Battle of the Bands RESULTS: Spooky by Classic IV

Hope all of you had a fabulous Thanksgiving and fun celebrating the holiday weekend with family and friends. It was a crazy busy time here for me with a zillion dogs boarding for the holiday and in fact I completely forgot to post the battle results so my apologies for being so tardy.

This is going to be short and sweet: my computer is acting up and I have to take it in to clear off whatever is making it stall and move so sluggishly. I’m getting irritated seeing “Not Responding” in every single program, and productivity is only a pipe-dream at this point.

Anyway, this month’s battle featured the Classics IV classic “Spooky” with Joan Osborne and Deana Martin both vying for the win.

JOAN OSBORNE steamrolled Deana Martin. Voters most definitely preferred Osborne’s smoky vocal style over Deana’s swing approach, myself included. I liked Deana’s version and enjoyed it very much. Her style set a whole new tone for the song, whereas I think Joan’s version is more fitting for the overall context of “Spooky.”

FINAL TALLY:

JOAN OSBORNE – 10 votes

DEANA MARTIN – 3 votes 

Another female vocal version that I considered using in this battle was a cover by Dusty Springfield. For those not familiar with Dusty, here’s the opening paragraph from her Wikipedia bio page:

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, OBE (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. With her distinctive sensual mezzo-soprano sound, she was an important blue-eyed soul singer and at her peak was one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the US Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the UK Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of the US Rock and Roll and UK Music Halls of Fame. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances made her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.

To close this battle out, here is another fine cover of the classic “Spooky”. I really like the video of this particular performance: the set is really cool, love the colors and the overall style of the time period. I don’t know the date of this recording or the setting but I think you’ll like it. Here is Dusty Springfield’s version:

 

As always, thanks for participating in my battle. See you next month on December 15th for the final battle of 2017. Until then, rock on…

 

 

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Another Rock Legend Gone: AC/DC’s guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young dead at 64

photo credit: Martyn Goodacre/Hulton Archive

Upon hearing the news about the passing of the driving force behind one of my very favorite rock bands, AC/DC guitarist and co-founder Malcolm Young, I was immediately taken back to those days when my 8-track player would blast out countless songs by this Australian band that played an important and starring role in the soundtrack of my life.

I put together a tribute playlist of my favorite AC/DC songs. And I have to wonder: what happens to the band now? Sharing with you below the two articles that I read tonight. They left me begging the question, is it over for AC/DC?

While you read the folowing articles about the great Malcolm Young, enjoy these incredible songs by one of the most influential bands that helped to shape my musical ear. And then tell me,  How would you answer the question?

 

From Rolling Stone, the news article by Daniel Kreps announcing the death of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young:

Malcolm Young, AC/DC Guitarist and Co-Founder, Dead at 64

Subhead: Musician who co-founded Australian rock legends in 1973 with brother Angus Young dies following battle with dementia

Malcolm Young, guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC, died Saturday at the age of 64. Young had been suffering with dementia for the past three years, an illness that forced his retirement from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band he founded with his brother Angus Young in 1973.

“Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young,” AC/DC wrote in a statement.

“Malcolm, along with Angus, was the founder and creator of AC/DC. With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed.”

Angus Young added, “As his brother it is hard to express in words what he has meant to me during my life, the bond we had was unique and very special. He leaves behind an enormous legacy that will live on forever. Malcolm, job well done.”

The Young brothers lost their older brother George Young, the Easybeats guitarist and AC/DC’s longtime producer, in October at the age of 70.

In an additional statement from Malcolm Young’s family, the band said that Malcolm Young died peacefully Saturday with his family by his side.

“Renowned for his musical prowess, Malcolm was a songwriter, guitarist, performer, producer and visionary who inspired many,” the statement said. “From the outset, he knew what he wanted to achieve and, along with his younger brother, took to the world stage giving their all at every show. Nothing less would do for their fans.”

As rhythm guitarist for the legendary rock band, Malcolm Young served as an indispensable foil to Angus Young’s arena-stuffing riffs. After forming AC/DC in 1973, the Young brothers would be credited as co-writers on every song the band recorded from their 1975 debut High Voltage through 2014’s Rock or Bust. That final album marked AC/DC’s first without Malcolm, who announced in September 2014 that he would permanently leave the band due to dementia.

“We miss Malcolm, obviously,” AC/DC singer Brian Johnson said in July 2014. “He’s a fighter. He’s in [the] hospital, but he’s a fighter. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he’ll get strong again… Stevie, Malcolm’s nephew, was magnificent, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. But I’m sure [Malcolm] was rooting for us.”

Malcolm Young last performed live with AC/DC when their tour for 2008’s Black Ice concluded in June 2010 with a concert in Bilbao, Spain.

Malcolm Young, like his older brother George and younger brother Angus, was born in Glasgow, Scotland before the whole Young family immigrated to Sydney, Australia in the early Sixties.

Malcolm and Angus’ first brush with rock stardom came courtesy of their brother George, who found global fame thanks to his band the Easybeats and their song “Friday on My Mind.” Although Malcolm’s two older brothers found success in the music industry, their father still made Malcolm work as a mechanic in a bra factory after leaving school at 15.

“I’ve never felt like a pop star – this is a nine-to-five sort of gig,” Malcolm told Rolling Stone in 2008. “It comes from working in the factories, that world. You don’t forget it.”

In 1973, Malcolm recruited Angus to form a new band, which the brothers named after the “AC/DC” electrical current marker they spotted on their sister’s sewing machine. After a few lineup changes, the Young brothers were introduced to singer Bon Scott by their brother George, who would serve as AC/DC’s producer on their early albums.

Throughout AC/DC’s tenure, Malcolm and Angus Young served as the band’s main creative force, crafting the unmistakable riffs that would make AC/DC one of the biggest bands in music. Together, the brothers would create the music for hits like “Back in Black,” “Hells Bells,” “Highway to Hell,” “Thunderstruck,” “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and dozens more rock staples.

However, Malcolm’s time in AC/DC was not without strife: A heavy drinker, he briefly left AC/DC in 1988 during the Blow Up Your Video Tour – his only absence from the band up to and until his dementia diagnosis – to go to rehab to curb his drinking problem. After a few months, Malcolm returned to the band and remained sober ever since. “I was not surprised,” George Young said of his younger brother’s sobriety. “When Malcolm puts his mind to something, he does it.”

Reactions to his death:

E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Malcolm was the essential rhythm guitarist of the world’s greatest working class Hard Rock band. An irreplaceable loss.”

 

Guns N’ Roses’ Slash told Rolling Stone, “Malcolm Young was one of the best ever rhythm guitarists in Rock n Roll. He was a fantastic songwriter and he had a great work ethic too. I toured with AC/DC on their ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ tour. I found Malcolm to be a really cool, down to earth fellow. The entire rock n roll community is heartbroken by his passing.”

 

Eddie Van Halen wrote following Young’s death, “It is a sad day in rock and roll. Malcolm Young was my friend and the heart and soul of AC/DC. I had some of the best times of my life with him on our 1984 European tour. He will be missed and my deepest condolences to his family, bandmates and friends.”

 

Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, who regarded Malcolm as one of rock’s greatest rhythm guitarists, tweeted Saturday following Young’s death, “I have to go…I am losing it that Malcolm is gone. I hate this…”

 

Kiss’ Paul Stanley added, “The driving engine of AC/DC has died. A tragic end for a sometimes unsung icon. One of the true greats. RIP.”

 

Tom Morello praised Young as “#1 greatest rhythm guitarist in the entire history of rock n roll.”

 

Foo Fighters’ leader Dave Grohl honored Young by writing about how, at age 11, watching a live AC/DC performance from Paris in 1979 in the movie theater was life-changing. “That film … was the first time I lost control to music. The first time I wanted to be in a band. I didn’t want to play my guitar anymore, I wanted to smash it,” Grohl wrote. “Thank you Malcolm, for the songs, and the feel and the cool and the years of losing control to your rock and roll.”

 

The Young brothers and AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. With over 110 million albums sold, AC/DC is also the best-selling Australian act of all time.

When Rolling Stone asked the Young brothers in 2008, “Who runs AC/DC?” Malcolm replied, “We both do, because we were there from the start.”

AC/DC's co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young

“We pay tribute to the unassuming genius of AC/DC’s late Malcolm Young, whose unwavering vision drove the legendary hard-rock band for four decades. Bob King/Getty

Another excellent article appeared on UltimateClassicRock.com. A heartbreaking end to a rock legend.

MALCOLM YOUNG’S FINAL YEARS by Dave Lifton (November 18, 2017)

Even before AC/DC concluded their Black Ice tour on June 28, 2010 in Bilbao, Spain, they were aware that there was a problem with founder Malcolm Young’s health.

As his brother Angus said in November 2014, Malcolm had issues with memory and concentration since before they started work on their 2008 album, but he was still able to participate in the recording and the promotion of the record. “[Malcolm] was still capable of knowing what he wanted to do. I said to him, ‘Do you want to go through with what we’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Shit, yeah.’”

During the tour, which lasted nearly two years, Malcolm “got good help, good medical care,” Angus continued, even though he had to relearn many of the songs he wrote, “which was very strange for him. But he was always a confident guy, and we made it work.”

Out of respect for his privacy, the band kept the truth about his health a secret from the press. In 2012, singer Brian Johnson said that a delay in their next project was because, “One of the boys is a little sick and I can’t say anything, but he’s getting better. He’s doing wonderful. Full recovery fully expected.”

But by April 2014, a few weeks before they were planning to start recording Rock or Bust, word started to leak out that Young’s health had deteriorated to the point where he would have to leave the band. “One of the boys has a debilitating illness, but I don’t want to say too much about it,” Johnson said. “He is very proud and private, a wonderful chap. We’ve been pals for 35 years and I look up to him very much.” Later that day, AC/DC put out a statement confirming that Young was “taking a break” from the band he formed more than 40 years earlier.

They tracked Rock or Bust in Vancouver, with Angus and Malcolm’s nephew Stevie, who filled in for Malcolm in 1988 while he sought treatment for his alcohol addiction. Johnson later admitted that Malcolm’s absence affected the sessions.

“We missed Malcolm, obviously,” he noted. “Stevie was magnificent in his stead, but when you’re recording with this thing hanging over you, and your work mate isn’t well, it’s difficult. I’m sure he was rooting for us the whole time we were over in Canada.”

On Sept. 24, 2014, AC/DC announced that Stevie was permanently replacing Malcolm in the press release that accompanied news of the arrival of Rock or Bust. Two days later, it was reported that Malcolm was being treated for dementia in a nursing facility in Sydney after having suffered a stroke the previous year. The band confirmed the diagnosis on Sept. 30, and the artwork for the record featured two tributes to the guitarist.

But, as we later learned, it was more than just dementia. On the day of Rock or Bust’s release, Angus said that his brother “had a lung operation; he had a heart operation.. everything hit him at once, besides his dementia.” But again, that was an understatement. In January, it was revealed that he was diagnosed with lung cancer after the Black Ice tour, and that he had a pacemaker installed.

AC/DC opened up their tour on April 10, 2015 with a 20-song at the Coachella Festival in Indio, Calif. But by that time, there was another change in the band. A month before Rock or Bust’s release, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for threatening to kill someone and drug possession. He was replaced by Chris Slade, who had previously drummed with the band from 1989-94. Rudd eventually pleaded guilty to slightly reduced charges and was sentenced to eight months of home detention.

During the tour, Angus would often give an update on his brother’s health, saying that he goes out for a walk and a cup of coffee daily, and that, “Every now and then he’s still the Malcolm I know.” Six months later, he was spotted on one of those walks, in the King’s Cross neighborhood of Sydney, near a facility where he received part-time treatment. Around that time, Malcolm and his wife purchased a waterfront house in the exclusive Sydney suburb of Palm Beach, reportedly for more than $10 million Australian.

While on the road, AC/DC were forced to make another change in the lineup. In March 2016, Johnson was told by doctors that if he didn’t stop touring immediately, he would risk a total hearing loss. The tour’s 10 remaining shows were in serious jeopardy, but Axl Rose offered his services to the band, and the dates were rescheduled for August and September, while Rose was on a break from Guns N’ Roses’ Not In This Lifetime dates that saw him reunited with Slash and Duff McKagan.

However, as they were waiting to make up the days, bassist Cliff Williams, who had been in the band since 1978 and, after Angus, was the second-longest tenured member of AC/DC, announced that he would retire upon the conclusion of the tour. “Losing Malcolm [Young], the thing with Phil [Rudd] and now with Brian [Johnson],” he said, “it’s a changed animal. I feel in my gut it’s the right thing.”

The tour concluded on Sept. 20 in Philadelphia, with Angus bringing Williams out from his usual spot in the back to the front catwalk during the traditional closing song, “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You).” As the tour wound down, Angus acknowledged that Malcolm’s condition had gotten worse in the two years since his condition was made public. “It’s hard to communicate,” he said. “I do pass on messages. I can’t be 100 percent sure it goes in there. But I let him know there are a lot of people missing him.”

Angus also admitted that he wasn’t sure what was next for the band. “We were committed to finishing the tour,” he said. “Who knows what I’ll feel after? When you sign on and say, ‘I’m gonna do this and that,’ it’s always good to say at the end of it, ‘I’ve done all I said I would do.'”

But he added that Malcolm’s drive kept the band going through difficult times, saying, “I feel obligated to keep it going, maybe because I was there in the beginning with him.”

photo: Hulton Archive, Getty Images

 

RIP Malcolm. 

 

Battle of the Bands – “Spooky” by Classics IV

It’s mid-November and that means it’s time for another Battle of the Bands. I’ll present two covers of a song that I choose and you guys listen to both and vote which one you like better. What does the winner get? Nothing but a slot on my BOTB Excel spreadsheet, but hey, it’s fun. So play along, will ya?

I had fun putting together my Halloween playlist for the other music bloghop in which I participate, Monday’s Music Moves Me (which I unfortunately missed the last two weeks because my greyhound Picasso had major surgery and he had a very rough recovery…and then my other greyhound Luca got sick too and I think I spent more time staying up all night with my dogs and hanging at the vet’s office than doing anything else). Anyway, one of the songs I featured on my Halloween playlist (which you should really check out because it’s good!) was “Spooky”. There I showcased two of the most popular versions, one from 1968 by the group Classics IV and the other from 1979 when it was covered by the Atlantic Rhythm Section.

Here’s a little backstory on the song with a mini-playlist including the two versions just mentioned plus the original for your enjoyment. But don’t vote on any of these! Below the Spooky song facts I’m posting two unique covers by female artists and therein lies today’s battle.

Spooky – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.

This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.

The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.

The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmates Dean Daughtry and Robert Nix later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly (is that a word? If it is, I don’t believe I’ve ever used it before) internationally.

“Spooky” has also been covered by a number of artists including Dusty Springfield (whose gender-flipped version was featured prominently in the Guy Ritchie film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Percy Sledge, Martha and the Vandellas, Michel Pagliaro (recorded song in French), Velvet Monkeys, R.E.M., Imogen Heap, Kid Montana, and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, who released it as an instrumental.

For today’s battle, I’ve chosen two well-known female artists and their unique cover versions of this song.

CONTENDER #1:  Joan Osborne

Joan Elizabeth Osborne (born July 8, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, and interpreter of music, having recorded and performed in various popular American musical genres including pop, soul, R&B, blues, and country. She is best known for her recording of the Eric Bazilian song “One of Us” (I love this song!). She has toured with Motown sidemen the Funk Brothers and was featured in the documentary film about them, Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Joan Osborne performing in Wilmington, Delaware in November 2009

Originally from Anchorage, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville, Osborne moved to New York City in the late 1980s, where she formed her own record label, Womanly Hips, to release a few independent recordings. She signed with other labels and released several albums over the years and had an interesting career journey along the way, including accompanying with her band the Dixie Chicks for a national tour in the summer of 2003. During that time she also joined veteran San Francisco jam-rockers The Dead (the American rock band composed of some of the former members of the Grateful Dead) as a vocalist, and released her fourth album, titled How Sweet It Is, a collection of classic rock and soul covers. Osborne is currently a member of Trigger Hippy, along with Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac, Jackie Greene, and Nick Govrik. Trigger Hippy released their debut album on September 30, 2014.

Having grown up in New York City and lived there for many decades, Osborne has stated that she feels a particular attachment to the city, particularly the borough of Brooklyn. Her interest in her neighborhood’s culture, history, and society has multiple influences on her music. As well, she’s expressed admiration for American poetry, especially the works of Walt Whitman, and cited that as a major inspiration for her songwriting.

Here is Joan Osborne’s cover of Spooky:

 

CONTENDER #2:  Deana Martin

Deana Martin (born August 19, 1948) is an American singer, actress, author, performer and daughter of well-known entertainer, Dean Martin. Deana was born in Manhattan, New York, to Dean Martin and his first wife, Elizabeth (Betty) MacDonald. She moved to Beverly Hills, California with her family by the age of one. She later went to live with Dean and his second wife, Jeanne Biegger. During her childhood, it was not unusual for her dad’s Rat Pack friends, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., to stop by for a visit. Being around her father and his friends led Deana to decide that she wanted a career in the entertainment industry.

She made her television debut in 1966, performing on The Dean Martin Show. She became a frequent guest, taking part in both musical and comedy numbers with a wide array of entertainers including Frank Sinatra. She trained professionally as an actress at the Dartington College of Arts in the United Kingdom and performed in theater productions in a variety of leading roles onstage and co-starred in several movies alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest actors.

Martin first established herself as a recording artist with producer Lee Hazlewood for the Reprise Records label. The recordings included her country hit, “Girl of the Month Club,” while she was still a teenager. Other tunes on the project were “When He Remembers Me,” “Baby I See You” and “The Bottom Of My Mind,” all recorded during the 1960s. Musicians from the famous Los Angeles group the Wrecking Crew, which included Glen Campbell on guitar, played on these recordings.

In 2009 the singer’s CD Volare was in both the Billboard Top Jazz Albums chart and the Billboard Heat Seekers chart. It was preceded by Memories Are Made of This in 2006. Deana’s 2013 release, Destination Moon, is a compilation of her favorite jazz and pop songs, plus a duet with her father, Dean Martin, on “True Love.” Martin returned in 2016 with Swing Street, an album of swing standards mixed with new songs soon to be classics. This is where you’ll find her cover version of “Spooky.”

The singer is also an author with her New York Times best-selling book, “Memories Are Made of This: Dean Martin Through His Daughter’s Eyes.” Deana performs her father’s songs as well as favorite classic pop hits in venues around the world including symphony halls, performing arts centers, blues venues, jazz clubs and festivals. She and her producer/husband, John Griffeth, divide their time between a home in Beverly Hills, California and Branson, Missouri.

From the Swing Street album, here is Deana Martin’s cover of “Spooky”:

If you can’t access the above video, here is a link to Spotify where you’ll be able to listen to Deana’s version of Spooky on her album there. She has some good songs on that album for anyone who may want to check out some more of her songs. (Thanks Debbie Doglady for pointing the problem out to me and providing the solution. You rock Sister!)

TIME TO VOTE! Which version do you like better and why? When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back on the 26th to post the results. Until then, rock on…

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me – HALLOWEEN SONGS!

It’s a special holiday edition of Monday’s Music Moves Me this week with our theme being HALLOWEEN. I got into Halloween as a kid and have fond memories of Trick or Treating on cold Western New York evenings (and once I even remember trick or treating in the snow!). But I’ve never really been into Halloween as an adult, especially since my friend Kathie and I were accosted by three men in masks one Halloween night as we were bar-hopping in downtown Niagara Falls. It’s a long story and it wasn’t fun. Since then, I hate people wearing masks. It weirds me out. I don’t like it.

BUT there are some really awesome Halloween songs! I’ve put together a playlist with my favorite Halloween-y songs, with some background information for your enjoyment.

My Halloween Playlist

 

Season of the Witch by Donovan – “Season of the Witch” is one of the first songs to fit the “psychedelic” genre. It was written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips and released in September 1966 on Donovan’s Epic Records (USA) album Sunshine Superman. (Donovan recorded it in May 1966, shortly before his highly publicized arrest for possession of marijuana). Donovan is the Scottish-born singer/songwriter and guitarist most known for his hits “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

Although originally written and recorded by Donovan, a version by The Pandamonium was released in the United Kingdom as a single in November 1966 while Donovan’s version was finally released in June 1967 on the Pye Records compilation Sunshine Superman. (The song was never released as a single but it became a very popular song with fans, enough so that Donovan himself played it live more than most of his other hits.)

Fun Fact: The recording features Bobby Ray on bass and “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums. The hauntingly eerie guitar is provided by Jimmy Page, then a noted session guitarist working in England.

The song was covered by many artists but one that I’m very fond of is by this next band:

Season of the Witch by Vanilla Fudge – Vanilla Fudge is an American rock band known predominantly for their extended rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs (most notably “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”). The band has been cited as “one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal.” Vanilla Fudge also is known to have influenced other major bands such as The Nice, Deep Purple, Yes, Styx, and Led Zeppelin.

The band’s original lineup—vocalist and organist Mark Stein, bassist and vocalist Tim Bogert, lead guitarist/vocalist Vince Martell, and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice—recorded five albums during the years 1967–69, before disbanding in 1970. (The band is currently touring with three of the four original members, Mark Stein, Vince Martell, and Carmine Appice with Pete Bremy on bass as Bogert retired in 2009).

Their cover version of “Season of the Witch” was on Vanilla Fudge’s third album Renaissance, released in June of 1968. The band also interpolated lyrics from an Essra Mohawk song, “We Never Learn” into their rendition of “Season of the Witch”. It’s the longest song on the album at 8:40 (8 minutes and 40 seconds).

Witchy Woman by the Eagles – “Witchy Woman” is a song written by Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, and recorded by the American rock band Eagles. Released as the second single from the band’s debut album Eagles, it reached No. 9 on the Billboard Pop singles chart and is the only single from the album to feature Henley on lead vocals.

Background of the song: The guitarist Bernie Leadon first started writing “Witchy Woman” while he was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers. After joining the Eagles, Leadon and Don Henley then finished the song together, and it would be the only song on the Eagles’ debut album where Henley had a writing credit. The song was conceived while Don Henley was living in an old house near the Hollywood Bowl, with his flat mate, Henry Vine (aka ‘Blitz’). Henley said of the origin of the song: “[Leadon] came over one day and started playing this strange, minor-key riff that sounded sort of like a Hollywood movie version of Indian music — you know, the kind of stuff they play when the Indians ride up on the ridge while the wagon train passes below. It had a haunting quality, and I thought it was interesting, so we put a rough version of it down on a cassette tape.” Henley also gave the song an R&B pulse in its music.

The inspiration for the title and lyrics about a seductive enchantress came from a number of women, although Henley had one particular woman in mind – Zelda Fitzgerald whose biography he was reading while writing the song. According to Henley, he was suffering from flu with a very high fever and become semi-delirious, and every time the fever subsided, he would continue to read a book on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, and the character in the song would be a mix of Zelda Fitzgerald “along with amorphous images of girls [he] had met at the Whisky and the Troubadour”. Zelda, the muse behind her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, was known as a wild, bewitching and mesmerizing “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties, and is sometimes thought to be the model for the character of Daisy Buchanan in his novel, The Great Gatsby. In “Witchy Woman”, the line “She drove herself to madness with the silver spoon” may be a reference to Zelda’s time in a mental institution and the special slotted silver spoon used to dissolve sugar cubes with absinthe, the popular 1920s alcoholic beverage distilled from the wormwood tree and called “the green fairy” for sometimes inducing hallucinations.

According to Henley, other influences for the song include books by Carlos Castaneda on shamanism, and a girl he knew who was interested in the occult. Henley said of the song: “An important song for me, because it marked the beginning of my professional songwriting career.” 

Spooky by the Classics IV – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.

This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.

The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.

The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmate Dean Daughtry later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly internationally. I’ve also included their version in my playlist.

Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett (and the Cryptkickers) – “Monster Mash” is a 1962 novelty song and the best-known song by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. The song was released as a single on Gary S. Paxton’s Garpax Records label in August 1962. Paxton distributed it to radio stations around southern California. Response was overwhelming, as the stations saw their phone banks lighting up with requests for the song. A deal was struck with London Records, who distributed the song worldwide.

The “Monster Mash” single was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 20–27 of that year, just before Halloween. It has been a perennial holiday favorite ever since.

When a novelty song becomes a surprise hit, a hastily produced album typically follows. In this case, the album was called The Original Monster Mash and included several other monster-themed songs like “Blood Bank Blues,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Transylvania Twist,” “Me And My Mummy” and “Irresistible Igor.”

Pickett was a nightclub entertainer who performed with a group called The Cordials. He wrote “Monster Mash” with his friend Lenny Capizzi. They were both big horror movie fans, and Pickett would do an impression of the actor Boris Karloff (known for playing the monster in many Frankenstein movies) during the speaking part of “Little Darlin'” that went over well in his act. As Capizzi played the piano, he and Pickett put together this song with his Karloff impression in mind. They came up with the plot about Frankenstein’s monster starting a dance craze.

The lyrics are based on the story of Frankenstein, which started as an 1818 novel by Mary Shelley and evolved into various film adaptations. In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature who comes to life, but what he created is a monster. The book is sober tale of regret and unexpected consequences, but the story is often played for comedy. In this song, the monster throws a big dance party, which is enthusiastically attended by many other creatures of lore (Dracula, Wolfman).

Pickett is imitating Boris Karloff, but is narrating the story as Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster that Karloff famously portrayed. Here he is performing the song on American Bandstand on October 13, 1964, with a comical introduction by a young Dick Clark. I just love his facial expressions!

Pickett and Lenny Capizzi wrote this song in about two hours. They recorded a demo to tape and brought it to Gary Paxton, lead singer of The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”). They recorded the song with Paxton and studio musicians Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page, who were credited as “The Cryptkickers.” Paxton, who is credited as the song’s producer, also added the sound effects.

This being 1962, many of the sound effects had to be created in the studio. The sound effects on the song were done as follows:

The coffin being opened was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a lump of wood with the claw of a hammer.

The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water.

The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the record studio floor.

This is arguably the most successful novelty song of all time. Bobby Pickett accomplished the rare feat of reaching the top 100 music chart three times with the same song. On October 20, 1962, the original release hit #1 in the US. The song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 29, 1970 peaking at #91, and then again on May 5, 1972 when it went all the way to #10. The song has sold over four million copies and continues to be a Halloween favorite.

Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group – “Frankenstein” is an instrumental by The Edgar Winter Group from their album They Only Come Out at Night.

The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in May 1973, being replaced by Paul McCartney’s “My Love”. It sold over one million copies. In Canada it fared equally well, reaching #1 on the RPM 100 Top Singles Chart the following month, the same month that saw it peak at #18 in the UK.

This is one of the most famous instrumental rock songs. In fact, Rolling Stone lists “Frankenstein” as one of the top 25 best rock instrumentals. The single sold over 1 million copies and became a classic rock staple.

It got its title because of the intense editing that went into the song; it became a monster when it was pieced together in the studio. Said Winter: “When we were editing it in the studio, back in those days when you edited something, you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together, so it was all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and the couch. We were making fun of it, trying to figure out how to put it back together, saying ‘Here’s the main body; the leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone… ‘ Then Chuck Ruff, my drummer, says, ‘Wow, man, it’s like Frankenstein.’ As soon as I heard that, I went, ‘Wow, that’s it!’ The monster was born.” Winter frequently refers to the appropriateness of the name also in relation to its “monster-like, lumbering beat.”

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster

Winter played many of the instruments on the track, including keyboards, saxophone and timbales. Rick Derringer produced this and played guitar on the track along with Ronnie Montrose. As the release’s only instrumental cut, the song was not initially intended to be on the album, and was only included on a whim as a last-minute addition. It was originally released as the B-side to “Hangin’ Around”, but the two were soon reversed by the label when disc jockeys nationwide in the United States, as well as in Canada, were inundated with phone calls and realized this was the hit. The song features a “double” drum solo, with Ruff on drums and Winter on percussion. In fact, the working title of the song was “The Double Drum Song”. This was the first hit song that used a synthesizer as the lead instrument.

The group performed the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973. The song was actually performed three years previously when Edgar was playing with his older brother Johnny Winter at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. This rare recording was recently released as one of several live bonus tracks included in the two-disc Deluxe Edition CD of Johnny Winter’s Second Winter.

Speaking of They Only Come Out at Night, how about my next pick for a Halloween song:

Thriller by Michael Jackson – “Thriller” is a song recorded by American singer Michael Jackson, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones. It is the seventh and final single released by Epic Records from his 1982 studio album Thriller. A 14-minute video showing Jackson in a horror-themed performance premiered on November 14, 1983. It was first shown on MTV on December 2, 1983. The song was not released as a single until January 23, 1984.

In the song, sound effects such as a creaking door, thunder, feet walking on wooden planks, winds and howling dogs can be heard, and the lyrics contain frightening themes and elements. “Thriller” received positive reviews from critics and became Jackson’s seventh top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from the album, while reaching the top of the charts in France and Belgium and the top ten in many other countries.

“Thriller” was adapted by director John Landis into a highly successful music video, known independently as “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”. At fourteen minutes the video is substantially longer than the song, which ties together a narrative featuring Jackson and actress Ola Ray in a setting heavily inspired by horror films of the 1950s. In the video’s most iconic scene, Jackson leads other actors costumed as zombies in a choreographed dance routine. Though it garnered some criticism for its occult theme and violent imagery, the video was immediately popular and received high critical acclaim, being nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 (the very first MTV Video Music Awards) and winning three (Best Performance Video, Best Choreography, and Viewers Choice). Considered the most famous music video of all time, it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2009, the first music video ever selected. How cool is that?!

Most homes had VCRs in 1983 and sales of videos were big business. Along with the Jane Fonda workout tapes, you could buy a VHS or beta copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which included the full video and also “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” a behind the scenes documentary. This tape became the best-selling music video at the time, and was later certified by Guinness World Records as the top selling music video of all time, moving nine million units. Part of its appeal was the price, a mere $24.95 at a time when movies on tape cost much more.

The video distribution deal was through a company called Vestron, who approached John Landis about selling the film directly to consumers, which turned out to be very profitable. The timing helped, as the video was released a few weeks before Christmas.

Thriller is by far the best-selling album in the world. In the United States, it was overtaken by The Eagles Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, but reclaimed the title after Jackson’s death.

Fun Fact: Rod Temperton recalled that when he wrote this song he envisaged “this talking section at the end and didn’t know really what we were going to do with it. But one thing I’d thought about was to have a famous voice in the horror genre to do the vocal. Quincy (Jones, producer)’s wife knew Vincent Price, so Quincy said to me, ‘How about if we got Vincent Price?'” (Source Q magazine August 2009).

Vincent Price, an actor best known for his work on horror films, did the narration at the end of the song, including the evil laugh. Price’s rap includes the line “Must stand and face the hounds of hell.” (This was inspired by the most popular Sherlock Holmes novel to date, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Sir Henry Baskerville’s family is supposedly cursed by a bloodthirsty, demonic hound. Price’s personal friends, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (who appeared in several horror films with him), starred in a loose 1959 film adaptation of it. It was the first Sherlock Holmes film shot in color). Price recorded the central spoken section in this song on his second take, after it had been written by Rod Temperton in the taxi on the way to the studio for the recording session.

Vincent Price, while a guest on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, laughingly stated that when he did the narration for “Thriller” (at the request of Michael Jackson who was a big fan of Price) he had a choice between taking a percentage of the album sales or $20,000. Price was well along in his career, so he took the $20,000. He was good-natured about it when Carson told him he could have made millions off of the royalties due to the vast number of copies sold even at that time. Price laughed heartily and said: “How well I know!”

Vincent Price in Twice Told Tales (1963)

Ghosts by Michael Jackson – “Ghosts” is a 1996 song by Michael Jackson. “Ghosts” was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley in 1996. Commentators made observations about the paranoid lyrics, a common theme in Jackson’s work. Its music video was a five-minute clip taken from the much longer film of the same name. It was released as part of the single release “HIStory”/”Ghosts”, a double A-side single from Michael Jackson’s 1997 remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.

The song would become a top five hit in the UK and Italy, but did not chart as highly elsewhere. Specifically “HIStory/Ghosts” did generally well of music charts worldwide, having charted within the top-ten and top-twenty in multiple countries. The song’s highest peak position was in Italy, charting at number three. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden “HIStory/Ghosts” spent seventeen to eighteen weeks on the charts. In Australia “HIStory/Ghosts” peaked at forty-three before falling off the chart. The single did not appear on any United States Billboard charts.

The music video for “Ghosts” was a five-minute cut-down of the short film of the same title, which Jackson unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the album promotion. It was released theatrically in the US in October 1996 and made its UK debut the following May at the Odeon Leicester Square. The music video won the Bob Fosse Award for Best Choreography in a Music Video.

Written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston, the short film was inspired by the isolation the singer felt after he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. It centers on the Maestro (Jackson), who’s nearly chased out of his town by the residents and the mayor (who intentionally resembles Tom Sneddon, a prosecutor in the 1993 accusations) because they believe him to be a “freak.” The film includes several songs and music videos from the albums HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. At 38 minutes, the film holds the Guinness World Record for longest music video. The short version is included in Michael Jackson’s Vision.

Ghost Riders in the Sky by the Outlaws – The original song is “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend,” a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter, film and television actor Stan Jones.

The song tells a folk tale of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever “trying to catch the Devil’s herd across these endless skies”. Jones stated he had been told the story when he was 12 years old by an old cowboy friend. The story resembles the northern European mythic Wild Hunt.

More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song. One of the charting versions that I’m most familiar with was recorded by the American southern rock band Outlaws and appears on their sixth album Ghost Riders, released in 1980. It is regarded by many fans as the last Outlaws album that followed their old fashioned southern rock style, and also a comeback after some mediocre albums saleswise. Their cover of “(Ghost) Riders In the Sky” was one of their most successful songs, and has earned the band some attention from outside the southern rock circles.

Goblin Girl by Frank Zappa – I’m not much of a Zappa fan but I just had to include this song. “Goblin Girl” is from Frank Zappa’s double album You Are What You Is. It was originally released as a double album in 1981 and later by Rykodisc as a 20-song CD.

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” is a rock song composed by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon and performed by Zevon. Included on Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy, it featured accompaniment by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. It was produced by Jackson Browne.The single was released by Asylum Records and it entered the American Top 40 charts on April 22, 1978, reaching number 21, and remained in the Top 40 for six weeks. In New Zealand, the song reached number 15. This was the only Top 40 hit for Warren Zevon as singer.

When Zevon was working with The Everly Brothers, he hired Wachtel to play in their backing band. At one point, Phil Everly asked them to write a dance song for the Everly Brothers called “Werewolves of London.” Wachtel and Zevon were good friends and were strumming guitars together when someone asked what they were playing. Zevon replied, “Werewolves of London,” and Wachtel started howling. Zevon came up with the line “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand,” and they traded lyrics back and forth until they had their song.

The lyrics tell the story of “a hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent.” He’s well-dressed (“I’d like to meet his tailor”), well-groomed (“His hair was perfect”), and “preying on little old ladies.”

Henry Hull as Werewolf of London (1935)

Fun Facts: The Chinese restaurant mentioned in the song, “Lee Ho Fook,” is a real location. It is situated on Gerrard Street in London’s Chinatown (the nearest Tube station is Piccadilly). The patron proudly displays Zevon’s photo.

When Zevon played this live, he sometimes replaced the line “I’d like to meet his tailor” with “And he’s looking for James Taylor!”

In 2000, a fight broke out while Zevon was performing this at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Zevon stopped, waited for the fight to end, said “I bet this never happens at Sting concerts,” and continued the song.

Zevon filled in for bandleader/keyboardist/producer Paul Shaffer at Late Night with David Letterman whenever Shaffer was unable to attend the taping of the show. Letterman was a big fan of Zevon, and did some very moving interviews with him before his death, including one in which Zevon gave this advice: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Zevon died of lung cancer in 2003. He lived with the disease longer than doctors expected and made his last album, The Wind, while he was dying.

Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer” is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band the Artistic in 1974, and as Talking Heads in 1975, with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77.

The band’s “signature debut hit” features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad, “Psycho Killer” became what AllMusic calls a “deceptively funky new wave/no wave song” with “an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll.”

The song was the result of lead singer David Byrne trying to write an Alice Cooper song, but it came out much more introspective. It ended up being about the thoughts of a murderer. They lyrics were inspired by the character Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, in the 1960 movie Psycho. Byrne never thought this would be a hit. He considered it a “silly song” at the time, and was surprised when it took off.

Part of the chorus and the bridge are in French. The verse translates to “What I did, that evening, what she said, that evening fulfilling my hope I throw myself towards glory.” The chorus lyric “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” means “What is this?”

The “Fa Fa” part comes from an Otis Redding song called “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Redding and other Soul singers were a big influence on Talking Heads.

An acoustic version was the flip side of the single. In the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads (1992), Jerry Harrison wrote of that b-side acoustic version that featured Arthur Russell on cello, “I’m glad we persuaded Tony [Bongiovi] and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn’t be the only one.”

The song was composed near the beginning of the band’s career and prototype versions were performed onstage as early as December 1975. When it was finally completed and released as a single in December 1977, “Psycho Killer” became instantly associated in popular culture with the contemporaneous Son of Sam serial killings. Although the band always insisted that the song had no inspiration from the notorious events, the single’s release date was “eerily timely” and marked by a “macabre synchronicity”.

“Psycho Killer” was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It reached number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at number 11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.“Ghostbusters” is a song written and recorded by Ray Parker Jr. as the theme to the film of the same name starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. Debuting at #68 on June 16, 1984, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 11, 1984, staying there for three weeks, and at number two on the UK Singles Chart on September 16, 1984, staying there for three weeks. The song re-entered the UK Top 75 on November 2, 2008, at No. 49.

It was nominated at the 57th Academy Awards for Best Original Song, but lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.

According to Parker, he was approached by the film’s producers to create a theme song for the film, though he only had a few days to do so and the film’s title seemed impossible to include in any lyrics. However, when watching television late at night, Parker saw a cheap commercial for a local service that reminded him that the film had a similar commercial featured for the fictional business. This inspired him to write the song as a pseudo-advertising jingle that the business could have commissioned as a promotion.

Parker added that he got his girlfriend and her friends to shout the title for the chorus, since he didn’t want to sing it. Parker, who was a renowned session musician, played most of the instruments on the track.

Fun Fact #1: Lindsey Buckingham claims to have been approached to write the Ghostbusters theme based on his successful contribution to Harold Ramis’s National Lampoon’s Vacation (the song “Holiday Road”). He turned down the opportunity as he did not want to be known as a soundtrack artist. He mentions this on the “Words & Music” interview disc.

The music video for the song was directed by the same director as the Ghostbusters film, Ivan Reitman, and produced by Jeffrey Abelson. It features a young woman, played by actress Cindy Harrell, who is haunted by a ghost portrayed by Parker, roaming a nearly all-black house interior with vibrant neon designs outlining the sparse architectural and industrial features until the woman finally calls the service. It also contains footage from the film and features cameos from many celebrities of the day, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr; all of whom exclaim the song’s “Ghostbusters!” refrain when shown. Chase appears again after Garr, but chokes on his cigarette when he tries to exclaim “Ghostbusters!” Franken also pops up in the house before the separately framed cameos begin.

The video concludes with Parker and the stars of the film, in full Ghostbuster costume, dancing down the streets of New York City. The Ghostbusters also perform the same dance in the closing credits to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series as well as in a trailer for the 2009 Ghostbusters video game.

Fun Fact #2: Huey Lewis sued Parker for plagiarizing the medley to his song “I Want A New Drug” on this track. They settled out of court and agreed not to talk about the case in public, but in 2001, Lewis revealed that Parker paid to settle the suit on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Parker then sued Lewis for violating the terms of their agreement and breaching confidentiality.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult – “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is a song by the American rock band Blue Öyster Cult from their 1976 album, Agents of Fortune. The song, written and sung by the band’s lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, deal with eternal love and the inevitability of death. Dharma wrote the song while picturing an early death for himself.

Released as an edited single, the song was Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest chart success, reaching #7 in Cash Box and #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1976. Additionally, critical reception was mainly positive and, in 2004, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was listed at number 405 on the Rolling Stone list of the top 500 songs of all time.

Blue Öyster Cult was considered a “cult” band, somewhere in the realm of heavy metal with complex and often baffling lyrics dealing with the supernatural. Those inside the cult took the time to understand that like Black Sabbath, BOC combined outstanding musicianship with fantasy lyrics, and they weren’t for everyone. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” exposed them to a wider audience, which was good for business but bad for art. Buck Dharma said in a 1980 interview with NME: “Ever since ‘The Reaper’ was a hit we’ve been under pressure to duplicate that success; the body of our work failed. Even on (1977 album) Spectres everyone tried to write a hit single and that’s a bad mistake. The Cult is never destined to be successful at a format. To be a singles band you have to win the casual buyer.”

Fun Fact #1: The song has been used in several horror movies, including Halloween, The Frighteners and Scream. Stephen King cited the song as the inspiration for his novel The Stand. He quoted the lyrics to this song at the beginning of his novel, in which 99.9% of the US population is killed by a manmade disease called “Superflu.” It is also used in King’s miniseries of the same name during a montage showing the corpses of those who had been killed by the disease. King often quotes songs in the beginning of his books.

Fun Fact #2: The song was memorialized in the April 2000 Saturday Night Live comedy sketch “More Cowbell”. The six-minute sketch presents a fictionalized version of the recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Will Ferrell wrote the sketch and played Gene Frenkle, an overweight cowbell player. “Legendary” producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, asked Frenkle to “really explore the studio space” and up the ante on his cowbell playing. The rest of the band are visibly annoyed by Frenkle, but Dickinson tells everyone, “I got a fever, and the only prescription–is more cowbell!” Buck Dharma thought the sketch was fantastic and said he never gets tired of it.

For some reason, the skit’s embed code wouldn’t work but here’s the link to the NBC site where you can watch the entire hilarious skit. Besides Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell, James Franco and Jimmy Fallon are also in the skit. Enjoy!

Murder by Numbers by the Police – “Murder by Numbers” is on English rock band The Police’s fifth and final studio album, Syncronicity, released in June 1983.

The lyrics describe how to get in the mindset of killing people. Sting said it is about the evil deeds of politicians. Sting wrote this with guitarist Andy Summers. It was their only collaboration on Synchronicity; besides the songs “Miss Gradenko” (Stewart Copeland) and “Mother” (Summers), the songs on the album were written entirely by Sting.

This was used as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take,” but it was omitted from the vinyl copy of Synchronicity. At the time, vinyl copies went on sale before cassettes, and CD technology was just emerging. Many people would buy the vinyl copies right away, so leaving this off encouraged them to also purchase the “Every Breath You Take” single or the cassette. At some concerts, Sting introduced this by saying it was about the manipulation of large groups of people, knowing that the audience were being manipulated the whole time.

Fun Facts: This song was featured in the Sigourney Weaver movie Copycat. In the film, a serial killer leaves the lyrics to the song as a clue.

Murder by Numbers is the title of a 2002 movie starring Sandra Bullock.

TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that this song was performed by “The sons of Satan.” In 1988, a few years after he made his comments, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal.

Sting appeared at a Frank Zappa concert after meeting the eccentric composer before the show. When he got onstage, the band started to play “Murder by Numbers” as Sting talked about the comments Jimmy Swaggart made about this song being written by Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. He concluded by saying, “I wrote the fucking song, alright?” He went on to sing the whole song with the band and the track appears on Zappa’s live album, Broadway the Hard Way.

Superstition by Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. It was released as the lead single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book (1972). The album was called Talking Book because wonder considered the songs akin to chapters in a book that tell a whole story. On the cover is a rare photo of Wonder without his sunglasses on.

The song’s lyrics are chiefly concerned with superstitions, mentioning several popular superstitious fables throughout the song, and deal with the negative effects superstitious beliefs can bring. Wonder wrote this about the dangers of believing in superstitions. Some of the bad luck superstitions he alludes to include walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror (said to bring seven years of bad luck), and the number 13.

It reached number one in the U.S. and number one on the soul singles chart. The song was Wonder’s first number-one single since “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Overseas, it peaked at number eleven in the UK during February 1973. In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song at No. 74 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

This was intended for Jeff Beck, who was brought in to play some guitar parts on the album in exchange for a song. At one of the sessions, Stevie came up with the riff and wrote some lyrics, and they recorded a rough version of the song that day for Beck. It took Beck a while to record the song due to album delays, and by the time he released it, Wonder’s version had been out for a month and was a huge hit. Beck felt shortchanged, and made some statements in the press that Wonder didn’t appreciate. In 1975, Beck released an instrumental version of Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” on his album Blow By Blow. The album was a hit and helped solidify Beck’s reputation as an elite guitarist.

Jeff Beck finally recorded his own version of this song in December 1972 with bass player Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. They recorded as Beck, Bogert and Appice, and while their album did well, their version of this song was hardly noticed.

Several artists besides Jeff Beck have covered this. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version is still played on Classic Rock radio, and has grown even more popular since Vaughan’s death in 1990.

This song incorporates many elements of rock music, which helped Wonder extend his appeal to a white audience. Before Talking Book was released, Stevie went on tour with The Rolling Stones, which boosted his credibility in the world of rock. When “Superstition” was released, it was warmly welcomed on the same radio stations that played The Stones, earning Wonder many new fans. It also helped Wonder move past his image as a child star.

Wonder appeared in Bud Light commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. As part of the “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” campaign, which showed superstitious fans acting compulsively in an effort to steer their teams to victory, Wonder appeared as some kind of witch doctor in New Orleans (where the game took place). Asking, “Are you looking for a little mojo?” Wonder then transports our hero to the big game, where he has a voodoo doll to help his cause. The song “Superstition” plays throughout.

Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” is a song by American singer Rockwell from his 1984 debut studio album Somebody’s Watching Me. Rockwell is Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry Gordy from a relationship with Margaret Norton. The Motown brain trust came up with the name “Rockwell.” Prince and Madonna were doing very well using one name, and inspiration struck when someone saw a photo of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Kennedy put the demo together with the help of a Motown producer named Curtis Nolen. Berry Gordy didn’t have much faith in his son as a recording artist, but when he heard this, he knew it was a hit and agreed to release it.

The song was released as Rockwell’s debut single and lead single from the album on January 14, 1984, by Motown. It features former Jackson 5 members Michael Jackson (vocals in the chorus) and Jermaine Jackson (additional backing vocals).

“Somebody’s Watching Me” became a commercial success internationally, topping the charts in Belgium, France and Spain. “Somebody’s Watching Me” also peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as reaching number six on the UK Singles Chart.

Due in part to the popularity of the music video, the song is sometimes used for Halloween celebrations, with cover versions found in various collections of Halloween music.

The single’s music video underscores the song’s paranoid tone with a haunted house-inspired theme, including imagery of floating heads, ravens, graveyards, and shower scenes referencing Psycho.

The video opens with Rockwell coming home to discover that the wrong newspaper has been delivered to his doorstep. As he takes a quick shower, he begins to have strange visions (in a manner recalling The Dead Zone) of himself being pursued around his house by assorted ghoulish appartions, of the looming figure of a cadaverous-looking man, and of finding a tombstone engraved with his own name. His shower is interrupted when he hears something outside and goes out on his balcony to investigate. He is shocked to see the man from his visions standing at his gate, but as he struggles to get a better look in spite of the sun in his face he is greatly relieved to see that he is merely a mailman, come to deliver the correct newspaper. As the mailman walks up the path towards the front porch, however, a brief close-up of his arm reveals that he is, in fact, a zombie. Rockwell emerges onto the porch to receive the paper, which the mailman genially hands over. As the mailman brings his other arm around to strike, Rockwell has just enough time to notice that he is not human.

This is Halloween – “This Is Halloween” is a song from the 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, with music and lyrics written by Danny Elfman. In the film it is performed by the residents of the fictional “Halloween Town”, which is the film’s main setting, and introduces the town’s Halloween-centered lifestyle.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (also known as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film directed by Henry Selick, and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, a resident from “Halloween Town” who stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate the holiday, with some dastardly and comical consequences. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens and Glenn Shadix.

The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982, while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. With the success of Vincent in the same year, Walt Disney Studios began to consider developing The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short film or 30-minute television special. Over the years, Burton’s thoughts regularly returned to the project, and in 1990, he made a development deal with Disney. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco; Disney released the film through its Touchstone Pictures banner because the studio believed the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”.

The film was met with both critical and financial success, grossing over $76 million during its initial run. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, a first for an animated film. The film has since been reissued by Walt Disney Pictures, and was re-released annually in Disney Digital 3-D from 2006 until 2009, making it the first stop-motion animated feature to be entirely converted to 3D.

And since my Halloween tradition for the last several years is to turn off all the lights and pretend no one is home and then watch the original 1978 movie Halloween by John Carpenter…and maybe a few more in the franchise… I’m including the Halloween movie trailer here, followed by the theme song.

Halloween, the movie: For those who aren’t familiar: Halloween is a 1978 American slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. It is the first installment of the Halloween franchise. In the film, on Halloween night in 1963, Michael Myers murders his sister in the fictional Midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. He escapes on October 30, 1978 from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and returns home to kill again. The next day, Halloween, Michael stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends, while Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, pursues his patient.

Halloween was produced on a budget of $300,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, $23 million internationally, for a total of $70 million worldwide, selling almost 30 million tickets in 1978, equivalent to $269 million as of for 2017. It became one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by audiences identifying with its villain. Others have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers’ victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as innocent and pure, hence her survival. Nevertheless, Carpenter dismisses such analyses.

Movie Fun Facts: After viewing Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at the Milan Film Festival, independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad sought out Carpenter to direct a film for them about a psychotic killer that stalked babysitters. In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Yablans stated, “I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist.” Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a story originally titled The Babysitter Murders, but, as Carpenter told Entertainment Weekly, Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and naming it Halloween instead.

Akkad agreed to put up $300,000 for the film’s budget, which was considered low at the time. (Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, had an estimated budget of $100,000). Akkad worried over the tight, four-week schedule, low budget, and Carpenter’s limited experience as a filmmaker, but told Fangoria, “Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn’t want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project”. Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing, and composing the music, retaining rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.

Because of the low budget, wardrobe and props were often crafted from items on hand or that could be purchased inexpensively. Carpenter hired Tommy Lee Wallace as production designer, art director, location scout and co-editor. Wallace created the trademark mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98. Carpenter recalled how Wallace “widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white. In the script it said Michael Myers’s mask had ‘the pale features of a human face’ and it truly was spooky looking. I can only imagine the result if they hadn’t painted the mask white. Children would be checking their closet for William Shatner after Tommy got through with it.” Hill adds that the “idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless—this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not.” Many of the actors wore their own clothes, and Curtis’ wardrobe was purchased at J. C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.

It took approximately 10 days to write the script. Yablans and Akkad ceded most of the creative control to writers Carpenter and Hill (whom Carpenter wanted as producer), but Yablans did offer several suggestions. According to a Fangoria interview with Hill, “Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with ‘boos’ every 10 minutes.” Hill explained that the script took three weeks to write and much of the inspiration behind the plot came from Celtic traditions of Halloween such as the festival of Samhain. Although Samhain is not mentioned in the plot of the first film, Hill asserts that:

           “…the idea was that you couldn’t kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that’s what made Halloween work.”

Hill wrote most of the female characters’ dialogue, while Carpenter drafted Loomis’ speeches on the soullessness of Michael Myers. Many script details were drawn from Carpenter’s and Hill’s adolescence and early careers. The fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois was derived from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where Hill grew up, and most of the street names were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter’s old girlfriends and Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had previously entered, with Yablans, Assault on Precinct 13 in various European film festivals. In Halloween, Carpenter pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with two characters’ names: Tommy Doyle is named after Lt. Det. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) from Rear Window (1954), and Dr. Loomis’ name was taken from Sam Loomis (John Gavin) from Psycho, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, who is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis). Sheriff Leigh Brackett shared the name of a Hollywood screenwriter.

“I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes […] I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”

— Loomis’ description of a young Michael was inspired by John Carpenter’s experience with a real life mental patient.

Carpenter’s inspiration for the “evil” that Michael would embody came when he was in college. While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited “the most serious, mentally ill patients”. Among those patients was a young boy around twelve to thirteen years-old. The boy gave this “schizophrenic stare”, “a real evil stare”, which Carpenter found “unsettling”, “creepy”, and “completely insane”. Carpenter’s experience would inspire the characterization that Loomis would give of Michael to Sheriff Brackett in the original film.

The limited budget also dictated the filming location and time schedule. Halloween was filmed in 20 days in the spring of 1978 in South Pasadena, California, and the cemetery at Sierra Madre, California. An abandoned house owned by a church stood in as the Myers house. Two homes on Orange Grove Avenue (near Sunset Boulevard) in Hollywood were used for the film’s climax. The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat scenes.

The Halloween Theme Music: Another major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. Lacking a symphonic soundtrack, the film’s score consists of a piano melody played in a 10/8 or “complex 5/4” meter composed and performed by director John Carpenter. It took Carpenter three days to compose the entire score for the film. Critic James Berardinelli calls the score “relatively simple and unsophisticated”, but admits that “Halloween’s music is one of its strongest assets”. Carpenter stated in an interview, “I can play just about any keyboard, but I can’t read or write a note.” In the end credits, Carpenter bills himself as the “Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra” for performing the film’s score, but he did receive assistance from composer Dan Wyman, a music professor at San José State University.

Some songs can be heard in the film, one being an untitled song performed by Carpenter and a group of his friends who formed a band called The Coupe De Villes. The song is heard as Laurie steps into Annie’s car on her way to babysit Tommy Doyle. Another song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, appears in the film.

 

And this wraps up my Halloween themed Monday’s Music Moves Me playlist. Hope you all enjoy it. HAPPY HALLOWEEN and be sure to keep your doors locked and whatever you do, don’t open the closet door or go down in the basement!

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy.  Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.

 

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me – SONGS ABOUT CARS AND TRUCKS…and a few motorcycles too

It’s the start of a new week and that means it’s time for Monday’s Music Moves Me! This week’s theme is Songs about Cars and Trucks. I threw a bike or two in too.

There are so many songs about cars and trucks in Rock ‘n Roll. Here are just 35 of my favorites, followed by a little background on each one.

ROCK PLAYLIST

I Can’t Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar – “I Can’t Drive 55” was the lead single and first track from Sammy Hagar’s eighth studio album VOA in 1984. This was Hagar’s biggest hit as a solo artist. He joined Van Halen a year after it was released. Perpetuated by a very successful music video, it became a concert staple that continued throughout Hagar’s tours as a member of Van Halen. The song is a reference to the National Maximum Speed Law in the United States that originally set speed limits at 55 miles per hour (89 km/h).

The origin of the song, like so many, comes from actual experience: In 1994, Sammy Hagar explains: “I was in a rent-a-car that wouldn’t go much faster than 55 miles an hour. I was on my way back from Africa. I did a safari for three months throughout Africa. A really great vacation after Three Lock Box. I was traveling for 24 hours, I got to New York City, changed planes, Albany, New York. Got in a rent-a-car. Had a place in Lake Placid at the time, a little log cabin, I used to go there and write with my little boy. Aaron, at that time, went to North Country school when I was on tour. I would go there and see him. It was a really cool getaway. But it took two and a half hours to drive there from Albany. And I was driving from Albany, New York at 2:00 in the morning, burnt from all the travel. Cop stopped me for doing 62 on a four lane road when there was no one else in sight. Then the guy gave me a ticket. I was doing 62. And he said, ‘We give tickets around here for over-60.’ and I said, ‘I can’t drive 55.’ I grabbed a paper and a pen, and I swear the guy was writing the ticket and I was writing the lyrics. I got to Lake Placid, I had a guitar set-up there. And I wrote that song there on the spot. Burnt.”

Chevy Van by Sammy Johns – I LOVE this song and you rarely hear it anymore. “Chevy Van” is a 1973 song, written and sung by Sammy Johns with instrumental backing provided by Los Angeles-based session musicians from the Wrecking Crew. The song was a hit single in the United States and Canada in 1975, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and becoming a million seller. It was played primarily on AM Top 40 stations in the 1970s; later re-recordings were done in a country vein.

It details how an unnamed male driver picks up an unnamed female, who then proceeds to eventually seduce him into a one-night stand in the back of his Chevrolet Van. At the end he drops her off “in a town that was so small, you could throw a rock from end to end. A dirt road mainstreet, she walked off in bare feet”, and laments “It’s a shame I won’t be passing through again.” The song struck a chord with listeners in the sexually liberated early 1970s when Johns released it.

The song features on the soundtrack to The Van, the first movie to feature Danny DeVito.

Low Rider by War – “Low Rider” is a song written by American funk band War and producer Jerry Goldstein, which appeared on their album Why Can’t We Be Friends?, released in 1975. It reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart and peaked at number 7 on the Pop Singles chart.

According to the All Music Guide review of the song, “the lyric takes the cool image of the low rider — the Chicano culture practice of hydraulically hot-rodding classic cars — and using innuendo, extends the image to a lifestyle”. The song’s most distinguishable feature is its driving bass line, which is present for nearly all of the song. It also ends with a siren-like noise that then becomes a saxophone solo. The vocal is by the band’s brass player, Charles Miller

Drive My Car by the Beatles – “Drive My Car” is a song by the Beatles, written primarily by Paul McCartney, with lyrical contributions from John Lennon. It was first released on the British version of the band’s 1965 album Rubber Soul; it also appeared in North America on the Yesterday and Today collection. The upbeat, lighthearted “Drive My Car” was used as the opening track for both albums.

The song’s male narrator is told by a woman that she is going to be a famous movie star, and she offers him the opportunity to be her chauffeur, adding: “and maybe I’ll love you”. When he objects that his “prospects [are] good”, she retorts, “Working for peanuts is all very fine/But I can show you a better time.” When he agrees to her proposal, she admits, “I got no car and it’s breakin’ my heart/But I’ve found a driver and that’s a start.” According to McCartney, “‘Drive my car’ was an old blues euphemism for sex”. This expression was more common in the pre-automatic shift era of automobiles.

It’s pretty clear that all this driving talk is leading to sex, but there’s no proof that it isn’t just a song about a guy, a girl, and a car – making it another radio-friendly Beatles track.

The “beep beep” refrain is a take-off on The Beatles own “yeah, yeah yeah”s in “She Loves You” as well as a nod to The Playmates song “Beep Beep” (a #4 US novelty hit in 1958).

It’s hard to find actual Beatles videos on YouTube that aren’t covers pretending to be the Beatles so the song in my playlist is Paul McCartney performing the song in Quebec.

Radar Love by Golden Earring – “Radar Love” is a song by the Dutch rock band Golden Earring. The single version of “Radar Love” reached #10 on the Cash Box Top 100 and #13 in Billboard in the United States. It also hit the Top 10 in many countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and Spain.

Before you could send a text message or call someone in their car, there was no way to communicate to a driver – unless you had a certain telepathic love that could convey from a distance your desire to be with that person, something you might call – Radar Love. In this song, the guy has been driving all night, but keeps pushing the pedal because he just knows that his baby wants him home.

Free Ride by Edgar Winter Group – “Free Ride” is a song written by Dan Hartman and performed by The Edgar Winter Group. The single, engineered by Jim Reeves, was a top 20 US hit in 1973, hitting number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

This song appeared in a 2015 Ford commercial for a Free Ride sales event:

Highway Star by Deep Purple – “Highway Star” is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It is the opening track on their 1972 album Machine Head and is the fastest song in tempo on the album. It is characterized by long, classically-inspired guitar and organ solos. Organist Jon Lord claimed that the organ and guitar solos were based on Bach-like chord sequences.

This song is about a man and his love for his high-powered car, which he says can out-race every other car. This was written by Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover. It may have been inspired by Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” and along with “Radar Love” is one of the most famous driving songs in rock.

This song was born on a tour bus going to Portsmouth in 1971 when a reporter asked the band how they wrote songs. To demonstrate, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore grabbed an acoustic guitar and began playing a riff consisting of a single “G” repeated over and over, while vocalist Ian Gillan improvised lyrics over the top. The song was refined and was performed that same night. The song first appears on the 1972 LP Machine Head. The track remains one of the band’s staples in live concerts, and was the set opener even before it was released on any album.

Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf – “Born to Be Wild” is a song first performed by the band Steppenwolf, written by Mars Bonfire. The song is often invoked in both popular and counter culture to denote a biker appearance or attitude. It is sometimes described as the first heavy metal song, and the second verse lyric “heavy metal thunder” marks the first use of this term in rock music (although not as a description of a musical style).

“Born to Be Wild” was used in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, a counterculture classic starring Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda as bikers who ride from Los Angeles to New Orleans. (Another Steppenwolf song, “The Pusher,” was also used in the film).

When the movie was in production, this was simply a placeholder, since Fonda wanted Crosby, Stills and Nash to do the soundtrack. It became clear that the song belonged in the movie, and it stayed. Partly because of its use in Easy Rider, this has become the song most associated with motorcycles.

Although “Born to Be Wild” is typically associated with motorcycles, the songwriter’s intent was not necessarily an anthem for the biker lifestyle but moreso about freedom, mobility and life on the open road.

It was written by Mars Bonfire, which is the stage name of Dennis Edmonton. He wasn’t a member of Steppenwolf, but his brother Jerry was the band’s drummer. (Bonfire wrote a few other songs for Steppenwolf as well, including “Ride With Me” and “Tenderness”).

Explaining how he came up with the song, Bonfire said:

“I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard one day and saw a poster in a window saying ‘Born to Ride’ with a picture of a motorcycle erupting out of the earth like a volcano with all this fire around it. Around this time I had just purchased my first car, a little secondhand Ford Falcon. So all this came together lyrically: the idea of the motorcycle coming out along with the freedom and joy I felt in having my first car and being able to drive myself around whenever I wanted. ‘Born to Be Wild’ didn’t stand out initially. Even the publishers at Leeds Music didn’t take it as the first or second song I gave them. They got it only because I signed as a staff writer. Luckily, it stood out for Steppenwolf. It’s like a fluke rather than an achievement, though.”

In an interview for CHMR FM, John Kay told Terry Parsons that when Mars Bonfire first introduced him to the song, it was intended as a folk ballad about life on the open road. Once Steppenwolf began working with the song, the tempo was increased, and an iconic rock and roll song resulted.

“Born to Be Wild” was used in a 2017 commercial for the Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster that aired during the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons. The spot, directed by The Coen Brothers, re-creates a scene from Easy Rider, but this time, Peter Fonda has given up his bike for the roadster. It’s a good spot.

Going Mobile by The Who – “Going Mobile” is a song written by Pete Townshend and originally released by The Who on their 1971 album Who’s Next. It was originally written for Townshend’s abandoned Lifehouse project, with lyrics celebrating the joy of having a mobile home and being able to travel the open road. The Who’s lead singer Roger Daltrey did not take part in the recording of the song, leaving the rest of the band to record it as a power trio; Townshend handles the lead vocals, guitars, and synthesizers, with John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. The song has attracted mixed reviews from music critics.

“Going Mobile” is one of the lighter moments on Who’s Next. Townshend described the use of the song in the proposed project as follows: “As the story unfolded, because of the vagaries of the modern world, because of pollution being caused mainly by people’s need to travel, to be somewhere else. (People) had been told, ‘You can’t do that anymore. You have to stay where you are.’ But people have got this lust for life, and adventure, and a bit of color.” It celebrates the joys of having a mobile home and being able to travel the highways at will – Townshend himself had acquired a mobile home about a year before the song was recorded. An example of the theme is illustrated by such lyrics as:

I don’t care about pollution

I’m an air-conditioned gypsy

That’s my solution

Watch the police and the taxman miss me

I’m mobile

Pink Cadillac by Bruce Springsteen – “Pink Cadillac” is a song by Bruce Springsteen released as the non-album B-side of Dancing in the Dark in 1984. The song received moderate airplay on album-oriented rock radio, appearing on the Billboard Top Tracks chart for 14 weeks, peaking at number 27. The song was also a prominent concert number during Springsteen’s 1984-85 Born in the U.S.A. Tour. This song did not appear on any album until 1998 when it was included on Tracks, a collection of Springsteen outtakes.

Like Prince’s “Little Red Corvette”, “Pink Cadillac” follows the tradition of the Wilson Pickett R&B classic “Mustang Sally” in using automobile travel as a metaphor for sexual activity, particularly as sung by Springsteen as the lyric: “I love you for your pink Cadillac” was originally a veiled pudendal reference. Springsteen, in fact, vetoed the first attempt by a female singer to release a version of “Pink Cadillac”, that being Bette Midler in 1983. However, “Pink Cadillac” had its highest profile incarnation via an R&B interpretation by Natalie Cole, which became a top-ten single in 1988.

Fun Fact: In 2001, AOL would not let users quote this in a Springsteen discussion group because they felt the lyrics were too suggestive. One of the offending lines was “My love is bigger than a Honda, yeah it’s bigger than a Subaru.”

Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett – “Mustang Sally” is a rhythm and blues (R&B) song written and first recorded by Mack Rice in 1965. It was released on the Blue Rock label (4014) in May 1965 with “Sir Mack Rice” as the artist. It gained greater popularity when Wilson Pickett covered it the following year on a single, a version that was also released on the 1966 album, The Wicked Pickett.

According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Songs,

“Mustang Sally nearly ended up on the studio floor – literally. After Pickett finished his final take at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the tape suddenly flew off the reel and broke into pieces. But the session engineer, the legendary Tom Dowd, calmly cleared the room and told everyone to come back in half an hour. Dowd pieced the tape back together and saved what became one of the funkiest soul anthems of the ’60s.”

The chorus of the song includes the lyrics “ride, Sally, ride” — a phrase that became fodder for newspaper headlines in 1983, when astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. The Lou Reed song “Ride Sally Ride”, which quotes these lyrics throughout, is the first track on his 1974 album Sally Can’t Dance. The same lyric is found in “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone in 1968 and in the children’s song “Sally the Camel.”

I’m in Love with My Car by Queen – “I’m in Love with My Car” is a song by the British rock band Queen, released on their fourth album A Night at the Opera in 1975. It is the album’s only song written entirely by drummer Roger Taylor.

The engine noises on the recording of “I’m In Love With My Car” are authentic and come from the car Roger Taylor owned at the time. He described in a 1997 interview with Pop On The Line:

“I remember my car at the time, because I think we’ve got the exhaust on the record, and that was a little Alfa Romeo. But I think it was more about people in general, for instance boy racers. In particular we had a sound guy/roadie at the time called Jonathan Harris, who was in love with his car, and that inspired that. I think he had a TR4, Triumph TR4.”

Roger Taylor loved the song, and demanded it to be the B-side to Freddie Mercury’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” single – so much so that he apparently locked himself in a cupboard until Mercury agreed. Perhaps there was a good reason Taylor really wanted it to be the “Rhapsody” B-side – the song credit went completely to him, and when the single became a huge smash hit, he received almost equal royalties as Mercury did for “Rhapsody.”

This naturally rather annoyed the rest of the band! Songwriting credits and friction over royalties are a common reason why most bands break up. For this reason, Queen later in their career decided to give a collective co-writing credit for all songs, regardless of who contributed. This meant everyone got equal royalties for any singles/hits, which meant there was less friction with members more willing to let their songs/ideas be worked on – knowing they wouldn’t lose any credit or royalty money in the process.

The song was used in a 2004 advertisement for Jaguar:

No Particular Place to Go by Chuck Berry – “No Particular Place to Go” is a song by Chuck Berry, released as a single by Chess Records in May 1964 and released on the album St. Louis to Liverpool in November 1964.

The song is comical four verse story. In the first verse the narrator is cruising in his car with his girlfriend, and they kiss. In the second they start to cuddle, and drive slow. In the third they decide to park and take a walk, but are unable to release the seat belt. In the last verse they drive home, defeated by the recalcitrant seat belt.

“No Particular Place To Go” was written at a time when Chuck Berry had literally no place to go. He was in prison. Chuck first saw the inside of a slammer back in the 1940s due to a youthful folly, but it is fair to say that since then his encounters with the law have been more low key and if anything somewhat contrived.

Although this song didn’t enrage Mrs. Whitehouse like his later, number one hit, in which he offered to show us his ding-a-ling, it is fairly laden with innuendo, although of the tragic kind, because herein, our hero is unable to unfasten his safety belt.

Hey Little Cobra by The Rip Chords – “Hey Little Cobra” is a song released in 1963 by The Rip Chords. The song was produced by Terry Melcher and Bruce Johnston, who also sang vocals.

The song spent 14 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 4, while reaching No. 5 on Canada’s CHUM Hit Parade, and No. 3 on New Zealand’s “Lever Hit Parade.”

Melcher was the son of actress Doris Day; he went on to produce albums for The Byrds and Paul Revere and The Raiders. Johnston became a member of The Beach Boys. They persuaded Columbia Records to release this as by The Rip Chords to take advantage of the act’s name recognition.

Fun, Fun, Fun by the Beach Boys – “Fun, Fun, Fun” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released in 1964 as a single backed with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, both later appearing on the band’s album Shut Down Volume 2.

The classic American song about girls and cars is one of many by the Beach Boys that virtually defined the California myth. Its lyrics are about a teenage girl who tricks her father so she can go hot-rodding with his Ford Thunderbird. At the end, her father discovers her deception and takes the keys from her. The narrator then comes to the girl’s rescue with his own car and she retaliates by running off with him, who fell in love with her after watching her drive.

The Wilsons’ father Murray had very conservative values and felt this song was immoral. Murray served as their manager, and by many accounts was very controlling. He didn’t get his way on this one, and was removed as manager a few months later.

The Beach Boys were on tour in Australia and when they returned to the States, Beatlemania had come to town. This was the Beach Boys’ next hit, and while now regarded as a classic, at the time it was almost eclipsed by the Mop Tops.

Little Deuce Coupe by the Beach Boys – “Little Deuce Coupe” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Roger Christian. The song first appeared as the b-side to The Beach Boys’ 1963 single “Surfer Girl”. The car referred to is the 1932 Ford Model 18. “Little Deuce Coupe” became The Beach Boys’ highest charting B-side, peaking on September 28, 1963 at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Brian Wilson commented on the song in the liner notes of the 1990 CD re-release of the original Surfer Girl album: “We loved doing ‘Little Deuce Coupe’. It was a good ‘shuffle’ rhythm, which was not like most of the rhythms of the records on the radio in those days. It had a bouncy feel to it. Like most of our records, it had a competitive lyric. This record was my favorite Beach Boys car song.” According to author Jon Stebbins in his book The Lost Beach Boy, while the group was on tour in July 1963 Mike Love hit on the idea to use short instrumental segments of the song in the Beach Boys’ live set as a way to introduce the band members to the audience, starting with Dennis Wilson on drums, then adding David Marks (and later Al Jardine) on rhythm guitar, Carl Wilson on lead guitar, and finally Brian on the bass, before launching the song from the top.

This is one of the street drag-racing tales that were popular in mid 1960s in Southern California. The lyrics make more sense if you’re into cars. The mechanical parts mentioned are all actual automotive parts or technology, including the “flat head mill” (engine) and the “lake pipes” (which are long chromed exhaust pipes that run along the rocker panel). One artistic stretch is the vision of an old Ford Model A reaching 140 mph – the shape has too much air drag to reach that speed, unless you tow it behind a DC-10 jet.

A deuce is a car produced by Ford in 1932 (the “2” in 1932 is the “deuce”). Most of them had big V8 engines and were popular for drag racing. They weren’t just coupes – they also came as roadsters and sedans. The line at the end of the song, “There’s one more thing, I got the pink slip daddy,” means that the singer won a race with his Little Deuce Coupe, earning him his opponent’s car. The “pink slip” is the vehicle’s registration, so “racing for pink slips” means the winner gets the other car.

The Silver Sapphire – Little Deuce Coupe 1932 Ford

Mercury Blues by Steve Miller Band – “Mercury Blues” is a song written by K. C. Douglas and Robert Geddins, and first recorded by Douglas in 1948. The song, originally titled “Mercury Boogie,” pays homage to the American automobile, which ended production in 2010.

The song has been covered by several others including the Steve Miller Band (1967, at The Monterey International Pop Festival, and 1976, on their album, Fly Like an Eagle).

Willie the Wimp by Stevie Ray Vaughan – Willie Morris “Flukey” Stokes (December 12, 1937 – November 19, 1986) was an American reputed mobster from Chicago, Illinois. Stokes was from the South Side and well known for his silk suits, diamond rings, and flamboyant lifestyle as a drug trafficking kingpin and pool hall owner. Stokes immortalized himself in Chicago by throwing a US$200,000 (equivalent to $445,359 in 2016) party on his 30th wedding anniversary in 1985 and for the decadent funeral he arranged for his murdered 28-year-old son, Willie “the Wimp” Stokes, Jr. in February 1984. The elder Stokes had his son buried in a Cadillac-style coffin with $100 bills stuffed between his diamond ring laden fingers. Two years later in November 1986, Flukey would also be murdered, along with his chauffeur, sitting inside a 1986 Cadillac limousine while talking on his wireless telephone. Stokes was 48 years old.

Photograph of Stokes attending his 30th wedding anniversary party from Chicago-based Jet Magazine (January 28, 1985). This image is copyrighted and owned by Jet Magazine and being used for informational purposes only.

The song:  This song has its roots in my neck of the woods: Bill Carter and Ruth Ellsworth, of Austin, Texas were reading the Austin American-Statesman one morning and they read the syndicated column about Willie the Wimp. Carter said, “I said to Ruth, ‘This isn’t a column – it’s a song’.” They drove to the studio, and Carter said that “in the two miles it took us to get there we put the column to music.” Jimmie Vaughan was at the studio, and he called his brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, to tell him about it. Stevie liked the song, recorded it, and performed it live for his fans around the world. Much of the songs lyrics came directly out of the column including a quote from Willie the Wimp’s mother where she described her and her husband’s reason for wanting an extravagant funeral for their son. She said that her son “left like he lived – in a lively manner.” It was worked into a verse in the song that says, “In his Cadillac to heaven he was waving that banner; He left like he lived, in a lively manner.”

Bill Carter first released the song as “Willy The Wimp (And His Cadillac Coffin)” on his 1985 album, Stompin’ Grounds. Jimmie Vaughan played lead guitar on Carter’s album, and his brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, released his version, titled: “Willie the Wimp” on his Live Alive album in July 1986. The blues-rock standard begins: “Willie the Wimp was buried today, They laid him to rest in a special way” which leads into a full description of the decadence that was Willie the Wimp’s funeral. The song mentions “the casketmobile, Willie the Wimp’s red suit, the money between his fingers, [and] the headlights” – into the catchy refrain, “Talkin’ ’bout Willie the Wimp in his Cadillac coffin.” Stevie Ray Vaughan performed the song live in concert at the Midtfyns Festival in Denmark in 1988.

Hot Rod Lincoln by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – “Hot Rod Lincoln” is a song by American singer-songwriter Charlie Ryan, first released in 1955. It was written as an answer song to Arkie Shibley’s 1951 hit “Hot Rod Race” which describes a race in San Pedro, Los Angeles between two hot rod cars, a Ford and a Mercury, which stay neck-and-neck until both are overtaken by “a kid in a hopped-up Model A”. “Hot Rod Lincoln” is sung from the perspective of this third driver, whose own hot rod is a Ford Model A body with a Lincoln-Zephyr V12 engine, overdrive, a four-barrel carburetor, 4:11 gear ratio, and safety tubes.

The cover version, by country rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen on their 1971 album Lost in the Ozone, became the most successful version of “Hot Rod Lincoln,” reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 28 Adult Contemporary, No. 7 in Canada, and was ranked No. 69 on the U.S. Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972.

This was the only hit for Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, who were a County-Rock group formed at the University of Michigan. Commander Cody is lead singer and piano player George Frayne.

Hot Rod Heart by John Fogerty – “Hot Rod Heart” is written by American singer/songwriter John Fogerty and is the second track on Blue Moon Swamp, the fifth solo studio album by Fogerty, released on May 20, 1997.

Carefree Highway by Gordon Lightfoot – “Carefree Highway” is a song written by Gordon Lightfoot and was second single release from his 1974 album, Sundown. The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent one week at #1 on the Easy Listening chart in October 1974.

Lightfoot got the idea for this song from a road sign he saw. The song name comes from a section of Arizona State Route 74 in north Phoenix. The Carefree Highway intersects I-17, and leads to Carefree, Arizona, a small community north of Phoenix.

Said Lightfoot,

“I thought it would make a good title for a song. I wrote it down, put it in my suitcase and it stayed there for eight months.” The song employs “Carefree Highway” as a metaphor for the state of mind where the singer seeks escape from his ruminations over a long ago failed affair with a woman named Ann. Lightfoot has stated that Ann actually was the name of a woman Lightfoot romanced when he was age 22. “It was one of those situations where you meet that one woman who knocks you out and then leaves you standing there and says she’s on her way.”

Lightfoot was asked during a Reddit AMA what he meant by the song’s second line, “I wonder how the old folks are tonight?” He replied: “Well, I always thought about my folks. They’re both gone now. But I always thought about my folks, it doesn’t matter what kind of trouble I was getting into, I always thought about my folks.”

“Carefree Highway” is one of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs.

Little Red Corvette by Prince – “Little Red Corvette” is a song by American musician Prince. Released as a single from the album 1999 in 1983, the song was his biggest hit at the time, and his first to reach the top 10 in the US, peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It was also his first single to perform better on the pop chart than the R&B chart.

The song combines a drum machine beat and slow synth buildup for the verses and a full rock chorus. Backing vocals were done by Dez Dickerson and Lisa Coleman and the guitar solo was also played by Dickerson. In the song, Prince narrates a one-night stand with a beautiful but promiscuous woman (the “Little Red Corvette” of the title); although he enjoys the experience, he urges her to “slow down” and “find a love that’s gonna last” before she destroys herself. In addition to the title, he uses several other automobile metaphors, for example comparing their lovemaking to a ride in a limousine.

The song is about sex, but it’s just ambiguous enough not to offend most listeners. Many of Prince’s earlier songs, like “Head,” “Dirty Mind,” and “Soft and Wet,” were blatantly sexual, which scared off radio stations. The line, “She had a pocket full of horses, Trojans, some of them used,” refers to Trojan condoms. The “Jockeys” represent men who have previously slept with the girl. These were veiled sexual references that not enough people got to make the song be considered offensive.

Prince got the idea for this song when he dozed off in backup singer Lisa Coleman’s 1964 Mercury Montclair Marauder after an exhausting all-night recording session. The lyrics came to him in bits and pieces during this and other catnaps. Eventually he was able to finish it without sleeping.

“Little Red Corvette” really helped put Prince on the map. 1999 was Prince’s fifth album. He had just modest success to this point, his biggest hit being the #11 “I Wanna Be Your Lover” four years earlier. The title track was issued as the first single in September 1982, about a month before the album was released. That song reached #44 US in December, and “Little Red Corvette” was released as the second single in February 1983. The song made a slow climb up the charts, reaching #6 in May. From November 1982 to April 1983, Prince toured behind the album. As “Little Red Corvette” rode up the charts, he drew far larger crowds – the early dates proved to be some of his last theater shows, as he was a clear arena headliner by the end of the tour.

The music video was one of the first videos by a black artist to get regular airplay on MTV. Michael Jackson was the first to break the color barrier on MTV with “Billie Jean,” and “Little Red Corvette” came soon after. The band shot the clip during a tour stop in Jacksonville; the song was already a radio hit when they made it.

Following Prince’s death, the song re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at number 29. It rose to number 20 one week later. It has sold 1,080,601 digital copies in the United States.

In 2001, Chevrolet put up billboards with a picture of a red 1963 Corvette Sting Ray that said, “They don’t write songs about Volvos.” In 2003, Chevrolet used this in a commercial that aired for the first time during the Grammys. The ad showed old footage of The Beach Boys performing “My 409” followed by Don McLean singing “American Pie” (“drove my Chevy to the levee”), and then Prince performing this. The camera then goes outside the club to show Chevy’s latest model. There was also a Billboard for the Chevrolet Corvette made from this song as well. It had the lyric “Little Red Corvette, baby ur much 2 fast” and Prince’s logo over the Corvette. It was displayed behind the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 2003.

Fun Fact: Stevie Nicks got the idea for “Stand Back” from this song. She heard it in her car, drove to the recording studio, and put down some tracks. “It just gave me an incredible idea, so I spent many hours that night writing a song about some kind of crazy argument, and it was to become one of the most important of my songs,” she remembered in the liner notes for Timespace. Prince came in and added the keyboard bit. As Nicks tells it, he came up with the riff as soon as he started playing it.

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Mercedes Benz by Janis Joplin – “Mercedes Benz” is an a cappella song written by singer Janis Joplin with the poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, and originally recorded by Joplin. In the song, the singer asks the Lord to prove His love for her by buying her a Mercedes-Benz, a color TV, and a “night on the town.” There is also a reference to Dialing for Dollars, a franchised format local television program, which required one to be watching the show to win when the show called your phone number, hence the singer’s need for a TV.

The song is considered to be a rejection of consumerism. It is a social commentary on how many people relate happiness and self-worth with money and material possessions. Sung acapella in a blues style, Joplin was poking fun at the mindset that luxury goods will make everything better.

This song spoke to the shift in the counterculture, as some of the impoverished musicians speaking out against the system were now very rich. As Barney Hoskyns, who wrote about Joplin and the song in his book Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan, The Band, Van Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Friends in the Wild Years of Woodstock told us, “Rock was now big business, and a lot of money was flooding into the pockets of people who never expected to make it. This set up a mixture of expectation and guilt – they were acquiring a taste for the finer things but knew that a good hippie shouldn’t be materialistic. By the early ’70s it had all changed, and rock stars were the new Yuppies.”

How it came to be: It is based on a song called “C’mon, God, and Buy Me a Mercedes Benz” by the Los Angeles beat poet Michael McClure. Joplin saw McClure perform it, and on August 8, 1970 she reworked it into her own song, which she performed about an hour later.

As recounted in the Patti Smith memoir Just Kids, before her show at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, she went to a nearby bar (likely Vahsen’s, later renamed Little Dick’s) with her good friend, the songwriter Bob Neuwirth, and two more recent acquaintances, the actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page. Joplin started reciting the line, “Oh, Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” – the first line of McClure’s song. The four started banging beer mugs on the table to form a rhythm, and Neuwirth wrote down lyrics he and Joplin came up with on a napkin. They finished the song, and Janis performed it at the show, introducing it by saying, “I just wrote this at the bar on the corner. I’m going to do it Acapulco.” Lol. “Acapulco.”

That show was recorded and widely bootlegged, as it was her penultimate performance and the debut of “Mercedes Benz.” The song was recorded in one take on October 1, 1970. These were the last tracks Joplin ever recorded; she died three days later, on October 4. The song appeared on the album Pearl, released in 1971. Wow. Recorded just a few days before her death. How close the world came to never having that song.

By the way, Janis Joplin never got a Mercedes Benz, but she did have a 1965 Porsche that was painted to become a piece of hippie art.

Arrested for Driving While Blind by ZZ Top – “Arrested for Driving While Blind” is a song by American blues rock band ZZ Top. Written by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, it was released as the second single from their fifth studio album Tejas (1976).

The song ostensibly concerns the pleasures, and legal pitfalls, of driving under the influence, after dark, as an antidote to limited leisure opportunities. The song references a number of popular alcoholic beverage brands:

“When you’re driving down the highway at night

And you’re feelin’ that Wild Turkey’s bite

Don’t give Johnnie Walker a ride

Cause Jack Black is right by your side

You might get taken to the jailhouse and find

You’ve been arrested for driving while blind.”

Never ones to be preachy, this is ZZ Top’s version of an anti-drunk driving song. In a 1985 interview with Spin magazine, bass player Dusty Hill said:

“I was never DWI. I have been very close. I’ve had a couple of wrecks in the past. We wrote that song quite a while ago, and we caught a little flak about it. People think we’re suggesting that people should get drunk and go out and drive. That’s not it at all. Billy introduces it: ‘Don’t get arrested for driving while blind.’ We’re not saying, ‘Don’t drink.’ We’re just doing a tune. But personally, it scared the shit out of me having a wreck. I wasn’t completely whacked, but my response time wasn’t what it would be right now.”

Panama by Van Halen – “Panama” is a song from Van Halen’s album 1984. It was the third single released from that record and is one of their most recognized songs. The song was reportedly written about a car. In an interview with Howard Stern, lead singer David Lee Roth explained the meaning behind the trademark song. Although the song features some suggestive lyrics, it is about a car that Roth saw race in Las Vegas; its name was “Panama Express”, hence the title of the song. In the Stern interview, Roth did not explain why the song was about a car rather than the usual Van Halen material.

Panama was the name of Roth’s car. He had the hood and bumper mounted in his hallway, which can be seen in his video for “SHOOBop”. He has a stuffed deer’s behind crashing through the front windshield. A plaque underneath reads, “Your First deer, courtesy of PANAMA.”

During the bridge of the song where Roth says “I can barely see the road from the heat comin’ off it,” guitarist Eddie Van Halen can be heard revving his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S in the background. The car was backed up to the studio and microphones were attached to the exhaust pipe to record the sound for the song.

This was one of the last Van Halen songs recorded with David Lee Roth as lead singer. He was replaced by Sammy Hagar in 1986.

409 by the Beach Boys“409” is a song written by Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Gary Usher for the American rock and roll band the Beach Boys. The song features Love singing lead vocals. It was originally released as the B-side of the single “Surfin’ Safari” (1962). It was later released on their 1962 album, Surfin’ Safari and appeared again on their 1963 album, Little Deuce Coupe.

The song is credited for initiating the hot rod music craze of the 1960s.

This song describes the Chevrolet 409, named because of its huge 409 cubic-inch engine. Dubbed “Turbo-Fire,” production began in January 1961. The engine had a single Carter four-barrel carburetor that supplied enough fuel-air mixture to generate up to 360 horsepower. With a bit of hot-rodding, more than 400 horsepower was easily available, making the car a big hit among street racers.

This full-size family car 409 did the quarter mile in 13.58 seconds at 105.88 miles per hour. It could go from zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. This song describes the Bel-Air sport coupe version of the car equipped with the “4-speed, dual-quad, Positraction” equipment. It could do a 12.22-second quarter mile at 115 miles per hour. Zero to 60 miles per hour in 4 seconds flat.

My ’71 Monte Carlo wasn’t quite that fast but it did zero to 60 in about 6 seconds. I loved that car, my first, and I so miss it!

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An early Beach Boys song, Brian Wilson wrote this with his early collaborator Gary Usher. Wilson knew very little about things like surfing or cars, but Usher did, and he was able to help Wilson tap into the California culture. In 1971, Usher told Gene Sculatti:

“Dennis Wilson was the first Beach Boy to pick up on surfing. He was aware of Dick Dale, the Pendleton jackets and that whole shot. It just rubbed off. I never surfed. I was a hot rod freak. I had a 409. One day we were driving up to Los Angeles looking for a part for my car, and I said ‘Let’s write a song called ‘409’. We’ll do a thing ‘giddy up, giddy up,’ meaning horses for horsepower,’ just kidding around. We came back and put it to three simple chords in five minutes, and it developed into a million-dollar car craze.”

Last Kiss by J. Frank Wilson & the Cavaliers – “Last Kiss” is a song released by Wayne Cochran in 1961 on the Gala label. It failed to do well on the charts. Cochran subsequently re-recorded his song for the King label in 1963. It was later revived by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and was one of several teen tragedy songs of the period.

This song is about Jeanette Clark and J.L. Hancock, who were both 16 years old when their car hit a tractor-trailer on a road in rural Barnesville, Georgia. They were on a date a few days before Christmas in 1962. A local gas station attendant helping with the recovery of the bodies did not recognize his own daughter. Hancock and Clark’s friend Wayne Cooper, who was riding with them, was killed instantly. Their two other friends, Jewel Emerson and Ed Shockley, survived with serious injuries. The drummer of the songwriter Wayne Cochran had been dating Jeannette Clark’s sister at the time of the wreck.

Wayne Cochran lived on Route 1941 in Georgia, which was about 15 miles away from the crash. It was a busy road, and Cochran saw lots of accidents on it. He was working on a song based on all the crashes he saw, and was about halfway done with it when he heard about the wreck in Barnesville. There was an intense emotional response from the community after the tragedy, and Cochran used those feelings to finish the song, which he dedicated it to Jeanette Clark.

Cochran’s version was a local hit in Georgia, which prompted a Texas record company to record it with J. Frank Wilson and release it nationally. The band’s producer, Son Roush, subsequently split the group to place lead singer J. Frank Wilson with better musicians. Four months after the release of this song, the new band were touring in Ohio. At about 5:15 a.m., Roush apparently fell asleep at the wheel. The car drifted left of center and rammed head-on into a trailer truck. Roush was killed instantly. Wilson survived with a few broken ribs and a broken ankle, but went right on with the tour, taking only a week off. People still remember him coming out on the stage on crutches to sing “Last Kiss” and “Hey, Little One.” The second accident is what pushed this song to #2 on the national charts. Wilson later retired from music and went to work in a nursing home.

Look at That Cadillac by the Stray Cats – The Stray Cats were an American rockabilly band formed in 1979 by guitarist and vocalist Brian Setzer, double bassist Lee Rocker, and drummer Slim Jim Phantom in the Long Island town of Massapequa, New York. The group had numerous hit singles in the UK, Australia, Canada and the U.S. including “Stray Cat Strut”, “(She’s) Sexy + 17”, “Look at That Cadillac,” “I Won’t Stand in Your Way”, “Bring it Back Again”, and “Rock This Town.”

