It’s time for another Monday’s Music Moves Me. With it almost being mid-February, this is the VALENTINE’S EDITION with a theme of Love Songs. I’ve chosen to highlight some (ah, sorry, more like A TON) of my favorite Rock Love Songs.
As you gear up for your Valentine’s Day love-fest this week, enjoy my Rock Love Songs playlist of 41 fantastic love songs and ballads. There’s a s**tload of information and fun facts about each of the songs. It’s ridiculously long (but it’s a good resource!) which will take forever to read through, so just click on the playlist, let the music begin and then pick and choose which songs you want to know more about.
Something by The Beatles, written by George Harrison – “Something” is a song by the Beatles, written by George Harrison and released on the band’s 1969 album Abbey Road. It was also issued as a single coupled with another track from the album, “Come Together”. “Something” was the first Harrison composition to appear as a Beatles A-side, and the only song written by him to top the US charts before the band’s break-up in April 1970.
The song drew high praise from the band’s primary songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney; Lennon stated that “Something” was the best song on Abbey Road, while McCartney considered it the best song Harrison had written. As well as critical acclaim, the single achieved commercial success, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and making the top five in the United Kingdom. The song has been covered by over 150 artists, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday”. Artists who have covered the song include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, James Brown, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Ike & Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Isaac Hayes, Julio Iglesias and Neil Diamond. Harrison said his favorite version of the song was James Brown’s, which he kept in his personal jukebox.
George Harrison began writing “Something” in September 1968, during a session for the Beatles’ self-titled double album, commonly known as “the White Album.” In his autobiography, I, Me Mine, he recalls working on the melody on a piano, while Paul McCartney carried out overdubs in a neighboring studio at London’s Abbey Road Studios. Harrison put the composition “on ice” at first, believing that with the tune having come to him so easily, it might have been the melody from another song. In I, Me, Mine, he adds that the middle eight for “Something” “took some time to sort out”.
The song’s opening lyric was taken from the title of “Something in the Way She Moves”, a track by Harrison’s fellow Apple Records artist James Taylor. While musically Harrison imagined the composition in the style of Ray Charles, his inspiration for “Something” was his wife, Pattie Boyd. In her 2007 autobiography, Wonderful Today, Boyd recalls: “He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful …” Boyd discusses the song’s subsequent popularity among other recording artists and concludes: “My favorite [version] was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in the kitchen at Kinfauns.”
Having begun to write love songs that were directed at both God and a woman, with his White Album track “Long, Long, Long”, Harrison later cited alternative sources for his inspiration for “Something”. In early 1969, according to author Joshua Greene, Harrison told his friends from the Hare Krishna Movement that the song was about the Hindu deity Krishna; in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, he said of his approach to writing love songs: “all love is part of a universal love. When you love a woman, it’s the God in her that you see.” By 1996, Harrison had denied writing “Something” for Boyd, adding that “everybody presumed I wrote it about Pattie” because of the promotional film accompanying the release of the Beatles’ recording, which showed each member of the band with his respective wife.
Author Ian Inglis writes of the confident statements that Harrison makes throughout regarding his feelings for Boyd. Referring to lines in the song’s verses, Inglis writes: “there is a clear and mutual confidence in the reciprocal nature of their love; he muses that [Boyd] ‘attracts me like no other lover’ and ‘all I have to do is think of her,’ but he is equally aware that she feels the same, that ‘somewhere in her smile, she knows.'” Similarly, when Harrison sings in the middle eight that “You’re asking me will my love grow / I don’t know, I don’t know”, Inglis interprets the words as “not an indication of uncertainty, but a wry reflection that his love is already so complete that it may simply be impossible for it to become any greater”. Richie Unterberger of AllMusic describes “Something” as “an unabashedly straightforward and sentimental love song” written at a time “when most of the Beatles’ songs were dealing with non-romantic topics or presenting cryptic and allusive lyrics even when they were writing about love”.
Angel by Aerosmith – “Angel” is a power ballad by American rock band Aerosmith. It was written by lead singer Steven Tyler and professional songwriting collaborator Desmond Child.
It was released in 1988 as the third single from the band’s successful 1987 album Permanent Vacation. It quickly climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the second highest chart performance for any Aerosmith single, behind their #1 smash “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.
Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler wrote this song with Desmond Child, who is one of the most successful songwriters of his time because Aerosmith was on the ropes after releasing two underperforming albums (Rock in a Hard Place (1982) and Done with Mirrors (1985)), John Kalodner of Geffen Records insisted that they bring in outside writers to help restore them to their former glory. The band balked at first (sharing songwriting credits can be costly), but were impressed when Child helped them refine their raucous rocker “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” into a surefire hit.
Child’s next composition for the band was “Angel,” which unlike “Dude” sounded nothing like Aerosmith. It’s a relationship song with none of the bawdy humor you would expect from the band. With Tyler pleading, “Come and save me tonight,” there is a wuss factor to it that horrified longtime fans. Tyler knew he was compromising, and won’t be putting the song on his highlight reel anytime soon. As John Kalodner explained in the band’s biography Walk This Way: “Tyler says that I ruined his career by making him write ‘Angel’ with Desmond.”
There was a huge upside to the song: it was their biggest US hit to that point, charting at #3 and earning lots of radio play.
This slick ballad was not typical of Aerosmith’s work, but the song was a hit and led to several successful slow songs over the next few years, including “Amazing” and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” Since the band had a huge catalog of rockers and a history of unruly behavior, they managed to avoid the Foreigner trap and maintain their status as a rock band despite the occasional forays into ballad territory. It helped that their next single was “Rag Doll,” which picked up the pace.
You might notice some similarity between this song and the early Aerosmith hit “Dream On.” When Steven Tyler sat down to write with Desmond Child, he played him the chord to “Dream On” to get them started. They had the bones of “Angel” together a short time later.
From the Beginning by Emerson Lake & Palmer – I love this song! “From the Beginning” is a song written by Greg Lake and performed by the progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was released on their 1972 album Trilogy. It hit #39 in the US and was their highest charting single there.
A heartfelt song of devotion, Lake claims that the inspiration for the song has left his memory. Says Lake: “Very often lyrics simply come about simply because of the way one feels at a moment in time. There is no earth moving moment of divine inspiration or grand plan and I’m sure that was the case with this song. Although very young at the time I sometimes had moments of reflection and maybe also perhaps a feeling that I could be a better person, I think this was just one of those.”
Lady by Styx – “Lady” is a 1973 rock ballad written and performed by the rock band Styx. It was first released on Styx II and was a local hit in the band’s native Chicago, but initially failed to chart nationally. The song gained success shortly after Styx left Wooden Nickel Records to move to A&M Records in 1974 as it began picking up airplay nationwide, eventually peaking at #6 on the Billboard Top 40 in March 1975.
“Lady” was written by Styx keyboard player Dennis DeYoung for his wife, Suzanne Feusi, the first song he ever wrote for her. His wife Suzanne was his high school sweetheart; other songs he wrote about her include “Babe” and “The Best of Times.” DeYoung’s marriage endured, even through a late ’90s health scare that ended his time with the band. He has often exclaimed how much he loves her and what an important part of his life she is.
DeYoung recounted to Contemporary Keyboard magazine for the January 1981 issue that the first time he ever played acoustic piano was when the band arrived at the recording studio to record “Lady” and saw the piano in the studio; DeYoung had written the song on an electric piano, but decided to try it out on the piano instead, and liked the sound so much that he switched to the piano for the recorded version. It didn’t get much promotion and went nowhere until a DJ named Jeff Davis on WLS in Chicago rediscovered the song when he heard it on a jukebox at a pizza place on the north side of Chicago. Determined to make it a hit, Davis convinced management to let him play the song on his Saturday Night show, which had an audience in 38 states and a few foreign countries. The song became a major hit on the station, spending two weeks at #2 on the WLS survey, and was ranked as the 29th biggest hit of 1975 on their year-end countdown.
This is the only song from the band’s four Wooden Nickel-era albums that is still performed live; all other material from those years has been long disowned by the band. Former lead singer Dennis DeYoung also performs the song regularly on his solo tours. At some of his solo concerts Dennis DeYoung would sing this with no other music or backup vocals except for his wife Suzanne, who was also one of his backup singers.
Love Will Keep Us Alive by the Eagles – “Love Will Keep Us Alive” is a song written by English musicians and songwriters Jim Capaldi, Paul Carrack, and Peter Vale. It was first performed by the Eagles in 1994, during their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour, with lead vocals by bassist Timothy B. Schmit.
Carrack had joined forces with Timothy B. Schmit and Don Felder of the Eagles for an ambitious, but ultimately unrealized, recording project. Schmit and Felder soon reunited with the rest of the Eagles and their Hell Freezes Over album, bringing with them one of the songs Carrack had co-written, “Love Will Keep Us Alive.” It was recorded by the Eagles and won an ASCAP award as being the most-played song in the US in 1995.
Felder, lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974 until his dismissal in 2001, had submitted a demo of ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’ long before it became a comeback adult contemporary and country hit in 1994 for a reformed Eagles. Back then, he was told by the Eagles’ manager that the material “wasn’t strong enough.” A second pass by the full band did the trick.
Although the song was never formally released as a single in the US, and thus was not eligible to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 under the rules then in place, it did spend three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in early 1995 and was No. 22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart. In the United Kingdom, “Love Will Keep Us Alive” was issued as a single and peaked at No. 52 on the UK Singles Chart.
Waiting for a Girl Like You by Foreigner – “Waiting for a Girl Like You” is a 1981 power ballad by the British-American rock band Foreigner. The distinctive synthesizer theme was performed by the then-little-known Thomas Dolby.
It was the second single released from the 1981 album 4 and was co-written by Lou Gramm and Mick Jones. It has become one of the band’s most successful songs worldwide, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on Billboard’s Rock Tracks chart. On the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, the song reached number 5. The song peaked at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart.
“Waiting for a Girl Like You” achieved a chart distinction by spending its record-setting 10 weeks in the number 2 position of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, without ever reaching the top. It debuted on the Hot 100 chart dated October 10, 1981. It reached the number 2 position in the week of November 28, where it was held off the number 1 spot by Olivia Newton-John’s single “Physical” for nine consecutive weeks, and then by Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” for a tenth week on January 30, 1982. Because of its chart longevity, it ended up being the number 19 song on the Top 100 singles of 1982. The song was the band’s biggest hit until “I Want to Know What Love Is” hit number 1 in 1985.
In his 2013 autobiography, Jukebox Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll, written with Scott Pitoniak, Lou Gramm recounts the unusual inspiration behind his fevered singing in Foreigner’s breakthrough ballad, “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”
“This gorgeous, dark haired woman – an absolute knockout – walked into the control room and plopped herself down in the front row of theater seats near the glass that looks out into the studio where I was singing. I figured she was someone Mick (guitarist/cowriter Mick Jones) and Rick (bass player Rick Wills) knew, and to be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off her because she was so stunning. I began serenading her as if she were the girl I’d been waiting for all my life. I gave it my all for about 45 minutes, and just as I finished my final take, she smiled at me, waved good-bye, and waked out of the control room. Like a teenage boy with raging hormones, I walked into the control room and immediately asked ‘Who was that?’ The guys looked at me funny. ‘What do you mean,’ Mick said. ‘We thought she was somebody you knew.’ We all started acting giddy, barged out of the room, and jogged down the hallway in search of this mystery woman. We never did track her down, and to this day I have no idea who she was. All I know is that she inspired me to hit all the right notes for that ballad. I have never sung that song better than I did that day.”
Several months later, when I spoke to Lou, he acknowledged the story, and acknowledged that the mystery woman still hadn’t popped out of the woodwork to identify herself (actually, I imagine long lines of women appearing for that particular casting call, should Lou ever announce it). But as far as waiting for someone like her, both for the writing and the performing of the song, Lou did want to backtrack somewhat from his printed sentiments. “I mean, there’s always a certain amount of truth in the lyrics and things you’ve lived, and then you embellish it with a little imagination.”
But in fact, by that time he’d already found the girl he’d been waiting for. “Oh yeah,” Lou said. “Absolutely.”
You’re the Inspiration by Chicago – “You’re the Inspiration” is a song written by Peter Cetera and David Foster for the group Chicago and recorded for their album Chicago 17 (1984), with Cetera singing lead vocals. The third single released from that album, it reached number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1985, and also climbed to the top position on the adult contemporary chart at the same time.
From the band’s last album with Peter Cetera, this song celebrates someone who has finally found the person who inspires him.
David Foster, who became one of the biggest hit-makers of the ’80s and ’90s, wrote this song with Peter Cetera and also produced the album. In working with Foster, the band made some adjustments to their sound in the interest of achieving more hits. Three members of the band were primarily horn players, and they had little to do on most of the Foster/Cetera songs. The upside was huge, however, since the band found a new audience and was able to continue unabated for three more decades.
The official music video depicted the band performing intercut with scenes of embracing couples of varying ages ranging from young kids to a couple resembling Billy Idol and Madonna at the time. Lead singer Peter Cetera is seen wearing a T-shirt from the British goth band Bauhaus. I included a different video in my playlist but you can see the official music video here.
FUN FACT: Cetera and Foster wrote this song for Kenny Rogers. When Rogers didn’t record it, they rewrote it a bit and recorded it for Chicago.
Without You by Harry Nilsson – “Without You” is a song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British rock group Badfinger, and first released on their 1970 album No Dice. The song has been recorded by over 180 artists, and versions released as singles by Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994) became international best-sellers. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as “the killer song of all time”. In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.
Sadly, the story did not end well for Badfinger: Both Ham and Evans became despondent when they encountered various legal difficulties and committed suicide. Ham hanged himself in 1975 and Evans did the same in 1983.
Harry Nilsson, at the time best known for his hit “Everybody’s Talkin'” and for composing such hits as Three Dog Night’s “One”, heard Badfinger’s recording of “Without You” at a Laurel Canyon party, and mistook it for a Beatles song (Badfinger was signed to the Apple label, which was the Beatles label). After realizing it was not, he decided to cover the song for his album Nilsson Schmilsson in 1971. The song was released as a single in October 1971, and it stayed at number 1 on the U.S. pop chart for four weeks, from February 13 to March 11, 1972. The song also spent five weeks atop the U.S. adult contemporary chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1972.
In the UK, the song spent five weeks at number 1 on the British pop chart, beginning on March 11, and sold almost 800,000 copies. It went to Number One in several other countries, including Australia (for 5 weeks), Ireland (2 weeks) and New Zealand (2 weeks).
The single was produced by Richard Perry, who later explained, “It was a different record for its time. It was a big ballad with a heavy backbeat, and although many artists have cut songs like it since, no one was doing it then.”
Nilsson’s version added an orchestra and gave the song a dramatic production. Gary Wright who worked with Badfinger on George Harrison’s projects, played the piano. Also featured are Klaus Voormann (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and Tom Plovanic (acoustic guitar). The string and horn arrangements are by Paul Buckmaster.
When Nilsson recorded it, he initially played the song slow and dark, accompanied only by piano. Producer Richard Perry recalled to Mojo magazine April 2008 that he had to persuade an unwilling Nilsson to record it as a big ballad: “I had to force him to take a shot with the rhythm section. Even while we were doing it, he’d be saying to the musicians, ‘This song’s awful.'”
In 1973, Nilsson won the “Best Male Pop Vocal” Grammy award for the song. While Nilsson rarely gave live concerts, he did perform the song with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in September 1992.
FUN FACT (Well, not fun, but interesting): Mariah Carey’s version debuted at #1 in the UK in 1994 and hit #3 in the US. Nilsson died of heart failure on January 15, 1994 – the same day Carey’s version was released in the US. Later in 1994, Nilsson’s version was reissued to take advantage of the renewed interest.
Here’s a FUN FACT: This song was featured in a 2016 television commercial for Heinz that first aired during the Super Bowl. In the spot, a pack of dachshunds dressed like hot dogs run toward a group of humans dressed as ketchup, mustard, and other sauces. The commercial campaign title was “The Wiener Stampede.” Do you remember this commercial?
Heaven by Bryan Adams – “Heaven” is a song by the Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams recorded in 1983, written by Adams and Jim Vallance. It first appeared on the A Night in Heaven soundtrack album the same year and was later included on Adams’ album Reckless in 1984. It was released as the third single from Reckless and reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985, over a year and a half after the song first appeared on record. The single was certified Gold in Canada in 1985.
The song was written while Adams served as the opening act on Journey’s Frontiers Tour. Adams had played over 100 dates with Journey during 1983. During that time, he and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance co-wrote “Heaven”, which was inspired by Journey’s hit “Faithfully”. It was recorded at the Power Station in New York City on June 6 and 7, 1983. Halfway through the recording session, drummer Mickey Curry – who had warned Adams about his limited availability that day – announced that he had to leave since he had committed in advance to a Hall & Oates session. Since the recording session for “Heaven” was running behind schedule, Adams called Journey drummer Steve Smith, who happened to be in New York City at the time and he filled Curry’s drumming position. The song first appeared on the soundtrack to the 1983 film, A Night in Heaven, although it was not released as a single at that time.
Adams was unconvinced that “Heaven” was suitable for his next studio album, Reckless, a feeling that was echoed by producer Jimmy Iovine, who was working with Adams at the time. Iovine thought the song was too ‘light’ for the album and recommended that Adams not include it. But at the last moment, Adams changed his mind.
The song provided Bryan Adams with his first number one single and third top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was number 24 on Billboard magazine’s Top Pop Singles of 1985.
Amanda by Boston – “Amanda” is a power ballad by the rock band Boston written by Tom Scholz. The song was released as the first single from the band’s third album, Third Stage, in 1986. This was the first single Boston released after a seven-year layoff. Remarkably, it was the first and only #1 hit for the band, whose songs “Don’t Look Back” and “More Than a Feeling” got constant airplay.
The song was written by Boston mastermind Tom Scholz, who was more concerned with crafting meticulous melodic rock than with pouring his heart out. The song is actually very romantic, with Brad Delp singing about telling his girl “I Love You” for the first time, which for most guys happens in a fit of passion, and in the famous Meat Loaf song, leads to a life sentence. This amorous spontaneity is typical of Boston’s music, which is all about feeling and living in the moment. “Amanda” was most likely chosen as a name because it scans so well, the perfect word to follow lines like “I’m gonna tell you right away, I can’t wait another day…”
Girls’ names ending in A have a great history in song, with Rhonda, Layla, Lola and Rosanna preceding Boston’s Amanda.
MTV launched in 1981, and once it caught on a few years later, just about every hit song had a video attached to it. This was one of the few exceptions, and the only #1 hit of 1986 without a video, since Boston didn’t make them for their songs.
Although the song did not have a promotional music video, “Amanda” became the band’s highest charting single in the United States and Canada. In the United States, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100 in November, 1986, for two consecutive weeks (the band’s only number 1 on the Hot 100), and topped for three consecutive weeks on the Mainstream Rock chart, in October of the same year, while in the latter the single topped RPM magazine’s Top Singles and Adult Contemporary charts
Boston’s first album was released in January 1977, and their second in September 1978. They were on schedule for a third album, which they started recording in 1981, when industry politics and creative differences shelved the project, and the band broke up, with guitarist Barry Goudreau releasing a solo album and drummer Sib Hashian joining Sammy Hagar’s band.
Before the split, however, Boston put a lot of effort into recording this song. In 1984, a bootleg copy of this song was leaked to radio stations. The band was still signed to Epic Records at the time, and someone at the label apparently delivered the 5-inch demo reel of the song to at least one program director at a small market station.
If the record was leaked in New York or L.A., it would have been pulled quickly as word got to Epic, but with the song circulating in small markets, it took a few weeks before Epic caught on. Charlie Mitchell, who was Music Director/DJ at one of these stations, explained to Forgotten Hits that jocks were instructed to talk over the beginning and end of the song so competing stations couldn’t steal it off the air. Said Mitchell: “We went along for a few weeks, playing our bootleg “Amanda”… the corporate PD had even copied it and sent it to the other couple of properties in our group. None were within earshot of a CBS Records (parent company of Epic) office so I guess everything was fine. Until it wasn’t. I was told that one of the other PD’s in our chain had gone ahead and reported “Amanda” as an add to Radio & Records, and the conversation went roughly like this:
R&R: “What new Boston record?!”
PD: “It’s called “Amanda”. I’ve got it here on a 5-inch reel.”
A cease-and-desist immediately followed. Apparently from Walter Yetnikoff himself to our corporate PD via telephone. And as we all know, when it finally came out for real, 2 1/2 years later, it was on MCA!”
Boston fared much better in the US than in the UK, where their slick sound and intergalactic album art didn’t catch on. This song didn’t even chart in Britain; the album reached #1 in the US, but only #37 in the UK.
After this song became a hit, the previous two Boston albums re-entered the US chart. Boston became one of the biggest catalog sellers of the ’80s and ’90s, when record companies would send you a bunch of albums for a penny if you signed up for their club. Were you a member of one of those clubs?? So many of us Baby Boomers were…
Harden My Heart by Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart” is song by rock group Quarterflash. It is a million-selling Gold-certified single and was featured on the band’s Platinum-selling Quarterflash album, released in 1981.
In this song, the singer finds the strength to leave her man, and is determined to do it without getting squishy. Written by their guitarist Marv Ross, it was a regional hit in the Pacific Northwest when the group called itself Seafood Mama. After a shuffling of the lineup and a name change to Quarterflash, the reissued single became a US Top 5 hit.
Something you don’t see too often: a female lead singer who also plays the saxophone part. Rindy Ross (wife of group member Marv Ross) from Quarterflash did just that on this song and their follow up single “Find Another Fool.”
Released the same year MTV went on the air, the video contains many random images that have nothing to do with the song, including jugglers, a little person, a makeup table in the dessert, well-dressed guys on motorcycles, and a sax solo in the rain. It was fairly common in the early ’80s to throw lots of disjointed scenes into the videos in an attempt to create a memorable image.
FUN FACT: Quarterflash took its name from an Australian slogan: “a quarter flash and three parts foolish.” I always wondered about that name. I have no idea what the Aussie slogan means though. Do you?
FUN FACT: Elton John rarely used opening acts at his concerts, but after this song hit the charts in 1982, he enlisted Quarterflash for the job.
The Flame by Cheap Trick – “The Flame” is a ballad written by British songwriters Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham. The song was first offered to English singer Elkie Brooks, who turned it down, and was then released by Cheap Trick, for whom it was a hit single in 1988. The song appeared on the band’s Lap of Luxury album. “The Flame” reached number one on the American Billboard Hot 100 in July 1988. It also reached number one in Australia and Canada.
Cheap Trick had a huge breakthrough with their 1979 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan, which brought “I Want You To Want Me” into the Top 10. In 1980, bass player Tom Petersson left the group, and for most of the decade they had a hard time finding another hit, with none of their singles reaching the Top 40.
Peterson returned to the group for their 1988 album Lap of Luxury, which included the big ballad that would get them back on the airwaves: “The Flame.” This was the dawn of the hair metal era, when the likes of Cinderella and Poison were cracking the charts wide open with similar songs. Cheap Trick already had the MTV-ready look and the rock pedigree, they just needed the song.
“The Flame” checked all the boxes, and although it wasn’t something the band would whip up themselves, they liked it better than the other option. In an interview with Gerry Galipault, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos explained: “The vice president at Epic told us he had these two songs and they’re both gonna be #1. He goes, ‘We got one for you and one for the group Chicago, but you can have first choice.’ He said, ‘I think the one ‘The Flame’ would be good for you guys.’ The other one was ‘Look Away,’ and it sounded like some girl singing on the demo. We really didn’t like that song anyway, so ‘Sure, we’ll do ‘The Flame.’ We’re game.'”
The song is a tender ballad where the singer tells a girl he will always be there for her. It was not typical of Cheap Trick’s sound, and was also their only hit not written or co-written by their guitarist Rick Nielsen. The song succeeded in exposing the band to a much larger audience. This was Cheap Trick’s only #1 hit, remaining at the top spot in the US for two weeks in the summer of 1988.
FUN FACT: Reportedly, the band disliked the song at first; Cheap Trick’s lead guitarist, backing vocalist and primary songwriter Rick Nielsen disliked the song so much on first hearing that he yanked it from the tape player and ground the cassette beneath his boot heel.
I Found Someone by Cher – “I Found Someone” is the name of a chart single originally written and composed for Laura Branigan by Michael Bolton and Touch keyboardist Mark Mangold. The song was a bigger hit for Cher in 1987, reaching the Top 10.
The most successful version of “I Found Someone” was released by American singer/actress Cher as the first U.S. and European single from her eighteenth album Cher and was released on November 19, 1987 by Geffen. The single was also released on VHS containing the concert version of the video. Cher’s version was produced by Michael Bolton. Fashion photographer Matthew Rolston’s full cover photo featured a slightly overexposed close-up of Cher’s face, gazing into the lens as she pushes back a mane of tight curls before a bright blue background.
The lyrics tell of a woman who has found someone else that is healing the heartache from a previous relationship and taking away her loneliness.
Part of a much-heralded musical comeback at the height of her movie career, a big-budget music video featured the singer-actress with her then-boyfriend Rob Camilletti. The couple were a big story in the tabloids at the time, as he was seventeen years her junior, and the video was the aspiring actor’s debut. The video was in heavy rotation on MTV and Cher’s version went to #10 in the U.S. and to #5 in the UK.
Reason to Live by Kiss – “Reason to Live” is a song by the American hard rock/heavy metal band Kiss. It is featured on the group’s 1987 studio album Crazy Nights. Written by singer/guitarist Paul Stanley and professional songwriter Desmond Child, “Reason to Live” is a power ballad, heavy on keyboards and production. The B-side is the Gene Simmons-helmed album track “Thief in the Night”.
The song’s official music video (directed by Marty Callner and produced by Callner, Doug Major and Bill Brigode) received airplay on MTV. It shows the band playing the song live on a large, well-lit stage, interspersed with shots of a young blonde woman (portrayed by Playboy Playmate and model Eloise Broady), who is visibly distressed over relationship troubles with Stanley. She vents her frustrations by throwing a wine bottle at a picture of the two of them and then burning it at the end of the video. When Stanley visits her house, she comes out of hiding and douses his Porsche 928 with gasoline before setting it on fire. It is implied that Stanley ended the relationship with the woman due to her unstable behavior.
The live portion of the video (band performing the song) was filmed in the Orange Pavilion in San Bernardino, California, while the scenes of the woman as well as her house were shot in Hollywood, California. The Porsche in the video was a gift from Simmons to Stanley, in appreciation of the latter’s dedication to the band. Simmons’ bass bears an image of him in his classic “Demon” makeup.
Released as a single in 1987, the song would prove to be a minor hit for the band. It made the Top 40 charts in the United Kingdom, and reached number 34 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. It also peaked at the 64 position on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.
Broken Wings by Mr. Mister – “Broken Wings” is a 1985 song recorded by American pop rock band Mr. Mister. It was released in September 1985 as the lead single from their second album Welcome to the Real World. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1985, where it remained for two weeks. It was released as the band was just about to embark on a US tour opening for Tina Turner. The song peaked at number four in the United Kingdom, the highest chart position the group ever achieved in Britain. “Broken Wings” became the first of two consecutive number ones of the band on the American charts, the other chart-topper being “Kyrie”.
This classic pop song was inspired by a book the lyricist John Lang read called The Broken Wings, which was written by the Lebanese poet-philosopher Kahlil Gibran. The book, which was written in 1912, is a story of a love that is doomed by social convention.
Its theme is echoed in this song: picking up the pieces of your life and moving on. There is a note of heartbreak, however, as the singer is asking the girl to spread her wings and fly away, hoping that love will bring her back.
John Lang wrote this song with Mr. Mister frontman Richard Page and guitarist Steve George. According to Page, they were at his home in California when the three of them came up with the song in about 20 minutes and recorded it on Page’s tape machine. The song is a mix of synth, digitally delayed guitar, bass and drums. The song’s hissing intro was an effect created by the sound of a crash cymbal played in reverse.
Released ahead of the album, the song went to #1 US in December 1985, marking a breakthrough for the band, whose biggest hit from their first album was “Hunters of the Night,” which peaked at #57. The follow-up single, “Kyrie,” also went to #1.
The video shows Richard Page driving a classic Ford Thunderbird convertible through a parched Los Angeles landscape. He comes to a church, where a hawk arrives for divine guidance (the scene: where Page is sitting in a church when a Harris’s Hawk flies in through the window and lands next to him on the pew and they exchange a gaze) and then continues his journey, which takes him to the ocean. The full band is also featured in performance scenes. Also appearing in the video are an unknown man and woman dancing tango. They are only shown from the waist down.
The black-and-white clip was directed by Oley Sassone, who would go on to direct episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In our interview with Sassone, he explained:
“The subtext of the story and what I wanted the audience to feel was our hero’s own backstory in his mind. The tango dancers, juxtaposed with the images of him getting lost while driving, tossing a map and instead following the hawk overhead was, symbolically, his own soul, his own voice deep inside telling him to carry on – to lead him to a new path, a new beginning.”
VH1 went on the air in 1985, the same year this song was released. The video did very well on the network, and also on MTV, which was only four years old but had become kingmaker in the industry.
I Wanna Know What Love Is by Foreigner – “I Want to Know What Love Is” is a power ballad by the British-American rock band Foreigner. It was released in November 1984 as the lead single from their fifth album, Agent Provocateur. The song hit number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is the group’s biggest hit to date. It remains one of the band’s best-known songs and most enduring radio hits, charting in the top 25 in 2000, 2001, and 2002 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Recurrents chart. This Foreigner song was ranked by Billboard as the #4 Billboard Hot 100 single of 1985. It was the band’s third Platinum single in the U.S. and their first and only Gold single in the UK. The song is also featured in a number of films.
Written and composed by Mick Jones, with an uncredited portion (somewhere between 5% according to Jones and 40% according to Gramm) by Lou Gramm, and produced by Jones and Alex Sadkin.
“I always worked late at night, when everybody left and the phone stopped ringing. “I Want To Know What Love Is” came up at three in the morning sometime in 1984. I don’t know where it came from. I consider it a gift that was sent through me. I think there was something bigger than me behind it. I’d say it was probably written entirely by a higher force.” — Mick Jones
The song has received positive retrospective reviews from critics, with Bret Adams of AllMusic writing: “It’s not hard to see why it became Foreigner’s first #1 single. Its dreamy, hypnotic feel is due in part to Lou Gramm’s soulful lead vocals and the New Jersey Mass Choir’s background vocals.”
“We did a few takes, and it was good, but it was still a bit tentative. So then they all got round in a circle, held hands and said The Lord’s Prayer. And it seemed to inspire them, because after that they did it in one take. I was in tears, because my mum and dad were in the studio too, and it was so emotional.” –Mick Jones on recording with the choir.
Love Bites by Def Leppard – “Love Bites” is a power ballad recorded by the English rock band Def Leppard in 1987 on the album Hysteria. It is Def Leppard’s only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 to date.
When record producer and songwriter Robert John “Mutt” Lange originally brought the song to the band’s attention, it was a country ballad, which the band thought sounded like nothing they had done before. The band then added power rock elements and emotive backing vocals similar to those used in R&B ballads at the time. The title “Love Bites” was originally used for a very different song that was eventually re-titled “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, and which appeared as a Hysteria B-side and later on the album Retro Active.
Following the huge momentum generated by “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, the song was released in August 1988 and quickly shot to the top of the U.S. charts for one week. The song also hit number eleven in the UK (their second best showing from the album). This is the only track from the Hysteria album with keyboards.
