Category Archives: crimetimeradio

Cleveland rots

In 1935, Cleveland’s so called Boy Scout Mayor, Harold Burton, decided to do something about official corruption and organized crime. He brought in a heavy hitter: Eliot Ness.

At that time, Cleveland was the most dangerous city in America. Ness was in the unenviable position of having to go after the police force and the mob at the same time. And as if that wasn’t enough, mutilated bodies started showing up. He had a serial killer on his hands.

The victims were not only killed, they were also decapitated and dismembered. As a result, most of them were unidentified.

It was thought that most of the victims came from the shantytown in the Kingsbury Run area of Cleveland. The residents tended to be impoverished drifters. After body parts were discovered outside of Ness’ office, he led a raid on the shantytown, driving out the occupants. And he burned the area down.

Ness took some heat for this action. Some suspects were identified and questioned, but the killer was never caught. The killings stopped in 1938. It was a rough patch of history, but the city carried on. You know why? Because Cleveland rocks.

I know. Most of those songs had nothing to do with crime. Maybe next time, on crime time radio.

“I’m sorry, the government you have elected is inoperative”

This week the truecrimers looked at political corruption and crime. It’s a bit of a gray area sometimes, because things that are unethical aren’t always illegal. But as the saying goes, abuse of power comes as no surprise.

Politician,” a song by Cream as performed by Gov’t Mule. It paints a picture of a man who stands for whatever will take him the furthest with the least friction, a man lusting for power and exercising his lusts in the back of his limo. Warren Harding knew something about that.

Warren Harding,” by Al Stewart. Al Stewart was a Scottish folk singer-songwriter popular back in the 60s and 70s. Why he decided to sing about a disgraced American politician from the 20s, I don’t know, but it’s a happy hopeful song about a tragic affair. Harding presided over what was the biggest government scandal until Watergate.

Howlin’ Wolf, with “The Watergate Blues.” That song was recorded almost exactly one year before Nixon resigned, so Wolf didn’t even have the full story to work with. There were quite a few Watergate Blues, some from other blues singers like Bobo Jenkins and Big Joe Williams, there’s a jazz instrumental from Eddie Russ, and something from Tom T Hall that you can buy from Dr. Demento. And there’s this beatnik rap from Gil Scott Heron:

Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson, with the “H2O Gate Blues,” featuring a string of corrupt politicians from Richard Nixon to Richard Daley to Richard III. So I guess it never stops. Keep raking the muck and you’ll always find some crime. Until next time, Crime Time Radio.

Nat Turner special

I thought I’d try to do a Nat Turner special on Crime Time Radio. I remembered hearing his in some lyrics – I thought maybe Public Enemy, but I couldn’t remember which song. A quick Google brought up a whole list, and with a little more looking I found a few others. Here’s a transcript of the show:

This week the truecrimers read Nat Turner’s Confessions. Turner led a violent rebellion in Virginia in 1831. This was met with a brutal response, which had long term consequences. I knew he had been namechecked in a few rap songs, like this one by Public Enemy

Prophets of Rage” by Public Enemy. Turner was only mentioned in passing, but the song also mentioned Denmark Vesey and Gabriel Prosser, both of whom were hung on suspicion of planning slave rebellions in 1822 and 1800 respectively, decades before the Turner incident.

Nat Turner“, from Reef the Lost Cauze. This one doesn’t just use his name, it tells his story. It’s basically the same as his Confessions, but with a different filter for a different audience. Turner’s Confessions were published by Thomas Gray, who I think was trying to warn the citizens of the South that their slave population needed to be strictly controlled, at the same time as he reassured them that this was an isolated incident. Reef says Turner’s story isn’t properly taught in schools, and that it’s violence was warranted.

Wu-Tang Clan, with “The City.” And a bleak view of the city at that. They drop us right into a violent scene, and Turner is invoked as one who died but took many with him. The song also invokes Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City.”

Living for the City.” Stevie didn’t bring Nat into that one; it just follows from from the Wu-Tang song. He’s saying life is tough but people are trying, which is a bit more positive than Wu-Tang’s City. Didn’t want to go out on a downer.

That was it for the show. There were a few others I thought of including. I liked X Clan back in the day, and I’m surprised I don’t have their CD anymore.