“Look at That Cadillac” is a single from their third album, Rant and Rave with the Stray Cats, released in 1983. It only reached #68 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Cars by Gary Numan – “Cars” is a 1979 song by British artist Gary Numan, released as a single from the album The Pleasure Principle. It reached the top of the charts in several countries, and today is considered a new wave staple. In the UK charts, it reached number 1 in 1979, and in 1980 hit number 1 in Canada two weeks running on the RPM national singles chart and rose to number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Though Numan had a string of hits in the UK, “Cars” was his only song in the US Hot 100. It debuted on the American Top 40 on 29 March 1980 and spent a total of 17 weeks there, peaking at #9.

This song is about how people use technology and material goods to isolate themselves from human contact. Numan has stated that he has Asperger syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, but until he was diagnosed, he had a lot of trouble relating to other people.

Numan told Mojo magazine March 2008 about the original inspiration for this song: “A couple of blokes started peering in the window and for whatever reason took a dislike to me, so I had to take evasive action. I swerved up the pavement, scattering pedestrians everywhere. After that, I began to see the car as the tank of modern society.”

Even though the message of this song is that cars lead to a mechanical society devoid of personal interaction, it didn’t stop automakers from using it in commercials. Both Nissan and Oldsmobile have used it in ads.

A more clever approach came from Diehard, who created a commercial where Numan played the song on 24 car horns powered by just one of their batteries. Numan has no problem with his song being used in commercials, telling us, “I’m up for that, actually. I think any use of it at all. It would be great if it happened again.”

Numan made a video for this with special effects that look ridiculous now, but were cutting edge in 1979. When MTV went on the air in 1981, it was one of about 200 videos they had, so they played it over and over. This made the song a hit in the US.

Numan explained to Rolling Stone how he came up with this song’s synthesizer hook: “I have only written two songs on bass guitar and the first one was ‘Cars.’ I had just been to London to buy a bass and when I got home the first thing I played was that intro riff. I thought, ‘Hey, that’s not bad!’ In 10 minutes, I had the whole song. The quickest one I ever wrote. And the most famous one I’d ever written. More people should learn from that.”

Drive by the Cars – “Drive” is a 1984 song by The Cars, the third single from the band’s Heartbeat City album released in March 1984 and their biggest international hit. Written by Ric Ocasek, the track was sung by bassist Benjamin Orr and produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange with the band.

Upon its release, “Drive” became The Cars’ highest charting single in the United States, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart; on the Adult Contemporary chart, the song went to No. 1.

A very melancholy song by The Cars, this is written from the perspective of a guy who’s watching a woman (who he presumably used to date) “going down the tubes,” trying to get her to take a hard look at what’s going on in her life.

The video was directed by a 23-year-old Timothy Hutton, who had won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie Ordinary People. Hutton aspired to direct, so when Ric Ocasek of The Cars suggested he do it, Hutton jumped at the chance. Hutton cast the Czechoslovakian model Paulina Porizkova as the female lead in the clip. Auditioning for the role was the first time she met Ocasek, who she married in 1989.

Fast Car by Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car” is a song by American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. It was released in April 1988 as the lead single from her self-titled debut album. Her appearance on the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute was the catalyst for the song’s becoming a top 10 hit in the United States, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a top 10 hit in the United Kingdom, peaking at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. Besides this “Fast Car” received two Grammy nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, as well as a Video Music Award nomination for Best Female Video in 1989.

Vehicle by the Ides of March – “Vehicle” is the one-hit wonder success for the Chicago-based band The Ides of March. It rose to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of May 23, 1970. It is purported to be the fastest selling single in Warner Bros. Records history.

The Ides of March formed in 1965 in Berwyn, Illinois – their name came from a line in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. Peterik was 14 at the time. The horn section was added in 1968. They were all teenagers when this song was released.

Written and sung by Jim Peterik, the song features a distinctive horn section riff that is still popular today. The song is often mistaken for the horn driven sound of Blood, Sweat and Tears which was popular in the same time range. Peterik wrote “Vehicle” as a joke.

“I got the idea from one of these anti-drug pamphlets they distributed in a school. It was very tongue-in-cheek.” At first, the opening line was, “I got a set of wheels pretty baby, won’t you hop inside my car?” Peterik changed it when his friend showed him a government issued anti-drug pamphlet. It explained the perils of drug use and was illustrated with a little drawing of an undesirable type cruising along the curb looking for easy targets. The caption read, “I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan, won’t you hop inside my car?” The lyrics that followed, about the picture and candy, came from a warning his mother used to give him about walking home from school.

Peterik has also said that:

“In high school, I co-founded a band called The Ides of March. We did it because we loved music, not because we thought we’d be successful. At the time, I was madly in love with this girl named Karen. I had a souped-up 1964 Plymouth Valiant, and she was always asking for rides. I drove her to modeling school every week. I was hoping flames would ignite—but they didn’t. I came home one day, dejected, and thought: all I am is her vehicle. And I thought: Wow! Vehicle! I came up with this song, taught it to the band, and the next thing I knew, we were recording in a CBS studio. The song—called “Vehicle”—became a world-wide hit in 1970. “I’m your vehicle baby/I’ll take you anywhere you wanna go!”

Peterik had an on again off again relationship with Karen after the song came out. Eventually they married and have been together for years.

Roll on Down the Highway by Bachman Turner Overdrive – “Roll On down the Highway” is a song written by Fred Turner and Robbie Bachman, first recorded by Canadian rock group Bachman–Turner Overdrive (BTO) for their 1974 album Not Fragile. The lead vocal is provided by Turner. Turner and Randy Bachman had originally been contracted by Ford to write a song for the automotive company’s commercials, but Ford never picked up any of their compositions. Robbie Bachman later helped turn one of Fred’s ideas into a Top 20 hit. “Roll on Down the Highway” peaked at #14 on the US Billboard Hot 100 on March 1, 1975. It reached #8 on the Cash Box Top 100 singles, and #4 on the Canadian RPM chart, and gave the band their second — and final — hit in the United Kingdom, reaching #22 in the UK Singles Chart.

Fitting for a band that is partly named for a trucking magazine (Overdrive), this song is about a trucker making a haul. Written by drummer Robbie Bachman and bass player Fred Turner (who sang lead), the song tapped into the ’70s fascination with trucking culture.

Randy Bachman and Fred Turner would often give themselves assignments as motivation to write songs, often writing something in the style of a current hit. This song evolved out of something they wrote for a Ford commercial. In our interview with Randy Bachman, he explained:

“It’s like getting an assignment: write a new commercial for Ford and you’ll get paid $100,000. Well, I’d sit down and I’d write a commercial for Ford, ‘let it roll down the highway.’ Ford never picks it up and I have a song called ‘Roll On Down the Highway.'”

Rockin’ Down the Highway by The Doobie Brothers – This song is from the second double live album by American rock band The Doobie Brothers, Rockin’ Down the Highway: The Wildlife Concert, released in 1996. The concerts were performed to benefit the Wildlife Conservation Society, hence the album’s title.

Never released as a single, this is a popular song from the second Doobie Brothers album Toulouse Street, which contained their breakout hit “Listen To The Music.” Like many of The Doobies early hits, it was written by their lead singer Tom Johnston, who told us:

“‘Rockin’ Down The Highway’ was a good times song. It’s just what it sounds like. It’s about being in a car with the top down flying down the road, which was not uncommon. I lived in San Jose, but I spent a lot of time in the Santa Cruz Mountains and driving up and down Highway 1 down by Santa Cruz. You know, we hadn’t signed with a label at that particular time, and I would imagine that the words came out of those experiences: it was footloose, fancy free, and just groovin’ up and down the coast, partying. I don’t think there was anything more in depth about it as far as the words. I don’t think there’s any major story to be told there. I mention a motorcycle in there, and it’s not a direct mention, but it kind of glances off motorcycling and riding around in cars. I was motorcycle nuts in those days, so there’s a reference to that.”

Long May You Run by Neil Young – Neil’s beloved Pontiac hearse, “Mort” (a.k.a. “Mortimer Hearseburg”), was the inspiration for this song. Neil drove “Mort” from Toronto to Los Angeles, where he met Stephen Stills and formed Buffalo Springfield.

Neil was in Canada driving to Sudbury when ‘Mort’ broke down in Blind River, June 1965. (Which is contradictory to the lyrics; “well it was back in Blind River, in 1962, when I last saw you alive”).

In 1976, Stephen Stills and Neil Young formed The Stills-Young Band and released an album called Long May You Run, which turned out to be somewhat ironic when the collaboration quickly stalled.

Stills and Young wrote separately for the album, which Stephen contributing four songs, and Young adding five, including the title track.

Stills was a longtime collaborator of Neil’s, having worked with him first in Buffalo Springfield and then in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. However, they had a falling out only nine days into the Long May You Run tour. Young decided to abandon the project, leaving Stills with a mere telegram to explain his departure. It read: “Dear Stephen, funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil.” Yikes!

The last ever Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien on Friday January 22, 2010 finished in style when O’Brien’s final musical guest, Neil Young, performed this song in what appeared to be a poke at NBC. O’Brien had been asked to move his slot to 12:05 a.m., and the TV host refused to move his show to such a late hour, and instead negotiated a $45 million exit deal.

Racing in the Street by Bruce Springsteen – “Racing in the Street” is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town. In the original vinyl format, it was the last song of side one of the album. The song has been called Springsteen’s best song by several commentators, including the authors of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide.

The song plays off the American love of muscle cars during the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Springsteen wrote this about a small-time drag racer who dreams of a better life somewhere else. He has said that this song commemorates the racing in the street that occurred on a little fire road outside his home base of Asbury Park, New Jersey.

The narrator has a dead end job, but his pride and joy is his ’69 Chevy that he and his partner built, and race in the northeast section of the state (exactly which state is not mentioned) to win money gambling against similar racers. It describes that very American desire of the young man to leave his town and see what is out in the big world – to avoid that soul killing life they see around them.

This is one of many early Springsteen songs featuring cars – in this case a Chevy. Some others were “Thunder Road,” “Backstreets,” and “Pink Cadillac.”

Bruce explained to Rolling Stone in 2010:

“When you pick a song title like ‘Racing In The Street,’ that’s a hard song to write. But that was sort of the local culture of Asbury in the ’70s, which was still deeply enmeshed in car culture. If you went to the Stone Pony, it was a constant circle of souped-up muscle cars on Saturday and Sunday. Once again, I sort of stood outside of it, I was hitchhiking, I didn’t have a car! But I wanted one real bad.”

 

This next song isn’t necessarily about a car but the music video prominently features a car. It’s a favorite of mine, me having that vengeful spirit and all…

 

And that leads me into the Country playlist. Most of you know me as a classic rocker and that I am for sure. But I’ve been living in Texas for well over two decades now and I’ve been initiated into the world of country music. It all started when I owned my bar. I was known to have the most kickass jukebox in town and new people used to come in all the time just because they heard about my jukebox. Naturally it was loaded with tons of classics from the 60s and 70s and we rocked every day and every night. But then some of my regular customers were bitching because I didn’t have but a few country songs on there. So to make everybody happy, I added a nice mix of country to the collections.

Couple that with the fact that I’d occasionally turn to the country station while driving around and I actually started to dig some of these artists. So I thought I’d put together a Country Playlist for this week’s theme.

I didn’t have time to go deep with song backgrounds so here’s a down and dirty country playlist all about trucks. Because we all know what you get when you play a country song backwards: you get your lover back, you get your dog back, and you get your truck back. Or so they say. So here you go:

A TRUCK-LADEN COUNTRY PLAYLIST

Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts

We Rode in Trucks by Luke Bryan

Drive (for Daddy Gene) by Alan Jackson

Hillbilly Deluxe by Brooks and Dunn

I Love My Truck by Glen Campbell

Big Ol’ Truck by Toby Keith

Rough and Ready by Trace Adkins

Mud on My Tires by Brad Paisley

Pickup Man by Joe Diffie

Take a Little Ride by Jason Aldean

Truck Yeah by Tim McGraw

Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck by Kip Moore

I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice

Cab of My Truck by Dierks Bentley

How Country Feels by Randy Houser

Eight-Second Ride by Jake Owen

Boys ‘Round Here by Blake Shelton

That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan

The Pickup Truck Song by Jerry Jeff Walker

Doin’ Things You Can’t Do in a Car by Due West

Getting Married to My Pickup Truck by Rodney Carrington

 

And I’m including this one, just because.

I Want a Cowboy by Reba McEntire

 

Hope you enjoyed my Cars and Trucks Playlists. What are your favorite songs about cars or trucks? Do you have any favorite songs about motorcycles or boats? Have any old Road Trip Mix Tapes from back in the day? If so, what’s on them?

PS: Today, October 23rd, is the anniversary of my blog going live four years ago!  Wow, has it been four years already? Crazy!

Thanks to all my blog friends for making Angels Bark a fun, rewarding and entertaining pursuit. Rock on, y’all!

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy.  Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.