BATTLE OF THE BANDS: It’s a DOG vs CAT Battle Showdown! This is ROUND ONE…

SAY WHAT?? You read that right. It’s the first ever DOG vs CAT Battle of the Bands TOURNAMENT. You’re going to want to get a front row seat for this one because it’s about to go down with ROUND ONE.

So what the heck is this Dog v Cat Battle of the Bands Tournament anyway? Well, I honestly can’t remember exactly how it all came together but Mary over at Jingle Jangle Jungle started it all. We were chatting about her idea for a cat vs dog battle and you know me and dogs: I’m gonna jump all over something that has to do with dogs so I said “Hey, whaddya think of us teaming up together on this idea?” and she shot right back that she was just thinking the same thing so Voilà, we now have a major event on our hands. 

This will be a THREE ROUND BATTLE culminating in a Championship Title Fight. Simply put: In today’s Round One, I’m pitting two Dog songs against each other and Mary is pitting two Cat songs against each other. The First Round will feature harder edge song versions (think Hard Rock).

Round Two will be on August 1st where we’ll both be doing it again, me doing Dog songs and Mary doing Cat songs, except this time it will be the softer sounding versions (Soft Rock type).

Round Three on August 15th will feature battles with the winners from Rounds One and Two duking it out, Hard vs Soft: so it will be a battle of a Hard-Rock Dog song vs a Soft-Rock Dog song here at my place and a Hard-Rock Cat song vs a Soft-Rock Cat song battle over at Mary’s place.

The Championship Title Fight — on September 1st — will be taking place exclusively at Mary’s Jingle Jangle Jungle where the Ultimate Showdown will happen:

DOG versus CAT!

Just how this tournament will end is anyone’s guess at this point. Gamblers: have your bookies on speed-dial to place those bets. This will be a showdown for the record books! And it is sure to spark those age-old debates: Who is better, dogs or cats? Oh boy, buckle your seatbelts because this could get crazy!

Okay, so that’s as simple as I could make it. By nature I’m a word person. Mary made a great chart that will be updated as the Tournament progresses. Here’s where we are now:

Without further ado, here is my ROUND ONE BATTLE to choose the HARD-ROCK DOG SONG winner. Contenders are Ted Nugent’s DOG EAT DOG vs Led Zeppelin’s BLACK DOG

Contender #1: DOG EAT DOG by Ted Nugent

Written by the Motor City Madman himself, this song from Ted Nugent’s second solo album Free-For-All (1976) was inspired by the 1967 Detroit riots:

Sabotage in the downtown streets

Police cars overturned

Can’t do nothing to beat the heat

And if you don’t you’ll get burned



Nugent isn’t taking a side, but looking at the riots from the perspective of a citizen who gets caught up in them. “It’s necessary to keep authority in check to some extent, but not always,” he told Sounds. “A lot of times riots are just stupidity in action. A lot of times I can’t tell you whether they are righteous or stupid and there may be occasions of both.”

Ted Nugent didn’t sing on many of his early tracks, and on this one, Derek St. Holmes did lead vocals. Nugent would often introduce the song, making it clear that he was the alpha dog in this outfit. Big surprise there, right?

In the last verse, Nugent sings:

Kamikaze from the hundredth floor

Swan dive to the street

He couldn’t handle this madness no more

He craved that sweeter meat



This represents people who can’t cope in the dog-eat-dog world and turn to suicide. “What it implies is that ain’t nobody eatin’ this dog,” he said. “I’m a part of that city world, I was for many years and I was able to deal with it and take nourishment.”

Oh brother! Listen, no matter your view of Ted Nugent, he did turn out some good music, in my opinion. I grew up on Nugent tunes, I saw him in concert twice in the 70s and although I can’t stand the guy today, I do really like a lot of his music from back then. This is one of those songs that are part of the soundtrack of my life so I thought it only fitting to include his Dog Eat Dog in this Round One battle. Here is the Hard Rock Dog Song contender #1:

 

Contender #2: BLACK DOG by Led Zeppelin

“Black Dog” is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, the opening track on their fourth album Led Zeppelin 4 (1971), which became the band’s best-selling album. (Note: The album itself is technically untitled, with symbols on the cover instead of words., but since it was their fourth album, it became known as Led Zeppelin 4).

A wide range of musical styles show up on the set, with “Black Dog” exemplifying the blues-rock that was the bedrock of the band’s sound. It was released as a single in the United States and in Australia with “Misty Mountain Hop” as the B-side, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in Australia.

Music sociologist Deena Weinstein calls “Black Dog” “one of the most instantly recognizable [Led] Zeppelin tracks.”

In this song, Robert Plant is singing about a woman who appeals to his prurient interests, but is clearly no good for him – he tells himself he’d rather have a “steady rollin’ woman” come his way.

Robert Plant explained in an interview with Cameron Crowe: “Not all my stuff is meant to be scrutinized. Things like ‘Black Dog’ are blatant, let’s-do-it-in-the-bath type things, but they make their point just the same.”

The title does not appear in the lyrics, and has nothing to do with the song itself. The band worked up the song at Headley Grange, which was a mansion in Hampshire, England. Headley Grange was out in the country, surrounded by woods. A nameless black Labrador Retriever would wander the grounds, and the band would feed it. When they needed a name for this track – which didn’t have an obvious title – they thought of the canine and went with “Black Dog.”

The Retriever, despite his advanced age, was still sexually adventurous, like the song’s protagonist who reiterates his desperate desire for a woman’s love and the happiness it provides. As Plant explained to a 1972 concert audience:

Let me tell you ’bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he’d “boogied” and everything else he couldn’t get back. And we used to carry him back.

Here is our Hard Rock Dog Song contender #2:

 

IT’S TIME TO VOTE FOR THE HARD ROCK DOG WINNER! Which hard-rock dog song do you like best? And tell me why. THEN be sure to go check out the other half of Round One in the Dog v Cat Battle of the Bands Tournament : Mary’s hard-edge Cat-Fight battle over at Jingle Jangle Jungle.

And when you’re done with that, be sure to check out the other cool battles that are happening this week. You can get links to all the other participants in the sidebar at Stephen McCarthy’s Battle of the Bands page. 

 

UPDATE NEWS FLASH: Before I forget, if anyone still even cares: here are the results from my battle last month. Before I announce that though, let me formally apologize to you all. I completely dropped the ball on this one. I put all that time into putting together a combined battle of two electonic versions and two acoustic versions of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” and you all came over, listened to four cover versions and voted not once but twice…and then I never showed back up to tally the results and declare the winners. Shame on me! I am truly sorry about that. That is not how this is supposed to go. My only explanation is that life (or should I say Life with a capital L) got in the way and I never made it back to that battle post to even read the comments, let alone reply to the comments and then deliver the results…until just now. Hey, maybe no one really gives a shit anymore but I feel bad so, to all of you, my sincere apologies. And now, let me (finally) fill you in on the results!

The song was Drops of Jupiter by Train and the battle contenders were:

In the Electronic version category: Anthem Lights vs Matt McAndrew

In the Acoustic version category: Jess Moskaluke vs Boyce Avenue

And the winners are:

ANTHEM LIGHTS with 6 votes (over Matt McAndrew with 4 votes)

BOYCE AVENUE with 7 votes (over Jess Moskaluke with 3 votes)

btw, I really enjoyed all four of these contenders but I voted for Anthem Lights – their version just grabbed me more and the richness of their instrumentation pushed them over the top for me; and I voted for Jess Moskaluke – only three of us voted for her and many of you thought her voice was annoying. I can see that, but I liked her voice and her style and for sure I really enjoyed the piano over the guitar in her version. But she didn’t win. You all brought it home for Boyce Avenue (who I also liked a lot).

I know it was a month ago, but I really enjoyed putting that battle together. I hope you all enjoyed participating in it and I will definitely not drop the ball on any future battles. Thanks for your patience and your understanding on that one.

NOW PLEASE JOIN MARY AND ME IN WHAT WE THINK WILL BE A FUN DOG v CAT BATTLE TOURNAMENT! Give us your votes!

And remember to come back on AUGUST 1 for ROUND TWO of this fun and funky Battle of the Bands! 

I’ll post the results from my ROUND ONE Hard-Rock Dog v Dog battle in 7 days…

As always, thanks for participating and ROCK ON my friends!

 

 

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Monday’s Music Moves Me – The Kaleidoscope of Color Series – The BLUE Edition: PART 1

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me is a freebie theme, meaning we can post anything. Well, guess what I’m going to do mine on today? If you guessed another edition in my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs Series, you’d be right! Surprise! BUT this is the FINAL color in my series: BLUE. There are so many of my favorite songs that have blue in the title, I am going to do this last edition in two parts so the post isn’t too long (“too long” being subject to interpretation).

Here is The BLUE Edition: PART 1 playlist. Below is a list of the songs along with some information about each song that I found interesting. Hopefully you will find it interesting as well. Oh yeah, and some cool info about the color Blue is at the end. Enjoy!

Baby Blue by Badfinger – “Baby Blue” is a song by the band Badfinger from their 1971 album, Straight Up. The song was written by Pete Ham, produced by Todd Rundgren, and released on Apple Records. The “Dixie” addressed in the song’s lyrics was a real person, a former girlfriend of singer/songwriter Pete Ham. The woman was Dixie Armstrong, who Ham had dated during Badfinger’s last US tour.

Badfinger 1971

The last US Top 40 hit for Badfinger, this song would mark the beginning of a devastating decline for the band. They were signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records – Straight Up was their third album on the label and featured contributions from George Harrison. With “Baby Blue” and “Day After Day” getting a steady stream of airplay and Beatles comparisons, they toured twice in 1972 to packed houses.

All was not well behind the scenes, however, as Apple Records was on shaky ground. Badfinger recorded their fourth album, but their negotiations with Apple got snarled and a lawsuit prevented its release. These legal entanglements kept Badfinger from touring or recording while they were at the peak of their powers, and also drained them financially. In 1973, they signed to Warner Brothers and recorded their fifth album. Nearly two years after Straight Up hit the racks, Apple finally issued Badfinger’s fourth album, titled Ass, in the US in November of that year. Their self-titled Warners album came out in February 1974.

By this time, the band’s sound had fallen out of favor, and both albums underperformed. With their legal and financial problems becoming even more burdensome, Pete Ham hanged himself in 1975. His suicide note made it clear that the business dealings were his undoing; he expressed hopes that his death would serve as a cautionary tale for aspiring musicians. He was 27.

FUN FACT: The chaos that was enveloping the Apple UK operation at the time was strongly evident with regard to this song. While Apple US gave the song a picture sleeve and a remix to ensure that it was a hit, Apple UK remained unaware of its commercial potential. Although the single was even assigned a release number for the UK (Apple 42), “Baby Blue” was never actually released as a UK single.

FUN FACT: “Baby Blue” regained fame four decades later upon being featured in the 2013 series finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad, which, as reported by the show’s creator Vince Gilligan, uses the track’s title lyric as a reference to the special and iconic blue methamphetamine produced by main character Walter White. It was played in the show’s final minutes, that iconic closing scene. (BTW, I was a huge fan of Breaking Bad. I featured this scene in a “Blood, Boobs and Carnage” blog-hop a few years ago. You can check it out here).

Or you can see this final scene that includes the very end, when the Baby Blue song plays (the video below does NOT include the carnage in the mind-blowing ending as shown in the link above):

Online streams increased in popularity immediately following the broadcast. According to Nielsen Soundscan, 5,300 downloads were purchased the night of the broadcast. The song appeared on the Billboard Digital Songs chart at No. 32 the week ending October 19, 2013. Joey Molland, the last surviving member of the classic line-up of Badfinger, took to Twitter to express his excitement at the song’s use in the finale and subsequently began to retweet news articles about the song’s usage in the finale. It became a top-selling song on iTunes following the broadcast. As a result, the song charted in the UK for the first time, reaching No. 73. It also charted at No. 35 in Ireland.

Jackie Blue by Ozark Mountain Daredevils – “Jackie Blue” is a single by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils from their 1974 album, It’ll Shine When It Shines. The song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent two weeks at #1 (May 10-17) on the Cashbox Singles Chart in the U.S. It was also a hit internationally in 1975: #2 in Canada, #9 in New Zealand, #10 in South Africa, and #27 in Australia. The song was sung by the group’s drummer, Larry Lee.

This song is about a woman who is in pursuit of happiness but never gives anything a long enough time to make her happy. She gets bored too easily – she’s flighty, or indifferent. This was written by band members Steve Cash and Larry Lee. It’s inspired by someone they met in Los Angeles who was strung out on drugs.

Radio stations usually played an edited version omitting the last verse. This verse pretty well sums up what the whole tune is about…

“Everyday in your indigo eyes

I watch the sunset but I don’t see it rise

Moonlight and stars in your strawberry wine

You’d take the world but you won’t take the time”

Blue Morning, Blue Day by Foreigner – “Blue Morning, Blue Day” is the third single from Foreigner’s second album, Double Vision.

This sinister-sounding song takes us inside the head of a guy who can’t sleep and is desperately pleading with his girl, trying to keep her from leaving. The song was written by Foreigner’s songwriting team of lead singer Lou Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones.

In our interview with Gramm, he said: “It talks about a young musician that’s burning the candle at both ends. He has a lot on his mind, and walks the street at night.”

Blue is a versatile color for Lou Gramm, who uses it here as a metaphor for misery. He used the color in a different context on his 1987 solo hit “Midnight Blue”; he also has a song on his 1989 solo album called “True Blue Love.”

This single from Double Vision followed “Hot Blooded” and the title track. Critical adulation eluded the band (witness their snub from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), but the group earned legions of fans around this time: each of their first four albums sold at least 5 million copies.  “Blue Morning, Blue Day” reached number 15 in the charts in the U.S. and 45 in the U.K.

Suite Madame Blue by Styx – “Suite Madame Blue” is from Styx’ fifth album Equinox, released in December 1975. The album marked the final appearance of original Styx guitarist John Curulewski who left the band abruptly following the release of Equinox. The band went into a frantic search to find a replacement for their upcoming tour to support Equinox. Soon after, they found Tommy Shaw.

The album’s biggest hit was the track “Lorelei” (another favorite of mine) which was Styx’s second US Top 30 hit. The other well-known song in the album was “Suite Madame Blue” (the title of which has a play on the word “sweet” to refer to the musical term of “suites”, i.e. unrelated instrumental successions) which was written about the upcoming Bicentennial of the US.

Dennis DeYoung wrote this in 1975 as America was gearing up for its Bi-Centennial celebration in 1976. The song is not a celebration of the event, but a look at how it was being exploited. He explained in Classic Rock Revisited:

“The 200th anniversary of America was being totally taken over by commercialization in a rather unceremonious fashion. I had a moment of reflection. I had grown up in the so called glory days of the United States of America, which was post World War II until 1970. To live in this country at that time was really the golden age. The fallibility of the United States was something that struck me and that set the tone for ‘Suite Madam Blue.’ Maybe I was fearful of being literal – I think I probably was.”

The track became a staple for all Styx tours with Dennis DeYoung. It’s a rare example of a Styx song that (briefly) requires four voice parts; during the Return to Paradise tour in 1996, the “America” bridge would be sung by DeYoung, Shaw, James Young and the usually silent Chuck Panozzo.

Although the Equinox album stalled at #58, it went Gold in 1977 shortly before the release of The Grand Illusion (1977).

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby Stills & Nash (CSN) – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a suite of short songs written by Stephen Stills and performed by Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN). It appeared on the group’s self-titled debut album in 1969 and was released as a single, hitting #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. In Canada, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” peaked at number 11. The song is a suite in the classical sense, i.e. an ordered set of musical pieces.

This wasn’t their first single, or even their biggest, but certainly one of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s most well-known songs. It established the harmony style that would be the group’s trademark for years to come. Nash revealed to Rolling Stone that of the CS&N trio, Stills was the only to play on this song. All three contributed vocals.

CSN performed “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” at the Woodstock and Live Aid festivals, and their performance at the former is featured in the film Woodstock (1970).

The title “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (a play on words for “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes”) refers to Stephen Stills’ former girlfriend, folk singer/songwriter Judy Collins, and the lyrics to most of the suite’s sections consist of his thoughts about her and their imminent breakup. Collins is known for her piercing blue eyes.

In their 1991 boxed set, Stills said:

“It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins. It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks. I had a hell of a time getting the music to fit. I was left with all these pieces of song and I said, ‘Let’s sing them together and call it a suite,’ because they were all about the same thing and they led up to the same point.”

During a July 15, 2007 interview for the National Public Radio program Just Roll Tape, Stills revealed that Collins was present in the studio when the demo tapes were recorded. Collins had advised Stills “not to stay [at the studio] all night.” Stills later commented that “the breakup was imminent…we were both too large for one house.” Stills said that he liked parts of this demo version of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” better than the released version.

Collins and Stills had met in 1967 and dated for two years. In 1969, she was appearing in the New York Shakespeare Festival musical production of Peer Gynt and had fallen in love with her co-star Stacy Keach, eventually leaving Stills for him. Stills was devastated by the possible breakup and wrote the song as a response to his sadness. In a 2000 interview, Collins gave her impressions of when she first heard the song:

“[Stephen] came to where I was singing one night on the West Coast and brought his guitar to the hotel and he sang me “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” the whole song. And of course it has lines in it that referred to my therapy. And so he wove that all together in this magnificent creation. So the legacy of our relationship is certainly in that song.”

“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” has four distinct sections (on the full album version). The shortened version released as a single cut several verses out. The final section is the only part that stayed fully intact on the single.

The final section (the coda) is sung in Spanish, starting at 6:34 until the song concludes. The “doo-doo-doo-da-doo” backing vocals are the best known segment of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, with Stills singing Spanish lyrics in the background.

This last verse in Spanish is about Cuba. It was sung in Spanish because Stephen Stills didn’t want it easily understood since it had little to do with the theme of the song. Stills put that part in simply because the song had gone on forever and he didn’t want it to just lay there at the end.

The Spanish lyrics are as follows: “Que linda me recuerdo a Cuba. La reina de la Mar Caribe. Quiero solo visitarme ayí. Y que triste que no puedo vaya.”

Here’s the translation:

“How nice it will (or would) be to take you to Cuba The queen of the Caribbean Sea I only want to visit you there And how sad that I can’t, damn!”

Indigo Blues by the Smithereens – The Smithereens are an American rock band from Carteret, New Jersey. The group formed in 1980 with members Pat DiNizio (vocals & guitar), Jim Babjak (guitar & vocals), Mike Mesaros (bass guitar & vocals), and Dennis Diken (drums & percussion).

The band is perhaps best known for a string of modest hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including “Only a Memory”, “A Girl Like You” and “Too Much Passion”. The Smithereens have collaborated with numerous musicians, both in the studio (Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Lou Reed, Suzanne Vega) and live (Graham Parker and The Kinks). The band’s name comes from a Yosemite Sam catchphrase, “Varmint, I’m a-gonna blow you to smithereens!”

The Smithereens are known for writing and playing catchy 1960s-influenced power pop. The group gained publicity when the single “Blood and Roses” from its first album was included on the soundtrack for Dangerously Close, and the music video got moderate rotation on MTV. “Blood and Roses” was also featured on the 1980s TV show Miami Vice during the episode ‘The Savage’ (first aired February 6, 1987).

The group spent some of its initial semi-celebrity phase defending itself in Rolling Stone against thinly-veiled accusations of sounding too much like the Byrds and the Beatles. Along with a basic Eastern-coast roots-rock sound that owed much to the inspirations of DiNizio, including the Who, the Clash, Elvis Costello, and Nick Lowe, the Smithereens deployed a uniquely retro obsession with Mod, the late British Invasion pop of John’s Children and the Move, and other artifacts of 1950s and 1960s culture that lent its music substance. But DiNizio has stated that his single biggest influence was Buddy Holly: “Listening to Buddy Holly, I rediscovered my enjoyment of simple pop structures and pretty melodies….I’ve always thought of him as a kindred spirit.”  And kindred they may now be: Pat DiNizio died on December 12, 2017.

I became familiar with the “Indigo Blues” song from listening to the Smithereen’s fourth studio album Blow Up. Released in late 1991, the album charted at #120 in the U.S. The second single, “Too Much Passion”, became the group’s second top-40 single, peaking at #37. “Top of the Pops” was released as the first single of the album.

I picked up a CD of the album one night while poking around in a used record shop. I listened to that album over and over and over while going through a tough break-up. I can truly say I like every song on the entire album (especially “Tell Me When Did Things Go So Wrong” and “Get Ahold of My Heart” and “Too Much Passion” and “Anywhere You Are”). It’s a deviation from my typical taste in music (and maybe that’s why it grabbed me so much) but it’s an excellent album.

Blow Up’s eye-catching cover design is by movie poster/title sequence artist Saul Bass (“Vertigo,” “West Side Story,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho”).

Tangled Up in Blue by Bob Dylan – “Tangled Up in Blue” is a song by Bob Dylan. It appeared on his album Blood on the Tracks in 1975. Released as a single, it reached #31 on the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone ranked it #68 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Dylan wrote this in the summer of 1974 at a farm he had just bought in Minnesota. He had been touring with The Band earlier that year. The song was influenced by the art classes Dylan was taking with Norman Raeben, a popular teacher in New York. Dylan credits Raeben for making him look at things from a nonlinear perspective, which was reflected in his songs.

“Tangled Up in Blue” is one of the clearest examples of Dylan’s attempts to write “multi-dimensional” songs which defied a fixed notion of time and space. Dylan was influenced by his recent study of painting and the Cubist school of artists, who sought to incorporate multiple perspectives within a single plane of view. In a 1978 interview Dylan explained this style of songwriting: “What’s different about it is that there’s a code in the lyrics, and there’s also no sense of time. There’s no respect for it. You’ve got yesterday, today and tomorrow all in the same room, and there’s very little you can’t imagine not happening.”

The Telegraph (aka The Daily Telegraph, a national British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London) has described the song as “The most dazzling lyric ever written, an abstract narrative of relationships told in an amorphous blend of first and third person, rolling past, present and future together, spilling out in tripping cadences and audacious internal rhymes, ripe with sharply turned images and observations and filled with a painfully desperate longing.”

As Neil McCormick remarked in 2003: “A truly extraordinary epic of the personal, an unreliable narrative carved out of shifting memories like a five-and-a-half-minute musical Proust.”

The lyrics are at times opaque, but the song seems to be (like most of the songs on the album) the tale of a love that has, for the time being, ended, although not by choice; the last verse begins:

So now I’m goin’ back again,

I got to get to her somehow…

(and ends):

We always did feel the same,

We just saw it from a different point of view,

Tangled up in blue.

This is a very personal song for Dylan. It deals with the changes he was going through, including his marriage falling apart. Dylan has often stated that the song took “ten years to live and two years to write”. Regarding the song and the album Blood on the Tracks, Dylan has said, “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?”

Dylan and his first wife, Sara Lowndes, divorced in 1977. As part of the settlement, she got half the royalties from the songs Dylan wrote while they were married, including this one.

When Dylan performs this song in concert he uses the third person perspective (He and She) that is on the version found on The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 album instead of the first person perspective that is on Blood on the Tracks. He also alters some of the lyrics, for instance: “One day the axe just fell” is changed to “One day it all went to hell.”

FUN FACT: According to novelist Ron Rosenbaum, Bob Dylan once told him that he’d written “Tangled up in Blue”, after spending a weekend immersed in Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue.

Behind Blue Eyes by The Who – “Behind Blue Eyes” is a song by the English rock band The Who. It was released in October 1971 as the second single from their fifth album Who’s Next and was originally written by Pete Townshend for his Lifehouse project. The song is one of The Who’s best-known recordings and has been covered by many artists.

Pete Townshend originally wrote this about a character in his “Lifehouse” project, which was going to be a film similar to The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia. Townshend never finished “Lifehouse,” but the songs ended up on the album Who’s Next.

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey both have blue eyes, but the song is not autobiographical. Townshend has said that he wrote it to show “How lonely it is to be powerful.”

Townshend has explained that he never behaved like a typical rock star when he was on tour, especially when it came to groupies, which he tried to avoid. He says it was a run-in with a groupie that was the impetus for this song. Townshend, who got married in 1968, was tempted by a groupie after The Who’s June 9, 1970 concert in Denver. He says that he went back to his room alone and wrote a prayer beginning, “If my fist clenches, crack it open…” The prayer was more or less asking for help in resisting this temptation. The other words could be describing Townshend’s self-pity and how hard it is to resist.

Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain by Willie Nelson – “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is a song written by songwriter Fred Rose. Originally performed by Roy Acuff, the song has been covered by many artists, such as Hank Williams Sr. and Charley Pride. Also the song was later recorded by Willie Nelson as part of his 1975 album Red Headed Stranger. Both the song and album would become iconic in country music history, and jump start Nelson’s success as a singer and recording artist.

Prior to the success of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” Willie Nelson had enjoyed widespread success primarily as a songwriter, with such songs as “Crazy” (Patsy Cline) and “Hello Walls” (Faron Young). As a performer, meanwhile, Nelson had hit the Top 10 of the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart just twice; it had happened in 1962, once as a solo artist (“Touch Me”) and again as part of a duet with Shirley Collie (“Willingly”). Thereafter, Nelson had approached the Top 20 on occasion, but went 13 years without a Top 10 hit.

In October 1975, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” became Nelson’s first No. 1 hit as a singer, and at year’s end was the third-biggest song of 1975 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. In addition, the song gained modest airplay on Top 40 radio, reaching number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Even by the standards of sorrowful country songs, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is one somber tune. The singer kisses his love goodbye, knowing he’ll never see her again. As he sings it, he’s now an old man who never found true love again and looks forward to meeting her in heaven.

Singing the song night after night took an emotional toll on Nelson, who was a notorious drinker in the late ’70s. He explained in a Hot Press interview: “It’s really difficult to sing ‘Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain’ or ‘Always On My Mind’ without getting emotionally involved, especially when the audience gets emotionally involved and you feel their feelings. You can only wallow in your own misery for so long without saying, ‘Wait a minute, I want a drink!'”

Nelson acclaimed as a songwriter, but he didn’t write this one. It was composed by Fred Rose, whose country hits include “Crazy Heart,” “Don’t Bring Me Posies,” “Take These Chains From My Heart” and “Kaw-Liga.”

Roy Acuff, who was Rose’ partner in the music publishing company Acuff-Rose Music, was the first to record the song, releasing it as a single in 1947 credited to Roy Acuff And His Smoky Mountain Boys. In ensuing years, many other artists recorded the song, including Roger Whittaker, Gene Vincent and Slim Whitman.

Willie Nelson recorded the song for his concept album Red Headed Stranger, which is based on a song of the same name written by Carl Stutz and Edith Lindeman and recorded by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. In that song, a mysterious rider comes through town leading a horse that belonged to his dead lover. Nelson revised the tale to make the stranger a preacher who killed his lover because she was cheating on him. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” fit the concept of the album, as it finds the stranger thinking back to his lost love.

Willie Nelson first made the Hot 100 as a songwriter in 1961 with “Crazy” (#9, recorded by Patsy Cline) and “Hello Walls” (#12, recorded by Faron Young), but this was his first trip to the chart as an artist. It was also his first #1 country hit, and it earned him the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Nelson’s singing career took off, and he soon became a household name.

Fun Fact: This was the last song Elvis Presley played before he died. In the early morning of August 16, 1977, he played it on his piano in Graceland. Later that day, he died from an overdose of prescription drugs.

Blue Eyes by Elton John – “Blue Eyes” is a song performed by Elton John with music and lyrics written by Elton John and Gary Osborne. It was released in 1982, both as a single and on the album Jump Up!, which reached No. 8 in the UK. In the US, the song spent three weeks at No. 10 on the Cash Box Top 100; it also went to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and spent two weeks at No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart.

The music video for the song was filmed in Australia, on Sydney’s famous Bondi to Bronte walk. The exact location is at the most easterly point of Marks Park, Tamarama, where a low, sandstone turret rests on the top of the cliffs and overlooks the Tasman Sea. The white grand piano was positioned right in the middle of the turret. The song and video was in dedication to Elizabeth Taylor.

There wasn’t much info about “Blue Eyes” in the spots where I normally look for info but I managed to find a book that remarks about the song. In His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, the chapter was discussing the making of the Jump Up! album and its various songs. About “Blue Eyes”, it reads:

“Blue Eyes” is the one song on Jump Up! that proves Elton wasn’t just reading water. It is more than just one of the many pleasingly seamless ballads that Elton continued to churn out the way Pete Rose got hits. “Blue Eyes” features…some of the most sophisticated chord sequences that Elton John has ever written,” observed Thomas Ryan in his book American Hit Radio. “With a progression steeped in complex jazz changes and a melody that resonates with blue notes, it’s anything but ordinary for early 80s pop music …Unlike much of its competition, it seems destined to become an evergreen among a field of annuals.”

Many of Elton’s seamless ballads have become evergreens, but “Blue Eyes” is something more – a twist of sadness housed in the wise cadences of jazz and set against a gentle landscape of unobtrusive, countrified blues. Osborne’s words are subsumed in the music, as well they should be, since Elton had started the ball rolling. “Blue eyes, baby’s got blue eyes,” he’d cooed as he composed the music. Osborne had taken it from there, with the musician throwing in another line or two, entrapped in the song’s jazz cadences. Although Elton later mused that, before getting it right, he’d kept singing the song like Dean Martin, what finally emerged was not Dino’s debonair, whiskey-laced voice but a new Elton John sound. Instead of the sophistication of his singing on “Idol” or the sensuousness of “Shooting Star,” “Blue Eyes” get the balladeering of someone no longer interested in playing lovers’ games. The singer caresses the melody in a protective coating of honest intimacy, girded by deep-note delving.

Apparently people were taking note of this as 1983 saw Elton John receiving his thirteenth and fourteenth Grammy nominations: for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for “Blue Eyes” (and the other for Video of the Year for Visions).

Blue Jean Blues by ZZ Top – ZZ Top is a rock band formed in 1969 in Houston, Texas. The band has, since 1970, consisted of bassist and lead vocalist Dusty Hill, guitarist and lead vocalist Billy Gibbons (the band’s leader, main lyricist and musical arranger), and drummer Frank Beard. “As genuine roots musicians, they have few peers”, according to former musician, critic and collector Michael “Cub” Koda. “Gibbons is one of America’s finest blues guitarists working in the arena rock idiom […] while Hill and Beard provide the ultimate rhythm section support.”

“Blue Jean Blues” is a song from Fandango!, the fourth album by that Texas Trio, released in 1975. Half the tracks are selections from live shows, the rest are new songs from the studio.

The only single released from the album was “Tush”. The single peaked at #20 on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it the band’s first top 40 single. “Blue Jean Blues” didn’t get a ton of airplay so you may not be familiar with it unless you’ve spent some time with the album. My brother introduced me to the Fandango! album when it first came out and this song is one of my favorites from the album. Get comfortable, grab your headphones, crank up the volume and kick back. It’s a good trip, I promise.

Blue Sky by The Allman Brothers Band – “Blue Sky” is a song by the American rock band the Allman Brothers Band from their third studio album, Eat a Peach (1972). The song was written and sung by guitarist Dickey Betts, who penned it about his girlfriend (and later wife), Sandy “Bluesky” Wabegijig. The track is also notable as one of guitarist Duane Allman’s final recorded performances with the group. The band’s two guitarists, Duane Allman and Betts, alternate playing the song’s lead: Allman’s solo beginning 1:07 in, Betts joining in a shared melody line at 2:28, followed by Betts’s solo at 2:37. The song is notably more country-inspired than many songs in the band’s catalogue.

His debut as a vocalist for the band, guitarist Dickey Betts composed “Blue Sky” about his Native American girlfriend, Sandy “Bluesky” Wabegijig, whom he later married. The lyrics leave out any references to gender to make it nonspecific: “Once I got into the song I realized how nice it would be to keep the vernaculars—he and she—out and make it like you’re thinking of the spirit, like I was giving thanks for a beautiful day. I think that made it broader and more relatable to anyone and everyone,” he later said. Betts initially wanted the band’s lead vocalist, Gregg Allman, to sing the song, but guitarist Duane Allman encouraged him to sing it himself: “Man, this is your song and it sounds like you and you need to sing it.”  This was the first time Betts sang lead on an Allman Brothers song. He also sang lead on their biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

Allman Brothers Band 1972

Betts and Sandy “Bluesky” Wabegijig married in 1973 and divorced two years later. For a while after his 1975 divorce from this song’s muse Sandy, Dickey Betts refused to perform this song.

The track is also notable as one of guitarist Duane Allman’s final recorded performances with the group. It was released after Duane’s death on the Eat A Peach album. The album is dedicated to him. “As I mixed songs like “Blue Sky,” I knew, of course, that I was listening to the last things that Duane ever played and there was just such a mix of beauty and sadness, knowing there’s not going to be any more from him,” said Johnny Sandlin.

Betts and Sandy Bluesky had a daughter, Jessica, on May 14, 1972. Betts wrote “Jessica” about her a year later.

Duane Allman and Dickey Betts played on the bridge solo – one playing “lead” lead, the other playing “rhythm” lead. They switch up half way through – listen very carefully and you will hear them synch up on a riff for two measures or so right around 2:30 into the track.

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That’s it for PART 1 of the BLUE Edition. Were some of your favorite blue songs here? If not, be sure to check out PART 2, coming in two weeks

Here is some fun information on the meaning of the color blue, taken from the Bourn Creative’s Color Meaning Blog Series:

Blue represents both the sky and the sea, and is associated with open spaces, freedom, intuition, imagination, expansiveness, inspiration, and sensitivity. Blue also represents meanings of depth, trust, loyalty, sincerity, wisdom, confidence, stability, faith, heaven, and intelligence.

The color blue has positive affects on the mind and the body. As the color of the spirit, it invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming and exude feelings of tranquility. Blue helps to slow human metabolism, is cooling in nature, and helps with balance and self-expression. Blue is also an appetite suppressant.

However not all blues are serene and sedate. Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic, an engaging color that expresses exhilaration. Also, some shades of blue or the use of too much blue may come across as cold or uncaring, and can dampen spirits.

Blue can be strong and steadfast or light and friendly. Blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity in heraldry. The color blue in many cultures is significant in religious beliefs, brings peace, or is believed to keep the bad spirits away. In Iran, blue is the color of mourning while in the West the something blue bridal tradition represents love.

The blue color communicates significance, importance, and confidence without creating somber or sinister feelings. This is where the corporate blue power suit and the blue uniforms of police officers and firefighter came from. Considered a highly corporate color, blue is often associated with intelligence, stability, unity, and conservatism.

Too much blue can create feelings of melancholy, negativity, sadness, self-righteousness, and self-centeredness. Too little blue brings about qualities of suspicion, depression, stubbornness, timidity, and unreliability.

Blue gemstones are believed to aid in creating calm and relaxation in crisis situations or chaotic situations, to open the flow of communication between loved ones, to feel genuinely inspired, and to gain the courage to speak from the heart.

Different shades, tints, and hues of blue have different meanings. For example, dark blue can be seen as elegant, rich, sophisticated, intelligent, and old-fashioned, royal blue can represent superiority, and light blue can mean honesty and trustworthiness.

Other meanings associated with the color blue:

  • Combining the colors red, white, and blue create a patriotic color palette for the United States, mirroring the colors in the American Flag.
  • Navy blue and white, when used together, create a nautical, oceanic color palette that often represents sailing, and sailors.
  • The terms “feeling blue” or “getting the blues” refers to the extreme calm feelings associated with blue, such as sadness and depression.
  • The saying “out of the blue” is used in reference to something unexpected.
  • The expression “singing the blues” references a person who is complaining about their circumstances.
  • The phrase “true blue” stands for someone who is loyal, trustworthy, and faithful.
  • The term “blueblood” refers to a person of royal, noble, or superior birth.
  • The saying “baby blues” is used to describe the sadness that women feel after giving birth. It is often used in reference to post-partum depression.
  • “blue ribbon” represents the best, first place, top prize, or number one.
  • The expression “into the blue” means entering the unknown or uncertainty, not knowing what you’re walking into.
  • The phrase “blue Monday” means feeling sad, often the feelings experienced when the weekend is over and the workweek begins.
  • The term “blue laws” refers to laws that were originally passed to enforce specific moral standards.
  • The saying “blue language” refers to using profanity.
  • The “Bluebook” is known as a register of people of significance in social standing. Later, the term Bluebook was adapted by the car industry as the name of the registry listing vehicle values.
  • The Blues is a music style characterized by the sometimes sad or down focus and melancholy melodies.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color blue: sapphire, azure, beryl, cerulean, cobalt, indigo, navy, royal, sky blue, baby blue, robin’s egg blue, cyan, cornflower blue, midnight blue, slate, steel blue, Prussian blue.

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below:

Monday’s Music Moves Me – A Kaleidoscope of Color Songs: The WHITE Edition

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me Spotlight Conductor is Michelle and her Musings & Merriments blog. Given that the 4th of July is just two days away, the theme is Patriotic Songs. I felt burned out on patriotic songs because I did a full playlist of them last July and then for 9/11 featured some other patriotic songs…So instead of just doing straight patriotic songs today, I took a little diversion: I’m definitely starting my playlist off with a patriotic song (“Red, White & Blue” by Lynyrd Skynyrd) and then I’m featuring one of the three colors of our American flag with a presentation of songs with WHITE in the title. It is a continuation of my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs Series for sure, but I think the White songs angle kinda ties in with the theme? Maybe. Anyway, here are my favorite songs with WHITE in the title. Following the playlist is the list of songs with (hopefully) some cool information about each one. Oh, and there will also be some interesting information about the color white at the end. Enjoy!

Red, White & Blue (Love It or Leave) by Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Red White and Blue (Love it or Leave)” is a song by southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd released on its 2003 album Vicious Cycle. It was written shortly after the September 11 attacks by Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special brothers Johnny and Donnie Van Zant and another pair of rock brothers, Brad and Brett Warren.  It reached number 27 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart.

Lead singer Johnny Van Zant discussed the tune in a track-by-track commentary to promote the band’s 2010 CD/DVD Live from Freedom Hall: “We’re big supporters of our troops and we’ve always felt that’s a Skynyrd crowd; we always go back to our fans, we write about our fans and we love our fans. We’ve been blessed to have fans with us for years and years and years for multi-generations now and we’re supporters of our troops and our families. That song is basically written about our fans.”

                         Lyrics

We don’t have no plastic L.A. Frynds,
Ain’t on the edge of no popular trend.
Ain’t never seen the inside of that magazine GQ.
We don’t care if you ‘re a lawyer, or a Texas oil man,
Or some waitress busting ass in some liquor stand.
If you got Soul
We hang out with people just like you

My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue

Ride our own bikes to Sturgis
We pay our own dues,
Smoking camels, drinking domestic brews
You want to know where I have been
Just look at my hands
Yeah, I’ve driven by the White House,
Spent some time in jail.
Momma cried but she still wouldn’t pay my bail.
I ain’t been no angel,
But even God, he understands.

My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue

Yeah that’s right!
My Daddy worked hard, and so have I,
Paid our taxes and gave our lives
To serve this great country
So what are they complaining about

Yeah we love our families, we love our kids
You know it is love that makes us all so rich
That’s where we’re at,
If they don’t like it they can just
Get the hell out!

My hair’s turning white,
My neck’s always been red,
My collar’s still blue,
We’ve always been here
Just trying to sing the truth to you.
Yes you could say
We’ve always been,
Red, White, and Blue

Oh, oh, red, white, and blue
Red, white, and blue
Oh, oh, red, white, and blue

Songwriters: Brad D. Warren / Brett D. Warren / Donald N Van Zant / Johnny Roy Van Zant; Red White and Blue lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Great White Buffalo by Ted Nugent – Ted Nugent (Theodore Anthony Nugent; born December 13, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and activist. Nugent initially gained fame as the lead guitarist of the Amboy Dukes, a band formed in 1963 that played psychedelic rock and hard rock (best known for their hit song “Journey to the Center of the Mind”). After playing with the Amboy Dukes, he embarked on a solo career. Nugent has released more than 34 albums and has sold a career total of 30 million records.

Nugent is also noted for conservative political views, his lifelong stance against drug and alcohol abuse and advocacy of hunting and gun ownership rights. He is a board member of the National Rifle Association and a strong supporter of the Republican Party.

This particular Ted Nugent composition became a staple of his live set; for Nugent it is more personal. Many of Nugent’s songs have lyrics about sex or nonsense, but he maintains that some contain relevant commentary, although the statements often got lost in the riffs. He said in a 1979 interview with NME: “Maybe some people will listen to ‘Great White Buffalo’ and realize that you can’t market animals and expect them to be around forever, but I don’t think so. I think they listen to ‘Great White Buffalo’ and they listen to the guitar riff.”

A great admirer of Native American culture, one of the hallmarks of his lifestyle is hunting his dinner with a bow and arrow. In this song, Nugent makes a cogent argument on this song about the need to respect animals to ensure their survival. He explains how Native Americans used every part of the animals they killed, and buffalo thrived. When the white man came, he killed buffalo for profit, which dwindled their population. In this song, the great white buffalo is the hero, appearing to lead his herd.

In later years, Nugent became a mouthpiece for gun rights and other conservative issues. Always an avid hunter, his views are often at odds with animal rights supporters, but they might find common ground in this song.

The original recording appeared on 1974’s Tooth Fang & Claw, the seventh and final album from Nugent’s group The Amboy Dukes (credited to “Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes”). Nugent went solo after the album’s release and issued a steady stream of albums that sold very well throughout the ’70s. As he built up his repertoire with hits like “Stranglehold” and “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Great White Buffalo” – ignored for the most part when it was first released – found new life and became a rock radio favorite.

Recorded in June 1974, Ted Nugent is credited as the writer on this track, and he shares credit for the arrangement with with Amboy Dukes bass player Rob Grange. According to Nugent, the riff came to him while he was tuning up his guitar. They captured it on tape and quickly recorded the song, with Nugent writing the lyric on the spot.

Live, “Great White Buffalo” sees Nugent soloing extensively and freely. In 1982, he told biographer Robert Holland that this was one of his favorite (of his own) songs. 

White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit” is a song written by Grace Slick and recorded by the American psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It was released as a single and became the band’s second top-10 success, peaking at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.

This was one of the defining songs of the 1967 “Summer of Love.” As young Americans protested the Vietnam War and experimented with drugs, “White Rabbit” often played in the background.

“White Rabbit” was written and performed by Grace Slick while she was still with The Great Society. When that band broke up in 1966, Slick was invited to join Jefferson Airplane to replace their departed female singer, Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band with the birth of her child. The first album Slick recorded with Jefferson Airplane was Surrealistic Pillow, and Slick provided two songs from her previous group: her own “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”, written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick and recorded under the title “Someone to Love” by The Great Society. (The Great Society’s version of “White Rabbit” was much longer than the more aggressive version of Jefferson Airplane). Both songs became top-10 hits for Jefferson Airplane. They were the band’s breakout hits, with “Somebody to Love” reaching #5 US and “White Rabbit” following at #8.

Grace Slick based the lyrics on Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland. It uses imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll—1865’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass—such as changing size after taking pills or drinking an unknown liquid.

Like many young musicians in San Francisco, Slick did a lot of drugs, and she saw a surfeit of drug references in Carroll’s book, including the pills, the smoking caterpillar, the mushroom, and lots of other images that are pretty trippy. She noticed that many children’s stories involve a substance of some kind that alters reality, and felt it was time to write a song about it.

Slick got the idea for this song after taking LSD and wrote the song after an acid trip. For Slick, “White Rabbit” “is about following your curiosity. The White Rabbit is your curiosity”. For her and others in the 1960s, drugs were a part of mind expansion and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, “White Rabbit” became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio. Even Marty Balin, Slick’s eventual rival in Jefferson Airplane, regarded the song as a “masterpiece”. In interviews, Slick has related that Alice in Wonderland was often read to her as a child and remained a vivid memory well into her adulthood.

Slick had stated the composition was intended to be a slap to parents who read their children such novels and then wondered why their children later used drugs. Characters Slick referenced include Alice, the White Rabbit, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the White Knight, the Red Queen, and the Dormouse. Slick claimed to Q that the song was aimed not at the young but their parents. She said: “They’d read us all these stories where you’d take some kind of chemical and have a great adventure. Alice in Wonderland is blatant; she gets literally high, too big for the room, while the caterpillar sits on a psychedelic mushroom smoking opium. In the Wizard of Oz, they land in a field of opium poppies, wake up and see this Emerald City. Peter Pan? Sprinkle some white dust-cocaine-on your head and you can fly.”

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In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Slick mentioned that in addition to Alice in Wonderland, her other inspiration for the song was “the bolero used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans on their 1960 album Sketches of Spain.” The song is essentially one long crescendo similar to that of Ravel’s famous “Boléro”. The music combined with the song’s lyrics strongly suggests the sensory distortions experienced with hallucinogens, and the song was later used in pop culture to imply or accompany just such a state.

Grace Slick was raised in a tiny suburban household in Palo Alto, California, about 30 miles south of San Francisco. This being the 1950s, women were expected to conform to the norms and aspire to be housewives. Slick identified with Alice; moving to San Francisco and forming a rock band was her rabbit hole moment. When she joined Jefferson Airplane, that was another journey down the rabbit hole.

According to Slick, there were always people who misinterpreted this song, despite her best efforts to get the lyrics across. In the book Anatomy of a Song, published in 2016, she said:

“I always felt like a good-looking schoolteacher singing ‘White Rabbit.’ I’d sing the words slowly and precisely, so the people who needed to hear them wouldn’t miss the point. But they did. To this day, I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs. I felt they were full of s–t, but to write a good song, you need a few more words than that.”

The line in this song, “go ask Alice/when she’s ten feet tall” provided the title of a 1971 book published by an anonymous author. Go Ask Alice is a fiction book about a teenage girl in the 1960s who develops a drug habit at age 15 and runs away from home on a journey of self-destructive escapism. Attributed to “Anonymous”, the book is in diary form, and was originally presented as being the edited “real diary” of the unnamed teenage protagonist. Questions about the book’s authenticity and true authorship began to arise in the late 1970s, and it is now generally viewed as a work of fiction written by Beatrice Sparks, the book’s editor and also a therapist and author who went on to write numerous other books purporting to be real diaries of troubled teenagers. I read this book back in the day and I’m pretty sure I had the edition that had “A Real Diary” on the cover. Did you read this book?

The cover art of the Avon Books paperback edition of Go Ask Alice presented it as “A Real Diary”.

The book was adapted into the 1973 television film Go Ask Alice, starring Jamie Smith-Jackson and William Shatner. “White Rabbit” was used as the theme song for the movie, which I remember watching when it first aired back then. Do you remember the Go Ask Alice movie?

The video I included in my playlist is a fabulous clip from a performance and interview with Dick Clark on a 1967 episode of American Bandstand. He gives great introductions and poses such great questions. It’s a wonderful time-capsule moment. In addition to “White Rabbit” the performance also includes “Somebody to Love.”

White Bird by It’s a Beautiful Day – “White Bird” is a 1969 song by San Francisco rock group It’s a Beautiful Day, written by David LaFlamme and his then wife Linda LaFlamme (née Neska).

“White Bird” was written in December 1967, in Seattle, Washington. Manager Matthew Katz had moved the band there to polish their act at a small Seattle ballroom before booking them into San Francisco nightclubs. Living in the attic of a Victorian house across the street from Volunteer Park, the band had inadequate food and no transportation during a dreary Seattle winter. The song evolved from the depression of the band’s circumstances and yearning to be free. The song’s repeated chorus is, “White bird must fly or she will die.”

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In a later interview, LaFlamme said:

“The song describes the picture Linda and I saw as we looked out this little window in this attic. We had a little Wurlitzer portable piano sitting right in the well of this window, and I’d sit and work on songs. When you hear lines like, ‘the leaves blow across the long black road to the darkened sky and its rage,’ it’s describing what I was seeing out the window. Where the ‘white bird’ thing came from: We were like caged birds in that attic. We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable. We were just barely getting by on a very small food allowance provided to us. It was quite an experience, but it was very creative in a way.”

The song was arranged and produced by LaFlamme and sung as a duet between him and group member Patti Santos. (Patti Santos died at age 40, in a 1989 automobile accident).

A prominent stylistic feature of the song’s original arrangement are multiple violin parts overdubbed by LaFlamme. It was first released on the band’s 1969 eponymous debut album It’s a Beautiful Day by Columbia Records. I had this album. I still would have it had I not been so impulsive during a move and gave my entire vinyl collection away!

The song quickly became the band’s signature tune and a staple of FM Album-oriented rock radio. The album rose to Number 47 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Following the popularity of the album track a single version was edited and remixed for radio play, with a running time of 3:02, and released on October 4, 1969. It rose to as high as Number 3 the week of October 18, 1969 on San Francisco radio station KYA. The single never reached a wide national audience and only made it to Number 118 on Billboard’s Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart. (I never heard of the Billboard chart Bubbling Under the Hot 100! Have you?)

A nearly 10-minute-long version also appeared on the 1972 live album It’s a Beautiful Day at Carnegie Hall. It later appeared on nine compilation albums and four more retrospective albums.

artwork by Kendrick Shakleford

The 1982 television series Knight Rider featured the song in an episode named for the song during the first season. The song was also used in the soundtrack of A Walk on the Moon, a 1999 American drama about a married woman’s infidelity, including Woodstock Music Festival scenes. (I LOVE this movie, starring Diane Lane, Viggo Mortensen, Liev Schreiber and Anna Paquin. The film, which was set against the backdrop of the Woodstock festival of 1969 and the moon landing of that year. Directed by Tony Goldwyn (of Scandal fame), it was highly acclaimed on release, particularly Diane Lane’s performance for which she earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead). 

Nights in White Satin by Moody Blues – This song is, by far, the most incredible song EVER! And the video performance in the playlist will take you to another dimension. For sure, put the headphones on and view at full screen. A-mazing! I have never had the pleasure of seeing them in concert but I so hope to one of these days soon…

In case you aren’t familiar with the band: The Moody Blues is an English rock band formed in Birmingham, England in 1964. They first came to prominence playing rhythm and blues music, but their second album, Days of Future Passed, which was released in 1967, was a fusion of rock with classical music and established them as pioneers in the development of art rock and progressive rock. It has been described as a “landmark” and “one of the first successful concept albums.”

The band became known internationally with singles including “Go Now”, “Nights in White Satin”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, and “Question”. They have been awarded 18 platinum and gold discs. The Moody Blues have sold 70 million albums worldwide. They will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, sometime in 2018.

“Nights in White Satin” is a 1967 single by the Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward and first featured as the segment “The Night” on the album Days of Future Passed. This song introduced a new sound for the band. When they formed, they were more of a blues band, and had a hit in 1965 with a cover of Bessie Banks’ “Go Now.” With the songs on Days of Future Passed, they distinguished themselves with original songs in a more psychedelic/orchestral sound.

Hayward was just 19 years old when he wrote and composed the song in Swindon. He titled it after a girlfriend gave him a gift of satin bedsheets. The song itself was a tale of a yearning love from afar, which leads many aficionados to term it as a tale of unrequited love endured by Hayward. Hayward said of the song,

“It was just another song I was writing and I thought it was very powerful. It was a very personal song and every note, every word in it means something to me and I found that a lot of other people have felt that very same way about it.”

Haywood told the Daily Express Saturday magazine May 3, 2008:

“I wrote our most famous song, ‘Nights in White Satin’ when I was 19. It was a series of random thoughts and was quite autobiographical. It was a very emotional time as I was at the end of one big love affair and the start of another. A lot of that came out in the song.”

Fans have come up with many interpretations of this song, which is just fine with Justin Hayward, who feels that the receiver gives life to the transmission. “It’s the listeners who bring the magic and the interpretations to these songs,” he said in his 2016 Songfacts interview.

How the song came about in the first place: Days of Future Passed is a concept album based around different times of day. For example, “Dawn Is a Feeling” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” This song was last on the album because it represents nighttime. Justin Hayward was inspired by Moody Blues keyboard player Mike Pinder’s composition “Dawn Is a Feeling.” Since Pinder had done “The Morning” for the concept album, Hayward tried to do “The Night.”

The London Festival Orchestra provided the orchestral accompaniment for the introduction, the final rendition of the chorus, and the “final lament” section, all of which were in the original album version. The London Festival Orchestra never actually existed – it was the name given to the musicians put together to make the Days of Future Passed album. The “orchestral” sounds in the main body of the song were actually produced by Mike Pinder’s Mellotron keyboard device, which would come to define the “Moody Blues sound.”

When first released in 1967, the song reached #19 on the UK Singles Chart and #103 in the United States in 1967. It was the first significant chart entry by the band since “Go Now” and its recent lineup change, in which Denny Laine had resigned and both Hayward and John Lodge had joined.

Upon its 1972 reissue, the single hit #2 – for two weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash) and hit #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 in the United States. It earned a gold certification for sales of over a million U.S. copies. It also hit #1 in Canada. In the wake of its American success, the song recharted in the U.K. in late 1972 and climbed to #9. The song was released yet again in 1979, and charted for a third time in the U.K. – peaking at #14.

The Moody Blues enjoyed a long and illustrious career that took them well into the 2010’s, and included thousands of performances, most of which featured this song. How does Justin Hayward handle the repetition? “I never lose the emotion of songs like that,” he told us. “I’m lucky enough not to have lost the emotion or the motivation, because it’s a wonderful thing to be able to share. And the audience provides the emotion around that. Because you do it in sound check and it’s fine, but when there’s an audience there, it completely transforms the experience.”

A Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is the debut single by the British rock band Procol Harum, released on May 12, 1967. One of the anthems of the 1967 Summer of Love, it is one of fewer than 30 singles to have sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

With its Bach-derived instrumental melody, soulful vocals, and unusual lyrics – by the song’s co-authors Gary Brooker, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” reached number 1 in several countries when released in 1967. In the years since, it has become an enduring classic. It was the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK (as of 2009), and the United Kingdom performing rights group Phonographic Performance Limited in 2004 recognized it as “the most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years.”

More than 1000 recorded cover versions by other artists are known. The song has been included in many music compilations over the decades and has also been used in the soundtracks of numerous films, including The Big Chill, Purple Haze, Breaking the Waves, The Boat That Rocked, Martin Scorsese’s segment of New York Stories, Stonewall, and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s documentary series The Vietnam War.

The single was released on May 12, 1967 in the United Kingdom by Deram Records and entered Record Retailer’s chart (later the UK Singles Chart) on May 25. In two weeks it reached number 1, where it stayed for six weeks. Writing in 2005, Jim Irvin of Mojo said that its arrival at number 1 on June 8, 1967 (on the same day that the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band topped the national albums chart) marked the start of the Summer of Love in Britain.

According to music journalist and author Harvey Kubernik, in the context of the Summer of Love,

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” was the “one song [that] stood above all others, its Everest-like status conferred by no less than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who were enthralled by the Chaucerian wordplay and heavenly Baroque accompaniment”.

Kubernik also writes that, amid the search for higher consciousness during the flower power era, the song “galvanised a congregation of disaffected youth dismissive of traditional religion but anxious to achieve spiritual salvation”.

In his 1981 article on the musical and societal developments of 1967, for The History of Rock, sociomusicologist Simon Frith described “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as the year’s “most distinctive single”, through its combination of “white soul vocal and a Bach organ exercise” and enigmatic lyrics that “hinted at a vital secret open only to people in the right, drug-determined, state of mind”.

In the United States, the single reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 1 million copies. It also peaked at number 22 on the soul charts there. In the Netherlands, the song entered the chart at number 1 in June 1967 and again reached number 1 in July 1972. A May 1972 re-release on Fly Records stayed in the UK charts for a total of 12 weeks and peaked at number 13.

“A Whiter Shade of Pale” has continued to receive critical acclaim. In 1977, along with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was jointly recognized as “The Best British Pop Single 1952–1977” at the BRIT Awards, part of Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. In 1998 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2018, the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a new category for singles.

As for the song’s lyrics: Procol Harum’s lyricist Keith Reid wrote the words to this song. In a Songfacts interview, he explained:

“It’s sort of a film, really, trying to conjure up mood and tell a story. It’s about a relationship. There’s characters and there’s a location, and there’s a journey. You get the sound of the room and the feel of the room and the smell of the room. But certainly there’s a journey going on, it’s not a collection of lines just stuck together. It’s got a thread running through it.”

Reid got the title and starting point for the song at a party. He overheard someone at the party saying to a woman, “You’ve turned a whiter shade of pale”, and the phrase stuck in his mind. Says Reid:

“I feel with songs that you’re given a piece of the puzzle, the inspiration or whatever. In this case, I had that title, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale,’ and I thought, There’s a song here. And it’s making up the puzzle that fits the piece you’ve got. You fill out the picture, you find the rest of the picture that that piece fits into.”

In an interview with Uncut magazine (February 2008) Reid, a poet, recalled the writing of the lyrics:

“I used to go and see a lot of French films in the Academy in Oxford Street (London). Pierrot Le Fou made a strong impression on me, and Last Year In Marienbad. I was also very taken with surrealism, Magritte and Dali. You can draw a line between the narrative fractures and mood of those French films and ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale.’”

“I’d been listening to music since I was 10, from ’56 to ’66-The Beatles, Dylan, Stax, Ray Charles. The period of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was the culmination of that 10 years of listening. But my main influence was Dylan. I could see how he did it, how he played with words. I was writing all the time. ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ was just another bunch of lyrics. I had the phrase ‘a whiter shade of pale,’ that was the start, and I knew it was a song. It’s like a jigsaw where you’ve got one piece, then you make up all the others to fit in. I was trying to conjure a mood as much as tell a straightforward, girl-leaves-boy story. With the ‘ceiling flying away and room humming harder’, I wanted to paint an image of a scene. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious with those images, I wasn’t trying to be evocative. I suppose it seems like a decadent scene I’m describing. But I was too young to have experienced any decadence, then, I might have been smoking when I conceived it, but not when I wrote it. It was influenced by books, not drugs.”

“We felt we had something very important. As soon as we played it for anyone, we got an immediate response.”

In rehearsal, instrumentation was added. We had this concept for the sound of Procol Harum to be Hammond organ, piano and blues guitar. No other band had that; it gave us a bigger sound. It’s a live recording… I think we did three takes. It is equal parts Dylan and Stax. On our own terms, we were always trying to make a soul record. Funnily enough, Otis Redding wanted to do it, but we wanted our record out first, and Stax wanted the exclusive.”

FUN FACT: This was the first song Procol Harum recorded. After it became a hit, they fired their original drummer and guitarist, replacing them with Barry Wilson and Robin Trower – more experienced musicians who could handle the subsequent touring.

FUN FACT: Nearly 40 years after this song was released, Matthew Fisher, who played the organ in the recording, filed a lawsuit claiming that he deserved songwriting royalties for his contributions. In 2006, a judge agreed and awarded Fisher part of the copyright. In 2008, the British court of appeals overturned Fisher’s right to collect royalties due to the delay in filing his claim, but it upheld, by a unanimous decision, his composer credit which had been awarded by the High Court, confirming that Fisher’s organ solo was part of the song’s composition. Fisher was granted permission to appeal this decision in the House of Lords and on July 30, 2009 the Law Lords unanimously ruled in the organist’s favour, pointing out that there were no time limits to copyright claims under English law. The ruling means that he now receives a share of future royalties for the track. A delighted Fisher commented: “This was about making sure everyone knew about my part in the authorship.” One of the five judges who heard the case, Baroness Hale, said: “As one of those people who do remember the ’60s, I am glad that the author of that memorable organ part has at last achieved the recognition he deserves.”

On July 24, 2008, Matthew Fisher’s friend and collaborator Alan Fox told us why Fisher waited nearly 40 years to bring his lawsuit: “In fact, Matthew did not wait 40 years to bring this case to court. He tried 4 times between 1972 and 2005, but was told each time by counsel that he had absolutely no chance of making a successful claim. This of course was never reported. It wasn’t until he met his current lawyers Jens Hill, that he was told that he had a very strong claim and decided to proceed.”

FUN FACT: This is one of Billy Joel’s favorite songs. He performed it on his 2014 town hall special with Howard Stern, where he said: “It sounded different from anything else that was on the radio at that time. It had a keyboard part that was the main theme through the record – Matthew Fisher’s organ part. There was an element of classical music in it; I didn’t know what the lyrics were about, but it took me to another place, it was atmospheric. a lot of the music speaks to you.”

White Room by Cream – “White Room” is a song by British rock band Cream, composed by bassist Jack Bruce with lyrics by poet Pete Brown. They recorded it for the studio half of the 1968 double album Wheels of Fire. In September, a shorter single edit was released for AM radio stations, although album-oriented FM radio stations played the full album version.

This song is about depression and hopelessness, but the setting is an empty apartment. The lyrics were written by a poet named Pete Brown, who was a friend of Cream bass player Jack Bruce, the lead vocalist on the track. Brown also wrote the words for “Sunshine of Your Love,” “I Feel Free” and “SWLABR.”

The music was written first. Jack Bruce sang and played bass on the song, Eric Clapton overdubbed guitar parts, Ginger Baker played drums and timpani, and Felix Pappalardi – the group’s producer – contributed violas. Clapton played his guitar through a wah-wah pedal to achieve a “talking-effect”. He got the idea from Jimi Hendrix. Interestingly, Clapton’s solo earned the #2 spot on Guitar World’s greatest wah solos of all time in 2015. The #1 spot? Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

Pete Brown’s first attempt at a lyric was something about a “doomed hippie girl” – the song was called “Cinderella’s Last Goodnight.” Jack Bruce wasn’t buying it, so he scrapped that idea and pulled up an eight-page poem he had written earlier, which he reworked into “White Room.”

The “white room” was a literal place: a room in an apartment where Pete Brown was living. It was not, as some suspected, an institution.

In a Songfacts interview with Pete Brown, he told the story:

“It was a meandering thing about a relationship that I was in and how I was at the time. It was a kind of watershed period really. It was a time before I stopped being a relative barman and became a songwriter, because I was a professional poet, you know. I was doing poetry readings and making a living from that. It wasn’t a very good living, and then I got asked to work by Ginger and Jack with them and then started to make a kind of living.

And there was this kind of transitional period where I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It’s a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. That song’s like a kind of weird little movie: it changes perspectives all the time. That’s why it’s probably lasted – it’s got a kind of mystery to it.”

“It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat.”

Lyric interpretation courtesy of Pete Brown: Why are the starlings tired? Because the pollution in London was killing them. Pete Brown also said: “The ‘tired starlings’ is also a little bit of a metaphor for the feminine in a way, as well. It was women having to put up with rather a lot – too much pressure on them at the time.”

“Goodbye Windows” – “Just people waving goodbye from train windows.”

“Black-roof Country” – “That was the kind of area that I lived in. There were still steam trains at one point around that area, so the roofs were black. It was black and sooty. It’s got that kind of a feel to it.”

On their last tour before the band broke up, Cream opened most of their shows with this song. When Cream did a reunion tour in 2005, they played it near the end of the sets. Clapton refused to play this song after leaving Cream until 1985, when Paul Shaffer urged him to play it while he was sitting in with the band on Late Night with David Letterman. That same year, Clapton played it at Live Aid.

This was released as a single after Cream had broken up. It did better in the US than in England, since Cream had caught on in the States.

FUN FACT: Clapton performed this in 1999 for the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park. Clapton and Crow were an item for a time in the ’90s.

Dirty White Boy by Foreigner – “Dirty White Boy” is a song recorded by British-American rock band Foreigner, written by lead singer Lou Gramm and guitarist Mick Jones. It was the lead single taken from the band’s third studio album, Head Games (1979). On the cover was a photo of a young woman backed into a urinal in a men’s bathroom, trying to erase her phone number from the wall. This didn’t go over well with some record store owners and radio stations, especially in the Bible Belt.

The B-side, “Rev On The Red Line” has also proven to be very popular among fans, but was never released as an A-side single on its own.

Foreigner in 1978

Jones has claimed that the song was about Elvis Presley, adding that “he always was that dirty white boy who changed the shape of music completely. It was talking about the kind of heritage that he left, and I think that had an effect on all the musicians that came after, like Mick Jagger – he was also a dirty white boy. Elvis paved the way for all that.”

White Wedding by Billy Idol –  “White Wedding” is a song by Billy Idol that appeared on his album Billy Idol in 1982. It is often considered one of his most recognizable songs, although other Idol songs charted higher. It peaked at No. 108 on the Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 on its original release, and reached No. 36 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was re-issued in 1983. In the UK, this did not become a hit until 1985, when it was released there for the third time. It reached No. 6 in the UK Singles Chart upon its re-release there in 1985 and 1988, when it was re-issued to promote the Vital Idol remix album.

A key element to this song is the quick little guitar riff that starts it. Idol and his guitarist, Steve Stevens, liked to have a distinctive guitar part to open the songs – they thought of it like a flag harkening its arrival.

Despite rumors to the contrary, this song is not about Idol’s actual little sister. “Little sister” is slang for girlfriend. He is singing about a woman/girl he loves marrying someone else while he still loves her.

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Idol did have a sister who was getting married, but on an episode of VH1 Storytellers, he explained that his sister’s wedding simply gave him the idea for the song. Like many of Idol’s compositions, he started with the title and wrote the song from there.

Ironically, this song is a very anti-marriage song, and yet many people have it played at their weddings simply because it mentions a wedding.

The music video for this song, featuring Idol attending a gothic wedding, helped launch Billy Idol to stardom and is one of his best known. It was directed by David Mallet, who had worked with Queen and David Bowie. Idol had little cash, so Mallet cut him a break on his fee. The concept was a “nightmare wedding,” with a Goth guy (Idol) marrying a normal girl, with some vampire imagery thrown in. The bride was played by Perri Lister, who was Billy’s real-life girlfriend at the time. She is also one of the three dancers clad in black leather, who slap their buttocks in time with the clap track in the song as they shimmy downwards near the end. “That’s the kind of thing they love in England”, says Idol.

The resulting video contained some of the most indelible images seen on MTV, including the barbed-wire wedding ring, the motorcycle crashing through the church window, and those dancers slapping their own butts in time to the music. In one scene from the video, Idol forces the barbed-wire wedding ring onto the bride’s finger and cuts her knuckle. Lister insisted that her knuckle actually be cut in order for the scene to appear more realistic. MTV initially removed this scene from the video. Also controversial were the apparent Nazi salutes made by the crowd toward the couple. Director David Mallet says he was merely “playing with the power of crowd imagery” when he had the extras reach toward the bride and did not realize how it looked until later.

Mallet said of Idol in the book I Want My MTV: “In those days, he was the greatest looker and mover since Elvis. Before ‘White Wedding,’ nobody would have admitted that was even possible. One look at that video and they got him.”

FUN FACT: This was used in the movie The Wedding Singer. After getting dumped at the alter, Adam Sandler tells his friends to “turn this crap off” after the video comes on. Idol later appears in the movie as himself. He helps get Sandler together with Drew Barrymore.

Black or White by Michael Jackson – “Black or White” is a single by American singer and songwriter Michael Jackson. The song was released by Epic Records on November 11, 1991 as the first single from Jackson’s eighth studio album, Dangerous. It was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell. The lyrics of this song are a plea for racial tolerance.

The song had an impressive release and trajectory on charts around the world. To prepare the audience for the special occasion of the televised premiere of the “Black or White” video, Epic records released the song (without the accompanying images) to radio stations just two days in advance. In a period of twenty-four hours, “Black or White”, described by the record company as “a rock ‘n’ roll dance song about racial harmony”, had been added to the playlists of 96 percent of 237 of the United States of America’s top forty radio stations the first day of release.

“Back or White” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 35. A week later it shot up to number three and in its third week, December 7, 1991, it ascended to number one, making it the fastest chart topper since The Beatles’ “Get Back”, which also won the Hot 100 in just three weeks in 1969. It closed the year at number one, and remained at the top of the singles chart into 1992 for a total of seven weeks, making Michael Jackson the first artist to have number one popular hits in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. In the UK, the single became the first single by an American to go into the singles chart at number one since 1960, when “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley did in the same manner. Around the world, “Black or White” hit number one in 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Eurochart Hot 100, number two in Germany and Austria and number three in the Netherlands. The single was certified platinum in the US, selling over one million copies and became the second best-selling single of the year.

Reviews of the song were generally favorable. David Browne praised: “He still knows how to fashion a hook that will take up permanent residence in your brain (away from its video, Black or White is spare and effortless).”

Music Video: The music video for “Black or White” is quite interesting and features some fun actors. Macaulay Culkin, Tess Harper and George Wendt (Norm from the sitcom Cheers) appeared in it, as well as Tyra Banks before she gained supermodel status. It also featured a morphing technique that was very innovative at the time.

The 11-minute music video, helmed by “Thriller” director John Landis, got a lot of hype. It premiered on MTV, BET, VH1 and Fox (giving them their highest Nielsen ratings ever at the time) at the exact same time, as well as the BBC’s Top of the Pops in the UK on November 14, 1991. It premiered simultaneously in 27 countries, with an audience of 500 million viewers, the most ever for a music video.

It was perhaps the most controversial video ever recorded by Jackson, showing him dancing and destroying all things racist, including a swastika used by the Nazis. During the last four minutes of the clip, which were excised after protests, Jackson also performed some rather explicit crotch grabs, threw a garbage can through a store window, and destroyed a car.

Video detailed: The first few minutes of the video feature an extended version of the song’s intro. During this interlude (sometimes compared to Marty Callner’s 1984 “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video for Twisted Sister) an 11-year-old kid (Macaulay Culkin) is dancing to rock music in his bedroom at night, causing four baseball team bobbleheads (from left to right, the Giants, the Pirates, the Dodgers, and the Rangers) to bobble. This attracts the attention of his grouchy father (George Wendt), who furiously orders him to stop playing the music and go to bed. After his father storms out and slams the door behind him (causing a Michael Jackson poster on the door to fall off and its glass frame to smash), the boy retaliates by setting up large speaker cabinets (with levels of “LOUD”, “LOUDER”, and “ARE YOU NUTS!?!”, respectively; with the dial turned up all the way to “ARE YOU NUTS!?!”) behind his father’s reclining chair, donning leather gloves and sunglasses, strapping on an Ernie Ball Music Man Eddie Van Halen signature model guitar and playing a power chord, and telling the father to “Eat this!”. The sound then shatters and destroys the house windows and sends his father (seated in the chair) halfway around the world, where the actual song begins. The kid’s mother (Tess Harper), comments that his father will be very upset when he gets back. The album version of the song does not feature Culkin’s nor Wendt’s voice; they are replaced by voice actors performing a similar intro. The boy’s father crashes in Africa, and Jackson sings “Black or White”, surrounded by various cultures scene-by-scene.

The video shows scenes in which African hunters begin dancing by using moves from West African dance, with Jackson following their moves and them mirroring his; as do, in sequence, traditional Thai dancers, Plains Native Americans (located at the Vasquez Rocks formation in California), an Odissi dancer from India and a group of Russians (wearing Ukrainian clothing and dancing Hopak). Jackson walks through visual collages of fire (defiantly declaring “I ain’t scared of no sheets; I ain’t scared of nobody”), referring to KKK torch ceremonies before a mock rap scene shared with Culkin and other children. The group collectively states, “I’m not gonna spend my life being a color.” The final verse is performed by Jackson on a large sculpted torch, which the camera pans out to reveal as the Statue of Liberty. Jackson is seen singing on Lady Liberty’s torch surrounded by other famous world edifices including The Giza Sphinx, Hagia Sophia, Pamukkale, The Parthenon, Taj Mahal, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Pyramids of Giza, Golden Gate Bridge, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.

At the end of the song, several different people, of differing races and nationalities, including actor Glen Chin, model Tyra Banks, actress Khrystyne Haje, actor Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter, and voice actress and singer Cree Summer dance as they morph into one another (shown as “talking heads”). This technique, known as morphing, had been previously used only in films such as Willow and Terminator 2. The morphing visual effects were created by Pacific Data Images. I really dig the morphing sequence.

THE IMPACT: The success of “Black Or White” solidified Jackson’s reputation as “The King of Pop.” Although he’d been called the name a couple times in the past, he wanted to make it official, especially since the tabloids had taken a shine to dubbing him “Wacko Jacko” for his eccentric behavior and changing appearance. Any network that hoped to air the song’s music video had to agree to refer to Jackson as “The King of Pop.” MTV even sent out a memo to its staff instructing personnel to use the moniker at least twice a week up until the premiere.

Dan Beck, a former executive at Epic Records and part of Jackson’s marketing team, worried the push for royal status would hurt the pop star’s career. “Believe me, we were trying to talk him out of it,” Beck said in a Songfacts interview. “Our feeling was that radio was going to just roll their eyes and say, ‘Screw you!'”

Instead, the video was the most requested clip on MTV and the single reigned at #1 for seven weeks.

FUN FACT: A rapper known as LTB performed the rap on this song, which was lip-synched by Macaulay Culkin in the video.

FUN FACT: Weird Al Yankovic had the idea to parody this song as “Snack All Night,” following his food-themed Jackson parodies “Eat It” and “Fat.” Jackson, who was a big fan of Yankovic’s work, told him to leave this one alone since it was a very meaningful song. Al was in a creative funk at the time, but pulled out of it thanks to Nirvana and his parody “Smells Like Nirvana.”

Jackson didn’t get the same respect from the show In Living Color, which portrayed him singing this as “Am I Black Or White?” making fun of his increasingly pallid complexion. This bit has him destroying a car as in the video and getting arrested. When a cop cuffs him, he says, “I guess I am black.”

FUN FACT TRIVIA: This was Jackson’s 12th #1 hit as a solo artist, putting him in third place (tied with Diana Ross & The Supremes) for the most #1 songs on the Hot 100, behind The Beatles (20) and Elvis Presley (18). Both Mariah Carey, matching Elvis’ 18, and Rihanna, with 14, will later beat Jackson’s feat.

It was also the fastest-rising single in 22 years (since The Beatles’ “Get Back”), jumping from #35 to #3 in its second week, and landing at #1 in its third week.

In my playlist I featured the shortened version of the “Black or White” music video. If you’d like to see the full 11-minute video, including the 4 minutes of offensive content that was eliminated by many stations, here you go:

 

And that wraps up my WHITE songs post. What are your favorite white songs? How do you feel about the color white?

Here is some fun information on the meaning of the color white, taken from the Bourn Creative’s Color Meaning Blog Series:

White, an inherently positive color, is associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness, and perfection.

The color white can represent a successful beginning. In heraldry, white depicts faith and purity. As the opposite of black, movies, books, print media, and television typically depict the good guy in white and the bad guy in black.

The color of snow, white is often used to represent coolness and simplicity. White’s association with cleanliness and sterility is often seen in hospitals, medical centers, and laboratories to communicate safety. The color white is also associated with low-fat foods and dairy products.

To the human eye, white is a bright and brilliant color that can cause headaches. In cases of extremely bright light, the color white can even be blinding.

Throughout the western countries white is the traditional color worn by brides, to signify purity, innocence, and virginity. In eastern countries, the color white is the color of mourning and funerals. In certain cultures, white is the color of royalty or of religious figures, as angels are typically depicted as wearing white or having a white glow. A white picket fence surrounds a safe and happy home.

The color white affects the mind and body by aiding in mental clarity, promoting feelings of fresh beginnings and renewal, assisting in cleansing, clearing obstacles and clutter, and encouraging the purification of thoughts and actions.

White gemstones are believed to help create new beginnings, remove prejudice and pre-conceived notions, to see the innocence in others, and to clear emotional clutter and silence the inner critic.

Other meanings associated with the color white:

  • The expression “white as snow”is used in reference to the pure, clean, and innocent.
  • The saying “whiteout”means zero visibility.
  • The phrase “white flag”is associated with meanings of surrender and relinquishment.
  • The term“white elephant” refers to a rare or valuable item that is unwanted.
  • The expression “pearly whites”refers to very white teeth.
  • The phrase “whitewash”has meanings of cover up, secrecy, and concealment.
  • The saying “white list”is a list of acceptable, good, or approved items.
  • The term “white sale”means a store sale of sheets, towels, other linens.
  • The phrase “white knight”represents one who comes to the rescue; a good and noble hero.
  • The saying “white lightning”refers to moonshine or illegal whiskey.
  • The expression “white knuckle”references something that is fast, exciting, or frightening.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color white: snow, pearl, antique white, ivory, chalk, milk white, lily, smoke, seashell, old lace, cream, linen, ghost white, beige, cornsilk, alabaster, paper, whitewash.

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below:

Monday’s Music Moves Me: A Kaleidoscope of Color Songs – The BLACK Edition

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is a Freebie so we can write about anything. Since I have a few more editions left to cover, I’m continuing my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs Series. This post is the BLACK Edition, featuring songs with the color black in the title.

Some of you may say “Wait! Black isn’t a color, just like White isn’t a color.” So are they? The answer to the question “Are black and white colors?” is one of the most debated issues about color. Ask a scientist and you’ll get a reply based on physics: “Black is not a color, white is a color.” Ask an artist or a child with crayons and you’ll get another: “Black is a color, white is not a color.” (Maybe!)

According to Jane Cozart, Instructor of Color Theory at the Academy of Art University:

“In terms of color theory, black and white are not colors but I would consider them modifiers. Colors are defined by hue, value and saturation. Since black and white have no hue, strictly speaking, they are not colors. However, they do show their presence in the extended color wheels of both Itten and Munsell as modifiers to create tints, tones and shades.”

There are also answers from a physics/scientific point of view, which are way way too complicated for me to deal with here, or anywhere for that matter, but you can google the question and come up with tons of pages on the topic.

As far as I’m concerned, black and white are most definitely colors and so will be included in my color series. That being said, here is a playlist of my favorite songs with Black in the title, followed by some cool info about each of the songs. Enjoy!

 

Black Velvet by Allanah Myles – “Black Velvet” is a song written and produced by Canadian songwriters Christopher Ward and David Tyson, and recorded by Canadian singer songwriter, hailing from Toronto, Alannah Myles. Ward and Myles were a couple and also worked together – she sang on his 1981 solo album Time Stands Still. Teaming up with Tyson, Ward put together a demo tape for Myles which got her a deal with Atlantic Records.

“Black Velvet” was released in December 1989 as one of four singles from Myles’ eponymous CD from Atlantic Records. Alannah Myles was her first album and it was a huge hit in Canada, becoming the top-selling debut album in Canadian history.

“Black Velvet” was the new decade’s first US single and it rose to #1 in March of 1990, staying in the top spot for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and also reached #2 on the Album Rock Tracks chart, as well as #10 in her native Canada and #2 on the UK Singles Chart. The US follow-up single was another song written by Tyson and Ward, “Love Is.” That song went to #36 and was her last chart entry in America. She did have several more hits in Canada.

Christopher Ward got the idea for this song when he was a VJ for the Canadian music channel MuchMusic. He was sent to Memphis to cover the 10th anniversary of Elvis’ death (August 16, 1987), which exposed him to many fervent Elvis fans. Inspired by their passion for the rocker, he took notes while he was working on the special (which was called Mecca in Memphis), writing lyrics based on what Elvis meant to his fans and what it must have been like for him growing up in the South.

Here is some lyric analysis that demonstrates the song being about Elvis Presley:

  • “Jimmy Rogers on the Victrola up high” – Jimmy Rogers, an early blues singer, influencing Elvis (the baby) at an early age. The Victrola is the record player, played loudly.
  • “Mama’s dancin’ with baby on her shoulder” – Gladys Presley dancing with the infant Elvis.
  • “Black velvet and that little boy’s smile” – You can buy a black velvet Elvis painting at any respectable yard sale. Early female fans were drawn to his “Little boy smile.”
  • “Black velvet with that slow southern style” – Elvis delivered some of his songs with slow, undulating hips. Check out “Steamroller Blues” live.
  • “Up in Memphis the music’s like a heatwave” – Sun Studios. The epicenter of early rock music and where Elvis recorded.
  • “White lightning, bound to drive you wild” – rock music and booze.
  • “Mama’s baby’s in the heart of every school girl” – A reference to the baby in the early part of the song, being loved by all the young girls.
  • “Love Me Tender leaves ’em cryin’ in the aisle” – Love Me Tender was a huge hit for Elvis in 1956.
  • “The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true” – Elvis’ legendary hips swivel, the Pelvis.
  • “Every word of every song that he sang was for you. In a flash he was gone, it happened so soon, what could you do?” – Elvis died suddenly in 1977.
  • According to the song’s writer Christopher Ward, a key line in this song is “A new religion that will bring you to your knees.” He says he got the idea for that line after realizing that Elvis’ effect on fans was similar to what churchgoers would feel after being exhorted by Fundamentalist preachers.

Allanah Myles won the 1991 Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the song and the 1990 Juno Award for Single of the Year. Additionally, the song won a Diamond award for sales in excess of 1,000,000 in Canada, the only time an artist has won this for her debut record. Since its release, the power ballad with its blues verses and a rock chorus has received substantial airplay, receiving a “Millionaire Award” from ASCAP in 2005 for more than four million radio plays in the US.

Now for the heartbreaking part: In a CBC Newsworld interview, Myles revealed that she was cheated by her record company, which kept her from cashing in on this song. Myles said she received her first-ever royalty check for the song on April 1, 2008.

She signed that record deal when she was young and naive; the singer ended up paying $7 million on expenditures for her first three albums, all deducted out of her take. That is sinful, reprehensible, deplorable, immoral and just plain evil!

Myles said that when she should have been dining out on the success of this song and her other recordings, instead she had been living in poverty, at times struggling to pay her rent. The music industry is certainly filled with slimeballs.

Black Sheep by Gin Wigmore – “Black Sheep” is a song by New Zealand’s Gin Wigmore from her album Gravel & Wine. It was released as a single in September 2011.

Wigmore describes “Black Sheep” as “a song about doing things your own way, not following suit. Having at your own path and being unique.”

In a Songfacts interview with Gin Wigmore, she was asked if she has always been the nonconformist she sings about on this track. Her reply:

“I can say that I have always been very independent and staunch in my life choices and decisions, even to my own detriment at times! But, at least I can only have myself to blame if it doesn’t pan out the way I want, right?!”

The Australian director Sean Gilligan did the music video. He also did Wigmore’s videos for “Man Like That” and “If Only.”

In 2017, this was used in a commercial for the Nissan Rogue Midnight Edition where a child – the black sheep – rides a tricked-out tricycle.

Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress by The Hollies – “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” (also called “Long Cool Woman” or “Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)”) is a song written by Allan Clarke, Roger Cook, and Roger Greenaway and performed by the British rock group The Hollies. Originally appearing on the album Distant Light, it was released as a single in April 1972, selling 1.5 million copies in the United States and two million worldwide. It reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 24 song for 1972.

On the charts, this was a rare miss in the UK, where the Hollies were from and where they had their greatest success. It was surprising, however, how well it did in the US.

This is the only Hollies single without any backing vocals. The reason why Clarke is the only singer on this record is that he didn’t intended the song to be released on a Hollies album, but as a record of his own. When the band learned that he intended to do a solo recording, Clarke was issued an ultimatum – he could either remain with The Hollies or pursue a solo career, but not both. Clarke told Rolling Stone in 1973: “I think with me the band feared that if I got a hit I’d leave. How can you stop destiny? Now, if they originally agreed, I might not even have left. ‘Long Cool Woman’ would have been released a year earlier, and we’d have done a few tours of the States and maybe would have been really big.”

On the day “Long Cool Woman” was recorded at AIR Studios, the group’s producer, Ron Richards, was ill and, as a result, the song was produced by the group. The song is different from most other Hollies songs in that there are no three-part vocal harmonies, and the song features lead guitar and lead vocal work by Allan Clarke. Upon his return, Ron Richards mixed the recording.

The song was written in the swamp rock style of Creedence Clearwater Revival, in terms of the vocal, rhythm, and melodic style. It came out in the spring of 1972 (the same year Creedence split up). Clarke imitated John Fogerty’s vocal style, which was based on the Creedence song “Green River”. According to Clarke, the song was written “in about five minutes”. When the song made its mark in America, Clarke had already left the band, but Clarke feels that “it wasn’t unfortunate”, since he had co-written the song. Clarke rejoined the Hollies in the summer of 1973, partly due to the success of this song.

FUN FACT: This tale of a government agent and a femme fatale contains one of the classic indecipherable lyrics in rock history. The part after “She was a long cool woman in a black dress” is “Just a 5′ 9″ beautiful, tall.”

Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen by Santana – “Black Magic Woman” was a hit for Santana, but few people know that this song is actually a cover of a 1968 Fleetwood Mac song that hit UK #37. Peter Green, who was a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, wrote the lyrics. The original’s music sounds very similar to the sound Santana added on his version.

The 1:49 instrumental at the end is called “Gypsy Queen,” a mix of jazz, Hungarian folk and Latin rhythms and was written by Hungarian Jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo. It was omitted from the 1974 Greatest Hits album, even though radio stations usually play “Black Magic Woman” and “Gypsy Queen” as one song.

In 1970, it became a hit by Santana, as sung by Gregg Rolie, reaching No. 4 in the U.S. and Canadian charts, after appearing on their Abraxas album. The song became one of Santana’s staples and one of their biggest hits, with the single reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1971. Abraxas reached #1 on the charts and hit quadruple platinum in 1986, partially thanks to “Black Magic Woman.

Paint It Black by Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black” (originally released as “Paint It, Black”) is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. Jointly credited to songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was first released as a single on May 6, 1966 and was later included as the opening track to the US version of their 1966 album, Aftermath.

“Paint It Black” reached number one in both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. The song became the Rolling Stones’ third number one hit single in the US and sixth in the UK. Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar, particularly in the UK where it has charted in two other instances, and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and film appearances.

Lyrically, it is written from the viewpoint of a person who is depressed; he wants everything to turn black to match his mood. There was no specific inspiration for the lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death, Mick Jagger replied: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.”

The song seems to be about a lover who died:

  • “I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black” – The hearse and limos.
  • “With flowers and my love both never to come back” – The flowers from the funeral and her in the hearse. He talks about his heart being black because of his loss.
  • “I could not foresee this thing happening to you” – It was an unexpected and sudden death.
  • “If I look hard enough into the setting sun, my love will laugh with me before the morning comes” – This refers to her in Heaven.

This was used as the theme song for Tour of Duty, a CBS show about the Vietnam War which ran from 1987-1989. This was my favorite show back then and I used to rush home on Thursday evenings to be sure I was in front of the TV by 8pm…

Also used in one of my favorite movies: This song was used in the movie Stir of Echoes with Kevin Bacon. In the movie, Bacon’s character hears the first few chords of it in a memory, but could not think of the song. It drives him crazy through most of the movie. I highly recommend this movie! Check it out and let me know what you think of it.

Black is Black by Los Bravos – “Black Is Black” is a song by the Spanish rock band Los Bravos, released in 1966 as the group’s debut single for Decca Records. Los Bravos was a Spanish quintet with a German lead singer – Mike Kogel. They were one of the few rock groups from a non-English speaking country to have an international hit, in part because they were one of the few Spanish acts to sing in English.

After getting tipped to the group by someone at Decca Records in Spain, the British producer Ivor Raymonde took a trip to that country and signed the group, who at the time were using the name Mike & The Runaways. He brought them to London and had them record “Black Is Black,” which was their first release as Los Bravos.

In August 1966, the song debuted at number 100 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It peaked at number four in October, and spent 12 weeks on the chart. The song reached number one on the Canadian Singles Chart, and peaked at number two in the UK Singles Chart. The single also sold two million copies in Spain.

With the song’s success, Los Bravos became the first Spanish rock band to have an international hit single. A dance remix of the song was released as a single in 1986.

Shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, American media conglomerate company Clear Channel Communications distributed the 2001 Clear Channel memorandum to program directors at the more than 1000 radio stations the company owned. The memo contained a list of 162 songs with “questionable lyrics” that the stations should avoid playing. “Black Is Black” was among the songs on the list. That’s rather curious, considering the general gist of the lyrics, as reported by Song Facts:

“This colorful song finds the singer utterly flummoxed by a girl who has left him. He wants her back, then reconsiders, since she’ll only leave him again, putting him in even greater misery. Upon further reflection, he thinks maybe it would work out after all if she returned. She’s not coming back, of course, but he seems to feel better believing he has a choice.”

I’ll have to listen to this song again to try to understand why Clear Channel would’ve included it on the list of songs to avoid playing due to “questionable lyrics.” Give a listen: what do you think??

Back in Black by AC/DC – “Back in Black” is a song by AC/DC, appearing as the first track on side two of their 1980 album of the same name. Known for its opening guitar riff, the song was AC/DC’s tribute to their former singer Bon Scott. His replacement Brian Johnson recalled to Mojo magazine in 2009 that when the band asked him to write a lyric for this song, “they said, ‘it can’t be morbid – it has to be for Bon and it has to be a celebration.'” He added: “I thought, ‘Well no pressure there, then’ (laughs). I just wrote what came into my head, which at the time seemed like mumbo, jumbo. ‘Nine lives. Cats eyes. Abusing every one of them and running wild.’ The boys got it though. They saw Bon’s life in that lyric.”

“Back in Black” was released five months after lead singer Bon Scott died. The song is a tribute to Scott, and the lyrics, “Forget the hearse ’cause I never die” imply that he will live on forever through his music. With Brian Johnson on lead vocals, the Back In Black album proved that AC/DC could indeed carry on without Scott.

Brian Johnson made quite a statement with this song, quickly endearing himself to AC/DC fans and leaving little doubt that the band made the right pick to replace Bon Scott. Johnson had been in a group called Geordie, which Scott saw in 1973. After that show, Scott talked up the Geordie lead singer to his bandmates, and in 1980 when they were looking for a replacement, AC/DC’s producer Mutt Lange suggested him. At the time, Johnson was working as a windshield fitter and had recently reunited Geordie.

The band got the idea for the title before writing any of the song, although Malcolm Young had the main guitar riff for years and used to play it frequently as a warm-up tune. After Bon Scott’s death, Angus Young decided that their first album without him should be called Back In Black in tribute, and they wrote this song around that phrase.

The album had a black cover with the band’s logo on it, which was a tribute to Bon Scott. They didn’t want it to feel mournful, however, and needed a title track that captured the essence of their fallen friend. They were certainly not going to do a ballad, so it fell on Brian Johnson to write a lyric that would rock, but also celebrate Scott without being morbid or literal.

Johnson says he wrote “Whatever came into my head,” which at the time he thought was nonsense. To the contrary, lines about abusing his nine lives and beating the rap summed up Scott perfectly, and his new bandmates loved it.

It peaked in the U.S. at No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1981 and was No. 51 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart, which debuted in March 1981. “Back in Black” received the RIAA’s Master Ringtone Sales Award (Gold and Platinum) in 2006 and reached 2× Platinum status in 2007.

The song was ranked No. 4 by VH1 on their list of the 40 Greatest Metal Songs, and in 2009, it was named the second greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. It was also ranked No. 187 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The same magazine has also ranked “Back in Black” No. 29 on “The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”.

In 2010, this song came in No. 2 in Triple M’s Ultimate 500 Rock Countdown in Melbourne, Australia. The top five were all AC/DC songs.

It officially charted on the UK charts after 31 years in release; peaking in at no. 27 as a result of AC/DC music becoming available on iTunes. It also reached no. 1 on the UK Rock Charts in the same week.

Black & White by Three Dog Night “Black and White” is a song written in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson. The most successful recording of the song was the pop version by Three Dog Night in 1972, when it reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Easy Listening charts. Billboard ranked it as the number 63 song for 1972. This was one of the few hits for Three Dog Night on which Danny Hutton sang the lead vocals.

The song was first recorded by Pete Seeger in 1956, followed by Sammy Davis Jr. in 1957. The song’s author Earl Robinson released his own recording in 1957, on the Folkways album A Walk in the Sun and other Songs and Ballads. (The album title refers to a song written for the 1945 film A Walk in the Sun). Reggae groups The Maytones, from Jamaica, and Greyhound, from the UK, both recorded the song in 1971, the latter achieving a UK top ten hit.

Having heard the Greyhound version, Three Dog Night covered the song and included it on their 1972 album Seven Separate Fools. Their version of the song peaked at number one on the U.S. pop chart on September 16, 1972, and topped the Easy Listening chart on October 7.

The song is about racism. It was inspired by the United States Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed racial segregation of public schools. The original lyrics of the song opened with this verse, in reference to the court:

Their robes were black, Their heads were white,

The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight,

Nine judges all set down their names,

To end the years and years of shame.

However, the version of the song recorded by Greyhound, and subsequently covered by Three Dog Night, did not include this verse – making the song more universal, but also less historically specific. Even though, when Three Dog Night recorded this, it came at a time when civil rights was a big issue in America. The message of racial equality was emphasized by their use of a children’s choir in the repeated chorus during the closing moments of the song.

Black & Blue by Van Halen – “Black and Blue” is a rock song written by the group Van Halen for their 1988 album OU812 (pronounced “Oh You Ate One Too”). It is one of six singles issued for the album, and was the first from the album to hit #1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart, and peaked at #34 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is also the second Van Halen album to feature vocalist Sammy Hagar.

The song is also on the 2004 compilation album The Best of Both Worlds.

About the album, I found online this quote from the Ultimate Classic Rock site:

Just two years after successfully handing the keys of one of rock’s most valuable franchises over to new singer Sammy Hagar, Van Halen returned with 1988’s impressively diverse ‘OU812.’

From the amped-up blues of ‘Black and Blue’ to the down-home country-tonk of ‘Finish What Ya Started’ and the supremely (overly?) poppy ‘Feels So Good,’ this album found the band pushing at the boundaries of their sound like never before.

As far as the song lyrics to “Black and Blue”, it is purely another Van Halen song that is obviously and overtly about sex, pure and simple.

Black Water by Doobie Brothers – This song sure brings back memories from the summer of 1975. My friends and I would break out into song, singing “Black Water” while walking down the road in the neighborhood. Ah, those were the days…so carefree. You’ve heard me say this a hundred times but I’ll never stop saying it: I miss the 70s so much!

“Black Water” is a song recorded by the American music group The Doobie Brothers from their 1974 album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits: the track – which features its composer Patrick Simmons on lead vocals – became the first of the two Doobie Brothers’ #1 hit singles in the spring of 1975.

Patrick Simmons would recall that he chanced on the basic guitar lick for “Black Water” while at Warner Bros. Recording Studio (NoHo) for the recording sessions for the Doobie Brothers’ 1973 album The Captain and Me:

“I was sitting out in the studio waiting between takes and I played that part. All the sudden I heard the talk-back go on and [producer] Ted Templeman says: ‘What is that?’ I said: ‘It’s just a little riff that I came up with that I’ve been tweaking with.’ He goes: ‘I love that. You really should write a song using that riff.'”

Simmons would complete “Black Water” during a subsequent Doobie Brothers’ sojourn in New Orleans: a lifelong aficionado of Delta blues, Simmons had first visited New Orleans for a 1971 Doobie Brothers gig: “When I got down there it was everything I had hoped it would be…The way of life and vibe really connected with me and the roots of my music.” Simmons cites the song’s opening section as “my childhood imaginings of the South from reading Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer” while the lyrics subsequent to the first chorus draw on his actual experience of New Orleans: “going down to the French Quarter as often as possible and going into the clubs and listening to Dixieland”: the lyric Well if it rains, I don’t care/ Don’t make no difference to me/ Just take that street car that’s goin’ uptown was jotted down by Simmons while riding through the University District on the St. Charles Streetcar Line en route to the Garden District in Uptown New Orleans to do laundry: “the sun was shining while it was pouring rain the way it does down there sometimes. And the lyrics just came to me there [on the streetcar].”

Despite his encouragement in regard to writing “Black Water” and his meticulous arranging of the track, Ted Templeman would recall:

“We never thought [of] it as a [potential hit] single” – “I put ‘Black Water’ on [a] B-side because I figured [it was] an acoustic thing.”

“Black Water” was in fact utilized as the B-side for the lead single from the Doobie Brothers’ 1974 album release What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, the A-side being “Another Park, Another Sunday” whose June 1974 Billboard Hot 100 peak would be #32. Regular group lead vocalist Tom Johnston who would recall:

“Another Park…” “was doing real well [in single release], and then it got yanked off the radio for the line ‘And the radio just seems to bring me down'”.

After the second single off What Were Once Vices…: “Eyes of Silver”, was a Top 40 shortfall, Warner Bros. resorted to a re-release of the Doobie Brothers inaugural single “Nobody” a 1971 non-charter which in the autumn of 1974 rose into the Top 60 before being phased out by the re-release of “Black Water” as an A-side single.

In September 1974 WROV-AM in Roanoke VA began airing “Black Water” off the album What Were Once Vices… because the Blackwater, a Roanoke River tributary, is a 25-minute drive from Roanoke city center. Listener response so positive as to cause music director Chuck Holloway to opine: “No one was requesting anything else.” Hampton Roads broadcaster WQRK-FM was soon also airing “Black Water”, and the track’s intense regional success came to the attention of Warner Brothers national promotion director Gary Davis causing an A-side single release of “Black Water” in October 1974, five weeks after WROV had begun airing the track.

“Black Water” had its first major market breakout in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota), being reported as an add-on by KDWB in the November 23 1974 issue of Billboard.

Reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1975 “Black Water” is one of the few records by any act released as a B-side to another Hot 100 hit before topping the Hot 100 itself. In the Billboard ranking of Hot 100 hits for the year 1975 “Black Water” would rank at #15.

Fun Fact: The song is one of several performed by the Doobie Brothers during the band’s two episode appearance in 1978 on the ABC sitcom What’s Happening!!

Black Friday by Steely Dan Katy Lied is the fourth album by Steely Dan, released in 1975 by ABC Records. It went gold and peaked at No. 13 on the US charts. The single “Black Friday” charted at No. 37.

Long before the term came to denote the shopping frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving, Steely Dan released this song about the original “Black Friday,” when on Friday, September 24, 1869 a failed ploy left many wealthy investors broke. The investors tried to corner the market on gold, buying as much of it as they could and driving up the price, but when the government found out, it released $4 million worth of gold into the market, driving down the price and clobbering the investors.

As for how it became a retail reference, sometime in the ’60s, the term was bandied about to indicate the key day in the holiday shopping season when the stores would be “in the black,” meaning making money (black ink indicates profit, red ink indicates loss).

While the song is about events in the US, it mentions a town in Australia: “Fly down to Muswellbrook.” Muswellbrook is a rural town two hours north of Sydney that is full of kangaroos (thus the line, “Nothing to do but feed all the kangaroos”). It’s possible that Walter Becker (Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter, guitarist and bassist) and Donald Fagen (Steely Dan co-founder, lead singer and keyboardist) selected the name of Muswellbrook from an atlas, mainly because it worked well with the next line, “I’m going to strike out all the big red words from my little black book.” They also wanted a place far away from Los Angeles.

This was the first of two singles released from the Katy Lied album (“Bad Sneakers,” which reached #103 US was the second). Like many Steely Dan singles, it had just a modest placing on the US chart, reaching #37. This was of no concern to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who weren’t concerned about how their singles fared. And like every Steely Dan album released before they disbanded in 1981, Katy Lied reached Gold status.

The album was the first after the break-up of the original five-piece Steely Dan; most of the original members had left during a rift over touring and recording schedules. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who had been increasingly using session musicians in the studio on prior albums, continued on with numerous prominent Los Angeles areas studio musicians. This album marks the first appearance of singer Michael McDonald on a Steely Dan album. Jeff Porcaro, then only 20 years old, played drums on all the songs except “Any World (That I’m Welcome To)”, which features session drummer Hal Blaine. It also marked the first appearance of Larry Carlton, who played guitar on “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More”.

Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden – “Black Hole Sun” is a song by the American rock band Soundgarden. Written by frontman Chris Cornell, the song was released in 1994 as the third single from the band’s fourth studio album Superunknown (1994). It is arguably the band’s most recognizable and most popular song, and remains a well-known song from the 1990s. The song topped the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, where it spent a total of seven weeks at number one. Despite peaking at number two on the Modern Rock Tracks, “Black Hole Sun” still finished as the number-one track of 1994 for that chart. It failed to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart due to the rules of a physical/commercial release of the single at the time, but it still peaked at number 24 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart and number nine on the Mainstream Top 40 chart. The song was included on Soundgarden’s 1997 greatest hits album A-Sides and appeared again on the 2010 compilation album Telephantasm.

“Black Hole Sun” was written by frontman Chris Cornell. Cornell said that he wrote the song in about 15 minutes. He used a Gretsch guitar to write the song, and commented, “I wrote the song thinking the band wouldn’t like it—then it became the biggest hit of the summer.” Cornell came up with the song while using a Leslie speaker. Guitarist Kim Thayil said that the Leslie speaker was perfect for the song as “it’s very Beatlesque and has a distinctive sound. It ended up changing the song completely.” Thayil said that the song “wasn’t safe as milk, but it wasn’t glass in someone’s eye either. It was the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. Now it’s the ‘Dream On’ of our set.”

Appearing on The Pods & Sods Network in July 2017, Michael Beinhorn detailed the process of recording Soundgarden’s 1994 album Superunknown. And he shares his reaction to first hearing “Black Hole Sun” during that time,

“I think for the rest of my entire life, until I draw my last breath, I’ll never ever forgot how I felt when they started playing that song. From the very first few notes, I felt like I’d been hit by a thunderbolt. I was just absolutely stunned. What in the world is this? I get goosebumps thinking about it now.”

Regarding the lyrics to “Black Hole Sun”, Chris Cornell stated, “It’s just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song.” He stated in a 2014 interview with Entertainment Weekly that the title came from something he heard on the news – he thought the anchor said “black hole sun,” but he really was saying something else. Cornell started thinking about the phrase and decided to write a song around it, as he felt it was a thought-provoking title. He wrote the lyrics first, then composed the music based on the images he came up with.

“If I write lyrics that are bleak or dark, it usually makes me feel better,” the Soundgarden frontman said. This song is certainly bleak, with references to snakes, a dead sky, and the summer stench. It’s one of the more morose songs to get consistent airplay, and it helped associate the grunge sound with depression and angst. Cornell, however, was simply expressing some dark thoughts in song – he was not suffering or crying for help in the manner of Kurt Cobain.

He also said that “lyrically it’s probably the closest to me just playing with words for words’ sake, of anything I’ve written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you’d begin to take that one literally.”

In another interview he elaborated further, stating, “It’s funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember. Other than that, I sure didn’t have an understanding of it after I wrote it. I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across.”

Commenting upon how the song was misinterpreted as being positive, Cornell said, “No one seems to get this, but ‘Black Hole Sun’ is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it’s almost chipper, which is ridiculous.” When asked about the line, “Times are gone for honest men”, Cornell said:

It’s really difficult for a person to create their own life and their own freedom. It’s going to become more and more difficult, and it’s going to create more and more disillusioned people who become dishonest and angry and are willing to fuck the next guy to get what they want. There’s so much stepping on the backs of other people in our profession. We’ve been so lucky that we’ve never had to do that. Part of it was because of our own tenacity, and part of it was because we were lucky.

Critical reactions:

  • Greg Prato of AllMusic called the song “one of the few bright spots” of the summer of 1994 when “the world was still reeling from Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide the previous April”. He said, “The song had a psychedelic edge to it (especially evident in the verse’s guitar part), as the composition shifted between sedate melodicism and gargantuan guitar riffs. The lyrics were classic Chris Cornell—lines didn’t exactly make sense on paper but did within the song.”
  • Jon Pareles of The New York Times said, “The Beatles’ techniques—fuzz-toned low chords, legato lead-guitar hooks and lumpy Ringo Starr-style drumming…are linked to Lennon-style melody in ‘Black Hole Sun’.”
  • J.D. Considine of Rolling Stone stated, “With its yearning, Lennonesque melody and watery, Harrisonstyle guitar, ‘Black Hole Sun’ is a wonderful exercise in Beatleisms; trouble is, it’s not a very good song, offering more in the way of mood and atmosphere than melodic direction.”
  • Ann Powers of Blender proclaimed that “Cornell’s fixation with the Beatles pays off with the hit single ‘Black Hole Sun’ “.

The solo for “Black Hole Sun”, performed by Thayil, was ranked number 63 on Guitar World’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” and number 56 on Total Guitar’s list of the “100 Hottest Guitar Solos”. The song was included on VH1’s countdown of the “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s” at number 25. It was also included on VH1’s countdown of the “100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs” at number 77.

The Music Video: The surreal and apocalyptic music video for “Black Hole Sun” follows a suburban neighborhood and its vain inhabitants with comically exaggerated grins, which are eventually swallowed up when the Sun suddenly turns into a black hole, while the band performs the song somewhere in an open field. In the video, Cornell can be seen wearing a fork necklace given to him by Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon. In an online chat, the band stated that the video “was entirely the director’s idea”, and added, “Our take on it was that at that point in making videos, we just wanted to pretend to play and not look that excited about it.” Thayil said that the video was one of the few Soundgarden videos the band was satisfied with.

The video was released in June 1994. It became a hit on MTV and received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. In 1995, it received the Clio Award for Alternative Music Video. By early 2018, it has gotten over 115 million views on Youtube. You can see this video in my playlist but I thought it might be nice to include a video of Chris Cornell doing an acoustic version of the song:

Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath” is a song by the British heavy metal band Black Sabbath, written in 1969 and released on their eponymous debut album. In 1970, it was released as a four-track 12-inch single, with “The Wizard” also on the A-side and “Evil Woman” and “Sleeping Village” on B-side, on the Philips Records label Vertigo. The track is widely considered the first doom metal song, and is considered by many to be the first heavy metal song.

This is the song that became the name of the band. They were playing clubs in Germany and using the name “Earth” when they realized another band had the same name. “Black Sabbath” was lifted from the title of a 1963 horror movie starring Boris Karloff that was directed by the Italian filmmaker Mario Bava.

The group’s lead singer Ozzy Osbourne and bass player Geezer Butler had seen the film, and decided to write a song with that title. When it became clear that the band needed a new moniker, they named themselves after this song.

According to the band, the song was inspired by an experience that bassist and primary lyricist Geezer Butler had in the days of Earth. Butler, obsessed with the occult at the time, painted his apartment matte black, placed several inverted crucifixes, and put many pictures of Satan on the walls. Ozzy Osbourne handed Butler a black occult book, written in Latin and decorated with numerous pictures of Satan. Butler read the book and then placed it on a shelf beside his bed before going to sleep. When he woke up, he claims he saw a large black figure standing at the end of his bed, staring at him. The figure vanished and Butler ran to the shelf where he had placed the book earlier, but the book was gone. Butler related this story to Osbourne, who then wrote the lyrics to the song based on Butler’s experience. The song starts with the lyrics:

What is this that stands before me?

Figure in black which points at me

The name change coincided with a new sound and image for the group. They had been playing blues (mostly covers), but started writing more original material and found a darker, heavier sound that defined them throughout their Hall of Fame career. Eschewing anything resembling R&B or psychedelia, they found a fan base hungry for something fiendish and new. Critics derided the band, but they quickly became one of the most popular and enduring acts of their time.

From Black Sabbath: The Ozzy Osbourne Years:

“While rehearsing new material, the band formerly known as Earth experienced a supernatural experience. Geezer and Tony were playing new riffs for Ozzy and Bill when, much to everyone’s surprise, they both strummed the same notes at the same tempo – although neither had ever before heard the other one play the piece! Convinced that this was an omen, Geezer christened the song and the group Black Sabbath (after the movie).”

Thanks to the “Black Sabbath” moniker, many fans associated the band with Satanism, an image they played up throughout their career. This song, however, expresses a healthy fear of the devil.

Black Sabbath co-founder and lead guitarist Tony Iommi on “Black Sabbath”:

“We knew we had something; you could feel it, the hairs stood up on your arms, it just felt so different. We didn’t know what it was, but we liked it.” “Everybody started putting bits to it and afterwards we thought it was amazing. Really strange, but good. We were all shocked, but we knew that we had something there.”

Geezer Butler recalled to Uncut magazine:

“The first time we played ‘Black Sabbath’ was in this tiny pub in Lichfield near Birmingham. The whole pub went mental.”

Black Dog by Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog” is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, the opening track on their 1971 untitled fourth album (commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV). It was released as a single in the United States and in Australia with “Misty Mountain Hop” as the B-side, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in Australia.

Music sociologist Deena Weinstein calls “BlackDog” “one of the most instantly recognizable [Led] Zeppelin tracks”. The song exemplifies the blues-rock that was the bedrock of the band’s sound. Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones got the idea for this song after hearing Muddy Waters’ 1968 album Electric Mud. He wanted to try “Electric Blues with a rolling bass part,” and “a riff that would be like a linear journey.”

The title does not appear in the lyrics, and has nothing to do with the song itself. The band worked up the song at Headley Grange, which was a mansion in Hampshire, England. Headley Grange was out in the country, surrounded by woods. A nameless black Labrador Retriever would wander the grounds, and the band would feed it. When they needed a name for this track – which didn’t have an obvious title – they thought of the canine and went with “Black Dog.”

According to the band, the retriever, despite his advanced age, was still sexually adventurous, like the song’s protagonist who reiterates his desperate desire for a woman’s love and the happiness it provides. As Plant explained to a 1972 concert audience:

Let me tell you ’bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he’d “boogied” and everything else he couldn’t get back. And we used to carry him back.

The lyrics never approached “Stairway To Heaven” level scrutiny, but were still subject to some interesting interpretations. Jimmy Page’s interest in the occultist Aleister Crowley, combined with the image of the Hermit (from the Tarot) in the album art and the band’s disappearance when they set off to Headley Grange to record, led some listeners to conclude that the titular dog was some kind of hellhound, and that the line, “Eyes that shine burning red, dreams of you all through my head,” had something to do with Satan.

Even by Led Zeppelin standards, this is a very complex song musically, with a chaotic blend of riffs and time signatures that make it very difficult to play and a testament to the band’s musicianship. When the drums and guitar kick in, they’re actually playing completely different patterns, which is something devised by John Paul Jones. The only real consistent element in the song are the vocal interludes. This is not a song you’d want to dance to.

“Whole Lotta Love” made #4 on the US Hot 100, and “Black Dog” was their next highest-charting song, coming in at #15 on the Hot 100. Most of their tracks were not released as singles, and fans of the band were far more likely buy the albums.

Black Betty by Ram Jam – “Black Betty” (Roud 11668) is a 20th-century African-American work song often credited to Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter as the author, though the earliest recordings are not by him. Some sources claim it is one of Lead Belly’s many adaptations of earlier folk material; in this case an 18th-century marching cadence about a flintlock musket. There are numerous recorded versions, including a cappella, folk, and rock arrangements. The best known modern recordings are rock versions by Ram Jam, Tom Jones, and Spiderbait, all of which were hits.

The origin and meaning of the lyrics are subject to debate. Historically the “Black Betty” of the title may refer to the nickname given to a number of objects: a musket, a bottle of whiskey, a whip, or a penitentiary transfer wagon. In later versions, “Black Betty” was depicted as various vehicles, including a motorcycle and a hot rod. Black Betty is the slang name given to the Queen of Spades in the card game Hearts. The” Bam-ba-lam” in the song might refer to the sound of gunfire or the sound of the whips hitting prisoners backs. There are several sources that claim to know what to what the terms “Black Betty” and Bam-ba-lam” refer. You can read more about it here.

Early Recordings: The song was first recorded in the field by US musicologists John and Alan Lomax in December 1933, performed a cappella by the convict James “Iron Head” Baker and a group at Central State Farm, Sugar Land, Texas (a State prison farm). Baker was 63 years old at the time of the recording. It was recorded commercially in New York in April 1939 for the Musicraft Records label by Lead Belly, as part of a medley with two other work songs: “Looky Looky Yonder” and “Yellow Woman’s Doorbells”.

While Lead Belly’s 1939 recording was also performed a cappella (with hand claps in place of hammer blows), and commonly sung by laborers to pass the time while working, most subsequent versions added guitar accompaniment. These include folk-style recordings in 1964 by Odetta (as a medley with “Looky Yonder”, with staccato guitar strums in place of hand claps), and Alan Lomax himself.

In 1968 Manfred Mann released a version of the song, arranged for a band, with the title and lyrics changed to “Big Betty”, on their LP Mighty Garvey!. In 1972 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band performed “Black Betty” live for John Peel’s In Concert on the BBC, but this has not been publicly released.

Ram Jam version: In 1977, the rock band Ram Jam— a short-lived band from New York City, released a recording of the song with producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz under Epic Records. This was their only hit. While their lyrical content is pretty standard folk/blues material – about a black woman from Alabama who has a “wild” child, Ram Jam took some heat because some civil rights groups felt the lyrics were disrespectful to black women. While the lyrics can be deconstructed, Ram Jam’s version is driven by the powerful beat and aggressive tempo, making it one of those songs that gets your heart beating faster. The song is commonly played at sporting events to pump up the crowd.

This was produced by Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, who were architects of the Bubblegum Sound, producing groups like The Ohio Express and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The song became an instant hit with listeners, as it reached number 18 on the singles charts in the United States and the top ten in the UK and Australia. At the same time, the lyrics caused civil rights groups NAACP and Congress of Racial Equality to call for a boycott.

Fun Facts: Figure skating world champion Javier Fernández performed his short program to Ram Jam’s version of “Black Betty” during the 2014-15 season, when he won his third European Championships title and his first World Championships gold medal.

In 2006 the University of New Hampshire administration controversially banned the playing of Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” at UNH Hockey games. UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano explained the reason for the decision: “UNH is not going to stand for something that insults any segment of society.” In 2006 UNH students started the “Save Black Betty” campaign. Students protested at the hockey games by singing Ram Jam’s “Black Betty”, wearing T-shirts with writing on the front “Save Black Betty” and writing on the back “Bam-A-Lam”, and holding up campaign posters at the game. The Ram Jam version was again played once at a UNH/UMaine hockey game on January 24, 2013 after a seven-year hiatus.

 

And that wraps up my BLACK EDITION of the Kaleidoscope of Color Songs Series. (There are still two more colors to cover before concluding this series so be sure to come back for the next 4M Freebie week). Do you have any favorite Black songs? How do you feel about the color black (if you even consider it a color. Do you?)?

Here is some fun information on the meaning of the color black, taken from the Bourn Creative’s Color Meaning Blog Series:

Black is associated with power, fear, mystery, strength, authority, elegance, formality, death, evil, and aggression, authority, rebellion, and sophistication. Black is required for all other colors to have depth and variation of hue.

The black color is the absence of color. Black is a mysterious color that is typically associated with the unknown or the negative. The color black represents strength, seriousness, power, and authority. Black is a formal, elegant, and prestigious color. Authoritative and powerful, the color black can evoke strong emotions and too much black can be overwhelming.

In heraldry, black is the symbol of grief. The color black can be serious, professional, and conventional, but black can also represent the mysterious, sexy, and sophisticated. Black is a visually slimming color for clothing and like other dark colors, in interior design, black can make a room appear to shrink in size.

The color black affects the mind and body by helping to create an inconspicuous feeling, boosting confidence in appearance, increasing the sense of potential and possibility, or producing feelings of emptiness, gloom, or sadness.

In western countries black is the color of mourning, death, and sadness. Black often represents the emotions and actions of rebellion in teenagers and youth. The color black can represent both the positive and the negative. As the opposite of white, movies, books, print media, and television typically depict the good guy in white and the bad guy in black. In more recent times, the good guy is shown in black to create mystery around the character’s identity.

Other meanings associated with the color black:

  • The phrase “black tie”refers to a formal event or dress code.
  • The saying “pitch black”references no light or no visibility.
  • The term“black-hearted” describes an evil person.
  • “black belt”is an expert level in martial arts.
  • The expression “blackwash”is to bring things out in the open.
  • The phrase “in the black”refers to having money or profiting and doing well in business.
  • “black box”is a piece of equipment or apparatus usually used in airplanes.
  • “black eye”is damage to an eye, including bruising and discoloration, or damage to one’s reputation.
  • “black sheep”is an outcast from a family or from society.
  • The expression “men in black”refer to government agents.
  • “blacklist”is a list of people or organizations to boycott, avoid, or punish.
  • The term “blackguard”is used to reference a bad guy or a scoundrel.
  • The word “blackmail”refers to obtaining something by threat.
  • The word “blackout”means a loss of electricity, loss of visibility, turning out the lights, loss of consciousness, or the act of erasing or deleting something.
  • The phrase “black market”refers to the illegal trade of goods or money.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color black: ebony, jet, ink, lampblack, coal, soot, charcoal, raven, midnight, obsidian, onyx, sable.

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below:

 

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me – A Throwback to Childhood with Some of My Favorite Films of That Era

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is from this month’s Conductor, Alana with Ramblin’ with AM. She wanted us to focus on TV or Movie Theme Songs from our childhood. Since I already did an extensive collection of Classic TV Show Theme Songs in my 2016 A-Z Challenge, I opted to focus this post on a few of my favorite movies from childhood. So here are a few movies that I remember fondly from back in the 60s, listed in no particular order:

The Incredible Mr. LimpetThe Incredible Mr. Limpet is a 1964 American live-action/animated adventure film from Warner Bros. It is about a man named Henry Limpet who turns into a talking fish resembling a tilefish and helps the U.S. Navy locate and destroy Nazi submarines. Don Knotts plays the title character. The live action was directed by Arthur Lubin, while the animation was directed by Bill Tytla, Robert McKimson, Hawley Pratt, and Gerry Chiniquy. Music includes songs by Sammy Fain, in collaboration with Harold Adamson, including “I Wish I Were a Fish,” “Be Careful How You Wish,” and “Deep Rapture.” 

The Incredible Mr. Limpet movie poster

The story begins September 1941 just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Shy bookkeeper Henry Limpet loves fish with a passion. When his friend George Stickle enlists in the United States Navy, Limpet attempts to enlist as well, but is rejected. Feeling downcast, he wanders down to a pier near Coney Island and accidentally falls into the water. Inexplicably, he finds he has turned into a fish. Since he never resurfaces, his wife, Bessie, and George assume he has drowned.

The fish Limpet, complete with his signature pince-nez spectacles, discovers a new-found ability during some of his initial misadventures, a powerful underwater roar, his “thrum”. He falls in love with a female fish he names Ladyfish, the concept of names being unknown to her, and makes friends with a misanthropic hermit crab named Crusty.

Still determined to help the Navy, Limpet finds a convoy and requests to see George. With George’s help, Limpet gets himself commissioned by the Navy, complete with advancing rank and a salary, which he sends to Bessie. He helps the Navy locate Nazi U-boats by signaling with his “thrum”, and plays a large part in the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. In his final mission, he is nearly killed when the Nazis develop a “thrum” seeking torpedo, and is further handicapped by the loss of his spectacles. He manages to survive using Crusty as his “navigator”, and sinks a number of U-boats by redirecting the torpedoes. After the battle, he swims to Coney Island to say goodbye to Bessie (who has now fallen in love with George) and gets a replacement set of glasses. He then swims off with Ladyfish.

In the film’s coda, set in the modern times of 1964, George (now a high ranking naval officer) and the Admiral are presented with a report that Mr. Limpet is still alive and working with porpoises. The two men travel out to sea to contact Mr. Limpet and offer him a commission in the United States Navy. It is unknown what became of the conversation, for the movie ends with a question mark.

 

The Jungle Book The Jungle Book is a 1967 American animated musical comedy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions. Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s book of the same name, it is the 19th Disney animated feature film. Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman, it was the last film to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production. The plot follows Mowgli, a feral child raised in the Indian jungle by wolves, as his friends Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear try to convince him to leave the jungle before the evil tiger Shere Khan arrives.

The early versions of both the screenplay and the soundtrack followed Kipling’s work more closely, with a dramatic, dark, and sinister tone which Disney did not want in his family film, leading to writer Bill Peet and composer Terry Gilkyson being replaced. The casting employed famous actors and musicians Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, George Sanders and Louis Prima, as well as Disney regulars such as Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O’Malley and Verna Felton, and the director’s son, Bruce Reitherman, as Mowgli.

The Jungle Book movie poster

The Jungle Book was released on October 18, 1967, to positive reception, with acclaim for its soundtrack, featuring five songs by the Sherman Brothers and one by Gilkyson, “The Bare Necessities”. The film initially became Disney’s second highest-grossing animated film in the United States and Canada, and was also successful during its re-releases. The film was also successful throughout the world, becoming Germany’s highest-grossing film by number of admissions. Disney released a live-action remake in 1994 and an animated sequel, The Jungle Book 2, in 2003; another live-action adaptation directed by Jon Favreau was released in 2016.

The Jungle Book Soundtrack: The instrumental music was written by George Bruns and orchestrated by Walter Sheets. Interestingly, two of the cues were reused from previous Disney films. The scene where Mowgli wakes up after escaping King Louie used one of Bruns’ themes for Sleeping Beauty; and the scene where Bagheera gives a eulogy to Baloo when he mistakenly thinks the bear was killed by Shere Khan used Paul J. Smith’s organ score from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The score features eight original songs: seven by the Sherman Brothers and one by Terry Gilkyson. Longtime Disney collaborator Gilkyson was the first songwriter to bring several complete songs which followed the book closely but Walt Disney felt that his efforts were too dark. The only piece of Gilkyson’s work which survived to the final film was his upbeat tune “The Bare Necessities”, which was liked by the rest of the film crew. The Sherman Brothers were then brought in to do a complete rewrite. Disney asked the siblings if they had read Kipling’s book and they replied that they had done so “a long, long time ago” and that they had also seen the 1942 version by Alexander Korda. Disney said the “nice, mysterious, heavy stuff” from both works was not what he aimed for, instead going for a “lightness, a Disney touch”. Disney frequently brought the composers to the storyline sessions. He asked them to “find scary places and write fun songs” for their compositions that fit in with the story and advanced the plot instead of being interruptive.

Bare Necessities: In 1967, “The Bare Necessities” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

 

101 DalmatiansOne Hundred and One Dalmatians, often abbreviated as 101 Dalmatians, is a 1961 American animated adventure film produced by Walt Disney and based on the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. The 17th Disney animated feature film, the film tells the story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies who are kidnapped by the villainous Cruella de Vil, who wants to use their fur to make into coats. Their parents, Pongo and Perdita, set out to save their children from Cruella, all the while rescuing 84 additional puppies that were bought in pet shops, bringing the total of Dalmatians to 101.

101 Dalmatians original movie poster

Originally released to theaters on January 25, 1961, by Buena Vista Distribution, One Hundred and One Dalmatians was a box office success, pulling the studio out of the financial slump caused by Sleeping Beauty, a costlier production released two years prior. Aside from its box office revenue, its commercial success was due to the employment of inexpensive animation techniques—such as using xerography during the process of inking and painting traditional animation cells—that kept production costs down. It was remade into a live action film in 1996.

Interesting tidbits on the Cruella de Vil name: Per Wikipedia, Cruella’s name is a pun of the words cruel and devil, an allusion which is emphasized by having her country house nicknamed “Hell Hall”. In some translations, for instance in Polish, Cruella De Vil is known as “Cruella De Mon”, a play on “demon”. In Italian, she is called “Crudelia De Mon” (a pun on “crudele”, cruel, and “demone”, demon). In the French translation of the Disney’s animated movie, she is referred as “Cruella D’Enfer” (Literally, Cruella of Hell or from Hell). In Dutch, the name remains “De Vil”, while by coincidence the Dutch verb for skinning is “Villen” and “Vil” is the conjugation of this verb for the first person singular. In the Brazilian and Portuguese translations, Cruella is known as “Cruela Cruel”, which straightforwardly stems from “cruel”.

The name “de Vil” is also a literary allusion to Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). In the novel, the realty firm Mitchell, Sons & Candy write a letter, dated 1 October, to Lord Godalming, informing him that the purchaser of a house in Piccadilly, London is “a foreign nobleman, Count De Ville”. Count De Ville, however, proves to be an alias for Count Dracula himself.

It is also believed that the inspiration for the name began in 1939 when Dodie Smith purchased a new Rolls-Royce 25/30 “Sedanca de Ville” motorcar in which she and her pet Dalmatian “Pongo” frequently travelled, which also formed the basis of the cartoon imagery of Cruella’s own motorcar.

Here is my favorite song from the movie:

 

The Love Bug (Herbie, the Love Bug)The Love Bug (sometimes referred to as Herbie the Love Bug) is a 1968 American comedy film and the first in a series of films made by Walt Disney Productions that starred an anthropomorphic pearl-white, fabric-sun-roofed 1963 Volkswagen racing Beetle named Herbie. It was based on the 1961 book Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford.

I can’t be positive about this but Herbie, the Love Bug may have been my very first drive-in movie that I ever saw. I used to love going to the drive-in! That was a big treat as a kid and I totally remember seeing Herbie the Love Bug at the Starlite Drive-In on Military Road in Town of Niagara. I remember those drive-in trips: being dressed in my pajamas, Dad pulling in and paying for our tickets at the gate then driving slowly over the gravel to find the most perfect spot. Then, once there, grabbing that big clunky metal speaker and hanging it on the window ledge and testing out the sound. Sometimes we’d have to move because the speaker sound crackled and sucked so we’d drive around until we found a decent-sounding speaker. We’d always arrive in time for the pre-movie cartoons and the concession stand ads with their animated snacks reminding you to hurry to the snack bar to get your popcorn, candy and pop before the show started. And wasn’t there always a double-feature at the drive-in? Because there was always intermission, when we’d get to jump out of the car and run across the gravel parking lot to use the restrooms real quick…and maybe, if we were lucky, grab another snack!

For those who might want to take a little trip back in time to the drive-ins of yesteryear here are some classic snack bar (“refreshment center”) ads you probably saw way back when…

I apologize for that little aside, I just had to talk about seeing Herbie at the drive-in! Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

The movie follows the adventures of Herbie, Herbie’s driver, Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), and Jim’s love interest, Carole Bennett (Michele Lee). It also features Buddy Hackett as Jim’s enlightened, kind-hearted friend, Tennessee Steinmetz, a character who creates “art” from used car parts. English actor David Tomlinson portrays the villainous Peter Thorndyke, owner of an auto showroom and an SCCA national champion who sells Herbie to Jim and eventually becomes Jim’s racing rival.

Fun Facts about the movie:

  • Dean Jones credited the film’s success to the fact that it was the last live action Disney film produced under Walt Disney’s involvement, released just two years after his death in 1966. Although Jones tried to pitch him a serious, straightforward film project concerning the story of the first sports car ever brought to the United States, Walt suggested a different car story for him, which was Car, Boy, Girl, a story written in 1961 by Gordon Buford.
  • Car, Boy, Girl; The Magic Volksy; The Runaway Wagen; Beetlebomb; Wonderbeetle; Bugboom and Thunderbug were among the original development titles considered for the film before the title was finalized as The Love Bug.
  • Herbie competes in the Monterey Grand Prix, which, except for 1963, was not a sports car race. The actual sports car race held at Monterey was the Monterey Sports Car Championships.
  • Peter Thorndyke’s yellow “Special” is actually a 1965 Apollo GT, a rare sports car built in the United States by International Motorcars in Oakland, California. It used an Italian-designed body along with a small-block Buick V8 engine. This car exists today, is in the hands of a private collector, and has been restored as it was seen in the film with its yellow paint and number 14 logo.

“Herbie”         

Before film began production, the titular car was not specified as a Volkswagen Beetle, and Disney set up a casting call for a dozen cars to audition. In the lineup, there were a few Toyotas, a TVR, a handful of Volvos, an MG and a pearl white Volkswagen Beetle. I love this: The Volkswagen Beetle was chosen as it was the only one that elicited the crew to reach out and pet it. Lol. That is classic!

The Volkswagen brand name, logo or shield does not feature anywhere in the film, as the automaker did not permit Disney to use the name. The only logos can be briefly seen in at least two places, however. The first instance is on the brake pedals during the first scene where Herbie takes control with Jim inside (on the freeway when Herbie runs into Thorndyke’s Rolls Royce), and in fact it is shown in all the future scenes when Jim is braking. The second instance is on the ignition key, when Jim tries to shut down the braking Herbie. The later sequels produced, however, do promote the Volkswagen name (as sales of the Beetle were down when the sequels were produced). The VW “Wolfsburg” castle emblem on the steering wheel hub is also seen throughout the car’s interior shots. Within the script, the car was only ever referred to as “Herbie”, “the small car” or “the Bug”—the latter, although a common nickname for the Beetle, was not trademarked by Volkswagen at the time of filming.

The car was later given the name “Herbie” from one of Buddy Hackett’s skits about a ski instructor named Klaus, who speaks with a German accent as he introduces his fellow ski instructors, who are named Hans, Fritz, Wilhelm, and Sandor. At the end of the skit, Hackett would say “If you ain’t got a Herbie (pronounced “hoy-bee”), I ain’t going.”

Herbie’s trademark “53” racing number was chosen by producer Bill Walsh, who was a fan of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player Don Drysdale (Drysdale’s jersey number, later retired by the team in 1984, was 53).

Walsh also gave Herbie his trademark red, white and blue racing stripes presumably for the more patriotic color and came up with the film’s gags such as Herbie squirting oil and opening the doors by himself.

Herbie has his own cast billing in the closing credits, the only time this was done in the entire series of films.

Today, only a handful of the original Herbie cars are known to exist. Car #10 was recovered from a warehouse in Pennsylvania, and has been preserved—still sporting its original paint from the film.

The film was the third highest-grossing film of 1968, earning over $51.2 million at the domestic box office.

NOTE: The Theme song below is from the 1974 movie Herbie Rides Again (but it’s the same song as in the original)

 

Winnie the Pooh Featurettes: I’ve always been a fan of Winnie the Pooh. Instead of feature length films, Winnie the Pooh’s claim to Big Screen fame came in several featurettes (24 to 40 minute run-time movies; longer than a “short” but shorter than a feature film). The three featurettes from my childhood are:

Winnie the Pooh and the Honey TreeWinnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree is a 1966 animated featurette based on the first two chapters of the book Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. The film was produced by Walt Disney Productions. Its songs were written by the Sherman Brothers (Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman) and the score was composed and conducted by Buddy Baker.

One of theatrical release posters (notice the different designs of Piglet and Tigger, who weren’t in the film, more closely resembling their appearance in the E.H. Shepherd illustrations):

This featurette was shown alongside the live-action feature The Ugly Dachshund, and was later included as a segment in the 1977 compilation film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery DayWinnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day is a 1968 animated featurette based on the third, fifth, ninth, and tenth chapters from Winnie-the-Pooh and the second, eighth, and ninth chapters from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne. The featurette was produced by Walt Disney Productions and released by Buena Vista Distribution Company on December 20, 1968 as a double feature with The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit. This was the second of the studio’s Winnie the Pooh shorts. It was later added as a segment to the 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The music was written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. It was notable for being the last animated short produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production.

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day won the 1968 Academy Award for Animated Short Film. The Academy Award was awarded posthumously to Walt Disney, who died of lung cancer two years before the film’s initial release. It is also the only Winnie the Pooh production that won an Academy Award. (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, which was released six years later in 1974, was nominated for the same Academy Award, but lost to Closed Mondays).

The animated featurette also served as an inspiration for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride in Walt Disney World in which the rider experiences several scenes from the cartoon, including Pooh’s Heffalump and Woozle dream.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger TooWinnie the Pooh and Tigger Too is a 1974 animated featurette from Disney released as a double feature with The Island at the Top of the World. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, but lost to Closed Mondays. It was later added as a segment to the 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. A soundtrack album was released simultaneously and featured such songs as “The Honey Tree” and “Birthday, Birthday.” The film, whose name is a play on the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” made famous during the 1840 United States presidential election, is based on the third, fourth and seventh chapters from The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne.

And in case you don’t remember: the proper way to spell his name is: “T-I-double-guh-err, that spells Tigger.”

Here is a playlist of all the songs from the original 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh:

 

Flipper Flipper is an American feature film released on August 14, 1963 written by Arthur Weiss based upon a story by Ricou Browning and Jack Cowden. Produced by Ivan Tors and directed by James B. Clark, it portrays a 12-year-old boy living with his parents in the Florida Keys, who befriends an injured wild dolphin. The lad and his pet become inseparable, eventually overcoming the misgivings of his fisherman father.

Flipper 1963 movie poster

The film introduced the popular song “Flipper”, by Dunham and Henry Vars and inspired the subsequent television series of the same name (1964–1967) and film sequels. The film received good reviews.

Co-creator Ricou Browning said that he originally conceived the story after seeing his children intently watching the TV series Lassie, which inspired Browning to create a similar story with a dolphin in place of the dog. After he sent the story to his friend, producer Ivan Tors, Tors expressed interest in making it into a movie.

A film sequel, Flipper’s New Adventure, (known in some countries as Flipper and the Pirates) was filmed in late 1963 and released in June 1964 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, released before the TV series premiered, received good reviews and outdid the first film with more audience attendance.

Flipper’s New Adventure movie poster

That same year, a television series inspired by the movie Flipper began and ran until 1967. A 1990s television revival featured Jessica Alba. In 1996, a movie remake was released, Flipper, starring Paul Hogan and Elijah Wood.

I used to watch the TV series all the time which sparked my love of dolphins. This description is based on the TV series, not the movies:

Flipper, from Ivan Tors Films in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television, is an American television program first broadcast on NBC from September 19, 1964, until April 15, 1967. Flipper, a bottlenose dolphin, is the companion animal of Porter Ricks, Chief Warden at fictional Coral Key Park and Marine Preserve in southern Florida, and his two young sons Sandy and Bud.

The show has been dubbed an “aquatic Lassie”, and a considerable amount of juvenile merchandise inspired by the show was produced during its first-run. The television show is an adaptation of the 1963 film Flipper starring Chuck Connors and Luke Halpin as Porter and Sandy Ricks, and its 1964 sequel, Flipper’s New Adventure, where Brian Kelly took over the role of Porter.

In adapting the films to a television series, the producers made Porter a single parent and gave him a second son named Bud, played by Tommy Norden. The producers departed yet again from the films in endowing Flipper with an unnatural degree of intelligence and an extraordinary understanding of human motives, behavior, and vocabulary.

 

Born FreeBorn Free is a 1966 British drama film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya. The film was produced by Open Road Films Ltd. and Columbia Pictures. The screenplay, written by blacklisted Hollywood writer Lester Cole (under the pseudonym “Gerald L.C. Copley”), was based upon Joy Adamson’s 1960 non-fiction book Born Free. The film was directed by James Hill and produced by Sam Jaffe and Paul Radin. Born Free, and its musical score by John Barry, won numerous awards.

When George Adamson is forced to kill a lion, after the lion kills a native villager, and then George kills a lioness out of self-defense, he brings home the three orphaned cubs she had been trying to protect. The Adamsons tend to the three orphaned lion cubs to young lionhood, and, when the time comes, the two largest are sent to the Rotterdam Zoo, while Elsa the Lioness (the smallest of the litter) remains with Joy. When Elsa is held responsible for stampeding a herd of elephants through a village, John Kendall, Adamson’s boss, gives the couple three months to either rehabilitate Elsa to the wild, or send her to a zoo. Joy opposes sending Elsa to a zoo, and spends much time attempting to reintroduce Elsa to the life of a wild lion in a distant reserve. At last, she succeeds, and with mixed feelings and a breaking heart, she returns her friend to the wild. The Adamsons then depart for their home in England; a year later they return to Kenya for a week, hoping to find Elsa. They do, and happily discover she hasn’t forgotten them and is the mother of three cubs. The Adamsons made an agreement not to handle the cubs, in contrast to the way they did with Elsa.

The film reunited the real life couple Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna as a couple first seen together in The Smallest Show on Earth in 1957.

George Adamson served as chief technical advisor on the film and discusses his involvement in his first autobiography, Bwana Game (UK title, 1968), known in the US as A Lifetime with Lions.

According to Ben Mankiewicz, who introduces the film on Turner Classic Movies, they used mostly wild lions and interviewed more than 3,000.

The making of the film was a life-changing experience for actors Virginia McKenna and her husband Bill Travers, who became animal rights activists and were instrumental in creating the Born Free Foundation.

One of the lions in the film was played by a former mascot of the Scots Guards, who had to leave him behind when they left Kenya. The producers also acknowledged the help received from Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the Game Department of Uganda.

How popular was the film? Born Free received critical acclaim. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 92 percent of 12 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7 out of 10.

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And here are some cool foreign movie posters when the film was released in other countries:

Vincent Canby waxed enthusiastic about the film, writing in The New York Times,

“Almost from the opening shot – a vast expanse of corn-colored African plain where lions feed on the carcass of a freshly killed zebra – one knows that Joy Adamson’s best-selling book Born Free has been entrusted to honest, intelligent filmmakers. Without minimizing the facts of animal life or overly sentimentalizing them, this film casts an enchantment that is just about irresistible.”

Accolades:  Born Free won the following:

  • Academy Award for Original Music Score: John Barry
  • Academy Award for Best Song: John Barry (music) and Don Black (lyrics) for “Born Free”
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song – Motion Picture: John Barry
  • Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture: John Barry

It also received the following nominations:

  • Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama: Virginia McKenna
  • DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures: James Hill

The film was also recognized with nominations by American Film Institute in these lists:

  • In 2004: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs
  • In 2005: AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores

Sequels and spinoffs:  The book Born Free (1960) was followed by two other books, Living Free (1961) and Forever Free (1963). In 1972, a film sequel entitled Living Free was released. While deriving its name from the second book, the film was based on the third book in the series. It starred Susan Hampshire and Nigel Davenport as Joy and George Adamson.

A documentary follow-up to Born Free, entitled The Lions Are Free, was released in 1969. The film follows Born Free-actor Bill Travers as he journeys to a remote area in Kenya to visit George Adamson, and several of Adamson’s lion friends.

In 1974, a 13-episode American television series was broadcast by NBC, entitled Born Free, starring Diana Muldaur and Gary Collins as Joy and George Adamson. The series was later followed by television film in 1996 called Born Free: A New Adventure, with Linda Purl and Chris Noth. (Chris Noth? Mr. Big was in Born Free?? Wow, I’m going to have to find that movie on Netflix or something…) Joy and George Adamson do not appear as the main characters in the story.

To Walk with Lions (1999) depicts the last years of George Adamson’s life, as seen through the eyes of his assistant, Tony Fitzjohn. George is portrayed by Richard Harris, and Honor Blackman makes a brief appearance as Joy.

The one-hour Nature documentary Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story was released on PBS stations in January 2011. It includes a collection of archival footage and an exploration into the lives of Joy and George Adamson during the years following release of the film.

So do you remember Born Free or any of the spinoffs? I wasn’t aware of either of these but I’d really like to see 1999’s To Walk with Lions and the documentary Elsa’s Legacy.

Here is the beautiful award-winning musical score by John Barry from the original soundtrack, with stunning photography as a backdrop:

And here is the song Born Free which has some interesting background: “Born Free” is a popular song with music by John Barry, and lyrics by Don Black. Written for the 1966 film, it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Lyricist Don Black managed British singer Matt Monro at the time, and he and Barry asked him to record the song for the film’s soundtrack. The producers of the film considered the song uncommercial, however, and deleted it from the print shown at its Royal Command premiere in London. When Monro, who attended the event, made Black aware of the edit, they successfully lobbied the producers to restore it. Monro’s interpretation appeared over the closing credits in a shortened version recorded especially for the film, which enabled it to qualify for the Academy Award. Monro’s complete commercial recording was released on the film’s soundtrack album and became the singer’s signature tune for the remainder of his career. (Roger Williams, Andy Williams, and Frank Sinatra all recorded cover versions).

And last but not least:

Mysterious Island Mysterious Island (in the UK: Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island) is a 1961 science fiction adventure film about Civil War prisoners who escape in a balloon and then find themselves stranded on a remote island populated by giant mutated animals.

The novel on which the film is based, the 1874 novel The Mysterious Island (L’Île mystérieuse) by Jules Verne, is a sequel to two other novels by Jules Verne, In Search of the Castaways (1867) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870). The first book featured the island, the pirates and a character Tom Ayrton who was marooned on a nearby island. The second book featured Captain Nemo and the Nautilus presumed lost in the maelstrom at the end of that novel. In The Mysterious Island (1874) after the escapees’ balloon landed on the island, among many adventures, they encountered Ayrton alive, fought the pirates and discovered that Captain Nemo was their benefactor and the island the base for the Nautilus.

Mysterious Island 1961 movie poster

Shot in Catalonia, Spain (the beach scenes) and at Shepperton Studios in Shepperton, England (the escape from the confederate prison using the observation balloon), the film serves as a showcase for Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation effects. Those crazy giant creatures! I was fascinated by all the giant mutant animals in this movie. Interestingly, all the model creatures except the giant bird (which was re-purposed for use as the Ornithomimus in The Valley of Gwangi in 1969) still exist.

Mysterious Island 1961 movie poster

Like several of Harryhausen’s classic productions, the musical score was composed by the supremely talented Bernard Herrmann, who has an impressive career, including collaborations with Orson Welles and the great Alfred Hitchcock. In 1975 Bernard Herrmann arranged a suite from the film score. He recorded the suite in London at Kingsway Hall conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. The suite was the first of three suites on the London Phase 4 album THE MYSTERIOUS FILM WORLD OF BERNARD HERRMANN. The suite contains the cues “Prelude”, “The Balloon”, “The Giant Crab”, “The Giant bee” and “The Giant Bird”.

The artwork for the cover of the LP is the work of artist Dennis Pohl. (Note: this is a 14- minute instrumental score suite):

Be sure to check out the following original trailer for this 1961 sci-fi thrill-fest. If you remember this film, which mutant animal scene was your favorite? I always liked the scene where the man and woman are being sealed into the honeycomb by the giant bee. This trailer teases that scene. And the big chicken that jumps over the fence cracks me up: Everybody runs and makes sure to close the fence gate behind them and then the monster chicken just jumps right over it. Lol. You can see that in this trailer too. Also the giant crab that the men are trying to fight off with wooden sticks…

 

That wraps up this Monday’s Music Moves Me post. Hope you enjoyed the throwback to my childhood with my favorite movies. Were any of these your favorites? What others stand out in your memory as favorites?

Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below: