and they were vinyl records that were primarily sex noises. Which is like, Oh, so you can probably guess like the next like 30 minutes of my brain was just like, Okay, I have a lot of questions. I have a lot of questions. What do you do when you get one of these? What were you doing with this? Were you hanging out with people? And so I just learned more and more, uh, and I learned, you know, many things that made me slightly culturally uncomfortable, including the fact that a lot of people like to get together and then listen to those. And, uh, I also learned, I’m literally just going to seed this and move past it, but I also learned a hilarious story about Frank Zappa being tricked into recording one of those and then being arrested

Kyle: my god,

Cliff: uh, because it was technically illegal.

Kyle: but there,

but

there’s also a whole strain. Of comedy in that too. Like

party would also include like Red Fox, Red Fox’s early stuff. And they’re like, it doesn’t gonna be that kind of party. I’m gonna stick my, you know, what in the mashed potatoes that gets sampled by the BC boys and all of that stuff that I remember the first time I heard that sample, I was like, why was this committed to tape?

Cliff: to put it extremely concisely, but more funny, in the same way that Dune was a book that no one gave a shit about, and then a company that published car manuals was like, I really like your story about this Shia Lube guy, and then they publish his book. In much the same way, basically, comedy records, and especially black comedy records, were effectively published and popularized by party record record labels. Who were like, yeah, we’re into this. Yeah. No, you’re funny. No. Yeah. Yeah, we’re gonna do this now. so there was a whole lot that I learned.

Kyle: I went to a talk recently by, uh, professor at Duke we’re very lucky in Atlanta to have a, a literal hip hop professor and Dr. Joycelyn Wilson, who teaches a sociology, sort of like current affairs class steeped in the language of Southern rap. This guy gave a great talk on like how we got to hip hop before hip hop.

It was like the 150 year anthropological history that included, and I wish I could remember the party record. It was a very specific one, but how that was like, if you love hip hop, this is a, this is an element of the DNA that is maybe not obvious on its face, but in a number of ways was influential to its development.

Cliff: Yeah, so there are definitely interesting offshoots there and plenty more to go learn about if you’re curious, but Then thinking about okay There was a lot that inspired what happened on this record So not everything was like I said, not everything was just like a brand new thought, right? So the mixture of funk and interludes and arrangements and ad libbing and Moans and all kinds of stuff, right? This wasn’t all a new idea. However, the way that it was put together, the fact that it was Marvin Gaye, the fact that it was Leon Ware, the fact that it was these musicians, the fact that it was put out by Motown, the fact that it sounds so good, the fact that the songs are so great, right? Like all of those things created like Almost every record that we ever talk about creates an outsized downstream effect That’s pretty hard to trace back unless you actually know to look for it because monumental

Kyle: once, you know, you see it. Everywhere.

Cliff: Yep. Yep It’s impossible to unsee in that same way, right? Let’s just go ahead and just let you not unsee neo souls path all the way back into this. You know, we mentioned if you like voodoo, if you like D’Angelo, so quarians kind of anything in that range, you have a direct spiritual secession from Marvin Gaye and from this record. To the point that, like, one anecdote, just to really make sure, you know, that all these things are tied together. after Marvin Gaye died, D’Angelo began having recurring dreams about Marvin Gaye. and eventually, after D’Angelo got signed, He said he had his final dream about Marvin Gaye, and he said, I was following Marvin as a grown man, and he was a bit heavier, and he had a beard, and he was naked, and all I could see was his back and the cap that he used to wear all the time, and he got into his whirlpool jacuzzi with his wife and his daughter and his little son, and that’s when he turns around and looks at me, and he goes, I know you’re wondering why you keep dreaming about me, and then I woke up.

Kyle: Makes me. Love that episode of Atlanta even more, where the same thing happens with D’Angelo and he’s like, I am D’Angelo. We are D’Angelo.

Sometimes I just say it to myself, we are all D’Angelo.

And the answer is yes, we are. With any luck.

Cliff: so there is plenty there and, uh, we don’t make any money when you go back and listen to our past podcasts, but you should. We really love the voodoo episode that we did, and so do

others.

Kyle: I, simply will not shut up about that album. the album is on.