X Clan, with “Funkin’ Lesson.” I’m not sure what Brother J and Professor X are talking about there. They have Nat Turner right next to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Huey Newton, revolutionaries all, though of different sorts. At the same time they bring in a lot of Afro-Egyptian imagery. I like the sound, but couldn’t connect it lyrically to the others as easily, so I left it out.

I also found an old Philly soul band called the Nat Turner Rebellion. Apparently all their records are out-of-print collectors’ items, and even so, some of them are being deleted from Youtube. I would have liked to include their “Tribute to a Slave,” but couldn’t find a full version. But at least one of them is out there:


I was listening to Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire, because I thought I’d use “Hurricane” in one of these shows. The flip side has a song about the life and death of an NYC mobster, which inspired this episode.

Today on Crime Time Radio we’re going to have a crime story

“Runaway,” by Del Shannon. He rerecorded his #1 hit from 1961 in 1986 as the theme song to the Michael Mann TV show Crime Story, featuring the recently departed Dennis Farina. The show described the struggle between a Chicago PD organized crime unit and an up and coming member of the Outfit. While the song isn’t about crime, it does have a nostalgic theme that ties into the romanticization of the gangster. But it’s not all fun an games.

Joey,” by Bob Dylan and Jaques Levy. That song was longer than some gangster’s careers, I think. It’s about Joey Gallo of New York’s Colombo crime family. His story reads like a typical mob movie. That song was somewhat controversial for being insufficiently judgmental, but some people liked it.

New York City punk legend Johnny Thunders, with his interpretation of “Joey,” and a short semi-instrumental tune called “Cosa Nostra,” which was the name of a band he briefly led. Thunders wanted to grow up to be Keith Richards, apparently both as a musician and a substance abuser. He didn’t make it.

“Memo from Turner,” by Mick Jagger from the soundtrack of the movie Performance. Alert listeners may recognize some of that guitar work from the soundtrack to Goodfellas. Performance was an arty 60s movie involving English gangsters hiding out in Mick Jagger’s house. You can see the scene from the movie here. Embedding is disabled.

Well that’s my performance for the week. Until next time, crime time radio.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of…


This time I went for a pirate theme with my ds106radio thing, since we have a pirate’s tale coming up in the True Crime class. Today is pirate day on Crime Time Radio

“Rhymin’ and Stealin’” with the Beastie Boys. Mixing 1001 Arabian Nights, Betty Crocker and a few dozen pirate cliches. The crime-themed songs they’ve done might merit a show of its own. The piratical and nautical allusions in that song come from folklore and fiction.  Pirate folklore has a long history.

“The Coast of High Barbary” by Joseph Arthur. There is evidence that the roots of that song go back to the 1500s. It became popular in America around the beginning of the 19th century when Barbary pirates were a real threat to US commerce.

“Barrett’s Privateers,” a Stan Rogers song performed by The Real McKenzies. Privateers were pirates who operating with government sanction to rob merchant ships of enemy nations. Legal criminals, you might say.

The Pogues, with “Wake of the Medusa.” A song of a shipwreck rather than pirates, it’s based on a painting of an actual incident. The painting was met with both praise and revulsion which fits in with many people’s attitudes towards true crime tales. Until next time, Crime Time Radio.

Sin after sin

I’ve been doing a series of shows for ds106radio called Crime Time Radio. It’s not really part of the True Crime class, just something for my own amusement to fulfill my secret desire to be a DJ. The crime theme holds lots of possibilities, and I’m not limiting it to true crime. I tried archiving the shows on Soundcloud, but I ran up against their storage limits. So here I’m transcribing and linking to the parts I used.

This week on Crime Time Radio, we’ll look at sin. I get the impression from Cotton Mather and some of the stories of colonial crime that people were punished more for transgressions against God than for violating societal norms.

“Yonder Stands the Sinner,” by Neil Young. That comes from Time Fades Away, a criminally under-appreciated entry in Neil’s catalog. Crime and sin have long been represented in music. The tradition of murder ballads goes back to pre-colonial folk songs. Here’s a well-known modern example of sorts

“Long Black Veil”, by The Band. This is not directly about an actual murder, as some murder ballads are, although it was allegedly inspired in part by an unsolved murder. In the song, while the protagonist is being executed for murder, he’s really paying for the sin of adultery. From Mather’s perspective though, by not confessing he gets damnation.

Judas Priest, with “Sinner.” I’m not sure what Mather might have made of that one – it has a bit of the fire and brimstone, but it doesn’t offer a way out. I suspect the Puritans may have taken the position that any song that doesn’t worship God in one way or another praises Satan. Judas Priest wrote songs of crime as well as sin.

Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”, as performed by The Supersuckers*. I like the way they took a heavy metal song and countrified it. The narrator in the song blames society and circumstances for his crime, saying anyone would turn to crime in his position. And that reflects the shift in colonial crime narratives from confessions of sin to tales of people’s lives and actions, a shift from redemption to excuses.
According to the cover of their CD, The Supersuckers are the greatest band in the world, so we’ll end this week by going out on top. Crime Time Radio

* I later found out that it’s actually The Junkyard Dogs, which includes some or all of the Supersuckers and assorted guests, whose names have been changed to protect the innocent.


unnamedIce T has had quite the career trajectory – from rapping about LA gang life to playing a gang leader in films to singing about killing police to playing a cop on TV. There’s a crime aspect at every stage. So I thought he’d be a good topic for Crime Time Radio.

(JPEG Image, 225 × 225 pixels)He takes his name from Iceberg Slim, a Chicago pimp who decided that writing about the pimp lifestyle had a better risk/reward ratio than living it. His first book, Pimp: The Story of My Life, was something of a hit. I haven’t read it, but will put it on my future reading list. True crime from the perspective of the criminal should be interesting. Slim also wrote several novels, one of which (Trick Baby) was made into a movie (on Youtube).

I had been putting shows on Soundcloud and linking them here, but I’ve run into storage limits. Time to look for plan B.

Audio Sources used:
Iceberg Slim – Mama Debt
Ice T – Colors
Ice-T- High Rollers

TV on the radio on the web

timothylearyThis week’s Crime Time started out, as always, with our Gila Copter theme from the Revolting Cocks. Alert listener @onepercentyello pointed out that the main voice on the track belongs to Timothy Leary. I should have known that, but I didn’t.

This episode was all about TV cop shows, which have long had a relationship with true crime narratives. The Untouchables was based on real people, even if the stories were fiction. Dragnet strove for realism and allegedly used actual police files for storylines. In modern days, Law and Order tales were often taken from headlines, and Cops and America’s Most Wanted deal with actual events.

barrettaRobert Blake fits in with this theme in multiple ways. He played the Perry Smith role in the film version of In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s true crime novel. He’s probably best known for his starring role in 70s TV cop show Barretta. More recently, he stood trial for the murder of his wife. I never paid attention to the case in its day, so I don’t know anything more than what’s in the Wikipedia article, but it seems like there must be some interesting back story there. He was acquitted of the crime, but somehow found liable in a civil suit. His wife’s story sounds like the stuff of pulp fiction.

Watching The Detectives-Elvis Costello
The Tubes – Crime Medley
Inner Circle – Bad Boys (Video original)
Sammy Davis Jr. – Baretta’s theme

Robbing banks

Bonnie_Parker_BC10So I tried my hand at another episode of CrimeTime Radio. I went with a bank robber theme, since I had the Clash song (YT) in my head. To make it fun, I added a little Fun Lovin’ Criminals (YT) to the mix. Steve Earle brought his storytelling with Tom Ames’ Prayer (YT), which reminded me of the end to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a stretching-the-truth crime movie I watched last week. Since the show should perhaps have some tenuous connection to true crime, I brought in Bonnie and Clyde (YT), which is in French. I tried running the lyrics through Google Translate, but it missed a lot of them. However, I discovered the song was based on a poem Bonnie Parker wrote shortly before she and Clyde were gunned down. The end of their trail wasn’t hard to foresee.

Getting it to play on was a problem though. I think it worked last time because there was dead air when I put it on. When I tried it this time, a webstream was already scheduled. I checked the radio status and saw no one was listening, so I figured it was safe to mess around, but instead I just messed things up. I guess that’s why you’re supposed to read the manual. Except I’m lazy. Oh well, there’s always Soundcloud