From Songfacts: The J. Geils band told us in 1980 that “Love Stinks,” but Def Leppard reminds us that it also bites. In this song, Joe Elliott has a lot of questions:
When you make love, do you look in the mirror?
Who do you think of, does he look like me?
It sounds like his girlfriend has taken up with another guy, but then it becomes clear that Joe is still in the picture:
When I’m with you are you somewhere else?
Am I gettin’ thru or do you please yourself?
Ah, seems she’s a bit disconnected when it comes to intimacy, and if there is another guy, he’s part of her fantasy. Joe has the opposite problem:
I don’t wanna touch you too much baby
‘Cos making love to you might drive me crazy
So she needs additional mental stimulation, and he can’t handle too much of her touch. Love bites indeed.
According to the song, here’s what love does:
Brings Me to My Knees
In our interview with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, he said of this song, “It was just a standard rock ballad but it had something else going for it. Lyrically, it kind of painted a picture, and in a song you always want to do that, paint a picture. ‘On a dark desert highway,’ the first line of ‘Hotel California,’ great song, it just paints an image for you straight off the bat and that’s the sign of a really good song. It takes you right there. ‘Love Bites’ did that as well.”
FUN FACT: A popular rumor about the song concerns the final seconds. After the line, “If you got love in your sights, Watch out, Love Bites,” what is seemingly heard is “Jesus of Nazareth, Go to Hell.” This rumor has been refuted by the band, most notably on a Hysteria documentary. The line is in fact producer Mutt Lange rambling in a Yorkshire accent, to the effect of “Yes it does, Bloody Hell,” with the aid of a vocoder.
Is This Love by Whitesnake – “Is This Love” is a song by English rock band Whitesnake. (btw, Whitesnake was the name of several of frontman David Coverdale’s solo projects after he left Deep Purple). “Is This Love” was released in the UK in March 1987 as the second single from their self-titled album. This mid-tempo rocker shows the sensitive side of David Coverdale, who wrote the song with guitarist John Sykes. Missing the typical Whitesnake swagger, this song finds Coverdale waiting by the phone for his girlfriend to call.
The single was a hit for Whitesnake, reaching number 9 in the UK Singles Chart and number 2 in the US singles chart, making it their second-biggest US hit after “Here I Go Again” which hit number 1. The number 1 spot at the time was held by “Faith” by George Michael. The single was reissued in 1994 to promote Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits. This version reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.
“Is This Love” has been a mainstay in Whitesnake’s live shows since 1987. As such, it is featured on several of their live albums.
The song was written by vocalist David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes during the album’s early writing process (which took place in the south of France), but it was long rumored that the song had originally been written for Tina Turner. Coverdale confirmed these rumors in the booklet of Whitesnake’s 20th anniversary edition, by saying:
Before I’d left [for the south of France] a friend at EMI had asked me for any ideas that would work for Tina Turner. So that was where the original idea for “Is This Love” came from.
FUN FACT: A music video was also made, featuring Coverdale’s then-girlfriend actress/model Tawny Kitaen. The videos for both this and “Here I Go Again” feature Tawny Kitaen. They both take place at 5:55 in the morning on city streets filled with fog.
The “Is This Love” music video depicts the band playing the song on a misty stage, intercut with scenes of Coverdale singing, Kitaen dancing and the two of them together. Due to Coverdale firing the other members of the band before the album was released, he is the only Whitesnake member present on both the recording and in the music video; this was the case for all music videos released for songs from the 1987 album. Wow! This version of the group was breaking up when the single was released, and Coverdale had to put together another band to go on the road to promote it.
Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon – “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is a power ballad performed by the American rock band REO Speedwagon. The single remained at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks from March 9 to March 23, 1985.
The song first appeared on REO Speedwagon’s 1984 album Wheels Are Turnin’. It was the group’s second number-one hit on the U.S. charts (the first being 1981’s “Keep on Loving You”, also written by Kevin Cronin) and reached number sixteen in the UK. “Can’t Fight This Feeling” has appeared on dozens of ‘various artists’ compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums.
In this song, a man is falling in love with a girl he has been friends with for a long time. When the band had difficulty coming up with songs for their Wheels Are Turnin’ album, they took time off so each member could write alone. Lead singer Kevin Cronin went to Molokai, Hawaii, during his “time off.” There he played around with a song that he wrote 10 years earlier but never finished. When he stopped tinkering with his composition, it had become a song about a person’s fear of change – even though he knows that he MUST change.
Kevin Cronin’s girlfriends have provided inspiration for several REO hits – he says this one is based on an amalgamation of these relationships, but the song has a deeper meaning.
“Really, what the song is about was about my inability to have the courage to express myself,” he said in a Songfacts interview. “I was brought up in an Irish-Catholic family, and you were taught to always keep a bright face, always act like everything was OK, even if maybe everything on the inside wasn’t so OK. So that’s something I’ve struggled with, and over the years have gotten better at.
At that time, the only way I knew to express those feelings was to write songs about them. I’ve learned over the years that it works better to talk to people! You can actually become closer to other human beings when you are vulnerable and express yourself and are free to tell the truth and to be honest and to be up front with your feelings. It does work. Back in those days, the best that I could do was write a song about it.”
Two videos were made for this song: one that shows them goofing around in a rehearsal space before performing it, and another far more elaborate video directed by Kevin Dole that shows a baby going through different life stages from birth to death. Heavy on compositing and special effects, it was cutting edge for 1984.
REO Speedwagon performed this song at the 1985 Live Aid concert; they followed Rick Springfield and they were introduced by Chevy Chase, mentioning that the song was a number-one single at the moment in the United States.
Keep On Loving You by REO Speedwagon – “Keep On Loving You” is a soft rock power ballad written by Kevin Cronin and performed by American rock band REO Speedwagon. It features the lead guitar work of Gary Richrath. The song first appeared on REO Speedwagon’s 1980 album Hi Infidelity. It was the first REO Speedwagon single to break the top 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, reaching the number-one spot for one week in March 1981. The single was certified Platinum for U.S. sales of over one million copies. It peaked at number seven in the UK Singles Chart. “Keep On Loving You” has been described as “a mainstay on most ’80s soft rock compilations” and has appeared on dozens of ‘various artists’ compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums.
This song is lead singer Kevin Cronin’s response after he found out his wife Denise had been cheating on him before they were married. Instead of leaving her, he decided that he would keep on loving her no matter what, as he made that promise:
When I said that I loved you I meant that I loved you forever
And I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you
Cronin called it, “The most painful song I ever wrote.”
An anthem of fidelity, “Keep On Loving You” is often cited as one of the more romantic songs ever written – VH1 included it on their Top 40 Love Songs show. It didn’t work out for Kevin Cronin though, as he and his wife split up a few years after the album was released. He re-married in 1992.
In a Songfacts interview with Cronin, he said:
“That song is a yin-yang thing, where there is obviously trouble in paradise in the verses, but I always believed that people are capable of changing, and that if your life runs into a tough spot, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to run from it. You can also look it in the eye, and if there is enough worthwhile in the relationship to keep it going, then you give it all you’ve got, and that’s what I did. Even in giving it all I got, at some point, we realized that it just wasn’t going to work. So when I wrote that line, I meant it. I tried my best, but it just didn’t happen.”
The title suggests a blissful love free from complications, leading some people to use it at weddings. Bad idea, says Kevin Cronin. “a lot of people over the years have told me how they played that song at their wedding and it was the first dance at their wedding, or it’s “their song” with their boyfriend or girlfriend,” he told Songfacts. “My first thought is always, ‘Wait. Did you listen to the verses of the song?!'”
REO Speedwagon was one of the first rock bands to score big with power ballads in the ’80s. They had the good fortune of being one of the hottest bands in America when MTV launched on August 1, 1981, so the network played their videos, even though they were low-budget affairs. With director Bruce Gowers, they shot four videos in one day, including the clip for “Keep On Loving You,” which lead singer Kevin Cronin said “made us look like even bigger dorks than we were.”
The video shows Cronin with a hot female psychiatrist. He explained in the book I Want My MTV: “Someone figured out that you had to have a hot chick in the video. The psychiatrist was this gorgeous model with librarian glasses. She was out of our league, big-time.”
Most of the band’s videos were dominated by performance footage, and they weren’t photogenic enough to compete on the network with the likes of Duran Duran, Van Halen and other acts who did a better job matching a picture to the sound. A few years into MTV’s existence, REO was out.
Before REO Speedwagon recorded this, they were known as a hard rock band. Keyboardist Neal Doughty initially had concerns about recording this love ballad, but his fears were allayed when this proved to be a breakthrough hit for the band. He recalled to Noisecreep in a 2011 interview:
“During the making of the Hi Infidelity album, most of REO Speedwagon was going through some kind of personal turmoil. I’m talking about divorces and all sorts of crazy stuff. I remember when Kevin played me ‘Keep on Loving You’ for the first time I was a bit apprehensive about recording it. You have to remember, up to that point we were known as a rock band and here was this soft song.
I wasn’t sure how our hardcore fans would react to a ballad. But then Gary Richrath pulled out his guitar, cranked his amplifier to 11 and started playing along with Kevin. From that point, it felt right. Gary and Kevin had such different writing and playing styles and it worked so great on ‘Keep on Loving You.’ Once that song hit radio, it exploded. We finally had the hit that our label and we had wanted for years. It changed our lives forever.”
Alone by Heart – “Alone” is a song composed by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. It first appeared via Steinberg and Kelly’s 1983 pet project, I-Ten, on Taking a Cold Look. It was later recorded by Valerie Stevenson and John Stamos in their roles as Lisa Copley and Gino Minelli, on the original soundtrack of the CBS sitcom Dreams in 1984. American rock band Heart made it a number-one US and Canadian hit in 1987. Twenty years later, Celine Dion recorded it for her album Taking Chances.
Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf – “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” is a love song performed by the American musician Meat Loaf in his solo career, preceded by “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” and followed by “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. It is a track off his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, written by Jim Steinman. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a million-selling Gold single from the RIAA. It stands as one of his career signature tunes, still enjoying recurrent airplay.
“Two out of three ain’t bad” is a trite cliché often used for comic effect. (“How was your date?” “He was tall, handsome, and incredibly boring.” “Well, two out of three ain’t bad.)
Jim Steinman, who was Meat Loaf’s songwriter, turned the saying into a song about the elusive nature of love. The song begins with Meat Loaf getting kicked to the curb by his girl, presumably because he won’t tell her he loves her. He makes the case that even though he will never love her, he’s good enough, since after all he does want her and need her, and happy endings are only for fairy tales.
We then learn that his commitment issues step from a previous relationship – one with the only woman he will ever love. She once left him with the same explanation: I want you, I need you, but I’ll never love you.
In a 2003 interview for the VH1 Ultimate Albums series, Steinman recalls:
“I remember Mimi Kennedy [a cast member of Jim’s then-current musical Rhinegold] telling me, she said, you know, when I was probably complaining why no one liked my stuff and couldn’t get a deal, she says, “Well Steiny, your stuff is so complicated. Can’t you write something simple?” And while she was saying that the oldies station was on the radio and it was playing that old Elvis song, ‘I Want You, I Need,’ whatever it was. ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You’, you know. I just started singing my own song but it was ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.’ She said, “Why don’t you write something simple like that, ‘I want you, I need you, I love you’?” I said, “Well I’ll try.” I don’t try to make them complicated. I remember going home and I tried so hard but the best I could do was: I want you, I need you but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you, don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad. So it was still a twist but it was my closest to a simple song, and one Elvis could have done.”
FUN FACT: Todd Rundgren produced the Bat Out Of Hell album. On this song, he used the other three members of his band Utopia: Kasim Sulton on bass, Willie Wilcox on drums, and Roger Powell on synthesizer. Rundgren played guitar and also sang backup on this one.
November Rain by Guns & Roses – “November Rain” is a power ballad by the American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. Written by the band’s lead singer Axl Rose, the song was released as a single in 1992 from their third studio album, Use Your Illusion I (1991). It features a sweeping orchestral backing and is one of Guns N’ Roses’ longest songs.
“November Rain” peaked at number 3 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the longest song in history to enter the top ten of that chart. The original version of this song was 25-minutes long, and was edited down to 8:59. It is the longest ever Top 10 hit and contains the longest guitar solo in a Top 10 single. Slash actually plays two guitar solos in the song.
The lyrics and the video are based on a short story by Del James called “Without You”. The story is part of a collection called The Language Of Fear, which was brought back to market in 2008 after being out of print. The new version of the book contains an intro by Axl Rose, who wrote: “Del James has a personal knowledge of most of the situations he writes about, and has a love of the gutter from having been there.” James contributed lyrics to two Guns N’ Roses songs: “The Garden” and “Yesterdays,” and has directed several music videos.
The video was directed by Andy Morahan (who had done the popular George Michael videos for “Father Figure” and “Faith,” and worked with GnR on “Don’t Cry” and “You Could Be Mine”).
A huge production, the “November Rain” video cost over $1.5 million to make, but reaped rewards for the band, as it got a lot of play on MTV. It stars actress and model Stephanie Seymour, Axl Rose’s girlfriend at the time. In the video, she and Axl get married with Slash serving as best man and the rest of the band in the front row. After the wedding, it starts raining and the next scene is Stephanie’s funeral in the same church.
Slash (from Q magazine, July 2004): “We got into doing these huge production videos and by ‘November Rain’ it was too much, just too involved. At the end of the day it was a great video but that’s when I started realizing that it was getting out of hand.” (You can read more about the production of this amazing video at a previous 4M post I did for the Autumn Songs theme).
Out of hand or not, it won for Best Cinematography at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, where it also received a Video Vanguard award. Guns N’ Roses performed this at the end of the show with Elton John on piano.
FUN FACT #1: The guy who crashes through the wedding cake around the 7-minute mark of the video is Riki Rachtman, host of the MTV show Headbangers Ball. He and Axl Rose were friends.
FUN FACT #2: The GnR albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were released simultaneously. This was a bold move, but the band was huge and the albums both sold very well. When they were released, Use Your Illusion II was the #1 album in the US, followed by Use Your Illusion I. The last time an artist had the top two albums at the same time was in 1974, when two Jim Croce albums held the top spots shortly after his death.
FUN FACT #3: Axl Rose was working on this as early as 1983. Former L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns said: “When we were doing that EP for L.A. Guns, like in 1983, he was playing ‘November Rain’ on piano. Way back then. It was the only thing Axl knew how to play, but it was his. He’d go: ‘Someday this song is gonna be really cool.’ And I’d go: ‘It’s cool now. But it’s not done, you know.’ And like anytime we’d be at a hotel or anywhere there’d be a piano, he’d just kinda play that music. And I’d go: ‘When are you gonna finish that already, you know?’ And he’d go: ‘I don’t know what to do with it.'”
Open Arms by Journey – “Open Arms” is a song by American rock band Journey. It was released in 1981 as a single from their seventh studio album Escape. Co-written by band members Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, the song is a power ballad whose lyrics are an empowering plea to a lover to forgive past wrongdoings and agree to start anew, a song about a couple who drifted apart but found each other again and realized how much they love each other. It is one of the band’s most recognizable radio hits and their biggest US Billboard Hot 100 hit, reaching number two in February 1982 and holding that position for six weeks.
Journey’s recording of “Open Arms” has been described as one of the greatest love songs ever written; VH1 named the song as the greatest power ballad of all time. Mike DeGagne of AllMusic has described it as “One of rock’s most beautiful ballads”, which “gleams with an honesty and feel only Steve Perry could muster.”
Jonathan Cain had begun writing the song while he was still a member of The Babys, but Babys vocalist John Waite turned down the melody as “sentimental rubbish.” Cain eventually finished the song with Steve Perry during the writing sessions for Escape, changing the key from A to D and changing the melody slightly, but it was almost left off the album; Journey’s guitarist Neal Schon reportedly disliked the song because “it was so far removed from anything [Journey] had ever attempted to record before”. Drummer Steve Smith recalls that Schon noted that it “sounds kinda Mary Poppins”, added to which the other members of the band were against the idea of performing ballads.
In 2005 Perry commented on the emotions he felt while producing Live in Houston 1981: The Escape Tour and listening to the band performing the song 24 years previously:
“I had to keep my head down on the console when “Open Arms” was on. There is one line in the song that I always wanted to be a certain way. I have ideals about certain things. The line “wanting you near” — I just wanted that line to go up and soar. I wanted it to be heartfelt. Every time it would come by I would just have to keep my head down and try to swallow the lump in my throat. I felt so proud of the song.”
In the Journey episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, Perry recalls the recording sessions for the song becoming an ordeal; Schon taunted Perry and Cain in the studio. But when the band performed it in concert for the first time during their Escape Tour in the fall of 1981, the audience was thunderstruck, much to Schon’s disbelief. After two encores, the band left the stage and Schon suddenly said, “Man, that song really kicked ass!” Perry recalled being incensed at Schon’s hypocrisy. “I looked at him, and I wanted to kill him,” he later said.
This third single from Escape not only went on to become the band’s highest charting single and sent album sales into orbit, but pioneered the entire concept of the power ballad. “Now everybody’s got to have one,” said Perry. “Don’t Stop Believin'” has become Journey’s most popular song, but it only charted at #9 in America; “Open Arms” was the group’s biggest hit on the Hot 100, reaching #2.
Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is the title of a power ballad song by American glam metal band Poison. It was released in October 1988 as the third single from Poison’s second album Open Up and Say… Ahh!. It is the band’s only number-one hit in the U.S., reaching the top spot on December 18, 1988, for three weeks (carrying over into 1989) and it also charted at #11 on the Mainstream Rock chart. It was a number 13 hit in the UK. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was named number 34 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”, #100 on their “100 Greatest Love Songs” and #7 on MTV and VH1 “Top 25 Power Ballads”.
Musically, the song starts quietly and features two guitar solos, one mellow and one fast. During the writing of the song, Poison had been playing at a cowboy bar called “The Ritz” in Dallas, Texas, accounting for the song’s recognizable references to cowboys in the chorus, along with the twang in Bret Michaels’ vocals, which give the song a country feel not often heard in power ballads composed by glam metal bands.
In an interview with VH1’s Behind the Music, Michaels said the inspiration for the song came from a night when he was in a laundromat waiting for his clothes to dry, and called his girlfriend (Tracy Lewis) on a pay phone. Michaels said he heard a male voice in the background and was devastated; he said he went into the laundromat and wrote “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” as a result.
On a Behind the Music special, Michaels explained the metaphoric meaning behind the rose and thorn in this song. He said that the rose was his career taking off, and the thorn was the fact that it was costing him his relationship with his girlfriend Tracy.
When the song first came out, it was a Dallas Country station that actually spun it first, before the rock stations picked the tune up. Michaels recalled to Billboard magazine: “This was back before anyone thought about a crossover. We had ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ at #1 Pop, #1 Rock, and Top 40 Country, which was unheard of.”
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is a power ballad performed by American hard rock band Aerosmith for the 1998 film Armageddon which Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler starred in. U2 was originally asked to perform this song for the movie – the idea for Aerosmith performing it only came after Liv was cast. The song got a huge bump from its placing in Armageddon, which was the top-grossing film of 1998.
Written by Diane Warren, the song debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (the first #1 for the band after 28 years together). It is one of three songs performed by the band for the film, the other two being “What Kind of Love Are You On” and “Sweet Emotion”. The song stayed at number one for four weeks from September 5 to 26, 1998. The song also stayed at number 1 for several weeks in several other countries including Australia, the Philippines, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It sold over a million copies in the UK and reached number four on the UK Singles Chart. In a 2008 survey conducted by the cable music channel Magic TV, this was voted by its UK viewers as the nation’s favorite love song.
The song helped open up Aerosmith to a new generation and remains a slow dance staple. Diane Warren wrote this song, which is about treasuring every moment spent with another person. Diane found inspiration for this song after hearing about an interview where James Brolin said that when his wife Barbra Streisand was away, he missed her even when he was sleeping. When she set out to write a song for Armageddon, she thought this was a good sentiment to express, since the film deals with the impending destruction of all on Earth.
This song extended Aerosmith’s reign as the hottest rock band of the ’90s. Their 1993 album Get a Grip contained four hit singles which also did very well on MTV. With a new generation of fans discovering the group’s back catalog, they were as popular as ever, selling out shows worldwide. Their follow-up album, Nine Lives, was a struggle to make and wasn’t released until 1997. It was far less popular, with none of its singles cracking the Top 25. Aerosmith could still fill stadiums, but had to come off the road in April 1998 when Steven Tyler tore his ACL in a microphone stand mishap during a show in Anchorage.
The band was on the wane and facing the possibility of empty seats when they resumed their tour at the end of the summer, but this song revived their fortunes. The tour resumed on September 9, when “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was the #1 song in America. The album title proved prescient, as once again they became the most popular rockers in the land, still cranking out hits while their contemporaries like The Rolling Stones were forced to lean on their legacies to sell tickets.
FUN FACT #1: The song is notable for having been nominated for both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song.
FUN FACT #2: British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury celebrated his upset victory on November 28, 2015 over Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany with some in-ring karaoke. “I promised everybody I’d sing a song after this fight,” Fury said. “So this is to my UK fans, my Irish fans, my American fans and my new German fans; and most of all, this is a dedication to me wife.” The newly crowned heavyweight champion then proceeded to belt out this song.
Considering he just went 12 rounds, it wasn’t a bad rendition. Joe Perry was impressed. “I thought it was great!” he told Vanyaland. “To belt it out like that… talk about being in shape. My hat’s off to him; and to sing to his wife… he’s a class act!”
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes” is a song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel from his fifth solo album So (1986). It features African musician Youssou N’Dour singing some choruses translated into his native Wolof. Gabriel’s lyrics were inspired by an African tradition of ambiguity in song between romantic love and love of God. According to Gabriel, the lyrics could refer to either the love between a man and woman or the relationship between a person and God.
“In Your Eyes” was not released as a single in the UK but it was released in the US as the third single from So, achieving strong radio airplay and regular MTV rotation. It reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks on September 13, 1986, and peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November.
This is one of the few slow songs that gets consistent airplay on rock radio. It was not real popular when it came out, but continues to get constant airplay on a variety of formats, as listeners never seem to tire of it.
The song was used twice in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything…, as well as in its trailer. An iconic scene from the film occurs when broken-hearted Lloyd Dobler serenades his ex-girlfriend, Diane Court, outside her bedroom window by holding a boombox up above his head and playing the song for her. Repopularized by its usage in the film, the song reentered the US charts but narrowly failed to crack the top 40 in its second run, reaching as high as No. 41.
Crowe says that Rosanna Arquette, who is believed to be the inspiration for the song, encouraged Peter Gabriel to consider allowing the film to use the song. The producers of Say Anything were charged about $200,000 to use the song, but it was worth the price as it became one of the most famous scenes in movie history. The scene became a cultural touchstone, which was a little strange for Gabriel.
In a September 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, discussing the 25th anniversary of So, Gabriel commented on the cultural impact of the scene,
“It definitely gave [the song] a second life, because now it’s so often parodied in comedy shows and it is one of the modern day Romeo and Juliet balcony clichés. I’ve talked to John Cusack about that. We’re sort of trapped together in a minuscule moment of contemporary culture.” In October 2012, as Gabriel played the first few bars of the song during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Cusack walked onto the stage, handed him a boombox and took a bow, before quickly walking off again. Cameron Crowe was also present at the concert and later tweeted “Peter Gabriel and John Cusack on stage together at the Hollywood Bowl tonight. Won’t forget that… ever.”
Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel – “Just the Way You Are” is a song by Billy Joel; it is the third track from his 1977 album The Stranger. It became both Joel’s first US Top 10 and UK Top 20 single (reaching #3 and #19 respectively), as well as Joel’s first gold single in the US. It was Joel’s first chart entry in the UK. The song also topped the Billboard Easy Listening Chart for the entire month of January 1978.
Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth. A pure expression of unconditional love, he gave it to her as a birthday present. Sadly, after nine years of marriage, Joel and Elizabeth divorced in 1982. Joel’s next two marriages didn’t work out either: he was married to Christie Brinkley from 1985-1994, and to Katie Lee from 2004-2010.
“Every time I wrote a song for a person I was in a relationship with, it didn’t last,” Joel said. “It was kind of like the curse. Here’s your song – we might as well say goodbye now.”
“Just the Way You Are” won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1979 ceremony. It was a breakthrough for Joel, whose biggest hit to this point was “Piano Man,” which reached #25 in the US.
Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: “I was absolutely surprised it won a Grammy. It wasn’t even rock ‘n’ roll, it was like a standard with a little bit of R&B in it. It reminded me of an old Stevie Wonder recording.”
After Joel recorded this, he didn’t think much of it, considering it a “gloppy ballad” that would only get played at weddings. He credits his producer, Phil Ramone, with convincing him that it was a great song. Ramone brought Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow into the recording studio to hear the song, and of course they loved it, which was good enough for Billy. On Australian TV in 2006, Joel confirmed: “We almost didn’t put it on an album. We were sitting around listening to it going naaah, that’s a chick song.”
Joel explained just how the song came to be to USA Today:
“I dreamt the melody, not the words. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going, ‘This is a great idea for a song.’ A couple of weeks later, I’m in a business meeting, and the dream reoccurs to me right at that moment because my mind had drifted off from hearing numbers and legal jargon. And I said, ‘I have to go!’ I got home and I ended up writing it all in one sitting, pretty much. It took me maybe two or three hours to write the lyrics.”
FUN FACT: Joel played this on a 1988 episode of Sesame Street where he appeared with the deaf actress Marlee Matlin. They pay a visit to Oscar the Grouch, where Joel sings an altered version of the song to the trash-can dweller while Marlin signs the lyrics. Joel makes it clear that Oscar is fine the way he is, as he sings:
Don’t go changing just to please me
‘Cause being friendly’s not your style
Don’t want to hear you saying “thank you”
I would hate to see you smile
Just be grouchy
You’ve done it pretty well so far
You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac – “You Make Loving Fun” is a song written and sung by Christine McVie of the British-American band Fleetwood Mac. It was released as the fourth and final 45 rpm single from the band’s album Rumours in 1977 (my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, just ahead of Tango in the Night). Its fourth top-ten hit, the song peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song was inspired by an affair McVie had with the band’s lighting director. During the recording of Rumours the marriage of bassist John McVie and keyboardist and co-singer Christine McVie was ending. Christine started seeing the band’s lighting technician Curry Grant and she penned this song about the relationship. Drummer Mick Fleetwood quipped to Q magazine June 2009: “Knowing John, he probably thought it was about one of her dogs.”
She apparently told her then-husband John McVie that the song was about her dog “to avoid flare-ups.” He found out later what it was really about. On the American Top 40 program of November 26, 1977, Casey Kasem described the song as “an emotional biography of the love lives of all five members.”
Christine McVie sang lead vocals on this track, which was one of four songs she wrote solo for the Rumours album. McVie had nothing prepared when the band started working on the album at The Record Plant studios in Sausalito, California. “I thought I was drying up,” she said in Q magazine. “I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day in Sausalito, I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that.”
Early tracking of the song was done, according to McVie, in the absence of Lindsey Buckingham, which allowed her the freedom to “build the song on my own”. The recording sessions were saturated with cocaine use. Buckingham played rhythm guitar, Nicks played tambourine. John McVie’s bass was rerecorded again later, and Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie dubbed Hohner Clavinet parts. In an interview with the New York Post she remarked that she wanted it to be the third US single from the album, but instead “Don’t Stop” was chosen, which boosted the album’s commercial success in the US and the UK.
“You Make Loving Fun” was a concert staple for Fleetwood Mac and was played during every tour involving Christine McVie from 1976 until 1997, a year before McVie’s departure from the band and retirement from touring. It has since been revived for Fleetwood Mac’s 2014-2015 tour when McVie rejoined the band.
You’re My Best Friend by Queen – “You’re My Best Friend” is a song by the British rock band Queen, written by bass guitarist John Deacon. It was originally included on the album A Night at the Opera in 1975, and later released as a single. In the US, “You’re My Best Friend” went to number sixteen.
Deacon wrote the song for his wife, Veronica Tetzlaff. He enjoyed a rather quiet home life, and particularly in the early days of the group he was very shy and quiet, unwilling to put his song suggestions forward.
This song features a Fender Rhodes electric piano, which was a popular choice at the time, with many rock songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan using the instrument. John Deacon wanted to write a song incorporating the instrument, but Freddie Mercury did not want to play it. “I refused to play that damn thing,” Mercury said. “It’s tiny and horrible and I don’t like them. Why play those when you have a lovely superb piano.”
So Deacon took the Rhodes home, learned to play it, and started writing this song.
In this song, he plays a Wurlitzer electric piano in addition to his bass guitar work. The characteristic “bark” of the Wurlitzer’s bass notes plays a prominent role in the song. During live performances, the band used a grand piano rather than an electric, and it would be played by Freddie Mercury, while Deacon played the bass guitar just like in the original recording.
The band answered Tom Browne on December 24, 1977 in a live BBC Radio One interview, regarding Deacon’s control of the piano for the recording:
“Well, Freddie didn’t like the electric piano, so I took it home and I started to learn on the electric piano and basically that’s the song that came out…when I was learning to play piano. It was written on that instrument and it sounds best on that. You know, often on the instrument that you wrote the song on.” — John Deacon
“I refused to play the damn thing [the Wurlitzer]. It’s tinny and horrible and I don’t like them. Why play those things when you’ve got a lovely superb grand piano? No, I think, basically what he [John] is trying to say is it was the desired effect.” — Freddie Mercury
The music video, directed by Bruce Gowers, shows the band in a huge ballroom surrounded by over one thousand candles, including a huge chandelier hung from the ceiling. The video was filmed in April 1976 at Elstree Studios, London. Additionally, Deacon is seen playing a grand piano rather than the Wurlitzer he used on the recording.
After Freddie Mercury died in 1991, Deacon became something of a recluse – he was involved in the posthumous album Made in Heaven, and on the 1997 single “No-One But You,” he retired from music and has declined to tour with the band on their subsequent tours with Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert. The band still maintains contact with him, and run decisions by him – according to Brian May, the rule is that if Deacon does not reply to an email, that’s his way of saying it has his approval.
The song was used in several TV shows and films such as Hot in Cleveland, Will & Grace, EastEnders, My Name is Earl, The King of Queens, the end credits of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Simpsons, Shaun of the Dead, Peter’s Friends, and The Secret Life of Pets.
Wild Horses by Rolling Stones – “Wild Horses” is a song by the Rolling Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
This started as a song for Keith Richards’ newborn son Marlon. It was 1969 and Keith regretted that he had to leave his son to go on tour. Mick Jagger rewrote Keith’s lyrics, keeping only the line “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” His rewrite was based on his relationship with Marianne Faithfull, which was disintegrating.
Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, the singer Marianne Faithfull, claims “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” was the first thing she said to Mick after she pulled out of a drug-induced coma in 1969. There are other theories as to Mick’s muse for this song, however. Jagger’s longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall in The Observer Magazine April 29, 2007, said: “‘Wild Horses’ is my favorite Stones song. It’s so beautiful. I don’t mind that it was written for Bianca.” (Not likely, since Jagger didn’t meet his future wife Bianca until 1970, which was after the song was recorded).
However, in the liner notes to the 1993 Rolling Stones compilation album Jump Back, Jagger states,
“I remember we sat around originally doing this with Gram Parsons, and I think his version came out slightly before ours. Everyone always says this was written about Marianne but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally.”
Keith Richards says, “If there is a classic way of Mick and me working together this is it. I had the riff and chorus line, Mick got stuck into the verses. Just like “Satisfaction”. “Wild Horses” was about the usual thing of not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be.”
Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney – “Maybe I’m Amazed” is a song written by Paul McCartney that was first released on his 1970 album McCartney. It was written in 1969 just before the Beatles broke up. McCartney wrote this song about his wife Linda. He credits Linda with helping him get through this difficult time. Paul never wavered in his love for Linda, and even made her part of his band so she could tour with him. Sadly, Linda died of breast cancer in 1998.
The studio version of this song was never released as a single (no tracks on the album were), but it is one of the most enduring songs on McCartney’s first solo album. Although most of his debut solo album was recorded at his home in London, McCartney recorded “Maybe I’m Amazed” entirely in EMI’s Number Two studio in Abbey Road, on the same day as he recorded “Every Night”. He played all the instruments: guitars, bass, piano, organ and drums. Although McCartney declined to release the song as a single in 1970, it nonetheless received a great deal of radio airplay worldwide.
A promotional film was made, comprising still photographs of McCartney, his wife Linda, stepdaughter Heather, and daughter Mary, which first aired in the UK on April 19, 1970 on ITV in its own slot, and as a part of an episode of CBS Television’s The Ed Sullivan Show.
In a review for the McCartney album on release, Langdon Winner of Rolling Stone described “Maybe I’m Amazed”, as “a very powerful song”, that states “one of the main sub-themes of the record, that the terrible burden of loneliness can be dispelled by love.” Winner continued to describe the track as “the only song on the album that even comes close to McCartney’s best efforts of the past. It succeeds marvelously.”
A concert version was released as a single in 1977 to promote the Wings Over America live album. Credited to Paul McCartney & Wings, it went to #10 in the US in April 1977 and reached #28 in the United Kingdom.
Regarded as one of McCartney’s finest love songs, it achieved the #347 position in the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list compiled by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2004. In a late 2009 Q&A with journalists held in London to promote his live album Good Evening New York City, McCartney said “Maybe I’m Amazed” was “the song he would like to be remembered for in the future.”
FUN FACT: McCartney, an animal rights activist, appeared on The Simpsons episode 3F03, “Lisa the Vegetarian.” McCartney helps Lisa become a vegetarian and tells her that if you play this song backwards, you hear a recipe for lentil soup. Over the closing credits of that episode, if you listen carefully, you can hear the backwards message. As an extra feature on The Simpsons DVD, you can hear McCartney read the recipe and say, “There you have it Simpsons lovers, oh and by the way, I’m alive.”
The lentil soup recipe Paul speaks backwards is:
– one medium onion, chopped
– two tablespoons of vegetable oil
– one clove of garlic, crushed
– one cup of carrots, chopped
– two sticks of celery, chopped
– half a cup of lentils
– one bay leaf
– one tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley
– salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
– two and a quarter cups of vegetable stock or water
With the exception of John Lennon, each Beatle has been on at least one episode of The Simpsons. George Harrison was on the episode “The B- Sharps” and Ringo was on the “The Letter.”
God Only Knows by the Beach Boys – “God Only Knows” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher (a British-American lyricist who co-wrote eight songs with Wilson) for American rock band the Beach Boys, released in May 1966 as the eighth track on the group’s album Pet Sounds. Two months later, it was released as the B-side of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in the United States. In other countries, “God Only Knows” was the single’s A-side, peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. According to historian John Robert Greene, “God Only Knows” led to the reinvention of the popular love song.
Genres attributed to “God Only Knows” include baroque rock, baroque pop, art pop, psychedelic rock, avant-pop, and experimental pop. Brian Wilson has said that he wrote the song as an attempt to match the standard of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, which was released in December 1965. In his recollection, he was under the influence of marijuana when he heard it and was “so blown away” with the album that he sat at his piano and began writing the song.
The song names God in its title and lyrics, unusual for a pop single of its time, as Asher recalled: “Unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one [in 1966] thought you could say ‘God’ in a song.” The sentiments expressed in its lyric were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any higher force, being a song about moving forward after loss. Wilson explained that his and Asher’s intention was to create the feeling of “being blind but in being blind, you can see more.”
The song is told from the point of view of someone contemplating life after death to their lover, as Asher describes, “‘I’ll love you till the sun burns out, then I’m gone,’ ergo ‘I’m gonna love you forever.'” Wilson explained that “God Only Knows” was “a vision that Tony and I had. It’s like being blind but in being blind, you can see more. You close your eyes; you’re able to see a place or something that’s happening.” He initially hated the opening line of the song as “it was too negative.” He eventually gave in after hearing the subsequent lyrics. In 1976, Brian said there was no one particular that the song was written for.
Jim Fusilli, the author who wrote Pet Sounds, the book that explores the album, the band’s history and his deeply personal reaction to Wilson’s plight and the deeper meanings of the songs, extrapolated that the song was “a mature proclamation of love and a desperate plea. And it’s a distillation of what much of Pet Sounds is about: the sense that if we surrender to an all-consuming love, we will never be able to live without it. And, though we’re uncertain that the reward is worth the risk, we yearn to surrender.” Fusilli also noted a closing phrase Wilson had once written to his wife in 1964: “Yours ’til God wants us apart.”
James Perone wrote: “While Wilson’s character may indeed be in love with the woman to whom he sings, there is a hint that part of this ‘love’ may be self-serving and part of a cycle of codependency.” Asher denied that the song alluded to suicide. He describes his interpretation:
This is the one [song] that I thought would be a hit record because it was so incredibly beautiful. I was concerned that maybe the lyrics weren’t up to the same level as the music; how many love songs start off with the line, “I may not always love you”? I liked that twist, and fought to start the song that way. Working with Brian, I didn’t have a whole lot of fighting to do, but I was certainly willing to fight to the end for that. … “God Only Knows” is, to me, one of the great songs of our time. I mean the great songs. Not because I wrote the lyrics, but because it is an amazing piece of music that we were able to write a very compelling lyric to. It’s the simplicity—the inference that “I am who I am because of you”—that makes it very personal and tender.
“God Only Knows” is frequently cited for referencing “God” in its title, a decision that Wilson and Asher agonized over, fearing it would not get airplay as a result. As Wilson’s then-wife Marilyn describes, “The first time I heard it, Brian played it for me at the piano. And I went, ‘Oh my God, he’s talking about God in a record.’ It was pretty daring to me. And it was another time I thought to myself, ‘Oh, boy, he’s really taking a chance.’ I thought it was almost too religious. Too square. At that time. Yes, it was so great that he would say it and not be intimidated by what anybody else would think of the words or what he meant.”
Asher explains that he and Brian “had lengthy conversations during the writing of ‘God Only Knows’, because unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a song. No one had done it, and Brian didn’t want to be the first person to try it. He said, ‘We’ll just never get any air play.’ Isn’t it amazing that we thought that? But it worked.” Wilson added that although he feared putting the word “God” in the title of the song, he eventually agreed to keep it, firstly, “because God was a spiritual word”, and secondly, because the Beach Boys would “be breaking ground.”
Music critic Jim DeRogatis states that, as was common in psychedelic rock, the spiritual invocations in “God Only Knows” express non-specific sentiments which could be addressed to any higher force, and that it is “less of a prayer than a sensitive meditation about moving forward in the face of loss”. Even though the Wilson family did not grow up in “a particularly religious household”, younger brother and bandmate Carl Wilson was described as “the most truly religious person I know” by Brian. Carl was forthcoming about the group’s spiritual beliefs stating:
“We believe in God as a kind of universal consciousness. God is love. God is you. God is me. God is everything right here in this room. It’s a spiritual concept which inspires a great deal of our music.” Gil writes: “It’s a love song, yes, but again, echoing its classical forebears, there is something not quite secular about it. Yes, ‘God Only Knows’ is a common, casual phrase, but in this context it feels much more literal.”
Sung by his younger brother Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys’ recording was produced and arranged by Brian using an unorthodox selection of instruments, including French horn, accordions, sleigh bell, harpsichord, and a quartet of violas and cellos heard throughout the piece. And an impressive number of musicians: According to Brian, many of the musicians who were present at the “God Only Knows” sessions claim that those sessions were some of “the most magical, beautiful musical experiences they’ve ever heard”. He added that there were 23 musicians present during the “God Only Knows” sessions, though only 16 are credited as being present on the actual take that was used for the final song. At the time, 23 musicians was an astounding number of musicians for a pop record. All the musicians played simultaneously, creating “a rich, heavenly blanket of music”. A string section was overdubbed thereafter.
Brian originally intended to sing lead vocal on “God Only Knows” but after the instrumental portions of the song had been recorded, Brian thought Carl could impart the message better than he could. Brian reflected in October 1966, “I gave the song to Carl because I was looking for a tenderness and a sweetness which I knew Carl had in himself as well as in his voice. He brought dignity to the song and the words, through him, became not a lyric, but words.” At the time, it was rare for Carl to sing lead on a Beach Boys song.
“I was honored to be able to sing that one. It is so beautifully written, it sings itself. Brian said something like, ‘Don’t do anything with it. Just sing it real straight. No effort. Take in a breath. Let it go real easy.’ I was really grateful to be the one to sing that song. I felt extremely lucky.” —Carl Wilson
“God Only Knows” was voted #25 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the second of seven Beach Boys songs to feature (the first being “Good Vibrations” at #6), and was ranked by Pitchfork Media as the greatest song of the 1960s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.
Thank You by Led Zeppelin – “Thank You” is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin from their album Led Zeppelin II (1969), written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.
“Thank You” signaled a deeper involvement in songwriting by singer Robert Plant: it was the first Led Zeppelin song for which he wrote all the lyrics. According to various Led Zeppelin biographies, this is also the song that made Jimmy Page realize that Plant could now handle writing the majority of the lyrics for the band’s songs. Plant wrote the song as a tribute to his then-wife Maureen.
Jimmy Page played an acoustic guitar solo on this, something he rarely did. This became a showcase for John Paul Jones’ keyboard work during live shows.
FUN FACT #1: The song ends with a church organ that fades to silence and comes back about 10 seconds later. This creates a problem for radio stations, who must decide between accepting the “dead air” or cutting it off. Some stations run edited versions, with the silence eliminated. Some radio stations play this together with “The Lemon Song” because there’s no pause between them on the album.
FUN FACT #2: The lyrics, “If the sun refuse to shine” and “When mountains crumble to the sea” came from a Jimi Hendrix song called “If 6 Was 9.”
Your Song by Elton John – “Your Song” is a song composed and performed by English musician Elton John with lyrics by his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin. It originally appeared on John’s self-titled second studio album (1970). The song was released in the United States in October 1970 as the B-side to “Take Me to the Pilot”. Both received airplay, but “Your Song” was preferred by disc jockeys and replaced “Take Me to the Pilot” as the A-side, eventually making the top 10 in several countries.
This was Elton’s first single to chart. Before he hit it big, he worked as a songwriter and studio musician, and for a time was the warm-up act for Three Dog Night, who recorded this song on their 1970 album It Ain’t Easy (they had previously recorded Elton’s “Lady Samantha”). When it looked like Elton might finally make it in the States with his own version of “Your Song,” Three Dog Night chose not to release it as a single in an effort to give this young upstart a chance to make it on his own. Way cool. I’ve always liked the Three Dog Night and now I like them even more!
This was one of the first songs Elton John wrote with Bernie Taupin. They met after a record company gave John some of Taupin’s lyrics to work with. Eventually, they both moved into John’s parents’ house, where they started working together. Bernie wrote the words for this song over breakfast at Elton’s parents’ house, where he was staying. The original lyrics have coffee stains on them. “The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s apartment in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I recall, on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper,” said Taupin. Elton then wrote the music in about 20 minutes, as he often did with Taupin’s lyrics in their early days.
The song was written in 1967, when Bernie Taupin was 17 (“hence the extraordinarily virginal sentiments,” he has said). Elton has said that this song is not about anyone in particular, so Taupin has refused to reveal the identity of the person – if such person exists – who inspired this song. He explained in a 1989 interview with Music Connection:
“It’s like the perennial ballad ‘Your Song,’ which has got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music, but I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve.
Now I could never write that song again or emulate it because the songs I write now that talk about love coming from people my age usually deal with broken marriages and where the children go. You have to write from where you are at a particular point in time, and ‘Your Song’ is exactly where I was coming from back then.”
Elton appeared on US TV for the first time performing this on The Andy Williams Show. He was shy and dressed very plain, which changed a few years later when he became known for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant personality.
After hearing “Your Song” John Lennon said Elton was “The first new thing that’s happened since we (The Beatles) happened.” They ended up becoming good friends.
This song helped alter the music landscape in the early ’70s. After it came out, singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King had a lot of success with heartfelt songs featuring a prominent vocal and a soft piano or guitar.
Both Elton John and Bernie Taupin agree that this is one of their best efforts. Said Taupin:
“I think ‘Your Song’ is a gem. Our classic, I’m not sure. I’ll let others decide that. But it’s like an old friend, it means so many things on equally as many levels. It’s certainly proved its worth, and I’ve heard it sung a million times. It’s like a good dog, it’s always there.”
Elton performs this at all his concerts. He once said of this song: “I don’t think I’ve written a love song as good since.” He has called it “A perfect song,” and says that the older he gets, the more the lyrics resonate with him.
FUN FACT #1: Elton’s 1975 song “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” is about the writing of this song.
FUN FACT #2: Billy Joel performed this with Elton at the 2001 “Concert For New York” to benefit victims of the World Trade Center attacks. Unfortunately it was not included on the CD of the show.
Elton performed this at the “Concert for Diana” on July 1, 2007. It was the first song in the program.
FUN FACT #3: This was featured in an episode of The Simpsons when Apu gave his wife a present every day of the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. This made Homer and the other men of Springfield very upset, and when they heard that Elton John was coming to town, they kidnapped him, thinking he (Elton) was there for Apu. Elton performed this song at the end of the episode with the lyric “This one’s from Apu” in place of “This one’s for you.”
FUN FACT #4: Elton John had played keyboards on several of the Hollies’ tracks, including their hit song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and the English band had hoped to record this song themselves. “We knew Reg [Elton John’s real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight] because he was a staff writer with a music publisher we used. He was writing songs well before he became famous,” recalled their guitarist/vocalist Tony Hicks to The Daily Mail June 15, 2013. “One was ‘Your Song.’ I thought it would be a good one for the Hollies, and asked the publisher for permission to record it. He told me Elton had recorded it himself and it was due to be released in the US. He said, ‘But it probably won’t happen for him, so wait until it’s all over.'”
At that time Elton had yet to break into the charts. “Well, it did happen – ‘Your Song’ became Elton’s first big hit,” added Hicks, “and one that’s unfailingly identified with him. But it so easily could have been Our Song.” Interesting.
Layla by Derrick & the Dominoes – “Layla” is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally released by their blues rock band Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (November 1970). Its famously contrasting movements were composed separately by Clapton and Gordon.
The song was inspired by a love story that originated in 7th-century Arabia and later formed the basis of The Story of Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, because it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, young girl and went crazy and so could not marry her. In his autobiography, Clapton states, “Ian Dallas told me the tale of Layla and Majnun [sic], a romantic Persian love story in which a young man, Majnun, falls passionately in love with the beautiful Layla, but is forbidden by her father to marry her and goes crazy with desire.” The song was further inspired by Clapton’s then unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison of the Beatles. Clapton and Boyd would eventually marry.
“Layla” was unsuccessful on its initial release. The song has since experienced great critical and popular acclaim, and is often hailed as being among the greatest rock songs of all time. Two versions have achieved chart success, the first in 1972 and the second (without the piano coda) 20 years later as an acoustic Unplugged performance by Clapton. In 2004, “Layla” was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and the acoustic version won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.
Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Our House” is a song written by British singer-songwriter Graham Nash and recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their album Déjà Vu (1970). The single reached #30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on the Cash Box Top 100. The song, “an ode to countercultural domestic bliss”, was written while Nash was living with Joni Mitchell, recording both Crosby, Stills & Nash and Déjà Vu.
The song originates in a domestic event that took place while Graham Nash was living with Joni Mitchell (and her two cats) in her house on Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles), after they had gone out for breakfast and had bought an inexpensive vase on Ventura Boulevard. Nash wrote the song in an hour, on Mitchell’s piano.
In October 2013, in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air”, Nash elaborated:
Well, it’s an ordinary moment. What happened is that Joni [Mitchell] and I – I don’t know whether you know anything about Los Angeles, but on Ventura Boulevard in the Valley, there’s a very famous deli called Art’s Deli. And we’d been to breakfast there. We’re going to get into Joan’s car, and we pass an antique store. And we’re looking in the window, and she saw a very beautiful vase that she wanted to buy… I persuaded her to buy this vase. It wasn’t very expensive, and we took it home. It was a very grey, kind of sleety, drizzly L.A. morning. And we got to the house in Laurel Canyon, and I said – got through the front door and I said, you know what? I’ll light a fire. Why don’t you put some flowers in that vase that you just bought? Well, she was in the garden getting flowers. That meant she was not at her piano, but I was… And an hour later ‘Our House’ was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.
In the same interview, Nash was asked about the harmonies in the song: “It’s me and David [Crosby] and Stephen [Stills] doing our best. That’s all we ever do. You know, we’re lucky enough to be able to do, you know, anything that we want to do, musically. And, you know, these two guys are incredible musicians. Crosby is one of the most unique musicians I know, and Stephen Stills has got this blues-based, South American kind of feeling to his music. And I’m this, you know, Henry VIII guy from England… You know, it’s not supposed to work, but it does, somehow.”
Nights in White Satin by Moody Blues – “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.
Band member Justin Hayward wrote and composed the song at age 19 in Swindon, and titled the song 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.”
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 “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”.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us by Jefferson Starship – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is a song co-written by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren, recorded by the American rock band Starship in 1986. It is a duet featuring Starship vocalists Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas. Featured as the theme to the romantic comedy film Mannequin, it hit No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1987 and reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks the following month and became the UK’s 2nd biggest selling single of 1987. The song also reached the top 10 in six European countries. The single became the first number one single by songwriter Diane Warren. At the time, it made Grace Slick (aged 47) the oldest woman to have a number one single in the United States, though the record was later broken by Cher’s “Believe” in 1999 (aged 52).
The power ballad also received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Song” at the 60th Academy Awards. In addition to appearing on the Mannequin soundtrack, the song was also released on Starship’s album No Protection in July 1987. The music video was released in late 1986 to promote Mannequin.
In a radio interview, Albert Hammond said that the idea for the song came from his impending marriage to his live-in girlfriend of seven years, after his divorce from his previous wife was finalized. He had said to Diane Warren, “It’s almost like they’ve stopped me from marrying this woman for seven years, and they haven’t succeeded. They’re not gonna stop me doing it.” The song has been considered “feel good” propelled by a strong synthesizer beat.
FUN FACT: The song had played a major role in 1993 for the Montreal Canadiens NHL team during their 24th conquest of the Stanley Cup. While driving home after a lost game, head coach Jacques Demers heard the song playing on the radio and realized it was an empowering song. The next day, he brought to the Montreal Forum a cassette tape with the song on it and distributed among players a small card saying “We’re on a mission, nothing’s gonna stop us”. They soon started to win. He played the song throughout all the playoff games and they eventually won the Stanley Cup that year, over Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in the Finals.
FUN FACT: A music video (released in 1987) was produced for the song. It shows Mickey Thomas pursuing a mannequin come to life, played by Grace Slick, wrapped around footage from the film. Meshach Taylor, who plays window dresser Hollywood Montrose in the film, makes a cameo. It has more than 25 million views on YouTube as of October 20, 2017.
Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton – “Wonderful Tonight” is a ballad written by Eric Clapton. It was included on Clapton’s 1977 album Slowhand. Clapton wrote the song about Pattie Boyd. The female vocal harmonies on the song are provided by Marcella Detroit (then Marcy Levy) and Yvonne Elliman.
On 7 September 1976, Clapton wrote “Wonderful Tonight” for Pattie Boyd while waiting for her to get ready to attend Paul and Linda McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly party. Of “Wonderful Tonight”, Boyd would say: “For years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it.” The song is mentioned in her autobiographical book Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me.
You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker – “You Are So Beautiful” is a song written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher. Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys contributed to the song’s genesis, but his official credit was omitted. It was first recorded by Preston and made popular by Joe Cocker.
Preston’s original version first appeared on his album The Kids & Me (1974) and as the B-side on the 45 rpm pressing of his pop hit, “Struttin'”. Cocker’s producer, Jim Price, created a slowed-down arrangement for Cocker’s version, which first appeared on the album, I Can Stand a Little Rain (released later in 1974). In 1975, the Joe Cocker version was released as a single and peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and number 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The Cocker version helped the album become successful and was his biggest hit until his duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong”.
Wow, that was a heavy dose of love songs! Those were my favorites. What are yours? Tell me in the Comments below. Did you find anything particularly interesting in the information shared here?
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by JAmerican Spice, Stacy Uncorked and Curious as a Cathy. Be sure to stop by the hosts and visit the other participants.