Browse our archive by

Filter by

Act Four: When Businesses Act Like Humans

Then Chicago-radio-listener and writer Alex Blumberg (he's now one of our producers) tells the story of encountering a corporation on its first day. It made all the human errors anyone does on a first day: exhibiting false confidence, pretending it wasn't the first day, trying too hard.

Act One: Papa Was Not A Rolling Stone

A case study of how children are asked to live the unlived lives of their parents. Author David Sedaris had a father who loved jazz but played no instrument himself.

Act Two: Toccata and Fugue In Me, a Minor

As a teenager, Sarah Vowell was not casual about music lessons — music became her life. She was in marching band, jazz band, Band One, symphony band, pep band and the Bozeman Recorder Ensemble.

Act Three: Knockin' On Heaven's Door

Writer Anne Lamott presents an example of what we can learn from music outside of formal classes. She tells the story of an airplane trip, a song, and a small miracle.

Act Two: When The Telephone Is Your Medium

Sure you can try to get your pop songs onto records, or on the radio, or onto MTV. But what happens if your medium of choice is ... the telephone? Before they had record contracts, the band They Might Be Giants distributed their songs through the medium of Answering Machine.

Act Three: Reverb

Ellery Eskelin never met his father but always heard he was a musical genius. Years after his father's death, Ellery started finding recordings of his musical output: he was the king of "song-poems." These are the songs that result when people answer those ads in the backs of magazines that say, "Send us your lyrics, and we'll write and record your song." Ellery's father's musical output was prodigious — and very odd.

Act Four: Grace Note

After all this doom and gloom about the difficult lives of artists, we end the show with a more hopeful story from Joel Kostman, a New York City locksmith, who tells us about an incident that happened to him on the job. Joel is author of Keys to the City: Tales of a New York City Locksmith.

Act Two

Josh Seftel and Rich Robinson's trek across South Africa continues. They head to the "South African Woodstock" and to a group that's half Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign and half terrorist campaign.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass, with a recording of a 1962 Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., appearance at the Villa Venice, a club outside Chicago. What's fascinating about Sinatra is how he is so many different people at once, and they're all on display in this recording: sentimental crooner, cruel woman-baiter, bully, goofball.