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More Berkeley on the Jukebox

Volume II in our growing playlist of Cal-connected music.

June 10, 2024
by Pat Joseph

Our Fall/Winter 2023 issue featured a 21-song salute to Berkeley’s musical roots and its influence on the culture at large. It was a lot of fun putting the mix together and many of you responded with songs and artists that you would have included. So, in the interest of creativity and collaboration, here’s Volume II of Berkeley on the Jukebox, which of course has an accompanying Spotify playlist here. Enjoy!

Christine McVie, the keyboardist and vocalist of Fleetwood Mac, is performing on stage. She is playing a Yamaha CP4 stage piano and singing into a microphone.
Christine McVie. Photo by Raphael Pour-Hashemi

TRACK 1

“Songbird,” Fleetwood Mac (1976)

Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie recorded her famous ballad “Songbird” in an empty Zellerbach Hall on March 3, 1976. Zellerbach is, of course, Cal Performances’ venue on the Berkeley campus. At the time, the band was recording the Rumours album at the Record Plant in Sausalito. The song reportedly came to McVie late one evening and, not having an iPhone—it being 1976—she stayed up all night to remember the chords and melody. When she played it for producer Ken Caillat the next morning, he suggested they record it in a concert hall—just her on piano. They ended up at Zellerbach, where it was recorded in one live take, although it took all night to get it right. “Songbird” was usually a final encore number for the band, but since we’re taking this list chronologically, we’ll start here. (Hat tip to California reader, Thomas Quick, M.S. ’77, for calling this one to our attention.)

TRACK 2

“Straight On,” Heart (1978)

Sue Ennis, M.A. ’76, was a grad student at Cal in German literature—all but dissertation on her Ph.D.—when, as she recalled, the band she was writing songs for “got really, really huge.” That band was Heart, headed up by her hard-rockin’ childhood friends from Bellevue, Washington, Ann and Nancy Wilson. Ennis remembers the sisters pulling up in a limo outside her apartment on Arch Street in Berkeley and asking for help with their fourth album. The dissertation never got finished, but the album, Dog and Butterfly, went double platinum. All told, Ennis cowrote more than 70 songs for the band, including this one. She now teaches songwriting and the music business at Shoreline Community College in Seattle.

East Bay Ray is performing on stage. He is playing a red electric guitar and is dressed in a light blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves.
East Bay Ray. Photo by Stefan Brending.

TRACK 3

“I Fought the Law,” Dead Kennedys (1978)

Even before The Clash recorded their own version (and long before Green Day did), seminal punk band The Dead Kennedys covered Sonny Curtis’s classic “I Fought the Law.” The DK version was a response to the murder of San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by fellow city politician Dan White, who got off on the so-called Twinkie defense. Tellingly, the band changed the lyric from “I fought the law, and the law won” to “I fought the law, and I won” and, in the final instance, to “I am the law, so I won.” DK guitarist Raymond Pepperell ’74, known on stage as East Bay Ray, studied computer science at Cal, but devoted himself to music. Ray initially placed a classified ad to recruit bandmates, Jello Biafra and Klaus Flouride.

The Motels with Martha Davis, photographed in Philadelphia, 1980. © MPI09 / MediaPunch Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

TRACK 4

“Only the Lonely” The Motels (1982)

Berkeley native Martha Davis wrote this song on a guitar that her dad, a Cal administrator, brought home from Stiles Hall when she was 8 years old. Her babysitter at the time, Thelton Henderson ’55, J.D. ’62 (then a Berkeley law student, now a retired state supreme court justice) taught her her first chords! “Only the Lonely” came out just as MTV arrived on the scene, and the video for the song helped make it a smash hit. As they said back then, video killed the radio star.

TRACK 5

“The Waters of March,” Susannah McCorkle (1983)

Black and white photo of Susannah McCorkle on stage smiling and holding a microphone.
Susannah McCorkle, April 1991. Photo by Brian O’Connor. Alamy stock

The daughter of a Berkeley anthropology professor, she was Susie McCorkle back in her student days at Cal, where she studied Italian literature and wrote for The Pelican, the campus humor rag. Before graduating, McCorkle dropped out and moved to Europe to study languages, of which she spoke five, and eventually wound up becoming a cabaret singer in New York City. She was also a talented writer, winning an O. Henry Prize for one of her short stories in 1973. Sadly, McCorkle suffered from chronic depression and died by suicide in 2001. This song, by bossa nova pioneer Antonio Carlos Jobim, was a favorite of McCorkle’s. She said it sometimes made her cry as she sang.

TRACK 6

“We Are the World,” USA for Africa (1985)

Ken Kragen at the 35th Anniversary of ‘We Are The World’ in Los Angeles. Alamy Stock Photo

You wouldn’t think this one had a Berkeley connection, but it does—a very central one, in fact. While Harry Belafonte first conceived the idea of recording a star-studded song to raise money for famine relief, it was the Rolodex of Cal alum and music manager Ken Kragen ’58 that really got the ball rolling—and how. The original idea was to get maybe a dozen artists together for the session. In the end, they had to say no to some pretty big names. Kragen, who died in 2021, managed acts as varied as the Smothers Brothers, Kenny Rogers, and The Bee Gees. But his first signed act was the Bay Area folk trio The Limiters, the group we ended our Volume I playlist with in the last issue. (By the way, if you haven’t watched the making-of documentary, The Greatest Night in Pop, it’s worth it just to see Bob Dylan—Bob #@$-in’ Dylan!—suffer through the experience and seize up when it was time for his solo. Then it’s Stevie Wonder to the rescue. If that’s not a lesson in the creative process, I don’t know what is.)

TRACK 7

“Hazy Shade of Winter,” The Bangles (1987)

Susanna Hoffs by OpenEye.

According to a 1987 Rolling Stone profile, Susanna Hoffs ’80 started her Cal studies in dance, then switched to theater, then painting, then considered dancing again, and finally “decided to find a band.” Back home in LA, she placed a classified ad for bandmates and eventually formed The Bangles—originally The Bangs. The all-female group scored multiple chart-toppers with pop hits like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” and the Prince-penned “Manic Monday.” With this Simon & Garfunkel cover, “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Hoffs & Co. rocked just a little harder and even threw in some cowbell for good measure. Hoffs, who published her first novel, The Bird Has Flown, in 2023, credits her exposure to the punk scene with helping her settle on a music career. 

David Roback
David Roback. Photy by Michelangelo Mayo

TRACK 8

Mazzy Star, “Fade Into You” (1994)

Guitarist, songwriter, and producer David Roback ’79, cofounder of alt rock sensation Mazzy Star, studied art at Cal, along with his childhood friend Susanna Hoffs (see above). Roback, along with Hoffs and brother Stephen on bass, had earlier formed a band in LA called Unconscious, part of the so-called Paisley Underground musical scene then sweeping California. Mazzy Star was a critical success but only gained wide recognition with the sultry hit “Fade Into You,” with Hope Sandoval on vocals. Roback died in 2020 of cancer, at age 61. 

Photo of a black band t-shirt with the Operation Ivy logo stamped.
Photo by IslesPunkFan

TRACK 9

“Knowledge” Operation Ivy (1989)

Named for the hydrogen bomb tests, short-lived Operation Ivy was a ska punk band formed in Berkeley in 1987, a progenitor of the East Bay Sound and direct antecedent to the band Rancid. Lead vocalist and Berkeley native Jesse Michaels was the son of Cal English professor and celebrated fiction writer Leonard Michaels, author of I Would Have Saved Them If I Could (1975) and The Men’s Club (1981). Jesse Michaels graduated from UCLA with a BA in literature and now mostly focuses on visual art, film and other creative projects. “Knowledge,” a song about growing up (and feeling that you know f$%-all), has been covered by several bands, including, most notably, Green Day. (h/t: James Devitt ’89)

Stephan Jenkins by famian
Stephan Jenkins. Photo by Famian

TRACK 10

“Graduate,” Third Eye Blind (1997)

“Can I graduate?” That question is the emphatic refrain in this song from Third Eye Blind, whose lead singer Stephan Jenkins did indeed graduate from Cal in 1987 with a degree in English literature. But as Jenkins explained, it’s not about that. He told Billboard that “Graduate” is a song about getting signed by a label: “I’m still standing in front of some suit at a record company asking permission. I felt like some kind of lap-dancer, some student again, like I was still in high school. Can I get my grade on my paper? What it’s really saying is ‘I’m not really asking if I can graduate. I’m not asking for your permission. I’m beyond your permission. I’m beyond your control.’” When the band played the number at the American Music Awards ceremony, they changed it from “can I graduate?” to “can I masturbate?” What can you say? Once a punk, always a punk. (Hat tip to reader Omar Malik ’10.)

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