Cliff: There’s no need to. So, there’s plenty more to see in that lineage. There’s also plenty more to see through hopefully I don’t have to stay too much of the obvious of like, Prince was a pretty sexy dude, okay? he knew, he knew how to work whatever ends of the gender spectrums he wanted at any given point, and he is able to affect all of us, no matter how straight we find ourselves to be on the inside. And so that, I mean, from Prince, to Sade, to whoever else, like, learns how to channel soul and R& B into music that is truly legitimately sexy. A lot of that stems from exactly this record, uh, and the way that this got approached, even down to the genre that became known as Quiet Storm, which is really just sort of like a way of thinking about how casual this album felt and how if you, you know, maybe tamp down the subject matter intensity a little bit, you just end up with something very

Kyle: Lo lo fi beats to do something other than study to. There’s also a, I shared with you, like right before we started recording the Madonna and Massive Attack cover of the title track, which is like, I wouldn’t have thought about Portishead or Bjork or Massive Attack being inherently connected, but like, of course they are.

They’re Quiet Storm in their own way. People, everyone from Madonna to Todd Rundgren to EPMD saying that they’re influenced by or reinterpolating something of Marvin’s is like the same way that Bitches Brew said we want to do, Miles Davis said we want to do rock and out came this like cosmic goo that was an entirely different thing and changed the way rock sounded forever.

You see those strains mutating out from this record in a bunch of different directions. So when you, when you see that feel popping up in something that may not sound like I want you, there’s probably a couple of degrees back of influence where even if they’re not trying to sound like it, they’re trying to feel like it, this record such potent.

Unabated feel that I think it’s anybody who’s ever wanted to make a record aspires to that in some way.

Cliff: Totally. I’m glad you mentioned that one. I was going to say that the two, I think, modern interpolations that are worth really spinning up quickly are, like you said, the Madonna cover that features Massive Attack, which is really cool, but is concretely In the exact moment in history that it

was made, right? It feels extremely that year. In the same way, so that you can kind of see the timelessness of I Want You. Same song but Kendrick Lamar’s The Heart Part 5, that is I Want You. ends the whole song. By saying that like it is about this song and about Marvin Gaye and about what all of this meant and then Kendrick is pulling it into, you know, I think 2022 was when, when he dropped that last one my, he is just pulling all of that into raw modern hip hop and, you know, in case, in case the heart part five hasn’t reminded you, or you’re not a big, um, Kindra Kat, I guess.

That’s the video with all the deepfake faces, uh, that came out, which, fun fact Matt and Trey from South Park made that video. Uh,

right? but that is a totally different interpolation, right, of the song, of this idea, than the Madonna version was, or than the originals, or any of the countless hip hop and otherwise songs that have sampled different portions of Marvin Gaye, this album or that song in general. But both of those are really good ways of just seeing so clearly that If you put this record on for somebody and didn’t tell them what it was, You wouldn’t have a hard time convincing them that it came out like this year that it’s a brand new

record It sounds good. It feels good. It works and the nostalgia aspect of hearing something like this will just make you realize that things like Silksonic are just lifting things pretty directly from the past and putting them into the future.

Kyle: the feel of a Victoria Monet or any era of Beyonce ever. You know, there’s so much. Anything that. moves you and doesn’t feel algorithmic or designed for a diet Coke commercial compressed to hell. there, there are certainly strains of that here. So, you know, if you listen and it does move you, I guess the essential question.

If it moves you or it doesn’t yet, but you want it to, you feel the strains of something. You know, the essential question is where do we go from here? What do I do with that feeling cliff?

Let me just lay down on this couch and please tell me as a therapy joke, that was not another drinking game moment.

Cliff: Why not both? I think. I got him on that one. That was good.

Kyle: I just, I wanted to immediately segue to Say something about yes and, and then a joke about how you definitely shouldn’t take home a person who does improv. Um, but I, I couldn’t make the connection.

Cliff: that’s okay. Earlier when you said this reminded you of Dope Smoker, my brain said drop out of life with dong in hand. So you’re welcome.

Kyle: when we, when we quit our corporate jobs, we’re just going to start an Etsy store that makes incredibly niche bumper stickers with nothing to put them on.

Cliff: I may start now. So, one of the reasons I think your question is really cool here and I’ve hinted at this a little bit, but like, I’m not a person who wakes up in the morning and is inherently ready to listen to the sexiest music. it just isn’t the way that I feel, especially with how music tends to interpret sensuality. I just aligned to it a little bit differently. So I think though that exercise and what you’re asking me, like, what do you kind of do with what you’re feeling in this record is a really important part of like why we feel like this podcast matters and how we can help other people to experience. Other aspects of their life that they may not know that they can be open to yet because this record if you put your heart into it Will give you a lot of feelings and a lot of those feelings for someone like me are sort of I wouldn’t say Unwelcome, but they’re a little hard to parse I’m like, okay, okay, I’m not sure if I’m turned on or if you’re turned on, and I’m just listening to you.

I’m like, okay, but let me think through it. So, re contextualizing it, I know we’ve talked about it a number of times, but like, these are Songs that Marvin Gaye channeled mostly written by other people who were directing their own energy at whatever those songs were, which he then took and redirected back towards a very particular person, his lover, like the person he was making this music for and focused on, um, and it is it. Reflective to the degree that, for all the things that Janice Hunter would go on to say about their relationship, about their story, about Marvin’s songs, like everything, at the very least what we know is she said the songs were reflective of their relationship. That it seemed to capture a thing that was real for them in that particular moment. And so, for me, one of the things I can do with How I Feel, Is practice holding space for the time and space of the sensuality and sexuality of two other people who at that time were again, we’re going to move forward with the assumption that we’re talking about two consenting adults at this particular point. Okay, but these are two people who really wanted each other. And one person who was flat out fucking famous who needed to write a Muse record about somebody, even though he had absolutely no need to come back to commercial records and had otherwise sworn him off, right? So for better or worse and without judgment, Whatever this was created enough motion in this human being to go out and find a way to create another record using other people to try to get the feeling and the vibe that he wanted to express and truly present to another person. That helps me to hold space for other people. And by extension for, you know, like we talked about a little bit with the painting and, and understanding how different people and cultures like use their bodies. It helps me to leave space for people in a way that honestly feels good to me. Like actually, I don’t need to figure out whether that made sense for them or not. This is what the record is about. I know what it feels like to have my version of what they were doing. and, you know, my versions of that may have been, my, my muse is closer to my age, okay? Uh, and the times where I had this intensity of feeling, I didn’t have the artistry in me to convey it. I was not a, 36 or whatever year old person like Marvin Gaye was when he was trying to figure out how to do this. But I am now, and so being able to listen to this and figure out, like, it really, it sparked a little bit in me. Like, if you had had the capacity to write something about this when you were 19 or 20, what would that have been and what would that have felt like?

What have that sounded like? How would that have worked? Would it have connected with anybody, including the other person? you know, those are a lot of questions I don’t have very pretty answers to, but it, Puts me into the music in a different way by being able to understand enough of what was happening and then find a way to just allow it. It existed. It’s something I can know about, and here’s this document of what it felt like for at least two people. and the ability to listen in and observe without, I mean, you’re sort of listening and observing into an intimate moment that you otherwise are not really permitted to be a part of, and here somebody’s letting you into it. it opens me up. It opens me up to different expressions. It opens me up to being more flexible to like, remember that whatever shit somebody says in that situation is probably not the smoothest thing. I have to remember that Marvin Gaye outlived all this stuff himself. And not all of it is just pristinely worded. Some of it’s just him jibjabbering back towards somebody else and saying literally what his body wants right then. And like, That’s still Marvin Gaye, and he still did it with vocal control. He still did it with excellence, on top of the band, on an incredible record that went on to inspire a lot of other people and things. one of the things it did was it really surprised me for the space that I found out I could leave and accommodate. For other things and other people’s experiences that are intimate, um, that don’t have anything to do with me, but that I can see myself in because I had my own version of it, you know,

Kyle: Yeah, I have always struggled with that phrase, holding space, being like one of those internet charged phrases and not really knowing what it means to me personally, but I like the way you framed it, you know, every time somebody tries to give some part of themselves to you or to the world at large because they don’t know who specifically to give it to or both, is an opportunity for you in turn to turn toward or turn away from it.

And, you know, there’s that psychological study that gets talked about a lot in couples counseling that the one true predictor of the longevity of a relationship is when given a cue by their partner. The ones who succeed in a relationship most often are the ones who consistently turn toward and acknowledge and reciprocate in some way that expression of love or pain or feeling or whatever, that has so affected the way that I think about my life and music has helped me do that because like I was.

So I am very judgy young person. That sucks. I hate that. That’s not as good. This thing’s better than this other thing. Things need a hierarchy and a rank order and a what, you know, just like typical white guy, teenager blogger bullshit. Moving away from that into a nonjudgmental place and especially not, not just additionally, but especially when it’s challenging, when the person and the art have a gap in the things they’re making me feel it’s better.

When it’s additive and I can sit with that tension between those two things and be grateful for the things that they’ve given me and try to embrace them for all that. I mean, like with the obvious, like crazy criminal things aside, some of the examples we’ve cited earlier like everybody sucks.

You know what I mean? Like I, me most of all. and I would just hope that the things that I try to express and put in the world, Additive for other people. So I try to practice that kind of golden rule y type of thing as well. and it’s good when it’s challenging. And I find that trying to get more value out of people and things and tastes and experiences and sensations has made me more at peace with myself.

Like being nonjudgmental has. I don’t want to say made me a better person because I don’t, what does that even mean? But like certainly has made me love myself Better and I think that anytime we like reach out lash out at something in judgment. It’s just we don’t love ourselves enough I don’t love myself enough, whatever So that’s why I love things like this like if it doesn’t speak to you immediately maybe it’s just not for you And the best moments in those situations are when you’re like, but maybe I want it to be I don’t know.

There’s something there like, ah, this record is a lot. Oh, I don’t know if I should be listening to this, but like, I’m really drawn to it. And just finding your way to a relationship with the thing and the person and the other people who are drawn to it and the stories around it and what it can compel you to do in your own life experience.

And just The messiness of all of that is like the singular thing that makes the shit show of life worth continuing on in the older we get and the harder it gets and the more complicated it gets, you know, everything gets parsed into ones and zeros, literally and spiritually in the digital world, but like out in the real world where we can, in the spirit of this record, touch each other, right?

Like, be physically close. Everything lives in the messy middle. All the good shit. Nothing’s perfect. But it’s good. It’s there. It’s real. You can feel it. that’s sort of like the takeaway spirit for me.

Cliff: I think that’s extra important in all capital letters, these modern times with the internet, just

Kyle: era vulgaris.

Cliff: yeah, well, so much of what we have now rewards us and incentivizes us. To take those moments of experiencing something either different or just not for you. And rewards our snap judgments and dunks. Right? The ability to quote tweet and ratio a thing. Is not only easy, but is, has become the way that a lot of our things are designed. It is the engagement machine that keeps us talking to each other about nothing so that we can see more ads. And like, we all do some of that, okay? And some things are fun to dunk on.

Okay, we dunked on Drake like four times in this episode. It’s easy.

So that’s fine. That’s right. I’m the Michael Jordan of dunking on Drake. This is great. but, you want to monitor that in yourself. And you want to think about that really carefully, because if you look at the whole collection of things that are out there, the vast majority of them are not for you. They’re not for you. They’re for someone else. They’re for some other group,

Kyle: That vast majority, by the way, does not mean 75%. It means like nine, nine point nine, nine, nine, nine, nine, nine. Even if it sort of feels like it might be for you or you want it to be, it’s not, it’s for,

it’s for that person or that group. Make your own

Cliff: But we feel sad, and we don’t know what to do with it, so we look for dopamine hits, and the dopamine hits come from really easily, harshly judging shit, and putting it on the internet, and then letting people like our harsh judgment of all that shit that we put on the internet, and all we’re really doing It’s training our body to respond to something negative, and then we take that feeling and then we pipe it into judgment and bullshit at other people and at their expense. And I think a thing that you will agree with me on, because we talk about it so much, is like that’s the trap. That’s the trap man. it’s fun to do it a little bit and everyone has a bit of an edge on it But if you spend most of your time thinking about how other people are doing shit that they shouldn’t be doing Or how things aren’t the way that they should be for you You will turn into a literal curmudgeon You will create a little cycle in yourself where all you’re doing is judging things and Calling them names because they don’t make sense to you immediately.

And the more you do that, the worse you get at identifying things that can be for you. Because now everything’s got to fit this pristine little box that you had in your brain to begin with and that’s the trap. And so to be able to take a record like this and both have the experience of okay, I can approach this sort of historically and almost amorally and consume it that way.

But then on the other hand like we’ve talked about I mean, the first time I listened intently to tracks with moans on it, I wanted to respond to it, right? I wanted to I wanted to say something like, This cheapens it, or, That really dates it, or, you know, Think about what this song could have been without these. Right. And it, and it was this really quick response, almost reactive. I feel like one of the things that we have truly blessed ourselves with and that other people can bless themselves with, learning to let that exist as a thought, just like anything else, and then let it go. You actually don’t need to label everything that you don’t understand or see or even that your body responds to in one way or the other. In fact, if your body responds negatively to something, it might be a good moment to take a second and examine it and figure out whether that’s actually an ick that you’d like to stick around or whether that’s some bullshit that’s contributing to a bad part of your personality, you know?

Kyle: touch your nose. If you can tell somebody on this podcast has been to therapy, just,

Cliff: All I know to get better is to talk to people and to listen to music

better So yeah, those are the two things that I know to do.

Kyle: So what you’re saying, Cliff, is that Marvin would want us to get out of the doom loop and get in the pit and try to love someone?

That’s where life happens.

Cliff: He might give us a little bit of drugs to do it

Kyle: A little bit. Just a toot. You know, it’s so funny. Your take didn’t even occur to me. Like, the wavelength of, judgment were Cringe or whatever, you know, I was like, the vibe was immediately apparent to me. Like this feels good. I’m like, I’m, I’m wired for pleasure. I’m a creature wired for pleasure.

So like, of course this feels good. It’s just like I, the wavelength hit me immediately. it did not even occur to me that someone could feel. The way that you have at least acknowledged or observed, right, whether or not you yourself feel that way. So I, I appreciate just within thinking about the kind of record.

This is not necessarily this specific record itself. Like, I appreciate this, the spectrum there and sort of like the rich tapestry of humanity just in that, What I think is undeniable, though, is the mastery on display. For what this is, it is the best version of what this thing is. And in that way, I think it makes it transcendent.

It is a feeling distilled into. It’s sonic essence, you know, where, where words fail, music speaks, it’s that old saying epitomized and, it’s like the highest order function of music in our lives and the, the reason for my money that we feel compelled against all logic to keep making it from all, all recorded past into infinity.

Cliff: Go to tundig. com for more information about this episode and the album we just covered, including a full transcript and links to other interesting facts. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter for even more information about the album and go to tundig. com slash calendar to learn more about the 366 day album calendar that we put together that a lot of people are listening to together.

Kyle: Most importantly, by far though, please support your favorite local record store, concert venue and, or especially bands by buying merch, thanks for listening.

DAILY ALBUM CALENDAR

We’ve curated an entire year’s worth of albums to spin, one for every single day.

If you’ve listened to TuneDig, you already know these 366 picks span history, genres, and cultures. Each day presents an album that’s fundamentally different than the one that came before it, and the one that comes after.

Original "Bitches Brew" Art

To celebrate the endless creativity of Bitches Brew—and especially its famous album artwork—TuneDig partnered with two incredible Atlanta-based artists to create one-of-a-kind, handpainted gatefolds.

With the spirit of the original art in mind, each artist brought their own vision to life. These pieces will spark conversation for any jazz fan.

Each piece includes a new vinyl copy of Bitches Brew. 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the artist, so take this opportunity to support the arts in the raddest possible way.

Seriously. There’s literally only one of each. Make it yours. 😎

TuneDig Episode 52: Alain Goraguer’s “La Planète Sauvage”

Gather ’round, sommeliers of the strange and crate-digging boogie children, for something “Strange! Frightening! Fascinating!” awaits. The soundtrack to Cannes 1973’s Jury Prize-winning film is a dazzling, surreal, avant-garde hymn to cosmic knowledge and compassion and a secret handshake among real heads. If you’re after a trip to a new dimension, here’s your one small step for man.

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TuneDig Episode 51: Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You”

Marvin Gaye’s well of soul power ran mighty deep, and deep into his career, he pulled up a bucket of ice-cold, silky smooth champagne called “I Want You.” Come for the lush instrumentation, vocal harmonies, and Leon Ware clinic; stay for the stories. For our return from hiatus, we observe a titan in his element, reflect on the pain that built him into one, and consider how to reconcile our feelings when complicated messengers deliver beauty to our door.

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SEASON 6

TuneDig Episode 50: Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain”

Before uniting one nation under a groove, the lysergic lords of chaos in Funkadelic harnessed wild lightning into an amulet called Maggot Brain, bestowing the bearer with raw, dark power stronger than any force known to man. Between reaching our 50th episode and coping with the “maggots in the mind” of today’s universe, it felt like the right time to free our minds. We hope y’all’s asses will follow.

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TuneDig Episode 49: Alice Coltrane’s “Journey in Satchidananda”

The story of Alice Coltrane — an accomplished bebop pianist from Detroit who transcended into something far greater before walking away from public life altogether — is a glimpse into what it means to be truly free. Alice’s masterpiece "Journey in Satchidananda" is a cosmic dance that sparked creation from destruction. And in a time when we’re all desperately searching for a spark of meaning and hope, Journey abides abundantly.

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TuneDig Episode 48: Heart’s “Little Queen”

Take a moment to appreciate Ann and Nancy Wilson, who kicked down the doors of rock ‘n’ roll’s boys’ club with their peerless guitar work, soaring soul vocals, and tight songcraft. 1977’s Little Queen — an oft-overlooked gem in the classic rock canon — offers a snapshot of those elements at their most urgent and pure, powered by the Wilsons’ simple motivation (as described by their producer): “It was a war.”

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TuneDig Episode 47: Tangerine Dream’s “Phaedra”

When you think of “electronic music,” what comes to mind may not be a genre you deeply love — hip-hop, house, new wave, or even dub reggae — but all of it owes some debt, scientifically or otherwise, to Tangerine Dream. Dig in with us as we study a prime example of the band’s brand of effortful innovation, where they patiently and persistently labored at the cutting edge of electronic technology to open a portal to new worlds in our minds.

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TuneDig Episode 46: Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”

Did you catch one of 2021’s biggest albums, or like us, did you almost overlook it? If you have any expectations of pop music, "SOUR" will likely subvert them. Teenage dream this is not; it’s an exquisitely universal portrait of a weird time to be alive.

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TuneDig Episode 45: Fela Kuti’s “Expensive Shit”

The story of Fela Kuti — one of the most famous people on an *entire continent* passionately struggling to liberate power to more people — is absolutely one worth deeply knowing, regardless of whether you find yourself drawn to Afrobeat or (cringe) “world music.” But once you know it, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Fela and Afrika 70 as their revolutionary grooves rewire your brain in magical and meaningful ways.

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TuneDig Episode 44: Meshuggah’s “ObZen”

Meshuggah’s ObZen—an artifact of human creativity pushing the limits of what’s possible—will quite literally make you hear music differently. If you’re looking for a new musical adventure, and especially if you don’t think you like “heavy” or “weird” music, consider this your sign to push past your comfort zone.

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TuneDig Episode 43: mewithoutYou’s “Catch For Us the Foxes”

A misunderstood wise man once said “Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds.” In our most personal and vulnerable episode yet, we do some seeking through the lens of songs that fill us with the bravery and sincerity to love ourselves and others fully. Dig deep with us as we fish for words about our tiny place in the universe and dance with gratitude for our ability to do so.

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FRIDAY HEAVY

For lifelong headbangers and the musically curious alike, a new podcast from TuneDig is here to push your palette with aggressive, abrasive art. Each short, fast-paced episode offers (1) a new metal, punk, noise, or experimental release we recommend, (2) a related playlist we’ve curated, and (3) a heavy issue to consider and an organization doing something about it. Join us in the void.

SEASON 5

TuneDig Episode 41: Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”

Let’s be clear: "Bitches Brew" is a challenging record, even to some of the best musicians in the world — but all of them say it’s worth the investment. It’s the kind of trip that, even if we *could* draw a map, it wouldn’t take you there. Let go of the need for meaning and enjoy the ride with us. We can promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised where you end up.

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TuneDig Episode 40: Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

On the heels of one of 2020's most acclaimed albums — Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters — we revisited Apple’s debut Tidal and wound up working to extract ourselves from the mostly male gazes that made its reception … much different. We arrive at a question much like writer Jenn Pelly had: “People would constantly prod Fiona on how an 18-year-old could write songs as mature as these ... Why did they not ask instead how she became a genius?”

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TuneDig Episode 39: Death Grips’s “The Money Store”

The modern world is accelerating beyond our control, shaping our reality in ways we can’t yet perceive or understand. Enter Death Grips, an art project capturing the chaotic energy and illustrating the absurdity of our hubris in trying to harmonize the surreal and extremely real — never more perfectly than on 2012’s prescient "The Money Store".

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TuneDig Episode 38: Augustus Pablo’s “King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown”

Reggae music is easy to take for granted, but its impact is underappreciated and massive — in the case of dub in particular, everyone from Radiohead to Johnny Rotten to Run-DMC owes it a debt. Augustus Pablo and King Tubby together created what’s regarded as “one of the finest examples of dub ever recorded.” Join us as we dive into the culture, history, and unique engineering experiments that made it possible.

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TuneDig Episode 37: Rihanna’s “ANTI”

By every measure — sales, awards, chart-toppers, global name recognition — Rihanna is objectively as big as the Beatles ever were. In fact, ANTI is so big it’s still on the charts, a record five full years later. Take a closer look with us at “the record you make when you don’t need to sell records”, and get a taste of the true freedom that comes from focusing on your inner voice when faced with insurmountable expectations.

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TuneDig Episode 36: Son House’s “Father of Folk Blues”

All American music traces back to the blues, and deep at the root sits Son House. That the recordings on "Father of Folk Blues" even exist is something of a gray area that cuts to the heart of the great American myth, but wherever you land after hearing these stories, you’ll find that what matters most is what the great Muddy Waters once said of House: “That man was the king.”

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TuneDig Episode 35: Melvins’s “Stoner Witch”

The futility of describing the Melvins has stretched critics in the direction of absurd words like “Dadaist” for nearly 40 years now. They’ve belligerently flogged any attempt to pinpoint their essence simply by being themselves, but "Stoner Witch" remains a reliable mall directory for the Melvins’ vast and wild discography. Grab yourself some pretzel bites.

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TuneDig Episode 34: Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”

We should talk about Dolly the way we talk about Prince. Her extraordinary kindness and unique kitsch both make her universally loved, but what gets left out of the conversation is the very thing that made her famous: the music. Join in as we focus attention on the sonics and songwriting of the low-key masterpiece "Jolene".

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TUNEDIG RADIO

SEASON 4

SEASON 3

SEASON 2

SEASON 1

BONUS TRACK EPISODES

Kyle and Cliff

BONUS TRACK: How We Got Here

We got a bunch of interesting listener feedback in our off-season, and it encouraged us to shed some light on why we do things the way we do ‘em. Also, we reflect on our first writeup, which was ... interesting.

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WHO WE ARE

We're Cliff (right) and Kyle (left). We’re two dudes born and raised in ATL with day jobs in tech and sustainability, respectively.

We met in middle school, and in one way or another, music’s been the thing that’s kept us close for the two decades since — whether it’s sharing and talking about new music (like this podcast, except in our texts or over beers), going to shows, or working with our favorite record stores to help them survive and thrive.

We started TuneDig as a little art project that connects us more deeply ourselves and to the world through the infinite gift of music. We hope you’ll join us for the conversations, let us know what you think, and share discoveries of your own.

More About TuneDig

TuneDig began as a little something called MusicGrid.me, which we created after realizing there was no place online to directly exchange music recommendations with your friends. Our aim was simple: to make rating albums simple, useful, and social. We got some love from places like MashableWiredEvolver.fm, and Hypebot. We managed to foster conversation between music lovers, get thousands of reviews, and meet great people.

Along the way, we realized that record stores were an essential part of the music lovers’ community. After many a conversation about how we could helpfully connect them to the people who loved them, we began helping them leverage technology to create new revenue streams and embrace streaming services without giving up what’s unique to them: expertise and curation. (Long live the counter clerk who knows exactly which record will be the right introduction to jazz fusion!)

TuneDig is our vision to connect music lovers with the music they love, because no matter how much has changed in the way we discover and enjoy music, recommendations from people you trust and respect will always be the best way to find new music you’ll dig. With this podcast, we’re channeling the spirit of trusted curation pioneered by record stores, and bringing you something to take you deeper into music you can love.