Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me Spotlight Conductor is Michelle and her Musings & Merriments blog. Given that the 4th of July is just two days away, the theme is Patriotic Songs. I felt burned out on patriotic songs because I did a full playlist of them last July and then for 9/11 featured some other patriotic songs…So instead of just doing straight patriotic songs today, I took a little diversion: I’m definitely starting my playlist off with a patriotic song (“Red, White & Blue” by Lynyrd Skynyrd) and then I’m featuring one of the three colors of our American flag with a presentation of songs with WHITE in the title. It is a continuation of my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs Series for sure, but I think the White songs angle kinda ties in with the theme? Maybe. Anyway, here are my favorite songs with WHITE in the title. Following the playlist is the list of songs with (hopefully) some cool information about each one. Oh, and there will also be some interesting information about the color white at the end. Enjoy!
Red, White & Blue (Love It or Leave) by Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Red White and Blue (Love it or Leave)” is a song by southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released on its 2003 album Vicious Cycle. It was written shortly after the September 11 attacks by Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant and another pair of rock brothers, Brad and Brett Warren. It reached number 27 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.
Lead singer Johnny Van Zant discussed the tune in a track-by-track commentary to promote the band’s 2010 CD/DVD Live from Freedom Hall: “We’re big supporters of our troops and we’ve always felt that’s a Skynyrd crowd; we always go back to our fans, we write about our fans and we love our fans. We’ve been blessed to have fans with us for years and years and years for multi-generations now and we’re supporters of our troops and our families. That song is basically written about our fans.”
We don’t have no plastic L.A. Frynds,
Ain’t on the edge of no popular trend.
Ain’t never seen the inside of that magazine GQ.
We don’t care if you ‘re a lawyer, or a Texas oil man,
Or some waitress busting ass in some liquor stand.
If you got Soul
We hang out with people just like you
My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue
Ride our own bikes to Sturgis
We pay our own dues,
Smoking camels, drinking domestic brews
You want to know where I have been
Just look at my hands
Yeah, I’ve driven by the White House,
Spent some time in jail.
Momma cried but she still wouldn’t pay my bail.
I ain’t been no angel,
But even God, he understands.
My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue
Yeah that’s right!
My Daddy worked hard, and so have I,
Paid our taxes and gave our lives
To serve this great country
So what are they complaining about
Yeah we love our families, we love our kids
You know it is love that makes us all so rich
That’s where we’re at,
If they don’t like it they can just
Get the hell out!
My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue
Oh, oh, red, white, and blue
Red, white, and blue
Oh, oh, red, white, and blue
Songwriters: Brad D. Warren / Brett D. Warren / Donald N Van Zant / Johnny Roy Van Zant; Red White and Blue lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Great White Buffalo by Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (Theodore Anthony Nugent; born December 13, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and activist. Nugent initially gained fame as the lead guitarist of the Amboy Dukes, a band formed in 1963 that played psychedelic rock and hard rock (best known for their hit song “Journey to the Center of the Mind”). After playing with the Amboy Dukes, he embarked on a solo career. Nugent has released more than 34 albums and has sold a career total of 30 million records.
Nugent is also noted for conservative political views, his lifelong stance against drug and alcohol abuse and advocacy of hunting and gun ownership rights. He is a board member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Republican Party.
This particular Ted Nugent composition became a staple of his live set; for Nugent it is more personal. Many of Nugent’s songs have lyrics about sex or nonsense, but he maintains that some contain relevant commentary, although the statements often got lost in the riffs. He said in a 1979 interview with NME: “Maybe some people will listen to ‘Great White Buffalo’ and realize that you can’t market animals and expect them to be around forever, but I don’t think so. I think they listen to ‘Great White Buffalo’ and they listen to the guitar riff.”
A great admirer of Native American culture, one of the hallmarks of his lifestyle is hunting his dinner with a bow and arrow. In this song, Nugent makes a cogent argument on this song about the need to respect animals to ensure their survival. He explains how Native Americans used every part of the animals they killed, and buffalo thrived. When the white man came, he killed buffalo for profit, which dwindled their population. In this song, the great white buffalo is the hero, appearing to lead his herd.
In later years, Nugent became a mouthpiece for gun rights and other conservative issues. Always an avid hunter, his views are often at odds with animal rights supporters, but they might find common ground in this song.
The original recording appeared on 1974’s Tooth Fang & Claw, the seventh and final album from Nugent’s group The Amboy Dukes (credited to “Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes”). Nugent went solo after the album’s release and issued a steady stream of albums that sold very well throughout the ’70s. As he built up his repertoire with hits like “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Great White Buffalo” – ignored for the most part when it was first released – found new life and became a rock radio favorite.
Recorded in June 1974, Ted Nugent is credited as the writer on this track, and he shares credit for the arrangement with with Amboy Dukes bass player Rob Grange. According to Nugent, the riff came to him while he was tuning up his guitar. They captured it on tape and quickly recorded the song, with Nugent writing the lyric on the spot.
Live, “Great White Buffalo” sees Nugent soloing extensively and freely. In 1982, he told biographer Robert Holland that this was one of his favorite (of his own) songs.
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit” is a song written by Grace Slick and recorded by the American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band’s second top-10 success, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.
This was one of the defining songs of the 1967 “Summer of Love.” As young Americans protested the Vietnam War and experimented with drugs, “White Rabbit” often played in the background.
“White Rabbit” was written and performed by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society. When that band broke up in 1966, Slick was invited to join Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer, Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane was Surrealistic Pillow, and Slick provided two songs from her previous group: her own “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick and recorded under the title “Someone to Love” by The Great Society. (The Great Society’s version of “White Rabbit” was much longer than the more aggressive version of Jefferson Airplane). Both songs became top-10 hits for Jefferson Airplane. They were the band’s breakout hits, with “Somebody to Love” reaching #5 US and “White Rabbit” following at #8.
Grace Slick based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland. It uses imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll—1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass—such as changing size after taking pills or drinking an unknown liquid.
Like many young musicians in San Francisco, Slick did a lot of drugs, and she saw a surfeit of drug references in Carroll’s book, including the pills, the smoking caterpillar, the mushroom, and lots of other images that are pretty trippy. She noticed that many children’s stories involve a substance of some kind that alters reality, and felt it was time to write a song about it.
Slick got the idea for this song after taking LSD and wrote the song after an acid trip. For Slick, “White Rabbit” “is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity”. For her and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind expansion and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, “White Rabbit” became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio. Even Marty Balin, Slick’s eventual rival in Jefferson Airplane, regarded the song as a “masterpiece”. In interviews, Slick has related that Alice in Wonderland was often read to her as a child and remained a vivid memory well into her adulthood.
Slick had stated the composition was intended to be a slap to parents who read their children such novels and then wondered why their children later used drugs. Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the White Rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse. Slick claimed to Q that the song was aimed not at the young but their parents. She said: “They’d read us all these stories where you’d take some kind of chemical and have a great adventure. Alice in Wonderland is blatant; she gets literally high, too big for the room, while the caterpillar sits on a psychedelic mushroom smoking opium. In the Wizard of Oz, they land in a field of opium poppies, wake up and see this Emerald City. Peter Pan? Sprinkle some white dust-cocaine-on your head and you can fly.”
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Slick mentioned that in addition to Alice in Wonderland, her other inspiration for the song was “the bolero used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on their 1960 album Sketches of Spain.” The song is essentially one long crescendo similar to that of Ravel’s famous “Boléro”. The music combined with the song’s lyrics strongly suggests the sensory distortions experienced with hallucinogens, and the song was later used in pop culture to imply or accompany just such a state.
Grace Slick was raised in a tiny suburban household in Palo Alto, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. This being the 1950s, women were expected to conform to the norms and aspire to be housewives. Slick identified with Alice; moving to San Francisco and forming a rock band was her rabbit hole moment. When she joined Jefferson Airplane, that was another journey down the rabbit hole.
According to Slick, there were always people who misinterpreted this song, despite her best efforts to get the lyrics across. In the book Anatomy of a Song, published in 2016, she said:
“I always felt like a good-looking schoolteacher singing ‘White Rabbit.’ I’d sing the words slowly and precisely, so the people who needed to hear them wouldn’t miss the point. But they did. To this day, I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs. I felt they were full of s–t, but to write a good song, you need a few more words than that.”
The line in this song, “go ask Alice/when she’s ten feet tall” provided the title of a 1971 book published by an anonymous author. Go Ask Alice is a fiction book about a teenage girl in the 1960s who develops a drug habit at age 15 and runs away from home on a journey of self-destructive escapism. Attributed to “Anonymous”, the book is in diary form, and was originally presented as being the edited “real diary” of the unnamed teenage protagonist. Questions about the book’s authenticity and true authorship began to arise in the late 1970s, and it is now generally viewed as a work of fiction written by Beatrice Sparks, the book’s editor and also a therapist and author who went on to write numerous other books purporting to be real diaries of troubled teenagers. I read this book back in the day and I’m pretty sure I had the edition that had “A Real Diary” on the cover. Did you read this book?
The cover art of the Avon Books paperback edition of Go Ask Alice presented it as “A Real Diary”.
The book was adapted into the 1973 television film Go Ask Alice, starring Jamie Smith-Jackson and William Shatner. “White Rabbit” was used as the theme song for the movie, which I remember watching when it first aired back then. Do you remember the Go Ask Alice movie?
The video I included in my playlist is a fabulous clip from a performance and interview with Dick Clark on a 1967 episode of American Bandstand. He gives great introductions and poses such great questions. It’s a wonderful time-capsule moment. In addition to “White Rabbit” the performance also includes “Somebody to Love.”
White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day – “White Bird” is a 1969 song by San Francisco rock group It’s a Beautiful Day, written by David LaFlamme and his then wife Linda LaFlamme (née Neska).
“White Bird” was written in December 1967, in Seattle, Washington. Manager Matthew Katz had moved the band there to polish their act at a small Seattle ballroom before booking them into San Francisco nightclubs. Living in the attic of a Victorian house across the street from Volunteer Park, the band had inadequate food and no transportation during a dreary Seattle winter. The song evolved from the depression of the band’s circumstances and yearning to be free. The song’s repeated chorus is, “White bird must fly or she will die.”
In a later interview, LaFlamme said:
“The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic. We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I’d sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, ‘the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,’ it’s describing what I was seeing out the window. Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from: We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”
The song was arranged and produced by LaFlamme and sung as a duet between him and group member Patti Santos. (Patti Santos died at age 40, in a 1989 automobile accident).
A prominent stylistic feature of the song’s original arrangement are multiple violin parts overdubbed by LaFlamme. It was first released on the band’s 1969 eponymous debut album It’s a Beautiful Day by Columbia Records. I had this album. I still would have it had I not been so impulsive during a move and gave my entire vinyl collection away!
The song quickly became the band’s signature tune and a staple of FM Album-oriented rock radio. The album rose to Number 47 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Following the popularity of the album track a single version was edited and remixed for radio play, with a running time of 3:02, and released on October 4, 1969. It rose to as high as Number 3 the week of October 18, 1969 on San Francisco radio station KYA. The single never reached a wide national audience and only made it to Number 118 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart. (I never heard of the Billboard chart Bubbling Under the Hot 100! Have you?)
A nearly 10-minute-long version also appeared on the 1972 live album It’s a Beautiful Day at Carnegie Hall. It later appeared on nine compilation albums and four more retrospective albums.
artwork by Kendrick Shakleford
The 1982 television series Knight Rider featured the song in an episode named for the song during the first season. The song was also used in the soundtrack of A Walk on the Moon, a 1999 American drama about a married woman’s infidelity, including Woodstock Music Festival scenes. (I LOVE this movie, starring Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, Liev Schreiber and Anna Paquin. The film, which was set against the backdrop of the Woodstock festival of 1969 and the moon landing of that year. Directed by Tony Goldwyn (of Scandal fame), it was highly acclaimed on release, particularly Diane Lane’s performance for which she earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead).
Nights in White Satin by Moody Blues – This song is, by far, the most incredible song EVER! And the video performance in the playlist will take you to another dimension. For sure, put the headphones on and view at full screen. A-mazing! I have never had the pleasure of seeing them in concert but I so hope to one of these days soon…
In case you aren’t familiar with the band: The Moody Blues is an English rock band formed in Birmingham, England in 1964. They first came to prominence playing rhythm and blues music, but their second album, Days of Future Passed, which was released in 1967, was a fusion of rock with classical music and established them as pioneers in the development of art rock and progressive rock. It has been described as a “landmark” and “one of the first successful concept albums.”
The band became known internationally with singles including “Go Now”, “Nights in White Satin”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, and “Question”. They have been awarded 18 platinum and gold discs. The Moody Blues have sold 70 million albums worldwide. They will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, sometime in 2018.
“Nights in White Satin” is a 1967 single by the Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward and first featured as the segment “The Night” on the album Days of Future Passed. This song introduced a new sound for the band. When they formed, they were more of a blues band, and had a hit in 1965 with a cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now.” With the songs on Days of Future Passed, they distinguished themselves with original songs in a more psychedelic/orchestral sound.
Hayward was just 19 years old when he wrote and composed the song in Swindon. He titled it after a girlfriend gave him a gift of satin bedsheets. The song itself was a tale of a yearning love from afar, which leads many aficionados to term it as a tale of unrequited love endured by Hayward. Hayward said of the song,
“It was just another song I was writing and I thought it was very powerful. It was a very personal song and every note, every word in it means something to me and I found that a lot of other people have felt that very same way about it.”
Haywood told the Daily Express Saturday magazine May 3, 2008:
“I wrote our most famous song, ‘Nights in White Satin’ when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song.”
Fans have come up with many interpretations of this song, which is just fine with Justin Hayward, who feels that the receiver gives life to the transmission. “It’s the listeners who bring the magic and the interpretations to these songs,” he said in his 2016 Songfacts interview.
How the song came about in the first place: Days of Future Passed is a concept album based around different times of day. For example, “Dawn Is a Feeling” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” This song was last on the album because it represents nighttime. Justin Hayward was inspired by Moody Blues keyboard player Mike Pinder’s composition “Dawn Is a Feeling.” Since Pinder had done “The Morning” for the concept album, Hayward tried to do “The Night.”
The London Festival Orchestra provided the orchestral accompaniment for the introduction, the final rendition of the chorus, and the “final lament” section, all of which were in the original album version. The London Festival Orchestra never actually existed – it was the name given to the musicians put together to make the Days of Future Passed album. The “orchestral” sounds in the main body of the song were actually produced by Mike Pinder’s Mellotron keyboard device, which would come to define the “Moody Blues sound.”
When first released in 1967, the song reached #19 on the UK Singles Chart and #103 in the United States in 1967. It was the first significant chart entry by the band since “Go Now” and its recent lineup change, in which Denny Laine had resigned and both Hayward and John Lodge had joined.
Upon its 1972 reissue, the single hit #2 – for two weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash) and hit #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 in the United States. It earned a gold certification for sales of over a million U.S. copies. It also hit #1 in Canada. In the wake of its American success, the song recharted in the U.K. in late 1972 and climbed to #9. The song was released yet again in 1979, and charted for a third time in the U.K. – peaking at #14.
The Moody Blues enjoyed a long and illustrious career that took them well into the 2010’s, and included thousands of performances, most of which featured this song. How does Justin Hayward handle the repetition? “I never lose the emotion of songs like that,” he told us. “I’m lucky enough not to have lost the emotion or the motivation, because it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share. And the audience provides the emotion around that. Because you do it in sound check and it’s fine, but when there’s an audience there, it completely transforms the experience.”
A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is the debut single by the British rock band Procol Harum, released on May 12, 1967. One of the anthems of the 1967 Summer of Love, it is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide.
With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics – by the song’s co-authors Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” reached number 1 in several countries when released in 1967. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic. It was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK (as of 2009), and the United Kingdom performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited in 2004 recognized it as “the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years.”
More than 1000 recorded cover versions by other artists are known. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades and has also been used in the soundtracks of numerous films, including The Big Chill, Purple Haze, Breaking the Waves, The Boat That Rocked, Martin Scorsese’s segment of New York Stories, Stonewall, and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary series The Vietnam War.
The single was released on May 12, 1967 in the United Kingdom by Deram Records and entered Record Retailer’s chart (later the UK Singles Chart) on May 25. In two weeks it reached number 1, where it stayed for six weeks. Writing in 2005, Jim Irvin of Mojo said that its arrival at number 1 on June 8, 1967 (on the same day that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the national albums chart) marked the start of the Summer of Love in Britain.
According to music journalist and author Harvey Kubernik, in the context of the Summer of Love,
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” was the “one song [that] stood above all others, its Everest-like status conferred by no less than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were enthralled by the Chaucerian wordplay and heavenly Baroque accompaniment”.
Kubernik also writes that, amid the search for higher consciousness during the flower power era, the song “galvanised a congregation of disaffected youth dismissive of traditional religion but anxious to achieve spiritual salvation”.
In his 1981 article on the musical and societal developments of 1967, for The History of Rock, sociomusicologist Simon Frith described “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as the year’s “most distinctive single”, through its combination of “white soul vocal and a Bach organ exercise” and enigmatic lyrics that “hinted at a vital secret open only to people in the right, drug-determined, state of mind”.
In the United States, the single reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 1 million copies. It also peaked at number 22 on the soul charts there. In the Netherlands, the song entered the chart at number 1 in June 1967 and again reached number 1 in July 1972. A May 1972 re-release on Fly Records stayed in the UK charts for a total of 12 weeks and peaked at number 13.
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” has continued to receive critical acclaim. In 1977, along with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was jointly recognized as “The Best British Pop Single 1952–1977” at the BRIT Awards, part of Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles.
As for the song’s lyrics: Procol Harum’s lyricist Keith Reid wrote the words to this song. In a Songfacts interview, he explained:
“It’s sort of a film, really, trying to conjure up mood and tell a story. It’s about a relationship. There’s characters and there’s a location, and there’s a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly there’s a journey going on, it’s not a collection of lines just stuck together. It’s got a thread running through it.”
Reid got the title and starting point for the song at a party. He overheard someone at the party saying to a woman, “You’ve turned a whiter shade of pale”, and the phrase stuck in his mind. Says Reid:
“I feel with songs that you’re given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever. In this case, I had that title, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale,’ and I thought, There’s a song here. And it’s making up the puzzle that fits the piece you’ve got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into.”
In an interview with Uncut magazine (February 2008) Reid, a poet, recalled the writing of the lyrics:
“I used to go and see a lot of French films in the Academy in Oxford Street (London). Pierrot Le Fou made a strong impression on me, and Last Year In Marienbad. I was also very taken with surrealism, Magritte and Dali. You can draw a line between the narrative fractures and mood of those French films and ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale.’”
“I’d been listening to music since I was 10, from ’56 to ’66-The Beatles, Dylan, Stax, Ray Charles. The period of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was the culmination of that 10 years of listening. But my main influence was Dylan. I could see how he did it, how he played with words. I was writing all the time. ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was just another bunch of lyrics. I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song. It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ‘ceiling flying away and room humming harder’, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images, I wasn’t trying to be evocative. I suppose it seems like a decadent scene I’m describing. But I was too young to have experienced any decadence, then, I might have been smoking when I conceived it, but not when I wrote it. It was influenced by books, not drugs.”
“We felt we had something very important. As soon as we played it for anyone, we got an immediate response.”
In rehearsal, instrumentation was added. We had this concept for the sound of Procol Harum to be Hammond organ, piano and blues guitar. No other band had that; it gave us a bigger sound. It’s a live recording… I think we did three takes. It is equal parts Dylan and Stax. On our own terms, we were always trying to make a soul record. Funnily enough, Otis Redding wanted to do it, but we wanted our record out first, and Stax wanted the exclusive.”
FUN FACT: This was the first song Procol Harum recorded. After it became a hit, they fired their original drummer and guitarist, replacing them with Barry Wilson and Robin Trower – more experienced musicians who could handle the subsequent touring.
FUN FACT: Nearly 40 years after this song was released, Matthew Fisher, who played the organ in the recording, filed a lawsuit claiming that he deserved songwriting royalties for his contributions. In 2006, a judge agreed and awarded Fisher part of the copyright. In 2008, the British court of appeals overturned Fisher’s right to collect royalties due to the delay in filing his claim, but it upheld, by a unanimous decision, his composer credit which had been awarded by the High Court, confirming that Fisher’s organ solo was part of the song’s composition. Fisher was granted permission to appeal this decision in the House of Lords and on July 30, 2009 the Law Lords unanimously ruled in the organist’s favour, pointing out that there were no time limits to copyright claims under English law. The ruling means that he now receives a share of future royalties for the track. A delighted Fisher commented: “This was about making sure everyone knew about my part in the authorship.” One of the five judges who heard the case, Baroness Hale, said: “As one of those people who do remember the ’60s, I am glad that the author of that memorable organ part has at last achieved the recognition he deserves.”
On July 24, 2008, Matthew Fisher’s friend and collaborator Alan Fox told us why Fisher waited nearly 40 years to bring his lawsuit: “In fact, Matthew did not wait 40 years to bring this case to court. He tried 4 times between 1972 and 2005, but was told each time by counsel that he had absolutely no chance of making a successful claim. This of course was never reported. It wasn’t until he met his current lawyers Jens Hill, that he was told that he had a very strong claim and decided to proceed.”
FUN FACT: This is one of Billy Joel’s favorite songs. He performed it on his 2014 town hall special with Howard Stern, where he said: “It sounded different from anything else that was on the radio at that time. It had a keyboard part that was the main theme through the record – Matthew Fisher’s organ part. There was an element of classical music in it; I didn’t know what the lyrics were about, but it took me to another place, it was atmospheric. a lot of the music speaks to you.”
White Room by Cream – “White Room” is a song by British rock band Cream, composed by bassist Jack Bruce with lyrics by poet Pete Brown. They recorded it for the studio half of the 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. In September, a shorter single edit was released for AM radio stations, although album-oriented FM radio stations played the full album version.
This song is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce, the lead vocalist on the track. Brown also wrote the words for “Sunshine of Your Love,” “I Feel Free” and “SWLABR.”
The music was written first. Jack Bruce sang and played bass on the song, Eric Clapton overdubbed guitar parts, Ginger Baker played drums and timpani, and Felix Pappalardi – the group’s producer – contributed violas. Clapton played his guitar through a wah-wah pedal to achieve a “talking-effect”. He got the idea from Jimi Hendrix. Interestingly, Clapton’s solo earned the #2 spot on Guitar World’s greatest wah solos of all time in 2015. The #1 spot? Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”
Pete Brown’s first attempt at a lyric was something about a “doomed hippie girl” – the song was called “Cinderella’s Last Goodnight.” Jack Bruce wasn’t buying it, so he scrapped that idea and pulled up an eight-page poem he had written earlier, which he reworked into “White Room.”
The “white room” was a literal place: a room in an apartment where Pete Brown was living. It was not, as some suspected, an institution.
In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he told the story:
“It was a meandering thing about a relationship that I was in and how I was at the time. It was a kind of watershed period really. It was a time before I stopped being a relative barman and became a songwriter, because I was a professional poet, you know. I was doing poetry readings and making a living from that. It wasn’t a very good living, and then I got asked to work by Ginger and Jack with them and then started to make a kind of living.
And there was this kind of transitional period where I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It’s a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. That song’s like a kind of weird little movie: it changes perspectives all the time. That’s why it’s probably lasted – it’s got a kind of mystery to it.”
“It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat.”
Lyric interpretation courtesy of Pete Brown: Why are the starlings tired? Because the pollution in London was killing them. Pete Brown also said: “The ‘tired starlings’ is also a little bit of a metaphor for the feminine in a way, as well. It was women having to put up with rather a lot – too much pressure on them at the time.”
“Goodbye Windows” – “Just people waving goodbye from train windows.”
“Black-roof Country” – “That was the kind of area that I lived in. There were still steam trains at one point around that area, so the roofs were black. It was black and sooty. It’s got that kind of a feel to it.”
On their last tour before the band broke up, Cream opened most of their shows with this song. When Cream did a reunion tour in 2005, they played it near the end of the sets. Clapton refused to play this song after leaving Cream until 1985, when Paul Shaffer urged him to play it while he was sitting in with the band on Late Night with David Letterman. That same year, Clapton played it at Live Aid.
This was released as a single after Cream had broken up. It did better in the US than in England, since Cream had caught on in the States.
FUN FACT: Clapton performed this in 1999 for the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park. Clapton and Crow were an item for a time in the ’90s.
Dirty White Boy by Foreigner – “Dirty White Boy” is a song recorded by British-American rock band Foreigner, written by lead singer Lou Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones. It was the lead single taken from the band’s third studio album, Head Games (1979). On the cover was a photo of a young woman backed into a urinal in a men’s bathroom, trying to erase her phone number from the wall. This didn’t go over well with some record store owners and radio stations, especially in the Bible Belt.
The B-side, “Rev On The Red Line” has also proven to be very popular among fans, but was never released as an A-side single on its own.
Foreigner in 1978
Jones has claimed that the song was about Elvis Presley, adding that “he always was that dirty white boy who changed the shape of music completely. It was talking about the kind of heritage that he left, and I think that had an effect on all the musicians that came after, like Mick Jagger – he was also a dirty white boy. Elvis paved the way for all that.”
White Wedding by Billy Idol – “White Wedding” is a song by Billy Idol that appeared on his album Billy Idol in 1982. It is often considered one of his most recognizable songs, although other Idol songs charted higher. It peaked at No. 108 on the Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 on its original release, and reached No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was re-issued in 1983. In the UK, this did not become a hit until 1985, when it was released there for the third time. It reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart upon its re-release there in 1985 and 1988, when it was re-issued to promote the Vital Idol remix album.
A key element to this song is the quick little guitar riff that starts it. Idol and his guitarist, Steve Stevens, liked to have a distinctive guitar part to open the songs – they thought of it like a flag harkening its arrival.
Despite rumors to the contrary, this song is not about Idol’s actual little sister. “Little sister” is slang for girlfriend. He is singing about a woman/girl he loves marrying someone else while he still loves her.
Idol did have a sister who was getting married, but on an episode of VH1 Storytellers, he explained that his sister’s wedding simply gave him the idea for the song. Like many of Idol’s compositions, he started with the title and wrote the song from there.
Ironically, this song is a very anti-marriage song, and yet many people have it played at their weddings simply because it mentions a wedding.
The music video for this song, featuring Idol attending a gothic wedding, helped launch Billy Idol to stardom and is one of his best known. It was directed by David Mallet, who had worked with Queen and David Bowie. Idol had little cash, so Mallet cut him a break on his fee. The concept was a “nightmare wedding,” with a Goth guy (Idol) marrying a normal girl, with some vampire imagery thrown in. The bride was played by Perri Lister, who was Billy’s real-life girlfriend at the time. She is also one of the three dancers clad in black leather, who slap their buttocks in time with the clap track in the song as they shimmy downwards near the end. “That’s the kind of thing they love in England”, says Idol.
The resulting video contained some of the most indelible images seen on MTV, including the barbed-wire wedding ring, the motorcycle crashing through the church window, and those dancers slapping their own butts in time to the music. In one scene from the video, Idol forces the barbed-wire wedding ring onto the bride’s finger and cuts her knuckle. Lister insisted that her knuckle actually be cut in order for the scene to appear more realistic. MTV initially removed this scene from the video. Also controversial were the apparent Nazi salutes made by the crowd toward the couple. Director David Mallet says he was merely “playing with the power of crowd imagery” when he had the extras reach toward the bride and did not realize how it looked until later.
Mallet said of Idol in the book I Want My MTV: “In those days, he was the greatest looker and mover since Elvis. Before ‘White Wedding,’ nobody would have admitted that was even possible. One look at that video and they got him.”
FUN FACT: This was used in the movie The Wedding Singer. After getting dumped at the alter, Adam Sandler tells his friends to “turn this crap off” after the video comes on. Idol later appears in the movie as himself. He helps get Sandler together with Drew Barrymore.
Black or White by Michael Jackson – “Black or White” is a single by American singer and songwriter Michael Jackson. The song was released by Epic Records on November 11, 1991 as the first single from Jackson’s eighth studio album, Dangerous. It was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell. The lyrics of this song are a plea for racial tolerance.
The song had an impressive release and trajectory on charts around the world. To prepare the audience for the special occasion of the televised premiere of the “Black or White” video, Epic records released the song (without the accompanying images) to radio stations just two days in advance. In a period of twenty-four hours, “Black or White”, described by the record company as “a rock ‘n’ roll dance song about racial harmony”, had been added to the playlists of 96 percent of 237 of the United States of America’s top forty radio stations the first day of release.
“Back or White” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 35. A week later it shot up to number three and in its third week, December 7, 1991, it ascended to number one, making it the fastest chart topper since The Beatles’ “Get Back”, which also won the Hot 100 in just three weeks in 1969. It closed the year at number one, and remained at the top of the singles chart into 1992 for a total of seven weeks, making Michael Jackson the first artist to have number one popular hits in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In the UK, the single became the first single by an American to go into the singles chart at number one since 1960, when “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley did in the same manner. Around the world, “Black or White” hit number one in 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Eurochart Hot 100, number two in Germany and Austria and number three in the Netherlands. The single was certified platinum in the US, selling over one million copies and became the second best-selling single of the year.
Reviews of the song were generally favorable. David Browne praised: “He still knows how to fashion a hook that will take up permanent residence in your brain (away from its video, Black or White is spare and effortless).”
Music Video: The music video for “Black or White” is quite interesting and features some fun actors. Macaulay Culkin, Tess Harper and George Wendt (Norm from the sitcom Cheers) appeared in it, as well as Tyra Banks before she gained supermodel status. It also featured a morphing technique that was very innovative at the time.
The 11-minute music video, helmed by “Thriller” director John Landis, got a lot of hype. It premiered on MTV, BET, VH1 and Fox (giving them their highest Nielsen ratings ever at the time) at the exact same time, as well as the BBC’s Top of the Pops in the UK on November 14, 1991. It premiered simultaneously in 27 countries, with an audience of 500 million viewers, the most ever for a music video.
It was perhaps the most controversial video ever recorded by Jackson, showing him dancing and destroying all things racist, including a swastika used by the Nazis. During the last four minutes of the clip, which were excised after protests, Jackson also performed some rather explicit crotch grabs, threw a garbage can through a store window, and destroyed a car.
Video detailed: The first few minutes of the video feature an extended version of the song’s intro. During this interlude (sometimes compared to Marty Callner’s 1984 “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video for Twisted Sister) an 11-year-old kid (Macaulay Culkin) is dancing to rock music in his bedroom at night, causing four baseball team bobbleheads (from left to right, the Giants, the Pirates, the Dodgers, and the Rangers) to bobble. This attracts the attention of his grouchy father (George Wendt), who furiously orders him to stop playing the music and go to bed. After his father storms out and slams the door behind him (causing a Michael Jackson poster on the door to fall off and its glass frame to smash), the boy retaliates by setting up large speaker cabinets (with levels of “LOUD”, “LOUDER”, and “ARE YOU NUTS!?!”, respectively; with the dial turned up all the way to “ARE YOU NUTS!?!”) behind his father’s reclining chair, donning leather gloves and sunglasses, strapping on an Ernie Ball Music Man Eddie Van Halen signature model guitar and playing a power chord, and telling the father to “Eat this!”. The sound then shatters and destroys the house windows and sends his father (seated in the chair) halfway around the world, where the actual song begins. The kid’s mother (Tess Harper), comments that his father will be very upset when he gets back. The album version of the song does not feature Culkin’s nor Wendt’s voice; they are replaced by voice actors performing a similar intro. The boy’s father crashes in Africa, and Jackson sings “Black or White”, surrounded by various cultures scene-by-scene.
The video shows scenes in which African hunters begin dancing by using moves from West African dance, with Jackson following their moves and them mirroring his; as do, in sequence, traditional Thai dancers, Plains Native Americans (located at the Vasquez Rocks formation in California), an Odissi dancer from India and a group of Russians (wearing Ukrainian clothing and dancing Hopak). Jackson walks through visual collages of fire (defiantly declaring “I ain’t scared of no sheets; I ain’t scared of nobody”), referring to KKK torch ceremonies before a mock rap scene shared with Culkin and other children. The group collectively states, “I’m not gonna spend my life being a color.” The final verse is performed by Jackson on a large sculpted torch, which the camera pans out to reveal as the Statue of Liberty. Jackson is seen singing on Lady Liberty’s torch surrounded by other famous world edifices including The Giza Sphinx, Hagia Sophia, Pamukkale, The Parthenon, Taj Mahal, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Pyramids of Giza, Golden Gate Bridge, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.
At the end of the song, several different people, of differing races and nationalities, including actor Glen Chin, model Tyra Banks, actress Khrystyne Haje, actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, and voice actress and singer Cree Summer dance as they morph into one another (shown as “talking heads”). This technique, known as morphing, had been previously used only in films such as Willow and Terminator 2. The morphing visual effects were created by Pacific Data Images. I really dig the morphing sequence.
THE IMPACT: The success of “Black Or White” solidified Jackson’s reputation as “The King of Pop.” Although he’d been called the name a couple times in the past, he wanted to make it official, especially since the tabloids had taken a shine to dubbing him “Wacko Jacko” for his eccentric behavior and changing appearance. Any network that hoped to air the song’s music video had to agree to refer to Jackson as “The King of Pop.” MTV even sent out a memo to its staff instructing personnel to use the moniker at least twice a week up until the premiere.
Dan Beck, a former executive at Epic Records and part of Jackson’s marketing team, worried the push for royal status would hurt the pop star’s career. “Believe me, we were trying to talk him out of it,” Beck said in a Songfacts interview. “Our feeling was that radio was going to just roll their eyes and say, ‘Screw you!'”
Instead, the video was the most requested clip on MTV and the single reigned at #1 for seven weeks.
FUN FACT: A rapper known as LTB performed the rap on this song, which was lip-synched by Macaulay Culkin in the video.
FUN FACT: Weird Al Yankovic had the idea to parody this song as “Snack All Night,” following his food-themed Jackson parodies “Eat It” and “Fat.” Jackson, who was a big fan of Yankovic’s work, told him to leave this one alone since it was a very meaningful song. Al was in a creative funk at the time, but pulled out of it thanks to Nirvana and his parody “Smells Like Nirvana.”
Jackson didn’t get the same respect from the show In Living Color, which portrayed him singing this as “Am I Black Or White?” making fun of his increasingly pallid complexion. This bit has him destroying a car as in the video and getting arrested. When a cop cuffs him, he says, “I guess I am black.”
FUN FACT TRIVIA: This was Jackson’s 12th #1 hit as a solo artist, putting him in third place (tied with Diana Ross & The Supremes) for the most #1 songs on the Hot 100, behind The Beatles (20) and Elvis Presley (18). Both Mariah Carey, matching Elvis’ 18, and Rihanna, with 14, will later beat Jackson’s feat.
It was also the fastest-rising single in 22 years (since The Beatles’ “Get Back”), jumping from #35 to #3 in its second week, and landing at #1 in its third week.
In my playlist I featured the shortened version of the “Black or White” music video. If you’d like to see the full 11-minute video, including the 4 minutes of offensive content that was eliminated by many stations, here you go:
And that wraps up my WHITE songs post. What are your favorite white songs? How do you feel about the color white?
Here is some fun information on the meaning of the color white, taken from the Bourn Creative’s Color Meaning Blog Series:
White, an inherently positive color, is associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness, and perfection.
The color white can represent a successful beginning. In heraldry, white depicts faith and purity. As the opposite of black, movies, books, print media, and television typically depict the good guy in white and the bad guy in black.
The color of snow, white is often used to represent coolness and simplicity. White’s association with cleanliness and sterility is often seen in hospitals, medical centers, and laboratories to communicate safety. The color white is also associated with low-fat foods and dairy products.
To the human eye, white is a bright and brilliant color that can cause headaches. In cases of extremely bright light, the color white can even be blinding.
Throughout the western countries white is the traditional color worn by brides, to signify purity, innocence, and virginity. In eastern countries, the color white is the color of mourning and funerals. In certain cultures, white is the color of royalty or of religious figures, as angels are typically depicted as wearing white or having a white glow. A white picket fence surrounds a safe and happy home.
The color white affects the mind and body by aiding in mental clarity, promoting feelings of fresh beginnings and renewal, assisting in cleansing, clearing obstacles and clutter, and encouraging the purification of thoughts and actions.
White gemstones are believed to help create new beginnings, remove prejudice and pre-conceived notions, to see the innocence in others, and to clear emotional clutter and silence the inner critic.
Other meanings associated with the color white:
- The expression “white as snow”is used in reference to the pure, clean, and innocent.
- The saying “whiteout”means zero visibility.
- The phrase “white flag”is associated with meanings of surrender and relinquishment.
- The term“white elephant” refers to a rare or valuable item that is unwanted.
- The expression “pearly whites”refers to very white teeth.
- The phrase “whitewash”has meanings of cover up, secrecy, and concealment.
- The saying “white list”is a list of acceptable, good, or approved items.
- The term “white sale”means a store sale of sheets, towels, other linens.
- The phrase “white knight”represents one who comes to the rescue; a good and noble hero.
- The saying “white lightning”refers to moonshine or illegal whiskey.
- The expression “white knuckle”references something that is fast, exciting, or frightening.
Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color white: snow, pearl, antique white, ivory, chalk, milk white, lily, smoke, seashell, old lace, cream, linen, ghost white, beige, cornsilk, alabaster, paper, whitewash.
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below: