Episode 522: Jann Arden, Julia Duffy, Pink Floyd’s ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’

Air Date:
Heard On BETA
Jann Arden
(C) Alkan Emin

Singer/songwriter Jann Arden talks about her hit Canadian TV series, ‘Jann.’ Also, ‘Newhart’ actress Julia Duffy joins us to discuss her very fulfilling career. And music writer John Kruth sheds light on Pink Floyd’s masterpiece, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon.’

Featured in this Show

  • Despite what some people think, Jann Arden's hit TV series 'Jann' is not a reality show

    Jann Arden is a best-selling author and a multi-platinum, award-winning singer/songwriter.

    She has released 15 albums with 19 Top 10 singles. Arden has also been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and has been awarded the Order of Canada.

    It’s a very impressive resume. And on top of all of those accomplishments, Arden is now a TV star. Arden plays herself in the very funny sitcom, “Jann,” which is free on The Roku Channel with ads.

    Arden joined Wisconsin Public Radio’s “BETA” from her home in southern Alberta. We started by asking her the obvious question: “How much does the TV version of Jann have in common with the real-life Jann Arden?”

    “It really is fictitious,” Arden said. “I think the only thing that we have in common is that we have musical careers.”

    “It’s kind of weird because the show has sort of leaned into my actual music catalog,” she said. “So, I think sometimes it’s very confusing for people. It is my real catalog that we use sometimes. I’ve had people come up to me thinking that it’s a reality show which always blows my mind. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, no, no, there’s nothing real there.’”

    Arden said she thought TV Jann would be different from real-life Jann when she created the show, and said when show co-creator Leah Gauthier began hammering out ideas, the character had a different name.

    “That was kind of an 11th hour decision by the network (CTV/Canadian Television Network),” she said.

    It probably wouldn’t have been a deal breaker to change the character’s name to something different, but Arden said that’s where she thinks the line started to blur for fans.

    Perhaps another similarity real Jann has with her TV counterpart is that they’re both late bloomers.

    “I think most people are late bloomers, too,” Arden said. “To be honest, I’ve always said that you really don’t even start becoming a person until you’re 50 years old. And I believe that wholeheartedly. I think it takes a long, long time to curate who you are. We make a lot of mistakes as we sort of clamber up the mountain to figure out what we even like.”

    “I have friends in their 40s, and I’m like, ‘What do you like to do?’ And I get the answer, ‘I don’t really know.’ So sometimes that doesn’t really hit you till you’re 55, 60 years old. So it’s a long process. I always feel for young people going to university that feel the pressure of having to pick something that they’re supposed to be.”

    In addition to her TV work, Arden is also a best-selling author. Her most recent book is, “If I Knew Then: Finding wisdom in failure and power in aging.”

    In it, Arden describes herself as a “crone,” which she said is somebody who owns herself and has dug deep into her heart and soul to figure out what makes her tick.

    “A crone is somebody who takes no prisoners,” Arden said. “If you think about a crone in antiquity, it’s like the woman that lived in the woods with a staff and surrounded by birds and chickens and milking her goat. Or making potions and having these magical, whimsical qualities and not apologizing to everybody.”

    Silver linings

    Arden never had much of a relationship with her dad, Derrel Richards, who died in 2015.

    “It was very contentious,” she said. “He was an alcoholic. Most of my formative years, he was very difficult to be around.”

    Arden said she doesn’t remember having a conversation with her father about anything.

    “It wasn’t until I got successful that I think he really saw me, that he took notice of me and would tell people, ‘That’s my daughter,’” she said. “And I don’t doubt for a second that he wasn’t proud of me. But it took a lot for me to somehow earn his respect.”

    But Arden also believes that if her father wasn’t an alcoholic, she may not have spent thousands of hours listening to records and learning how to play her mother’s old guitar.

    Arden recently released her 15th album, “Descendent” which is filled with great songs. One of the standout tracks is a song called “Steady On,” which was inspired by the pandemic.

    “I think three or four or five months had kind of blown by and things were still very uncertain, kind of scary,” she said. “There were no vaccines or anything yet. The world was making major adjustments, let’s put it that way. But I just sat at my kitchen table and I kind of wrote it as an anthem for my friends.”

    One of Arden’s most poignant songs is “Good Mother,” from her second album, “Living Under June,” which was released in 1995. Her mother, Joan Richards, passed away in December 2018.

    Arden said when she sings this song now, she’s reminded of her mom’s legacy as a steadfast woman who was practical and no-nonsense.

    “When I played her the song, she said, ‘Well, I think it’s got a really good beat,’” Arden said. “I didn’t have those kinds of parents that were overly demonstrative. They’d come and see me when I came through town. And she always enjoyed the shows.”

    But Arden said this song has taken on its own life. She said she’s received thousands of letters about it, with fans telling her it was played at a wedding, or at a funeral.

    “It’s just one of those songs,” she said. “I never thought people could personalize it just because I thought it was so just my point of view. But people have certainly made it their own.”

  • Julia Duffy reflects on her illustrious acting career, audition advice

    Julia Duffy spent seven years portraying the self-involved, rich maid Stephanie Vanderkellen on Bob Newhart’s hit sitcom, “Newhart.” Duffy was hilarious in the part and the critics knew it. She earned Emmy Award nominations for her entire run on the show.

    But there’s much more to Duffy than her work on “Newhart.” She’s worked with fellow Minnesotans, the Coen Brothers, as well as Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. She also played Allison Sugarbaker on “Designing Women,” and has performed in more than 20 plays on and off Broadway.

    She’s also the author of “Bad Auditions.” Duffy wrote the book to help her fellow actors know what to do, and what not to do, when they audition for a part.

    She joined Wisconsin Pubilc Radio’s “BETA” from her home in Los Angeles. We talked about her iconic roles and how she landed the parts.

    “Well, it was a guest role and I was asked to read for it,” Duffy said about her role as Stephanie. “And I was a little nervous because I had just done a guest role on ‘Cheers’ and the synopsis of the story sounded so much like the one I’d done on ‘Cheers.’”

    “And I thought, is that a weird thing to do, to do the same thing in the same season? Of course, I realized it was a very different character. And as I was worrying about that — because I worry about everything — my husband said, ‘You adore Bob Newhart. Are you crazy?’”

    Duffy realized that the “Newhart” character was very different from the character she had played on ‘Cheers.’ She did not read with Newhart during the audition for his show.

    “I knew his work so well. I knew what made him funnier. I knew what worked with him to get a reaction from him,” she said.

    There were a lot of changes made to Duffy’s character when she joined the cast of “Newhart.” She said she took opportunities to offer input into the development of Stephanie Vanderkellen, making suggestions to the show’s writers, who Duffy said were “the best writers possible.”

    I didn’t know why anybody would think she was funny if she was just a snooty snob,” Duffy said of Stephanie. “I felt that she had to be in some way unaware of her own actions. You had to free up the audience to laugh.”

    There was such great chemistry between Duffy’s character and Peter Scolari as Michael Harris. Duffy said that’s all Scolari.

    “I have to say that I think everybody who ever worked with Peter had chemistry with him,” she said. “Peter brings the chemistry. He always did. And I can’t imagine anyone ever felt any other way when they worked with him. It was instant as far as I was concerned.

    “We were very different people. And yet we barely had to discuss anything. We heard the joke the same way. We were completely in tune from the start. Our comedy sensibility was identical.”

    The final episode of “Newhart” aired on May 21, 1990, and made TV history with what is considered by many to be one of the best series finales in TV history. In the episode Bob Newhart’s character is knocked out by a golf ball and wakes up to find himself back in a previous television series. The entire “Newhart” show was just a dream. Newhart’s wife Ginny came up with the idea for the ending.

    “I thought it was a brilliant idea,” Duffy said. “I thought it was hilarious and perfect. It was such an outrageous meta kind of thing to do. Nobody had seen that on a network TV show before. To me, it just made it even hipper and funnier and groundbreaking.”

    ‘Bad Auditions’ and ‘Mrs. American Pie’

    In 2018, Duffy wrote the book, “Bad Auditions.”

    “I have spent all these years going to auditions. I should spread what I’ve learned,” Duffy said. “And I thought, but there’s so many actors who have written books about acting and getting in the business and auditioning. And then it occurred to me, I should just write about the bad ones because something was learned every time. And I knew that I had a message to pass on, and I really wanted to pass it on. So I started writing it.”

    Duffy noted the book feels a bit out of date now because in-person auditions aren’t as common as they once were.

    One of Duffy’s most recent projects is an Apple TV+ series called “Mrs. American Pie.” It’s based on the 2018 novel of the same name by Juliet McDaniel, with “Palm Beach Society ladies” played by Kristen Wiig, Allison Janney, Laura Dern and Carol Burnett.

    “Kristen (playing main character Maxine Simmons) is somebody who wants to get into Palm Beach Society. 1969 is when it takes place, right before the world changes. But they are very much doing things the way they always have been,” Duffy said of the series. “They’re a throwback. Ricky Martin is in it, and he is the pool boy. It’s a very lavish show. It’s so beautiful to look at and it’s so funny.”

  • 'I'm in another dimension': 50 years on 'The Dark Side of the Moon'

    Fifty years ago, blues-psychedelic-rock band Pink Floyd recorded an album that would change the band members’ lives forever.

    Bassist Roger Waters wrote the songs and band members David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason combined their musical talents to create “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

    The album sold 45 million copies — and counting — making it the fourth best-selling record of all time, spending 974 weeks on the Billboard Top 200.

    How did it happen?

    Wisconsin Public Radio’s “BETA” spoke with author and musician John Kruth about his book, “Lunacy: The Curious Phenomenon of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, 50 Years On,” to find out.

    To me, this album is a spook house,” Kruth said. “And who doesn’t like a scary movie? If we all get out the door in one piece and feeling like, OK, we’ve been through something cathartic — you felt like you went through something, and you had some kind of growth. This album represents a door in that way.”

    Once through the door, the listener is faced with a journey through depictions of madness, fear and death. Kruth speculates the album was inspired by former bandmate and leader Syd Barrett, who was with the group from 1965 to 1968.

    “It was triggered by Syd,” Kruth said. “As we all know, Syd is going to walk into the studio when they’re making ‘Wish You Were Here,’ and they’re not going to recognize him because he’s got a shaved head, and he was overweight, and he just didn’t resemble the Syd Barrett that they recognized and that they remembered.”

    “So yes, of course, Syd loomed all over ‘The Dark Side of the Moon.’ Maybe Syd was the big shadow that creates the dark side of the moon,” he continued.

    Roger Keith “Syd” Barrett led Pink Floyd for two albums: their debut in 1967, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” and 1968’s “A Saucerful of Secrets.” These two records helped define the early years of psychedelic music.

    “Pink Floyd came out of the whole blues scene that was going on in London,” Kruth said. “The name Pink Floyd comes from Syd’s cats. He named two cats: Pink after Pink Anderson and Floyd after Floyd Council, two Piedmont Blues guitarists from South Carolina. Syd was a full-blown blues freak. That’s what was happening in London at the time when they were first coming up. It was something that you could be passionate about, something that you could learn how to play. You don’t have the psychedelic scene without learning your blues.”

    But heavy drug use, especially LSD, and mental health issues made it impossible for Barrett to continue with the band, and eventually he left. Waters stepped up as the new leader of the band and Gilmour was recruited to take over lead vocals and guitar duties.

    Over the next four years, the band recorded five more records, developing their post-Syd sound — which finally came together with their eighth record, “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

    “I just think this album, to me, is very much like the monolith in 2001, right down to the cover, to what it continually represents in the future. It’s knowable. You look at it, you think you know what it is, but it continues to reveal itself over time to other generations. And maybe they’re understanding, and they’re looking at it, they’re hearing other things that we didn’t hear in it,” Kruth said.

    “The Dark Side of the Moon” pulls listeners into its musical spell with a soothing slow heartbeat and reminds us to “breathe in the air.” But it’s also like a rollercoaster slowly climbing to the top, only to plunge to the depths with unexpected twists and turns along the way.

    Kruth puts it this way: “There were so many rich aspects to work from when you start this record. It’s like, OK, you’re following this mood, you’re following this path, and then suddenly, it’s like you’re literally pulled down the rabbit hole. It’s like, ‘Where the hell am I? I’m in another dimension.’

    Once in this other dimension, listeners go through the ticking clock collage of the song “Time” into the brilliantly improvised vocals of singer Clare Torry on “The Great Gig in the Sky.”

    “She’s like the controlled Janis Joplin or something,” Kruth said. “What Clare Torry did was that she just grabbed you right by the aorta, man, and she just pulled you in. She didn’t need any words or any kind of language in her lungs to just get right to it, straight to your heart. It’s quite an experience.”

    One of the most played songs from the record is “Money,” which begins with a bassline that may have been borrowed from another source.

    Kruth said Waters could have been fooling around with the bassline of Willie Dixon’s “How Many More Times.”

    “Because it has a very similar syncopation as ‘How Many More Times,’ and yet there’s an extra beat in there,” he said. “And then what they do in the middle of that song, which is brilliant, was Dick Parry, in the middle of money — I think it was Parry that was like, ‘Hey, just give me a 4/4-time signature and let me blow. Forget this odd time signature stuff.’ Again, another excellent example of Pink Floyd’s dynamics where they open the door in the middle of that song and the sax just rips.”

    Eventually, listeners are brought to the end of the record with “Brain Damage/Eclipse” which offers a message of hope and returns to the soothing heartbeat.

    “I really believe that Roger was telling us to follow the light at that point,” Kruth said. “No matter what you face, no matter how dark it gets, no matter how disoriented you become, follow the light. And when you’re done and when it’s over, you’re kind of like, you know, it’s just the big sigh of relief.”

    If you listen close, you can hear the last words on the album spoken by Abbey Road Studios Irish doorman, Gerry O’Driscoll:

    “There is no dark side of the moon, really. As a matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

Episode Credits

  • Doug Gordon Host
  • Adam Friedrich Producer
  • Steve Gotcher Producer
  • Steve Gotcher Technical Director
  • Steve Gotcher Interviewer
  • Jann Arden Guest
  • Julia Duffy Guest
  • John Kruth Guest

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