Welcome to Monday’s Music Moves Me! As this month’s Honorary Co-Hostess, I’m excited to be presenting today’s theme:
SONGS WITH FINGER-SNAPS AND HAND-CLAPS!
I picked this theme a few months ago and have since been trying to come up with my favorite songs utilizing finger-snaps and hand-claps as essential song elements. So let’s get started and I’ll share with you what I came up with from memory and also through the help of Google, Wikipedia and other music research sites.
The very first song I thought of is one that brings back memories from childhood. The finger-snapping is always what stood out to me most and I heard it frequently as I was growing up. For those who hear songs and get them stuck in their heads (which can sometimes be quite annoying), this particular song, the first in my playlist, makes for an enjoyable earworm, that catchy song or tune that runs continually through a person’s mind.
Here is my playlist of Finger-Snapping and Hand-Clapping songs. Click on it to begin play and then, if you’d like, take a few minutes to read about some cool facts that I discovered while on this snappin’ clappin’ slappin’ journey. Or not. You can just Press & Play too. Whatever you wish, it’s all here for your enjoyment and information.
King of the Road by Roger Miller (1965) – “King of the Road” is a song written and originally recorded in November 1964 by country singer Roger Miller. The lyrics tell of the day-to-day life of a vagabond hobo who, despite being poor (a “man of means by no means”), revels in his freedom, describing himself humorously as the “king of the road”.
This song was a popular crossover record as it hit No. 1 on the US Country chart, No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the Easy Listening surveys. It was also No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart, and in Norway. Miller recalled that the song was inspired when he was driving and saw a sign on the side of a barn that read, “Trailers for sale or rent”. This would become the opening line of the song.
On Roger Miller’s website, it explains that Miller wrote this song over a 6-week span, beginning on a 1964 Midwest TV tour. He wrote the first verse when he saw a “Trailers for Sale or Rent” sign on the road outside Chicago. A few weeks later, he bought a statuette of a hobo in Boise, Idaho airport gift shop and stared at it until he had completed the song.
Miller has given at least one other explanation for how he came up with the song, however. When he was the co-host on the Mike Douglas Show August 11, 1969, he revealed that the idea for “King Of The Road” came when he was driving in Indiana and saw a sign offering trailers for sale or rent, and it stuck in his mind. Said Miller,
“I was doing a show in a place you have probably never heard of called Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and I saw a statue of a hobo in a cigar shop where I was staying. I purchased it and took it to my room and wrote the song.”
So we know there was a sign and a hobo statue, but where they came from is unclear. Miller would sometimes introduce the song by saying, “Here’s a song I wrote on a rainy night in Boise, Idaho,” which is much more identifiable for American listeners (especially in Nashville) than Kitchener, Ontario. Miller’s widow says that she’s not sure, and the Kitchener story could very well be true).
FUN FACT: Roger Miller opened two “King of the Road” Motor Inns in the early ’70s – one in Nashville, and another in Valdosta, Georgia. Unlike the cheap digs Miller sings about in his song, however, these Motels were billed as “luxury accommodations” and had a very modern motif. At the Nashville location, a music club on the top floor became a popular spot for many local musicians to perform. Ronnie Milsap played there many times, and Miller would often play as well.
Fever by Peggy Lee (1958) – This tale of passionate love was originally recorded by a singer named Little Willie John. Born in 1937, he was one of the first R&B singers, fairly popular in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Although he was a major influence on soul singers of the ’60s, he remains relatively unknown today. His nickname came from his slight height – he was only 5’4″.
After stabbing a man to death, he was jailed for manslaughter and died in prison when he was only 30 years old. The cause of his death is disputed – with reasons given ranging from a heart attack, pneumonia, asphyxiation, or as the result of beatings received in prison. His songs have been covered by many artists. “Fever” was covered by Elvis, Tom Jones and Madonna but the most famous version is by Peggy Lee.
In May 1958, Peggy Lee recorded her cover version of the song in Hollywood, which featured significantly rewritten lyrics composed by Lee herself without credit. The uncopyrighted lyrics by Lee featured historical invokings (including the verses beginning “Romeo loved Juliet,” and “Captain Smith and Pocahontas”) are now generally thought of as a standard part of the song, and have been included in most subsequent covers of “Fever”.
Lee’s cover, most likely arranged by the singer herself (despite the official credit to conductor Jack Marshall) was a more slow-tempo version than the original; it was described as being in “torchy lounge” mode, accompanied only by bass (played by Joe Mondragon) and a very limited drum set (played in part with fingers by Shelly Manne), while the finger snaps were provided by the singer herself, by Howard Roberts, the guitarist for the date, who set aside his guitar for this number, or possibly even by the producer, Dave Cavanaugh. Lee’s rendition was further described as “smooth, sultry”.
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham! (1984) – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is a song by the British duo Wham! It was first released as a single in the UK in May 1984. It became their first UK and US number one hit. It was written and produced by George Michael.
The other partner of the Wham! duo, Andrew Ridgeley, lived at home with his parents even after Wham! made it big, which isn’t as lame as it sounds: they were on the road all the time, so it was easier than maintaining his own empty household (he and George Michael used a room in the house to make their demos). One day, Ridgeley needed a wake-up call, so he left a note for him mum on his door. He wrote, “Wake me up up,” and realizing he duplicated a word, finished the sentence with “before you go go.”
George Michael got a kick out of it and decided to use it as a song title. Michael put together a song called “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go,” and it became Wham’s first American hit.
A “go-go” is a dance club, and dancing is the theme of this song, which tells the story of a guy who is head over heels for his girl, and bummed when he finds out she went dancing while he slept. He asks that in the future, she wake him up before she goes.
The song opens with four repetitions of the word “Jitterbug,” with finger snaps in between. The jitterbug was a popular dance in the 1930s; combined with the finger snaps and lyrics that harken back to a more innocent time, it helps give the song a retro feel. Another throwback: the line “You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day,” which refers to the singer-actress who was popular in the ’40s and ’50s.
My Girl by The Temptations (1964) – “My Girl” is a soul music song recorded by the Temptations for the Gordy (Motown) record label. Written and produced by the Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, the song became the Temptations’ first U.S. number-one single, and is today their signature song. Robinson’s inspiration for writing this song was his wife, Miracles member Claudette Rogers Robinson. The song was included on the Temptations 1965 album The Temptations Sing Smokey. In 2018, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.
Members of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers played on the track. The song has a very simple but effective arrangement, which was charted by Paul Riser. It opens with James Jamerson’s bassline, then goes into the ascending guitar figure played by the song’s writer/producer Ronald White. Finger snaps come in, then drums played by Benny Benjamin and strings provided by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The arrangement accentuates the vocals, making the words very easy to understand. This served as a template for future Temptations recordings and helped make them stars, as attention was always focused on stage on the singers.
This was the first of four US #1 hits for The Temptations. It was also the first #1 for a male vocal group on the Motown label.
The Temptations were a groundbreaking act in terms of choreography, doing precise movements to accentuate their songs. This one used big, expressive gestures that became widely associated with the song – it was not uncommon to see people doing the moves while listening to it. The Motown choreographer was a dancer named Cholly Atkins.
Back to the song’s history: The recorded version of “My Girl” was the first Temptations single to feature David Ruffin on lead vocals. Previously, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams had performed most of the group’s lead vocals, and Ruffin had joined the group as a replacement for former Temptation Elbridge Bryant. While on tour as part of the Motortown Revue, a collective tour for most of the Motown roster, Smokey Robinson caught the Temptations’ part of the show. The group had included a medley of soul standards in the show, one of which, the Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk”, was a solo spot for Ruffin. Impressed, Robinson decided to produce a single with Ruffin singing lead. Robinson saw Ruffin as a “sleeping giant” in the group with a unique voice that was “mellow” yet “gruff”. Robinson thought that if he could write just the perfect song for Ruffin’s voice, then he could have a smash hit. The song was to be something that Ruffin could “belt out” yet something that was also “melodic and sweet”.
After some persuasion from Ruffin’s bandmates, Robinson had the Temptations record “My Girl” instead of the Miracles, who were originally to record the song, and recruited Ruffin to sing the lead vocals. According to Robinson, he allowed the group to create their own background vocals “because they were so great at background vocals.”
(Theme from) The Monkees (1966) – The Monkees is an American sitcom (situation comedy) that aired on NBC from September 12, 1966 to March 25, 1968. The series follows the adventures of four young men (the Monkees) trying to make a name for themselves as a rock ‘n roll band.
The Monkees themselves are an American rock and pop band originally active between 1966 and 1971, with reunion albums and tours in the decades that followed. They were formed in Los Angeles in 1965 by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider for the Amercan TV series. The musical acting quartet was composed of Americans Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork and British actor and singer Davy Jones. The band’s music was initially supervised by producer Don Kirshner, backed by the songwriting duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
I’m going to get to the theme song in a minute but thought I’d share some of the fun background information on the TV show and the band and how it all came to be. Feel free to skip this if you want. I’m borderline obsessed with The Monkees and I find all this extremely interesting. You may not. But here goes (info taken from Wikipedia and Songfacts):
The series centered on the adventures of the Monkees, a struggling rock band from Los Angeles, California consisting of Micky, Davy, Michael, and Peter. The comic elements of the storyline were provided by the strange and often surreal encounters that the band would have while searching for their big break.
Conception and casting: In the early 1960s, aspiring filmmakers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider had formed Raybert Productions and were trying to get a foot in the door in Hollywood. They were inspired by the Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and decided to develop a television series about a fictional rock and roll group. Raybert sold the series idea to Screen Gems in April, 1965, and Paul Mazursky and Larry Tucker completed a pilot script by August entitled “The Monkeys”. Rafelson has said that he had the idea for a TV series about a music group as early as 1960, but had a hard time interesting anyone in it until 1965, by which time rock and roll music was firmly entrenched in pop culture.
Trade publications Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ran an ad on September 8, 1965 seeking “Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.” As many as 400 hopefuls showed up to be considered as one of “4 insane boys.” Fourteen actors from the audition pool were brought back for screen tests and Raybert chose their final four after audience research.
Micky Dolenz, son of screen actor George Dolenz, had prior screen experience under the name “Mickey Braddock” as the 10-year-old star of the Circus Boy series in the 1950s. He was actively auditioning for pilots at the time and was told about the Raybert project by his agent.
Englishman Davy Jones was a former jockey who had achieved some initial success on the musical stage, appearing with the cast of Oliver! on The Ed Sullivan Show the night of the Beatles’ live American debut. He was appearing in Columbia Pictures productions and recording for the Colpix record label and had been identified in advance as a potential star for the series.
Texan Michael Nesmith‘s mother Bette Nesmith Graham had invented a correction fluid and founded the company that became Liquid Paper. He had served a brief stint in the U.S. Air Force and had also recorded for Colpix under the name “Michael Blessing.” He was the only one of The Monkees who had come for the audition based on seeing the trade magazine ad. He showed up to the audition with his laundry and impressed Rafelson and Schneider with his laid-back style and droll sense of humor. He also wore a wool hat to keep his hair out of his eyes when he rode his motorcycle, leading to early promotional materials which nicknamed him “Wool Hat.” The hat remained part of Nesmith’s wardrobe, but the name was dropped after the pilot.
Peter Tork was recommended to Rafelson and Schneider by friend Stephen Stills at his audition. Tork was a skilled multi-instrumentalist who had performed at various Greenwich Village folk clubs before moving west, where he worked as a busboy.
Development: The Monkees in 1967: Rafelson and Schneider wanted the style of the series to reflect avant garde film techniques—such as improvisation, quick cuts, jump cuts, breaking the fourth wall, and free-flowing, loose narratives—then being pioneered by European film directors. Each episode would contain at least one musical “romp” which might have nothing to do with the storyline. In retrospect, these vignettes now look very much like music videos: short, self-contained films of songs in ways that echoed the Beatles’ recent ventures into promotional films for their singles. They also believed strongly in the program’s ability to appeal to young people, intentionally framing the kids as heroes and the adults as heavies.
Rafelson and Schneider hired novice director James Frawley to teach the four actors improvisational comedy. Each of the four was given a different personality to portray: Dolenz the funny one, Nesmith the smart and serious one, Tork the naive one, and Jones the cute one. Their characters were loosely based on their real selves, with the exception of Tork, who was actually a quiet intellectual. The character types also had much in common with the respective personalities of the Beatles, with Dolenz representing the madcap attitude of John Lennon, Nesmith affecting the deadpan seriousness of George Harrison, Tork depicting the odd-man-out quality of Ringo Starr, and Jones conveying the pin-up appeal of Paul McCartney.
A pilot episode was shot in San Diego and Los Angeles on a shoestring budget—in many scenes the Monkees wore their own clothes. Initial audience tests (which were just then being pioneered) produced very low responses. Rafelson then re-edited the pilot and included some of the screen tests, to better introduce the band members to viewers. (Dolenz was credited in this pilot as “Micky Braddock.”) The re-cut pilot tested so well that NBC placed an order for two seasons of episodes.
The Monkees debuted September 12, 1966, on the NBC television network. The series was sponsored on alternate weeks by Kellogg’s Cereals and Yardley of London.
FUN FACT: The series was filmed by Screen Gems, and many of the same sets and props from The Three Stooges short films made by the studio were used on The Monkees: A pair of pajamas with a bunny design on the front that had been worn by Curly Howard in shorts such as Cactus Makes Perfect and In the Sweet Pie and Pie were the same ones worn by Peter Tork in various episodes such as “A Coffin Too Frequent” and “Monkee See, Monkee Die.”
Music: The theme song to The Monkees, “(Theme from) The Monkees” (released as the single in some countries in 1967), is one of the group’s most well-known songs. The line “We’re the young generation, and we’ve got somethin’ to say” reflected the new youth counterculture and their desire to give their own opinions on world events and choosing how to live their own lives instead of abiding by the traditions and beliefs of their elders.
This was the first song written and recorded for The Monkees TV series; written to introduce the irreverent act, a portion of it was used as the theme song for the show. The finger snaps and “here we come” line were influenced by the Dave Clark Five song “Catch Us If You Can,” where they sing, “Here we come again, catch us if you can.”
“I always thought the song worked fine as the theme song for the TV show. But I never allowed us to sing it in public,” Peter Tork, the group’s keyboardist/bass guitarist, told Entertainment Weekly. “The whole idea of standing up there and singing, ‘We’re wonderful/We’re the wonderful ones/And our names are The Wonderful Ones,’ was too self-congratulatory. What we do now is, the backing band plays [the music] and Micky and I come out onstage to it. I can’t ever see us singing ‘Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!’ I couldn’t bear it.”
The first season, in 1966, the series fared well in the ratings bolstered by several hit records by the band. The Monkees became a huge pop culture sensation. However, the public didn’t realize the show and the band were mostly a generally manufactured television series and Monkees themselves did not write or perform much of their own studio music, except to provide the vocals. The only exception were their live performances. When the truth became well known, there was a large backlash by many fans and music critics. NBC responded to the backlash by retooling the show in its second season with Monkees now writing and performing much of their own music that was much less pop oriented. In addition, the first season’s clean cut looks were replaced by more hippy looking attire. All this alienated the young fans who then deserted the group. The result was a huge decline in ratings and record sales. By 1967, NBC felt the series had run its course. Coupled with friction within the band itself, the series was cancelled in 1968. The Monkees released three more albums after the series cancellation but they did not chart well.
The program ended on Labor Day 1968 at the finish of its second season and has received a long afterlife through Saturday morning repeats (CBS and ABC) and syndication, as well as overseas broadcasts; it later enjoyed a 1980s revival, after MTV aired reruns of the program in 1986.
Catch Us If You Can by the Dave Clark Five (1965) – “Catch Us If You Can” is a 1965 song from The Dave Clark Five (DC5), written by group’s drummer Dave Clark and guitarist Lenny Davidson. The song was one of DC5’s top hits, reaching number 5 on the UK Singles Chart in the late summer of 1965 and number 4 on the U.S. pop singles chart, later that fall.
Starting with guitar and finger snapping accompaniment, the hook was instantaneous:
Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm
We will yell with all of our might!
[drums kick in]
Catch us if you can …
The title phrase was seemingly a take-off on the 1959 crime film Catch Me If You Can and similar phrases, with “me” turned to the group’s “us”. In the U.S., “Catch” remains one of the DC5’s most played tunes on oldies radio stations. In Australia, the Candid Camera-style television show Catch Us If You Can was named after the song. And as mentioned earlier, the finger snaps and “Here we come” line in this song provided inspiration for the “(Theme From) The Monkees,” which was written later in 1965 for the show’s pilot episode.
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Those were my favorite Finger-Snap songs. As for my favorite Hand-Clap songs, the very first one to come to my mind was “Car Wash”, followed by Steve Miller’s “Take the Money & Run.” There are several other songs with hand claps but the other here are my favorites in this category. Let’s start with the first one that came to mind:
Car Wash by Rose Royce (1976) – “Car Wash” is a hit song by American R&B band Rose Royce. It was the group’s debut single and one of the most notable successes of the 1970s disco era. “Car Wash”, the theme of the 1976 motion picture Car Wash, was Rose Royce’s most successful single and the lead single from their debut studio album, the Car Wash soundtrack. Reaching number-one in the United States on the Billboard pop and R&B charts, “Car Wash” also peaked at number three on the dance chart and reached number nine in the UK Singles chart in February 1977.
Former Motown Records producer Norman Whitfield had been commissioned to record the soundtrack album for Car Wash by director Michael Schultz. Although Whitfield did not want to assume the project, he decided to do so, both for financial incentives as well as the chance to give Rose Royce, a disco/funk backing band that Whitfield signed to his own label in 1975, the exposure they needed to become mainstream. Unable to develop a theme song for the film, inspiration finally struck Whitfield while watching a basketball game and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. He wrote the lyrics on the bag! Now that would be a real collector’s item, wouldn’t it? A paper Kentucky Fried Chicken bag has the first draft of “Car Wash” written on it! (The fried chicken eatery wasn’t called KFC back then. I remember when Kentucky Fried Chicken first came out. Do you?)
The resulting song set the mood and tone for the comedy film it was commissioned for. Rose Royce lead singer Rose Norwalt (Gwen Dickey), with brief assistance from guitarist Kenji Brown, describes a fun and easy-going car washing business, where everything is “always cool/and the boss don’t mind sometimes if you act a fool.”
The hand claps at the beginning have been sampled many times by a variety of hip-hop and R&B artists.
Take the Money and Run by Steve Miller (1976) – “Take the Money and Run” is a song recorded in 1976 by the Steve Miller Band and is featured on the Fly Like an Eagle album. The song peaked at #11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in July 1976.
Miller wrote this song, which tells a Bonnie-and-Clyde story about a young couple (Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue) who kill a man in a robbery and go on the run. Miller gives only vague details in the verses, but in the end they slip away and are still on the loose.
Miller wrote this as a road trip song. When he was a kid, his parents took him on long road trips where they listened to radio stations the whole time and sung along to their favorite songs. In the ’70s, FM radio allowed for stereo sound and provided a cleaner signal, so Miller made his road trip anthems bigger, with more layers to the sound. He made sure these songs were upbeat and fun, just like the ones that caught his ear as a kid.
Another characteristic of Miller’s road songs is mention of various places – El Paso shows up in this one. (In “Rock ‘N Me,” he namechecks several cities, including Phoenix, Atlanta and Philadelphia).
Get Down and Get With It by Slade (1971) – “Get Down and Get with It” is a song by American R&B singer-songwriter Bobby Marchan, first released as “Get Down with It” as the B-Side to his 1964 single “Half a Mind”. In 1967, American singer Little Richard would record his own version, which was released as a single. In 1971, the British rock band Slade recorded a version of the song as “Get Down and Get with It”, based on Little Richard’s version, which gave the band their first UK chart hit, reaching #16 on the chart and staying there for fourteen weeks.
Prior to recording the song in the studio, the band had established “Get Down and Get with It” as a popular number in their live-set, based on Little Richard’s version. They always played it as their final song in their live sets for nearly two years. In his autobiography, band member Noddy Holder said it was a Little Richard cover in twelve bar format, but “had something magical about it”; the original was all piano and sax, but they did it with guitars.
Impressed by the general audience reception of the song, Slade’s band manager Chas Chandler suggested recording the song as a single. The band entered Olympic Studios in Barnes to record it and Chandler told the band: “Just play it like you do on-stage. Blast it out like it’s live, and pretend that there’s an audience in there with you.”
When eventually they decided to record it, at Olympic Studios, they did so with a live feel, setting up the microphones in the stairwell outside which gave the echo [for handclapping and stamping]. Successfully recorded in a single take, the band included foot-stomping and hand-clapping in the recording to give the song a live feel.
Ballroom Blitz by Sweet (1973 in the UK, 1975 in the US) = “The Ballroom Blitz” (often called “Ballroom Blitz”) is a song by the British rock band The Sweet, written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.
“The Ballroom Blitz” was inspired by an incident on 27 January 1973 when the band was performing at the Grand Hall in Kilmarnock, Scotland and were driven offstage by a barrage of bottles.
Quentin Tarantino was considering using this song in the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs but went with the Stealers Wheels’ “Stuck In The Middle With You” instead.
Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheels (1973) – “Stuck in the Middle with You” (sometimes known as “Stuck in the Middle”) is a song written by Scottish musicians Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan and originally performed by their band Stealers Wheel.
In his obituary of Rafferty for the January 5, 2011 issue of the Daily Telegraph, Martin Chilton said of this song that it was “Written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s paranoia, it ridiculed a music industry cocktail party, with the lyrics:
Clowns to the left of me
jokers to the right
here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
To Rafferty’s utter disbelief his parody, composed as little more than a joke but with a catchy Pop arrangement, struck gold, selling more than a million copies. The song reached a new generation of listeners when Quentin Tarantino used it in the notorious ear-slicing scene in his 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs.”
This played a big part in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 movie Reservoir Dogs, where a sadistic character played by Michael Madsen tunes in a radio station that begins playing this song, then proceeds to mutilate a police officer he is holding hostage. Tarantino recalled to Rolling Stone his use of this song:
“That was one of those things where I thought [the song] would work really well, and [during] auditions, I told the actors that I wanted them to do the torture scene, and I’m gonna use ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ but they could pick anything they wanted, they didn’t have to use that song. And a couple people picked another one, but almost everyone came in with ‘Stuck in the Middle With You,’ and they were saying that they tried to come up with something else, but that’s the one. The first time somebody actually did the torture scene to that song, the guy didn’t even have a great audition, but it was like watching the movie. I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is gonna be awesome!’ “
Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran (1958) – “Summertime Blues” is a song co-written and recorded by American rockabilly artist Eddie Cochran. It was written by Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart. Originally a single B-side, it was released in August 1958 and peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 29, 1958 and number 18 on the UK Singles Chart. It has been covered by many artists, including being a number-one hit for country music artist Alan Jackson, and scoring notable hits in versions by The Who, Blue Cheer and Brian Setzer, the latter of whom recorded his version for the 1987 film La Bamba, where he portrayed Cochran. Jimi Hendrix also performed it in concert.
Cochran wrote this with Jerry Capehart, a songwriter who was good friends with Cochran and helped him get a record deal. Capehart, later his manager, explained the inspiration for this song in Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 songs issue: “There had been a lot of songs about summer, but none about the hardships of summer.” With that idea and a guitar lick from Cochran, they wrote the song in 45 minutes.
Eddie Cochran sang both the vocal and bass vocal (the “work-a-late” portions, Cochran’s tribute to the Kingfish character from the Amos and Andy television series), played all the guitar parts, and added the hand clapping with Sharon Sheeley, who really wanted to do it, but had trouble getting the rhythm. Eddie helped her out by showing her how to clap. Connie ‘Guybo’ Smith played the electric bass and Earl Palmer drums.
This was Cochran’s breakthrough hit. His previous singles didn’t do very well, but this gave him a lot of exposure and established him as a star.
Cochran was 19 when he recorded this. It was a big hit with his teenage fans, who could relate to the lyrics about being held back by society (and parents). Cochran got an image as a rebel with a guitar, and his legend was secured when he died 2 years later while riding in the back of a taxi. He was often compared to James Dean, who was 24 when he died in a car accident.
Legacy: Besides being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and ranking as number 73 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and being placed by Q magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks and being on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum list of “The Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”, the song appears on the soundtrack for the movie Caddyshack as well as opening Season 4 of Beverly Hills, 90210.
I Love a Rainy Night by Eddie Rabbitt (1980) – “I Love a Rainy Night” is a song co-written and recorded by American country music artist Eddie Rabbitt. It was released in November 1980 as the second single from his album Horizon. This crossover hit reached number one on the Hot Country Singles, Billboard Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary Singles charts in 1981. The song succeeded Dolly Parton’s song “9 to 5” at the number 1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart – the last time, to date, that the pop chart featured back-to-back country singles in the number one position. It was written by Rabbitt, Even Stevens and David Malloy.
According to music historian Fred Bronson, “I Love a Rainy Night” was 12 years in the making. Rabbitt had a collection of old tapes he kept in the basement of his home. While rummaging through the tapes one day in 1980, he heard a fragment of a song he had recorded one rainy night in the late 1960s.
“It brought back the memory of sitting in a small apartment, staring out the window at one o’clock in the morning, watching the rain come down,” wrote Bronson in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. “He sang into his tape recorder, ‘I love a rainy night, I love a rainy night.'”
Upon rediscovery of the old lyrics, Rabbitt completed the song (with help from frequent songwriting partners Even Stevens and David Malloy) and recorded it.
The end result included vivid descriptions of a man’s fondness for thunderstorms and the peace it brings him (“I love to hear the thunder/watch the lightnin’ when it lights up the sky/you know it makes me feel good”) and a renewed sense of hope the storms bring (“Showers wash all my cares away/I wake up to a sunny day”).
This song has both – snaps and claps! The song’s other mark of distinction is its rhythm pattern of alternating finger snaps and hand claps, which was included with the help of percussionist Farrell Morris, who — according to The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits — mixed two tracks of each to complete the record.
Our Lips are Sealed by The Go-Go’s (1981) – It was first recorded by The Go-Go’s as the opening track on their album Beauty and the Beat and was their debut American single in June 1981. The single eventually reached the top 5 in Australia and Canada, and the top 20 in the United States.
This was the first hit for the Go-Go’s, who started as a Punk band in the late ’70s, but became Pop superstars with the release of their first album, Beauty and the Beat. Unlike most other female Pop groups, the Go-Go’s wrote their own songs and were serious musicians. Despite their pure Pop sound, they had a confidence and attitude that gave them lots of credibility and set them apart from other bands on the fledgling MTV network.
Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin wrote this with British musician Terry Hall, who was lead singer of The Specials. Says Wiedlin:
“In 1980 we were playing at The Whisky on Sunset Strip, and The Specials were in town from England, and they came to see us, and they really liked us and asked us if we would be their opening act on their tour. I met Terry Hall, the singer of The Specials, and ended up having kind of a romance. He sent me the lyrics to ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ later in the mail, and it was kind of about our relationship, because he had a girlfriend at home and all this other stuff. So it was all very dramatic. I really liked the lyrics, so I finished the lyrics and wrote the music to it, and the rest is history. And then his band, The Fun Boy Three, ended up recording it, too – they did a really great version of it, also. It was like a lot gloomier than the Go-Go’s’ version.”
Speaking about her relationship with Terry Hall, Wiedlin adds:
“Like I said, he had a girlfriend in England, and they were talking about getting married and all this stuff. So I don’t know how I got in the picture. And, you know, that’s something that I did as a teenager, maybe I was 20. That’s something I would never do now, knowingly enter into a relationship with someone who was with someone else. I mean, it was completely screwed on my part. Although I think when people do that, you really have to look at the person who’s in the relationship, and they have to take the burden of the responsibility as well. Anyways, it was one of those things with the tragic letters, ‘I just can’t do this.’ You know, ‘I’m betrothed to another.’ All that kind of stuff.”
They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! by Napoleon XIV (1966) – “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” is a 1966 novelty record written and performed by Jerry Samuels (billed as Napoleon XIV), and released on Warner Bros. Records. The song became an instant success in the United States, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 popular music singles chart on August 13 number 2 in Canada, and reaching No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
The lyrics describe the effect on the mental health of an individual after a break-up. His paranoid thinking makes him believe that he is being pursued by “those nice young men in their clean white coats” (referring to psychiatric attendants) who are coming to transport him to the funny farm/happy home (referring to a mental hospital), and he welcomes them as an end to his misery. The main character seems to be addressing an ex-girlfriend or wife, and describes his descent into madness after she has left him. However, the last verse of the song finishes: “They’ll find you yet and when they do / They’ll put you in the ASPCA / You mangy mutt”.
As for those hand-claps: Samuels explained the recording process to Songfacts:
“I needed hand clappers, and I wanted a whole bunch of hand clappers, so I invited a bunch of my friends down to the studio at 2 O’clock in the morning, and only three of us showed up. I said, ‘Look, there’s only three of us, that’s not enough hand clappers. What I want us to do, instead of clapping our hands, I want us to sit in a semi-circle and I’ll drop my Neumann microphone down in front of us, and we’ll slap our thighs. If we slap our thighs, we’ll have the sound of two claps rather than one. However, you cannot slap your clothes because the clothes muffle it – you have to slap your skin. What I want us to do is sit in a semi-circle and drop our pants and do it.’
They wouldn’t do it, so what we had to do was overdub. We bounced from track to track three times, so we wound up with nine hand clappers, but we also wound up with some noise because we were copying the noise level. There is an inherent noise level when you record analog, and the signal to noise ratio decreases as you overdub, but that’s what we lived with.”
FUN FACT: Several radio stations pulled the song after receiving numerous complaints. This was some controversial subject matter for 1966, and it eventually got banned on many radio stations. Says Samuels: “It was a hit before it got banned. Once it got banned, it was finished.” See newspaper article below. Also, the July 30, 1966 issue of Billboard Magazine had an article detailing the uproar. I’m trying to get my hands on it.
This song has always freaked me out. It’s very disturbing and the music video is even more disturbing. But you just can’t stop listening or look away!
Recently my friend Tom Anderson featured in one of his posts in August at his blog Shady’s Place a cool graphic of “Girl Answer Songs of the 60s” that mentioned this song and the girl band response song called “They Took You Away! I’m Glad! I’m Glad!” by Josephine XV. Haha It’s equally disturbing btw. Listen for yourself:
Rock & Roll by Gary Glitter (1972) – “Rock and Roll” (also known as “The Hey Song”) is a song by English glam rock singer Gary Glitter that was released in 1972 as a single and on the album Glitter. Co-written by Glitter and Mike Leander, the song is in two parts: Part 1 is a vocal track reflecting on the history of the genre, and Part 2 is a mostly instrumental piece. Both parts were popular in Britain, and the single went to No. 2 on the British charts. In concert, Glitter merged both into one performance.
This is better known as the “Hey” song because of the chant in the chorus… “da da da da da da da… Hey!” It’s probably the greatest example of “Glam Rock,” which was characterized by male lead singers dressed in outrageous, usually feminine clothes singing anthemic songs with massive drums. The glam popularized by David Bowie had a lot more nuance, including well-written lyrics that were foreign to Glitter, who by his own admission wasn’t very good at music. He was known more for his appearance and his wild stage shows, which would feature motorcycles, pyro, and plenty of other distractions.
Glitter wrote this song with his producer, Mike Leander, who came up with a key element in the song: the compressed, metronomic drum sound that would later be copied by Sweet and various other Glam acts. Along with the drums, Leander layered big guitar riffs, lots of hand-claps, and the vocal hey’s performed by Glitter and his friends.
“Rock and Roll” is Glitter’s only US Top 10 hit. It was also in North America that the “Part 2” became popularly associated with sports, as a number of professional teams adopted the song for use during games — primarily to signify scores and victories. It is often referred to as “The ‘Hey’ Song,” as the only intelligible word in Part 2 is the exclamation of “Hey,” punctuating the end of several instrumental phrases and repeated three times at the song’s chorus. At sporting events, fans often insert their own “Hey,” or sometimes other chanted syllables.
In the UK, “Rock and Roll” was one of over 25 hit singles for Glitter. In the US, the instrumental version (Part 2) attracted most of the attention; it hit No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In the ’80s, Glitter went through bankruptcy and was arrested for drunk driving, but his downfall came in 1997 when he took his computer in for repair and the technician found child pornography on the hard drive. Glitter was arrested and sent to prison, where he served two months starting in November 1999. After his release, he lived in Cuba and Cambodia, then to Vietnam, where he was sentenced to prison in 2006 for sexually assaulting minors. When he was released in 2008, he was sent back to England, where he was placed on a sexual offender registry. In 2012 he was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a number of young girls in the ’70s and ’80s, and in 2015 was given a 16-year sentence for these offenses. So sick and disgusting!
Most Americans are only vaguely aware of Glitter’s misdeeds, but in the UK he is reviled. He music is rarely played there, not just because of the association, but because as the co-writer of most of his songs, he could earn royalties. “Rock And Roll Part 2” was a stadium favorite in America, but nothing like its heyday in the ’90s, when it surged in popularity as a jock jam.
Part 2 of the song had become a standard at sporting events, particularly in North America. It was played first in a sport setting in 1974 at games for the Kalamazoo Wings of the high-minor International Hockey League by Kevin O’Brien, the team’s public relations and marketing director. When he went to work for the NHL’s Colorado Rockies in 1976, he brought the song with him. After the Rockies moved to New Jersey as the New Jersey Devils in 1982, the Denver Nuggets and Denver Broncos picked up the tradition and were the first NBA and NFL teams to play the song during games.
As previously mentioned, in 1999, Glitter was convicted of downloading child pornography in England, and in 2006 of child sexual abuse charges in Vietnam. After the second conviction was upheld in court, the NFL asked teams to stop playing the song. Glitter was dismayed by this result as he is a fan of the San Diego Chargers and had choreographed some of the team’s cheerleading cadences in 1989. The NFL allowed a cover version of the song by the Tube Tops 2000 to be played, but in 2012, the NFL instructed teams to “avoid” the song following negative reaction from British media to the New England Patriots’ use of the song. In 2014, Billboard reported that the song was slowly falling out of favor due to both the controversies, and teams electing to replace it with newer songs. Thankfully.
What I Like About You by the Romantics (1979) – “What I Like About You” is a song by American rock band The Romantics. The song, written by Romantics members Wally Palmar, Mike Skill and Jimmy Marinos in 1979 is included on the band’s self-titled debut album (1980), and was also released as a single. Marinos, the band’s drummer, is the lead vocalist on the song.
The Romantics, so named because they formed on Valentine’s Day 1977 in Detroit, have had only two US Top 40 hits – and this, now their best-known song, wasn’t one of them. It attracted little attention and was only a minor hit when first released in 1980 on their debut album, but found new life later in the decade when it became a popular choice for an advertising jingle, particularly for Budweiser beer. Since then the song has also become a fixture at sporting events, bars and nightclubs, and parties and celebrations of all kinds, and has taken its place as one of the most popular rock anthems of all time.
BTW, the Romantics’ two Top 40 hits were “Talking In Your Sleep” (#3) and “One In A Million” (#37). Both came in 1983, from their fourth album In Heat.
In another ironic twist, the licensing of this song for advertising, the very thing that sparked the song’s comeback, was apparently handled illegally. It was secured from the band’s management without the band’s knowledge or approval, which sparked a lawsuit lasting several years. Despite now having faded into obscurity, the band stayed together during this time, albeit with several lineup changes, and remain active as of 2012.
The band filmed a music video for the song that appeared frequently on MTV during the early 1980s. This song’s resurgence had a lot to do with MTV. The band made a simple performance video for the song that MTV put in rotation when they launched in 1981. It fit the criteria the network was looking for: American band, rock, catchy song, acceptable production quality. Since few American artists made videos at the time, MTV made do with lots of European imports when they started.
Another One Bites the Dust by Queen (1980) – “Another One Bites the Dust” is a 1980 song by British rock band Queen, which formed in London in 1970. Their classic line-up was Freddie Mercury (lead vocals, piano), Brian May (lead guitar, vocals), Roger Taylor (drums, vocals), and John Deacon (bass guitar). This song, written by bass guitarist John Deacon and was featured on the group’s eighth studio album The Game (1980). It was a worldwide hit, charting number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, from October 4 to October 18 (their second number-one single in the country). The song spent fifteen weeks in the Billboard top ten (the longest running top ten song of 1980), including thirteen weeks in the top five, and 31 weeks total on the chart (more than any other song in 1980). It reached number two on the Hot Soul Singles chart and the Disco Top 100 chart, and number seven on the UK Singles Chart. The song is credited as Queen’s best-selling single, with sales of over 7 million copies.
Recording sessions – produced by Reinhold Mack at Musicland Studios in Munich (West Germany) – consisted of Deacon playing almost all instruments: bass guitar, piano, electric guitar, and hand-claps. Roger Taylor added a drum loop and Brian May contributed noises with his guitar and an Eventide Harmonizer. The song was a close collaboration between Deacon and Mercury, Peter Hince reflecting that Mercury aided the non-singing bassist by working on the vocal parts. There are no synthesizers in the song: all effects are created by piano, electric guitars and drums, with subsequent tape playback performed in reverse at various speeds. The drum track and the hand claps were looped. They repeat throughout the song. Finally, sound effects were run through the harmonizer for further processing. The effect of the harmonizer can be heard clearly in the “swirling” nature of the sound immediately before the first lyric.
Queen comments on the record:
“I’d been wanting to do a track like ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ for a while, but originally all I had was the line and the bass riff. Gradually, I filled it in and the band added ideas. I could hear it as a song for dancing but had no idea it would become as big as it did. The song got picked up off our album and some of the black radio stations in the US started playing it, which we’ve never had before. Michael Jackson actually suggested we release it as a single. He was a fan of ours and used to come to our shows.” —John Deacon
“A fantastic bit of work from Freddie really. I mean, I remember Deacie having this idea, but Deacie doesn’t sing of course, so he was trying to suggest to Freddie how it should be and Fred just went in there and hammered and hammered until his throat bled, making… you know, he really was inspired bit and took it to a new height, I think. Freddie sung until his throat bled, he was so into it! He wanted to make that song something special.” —Brian May
“I remember laying down the backing track with him and… he really wanted the drums as dry as they could possibly be, so I just stuffed it all with blankets and made it as dead as I possibly could and very low tuned.” —Roger Taylor
“Credit for the song should go to Michael Jackson in many ways. He was a fan and friend of ours and kept telling me, “Freddie, you need a song the cats can dance to.” John introduced this riff to us during rehearsal that we all immediately thought of disco, which was very popular at the time. We worked it out and once it was ready, played it for Michael. I knew we had a hit as he bobbed his head up and down. “That’s it, that’s the gravy. Release it and it will top the charts,” he said. So we did and it did.”—Freddie Mercury
FUN FACT #1: Weird Al Yankovic got his first chart placing with his parody of this song: “Another One Rides The Bus.” It bubbled under on the Hot 100, placing at #104 in 1981. After a few more minor hits, he landed “Eat It” at #12 in 1984.
FUN FACT #2: In the early 1980s, “Another One Bites the Dust” was one of many popular rock songs that Christian evangelists alleged contained subliminal messages through a technique called backmasking. It was claimed that the chorus, when played in reverse, can be heard as “Decide to smoke marijuana”, “It’s fun to smoke marijuana”, or “Start to smoke marijuana”. A spokeswoman for Hollywood Records (Queen’s current US label) has denied that the song contains such a message.
FUN FACT #3: “Another One Bites the Dust” was used in a study to train medical professionals to provide the correct number of chest compressions per minute while performing CPR. The bassline has close to 110 beats per minute, and 100–120 chest compressions per minute are recommended by the British Heart Foundation and endorsed by the Resuscitation Council (UK).
Montego Bay by Bobby Bloom (1970) – “Montego Bay” is a song co-written and performed by Bobby Bloom about the city in Jamaica of the same name. The song was a Top 10 hit for Bloom in the Fall of 1970 on both sides of the Atlantic. It reached #3 on the UK Singles Chart, #5 on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles Chart, #7 on the Australian Go-Set Singles Chart and #8 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Bloom wrote this about the city in Jamaica. Bloom said of the city when introducing the song: “It has a certain peacefulness that really sticks in your mind. It’s the kind of a place that makes you write songs about it.”
The song has an interesting quasi-Jamaican feel as it features a whistler, hand-claps and odd percussion (Jamaican instruments), all used to illustrate the section called “Montego Bay,” in a Calypso genre. It was influenced by the Bubblegum sound, as Barry and Bloom were working in that genré: Bloom wrote “Indian Giver” and Barry wrote “Sugar, Sugar.”
Jeff Barry wrote this with Bloom and produced the track. Barry, whose songwriting hits include “Be My Baby” and “Leader of the Pack,” worked with Bloom on various projects, including a Monkees album.
Bloom did a lot of session work in the ’60s while working on his solo material. This was his only hit, as he died on February 28, 1974, at age 28 after he was accidentally shot.
Bloom’s recording of the song appeared in the film The Ice Storm. Have you seen that movie?
FUN FACT: The full version of this song ends with a few bars of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from the musical, Oklahoma! In the master tape of the song, Bloom breaks into a chorus of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” at the end of the recording, but the single version fades out before that. Apparently, that was done to avoid paying royalties for use of the Rodgers & Hammerstein song, though the full version does appear on the Bobby Bloom Album and has received frequent airplay.
No Matter What by Badfinger (1970) – “No Matter What” is a song originally recorded by Badfinger for their album No Dice in 1970, written and sung by guitarist Pete Ham and produced by Mal Evans.
Many people thought this was The Beatles when they heard it. A Fun Fact and a question: perhaps that’s because Pete Ham did use one of George Harrison’s Gibson guitars on this song?
- Badfinger was one of the first bands to sign with The Beatles’ label, Apple Records.
- The group was known as The Iveys, but The Beatles renamed them “Badfinger” after their road manager, Neil Aspinall, came up with the name. He got the idea from John Lennon, who used to talk about his “Bad Finger Boogie.”
- After Apple Records folded, they signed with Warner Brothers. The group was doing very well when Warner Brothers discovered money missing from their accounts. They pulled their albums and sued the band, effectively ending their career.
- Despondent over their business problems, Ham hanged himself in 1975. In 1983, Evans also hanged himself.
- The group played on George Harrison’s first solo album All Things Must Pass.
- In 2001, The Gap wanted to use this in a commercial. Apple Records, which owns the rights to it, asked for an enormous sum of money and were turned down.
Private Eyes by Hall & Oates (1981) – “Private Eyes” is a 1981 single by Daryl Hall & John Oates and the title track from their album of that year. The song was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two weeks, from November 7 through November 20, 1981. This single was the band’s third of six number one hits (the first two being “Rich Girl” and “Kiss on My List”), and their second number one hit of the 1980s. It was succeeded in the number one position by Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” which was in turn succeeded by another single from Hall and Oates, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”.
The song title came from the 1980 movie The Private Eyes, starring Don Knots and Tim Conway as bumbling detectives. Warren Pash, a musician who was trying to make it in Los Angeles, was working on a song called “I Need You To Need Me,” but he didn’t like that title. He was driving on Ventura Boulevard when he saw the movie billboard, turned back home, and wrote the song with a new title and chorus: “Private Eyes.”
Hurts So Good by John Mellencamp (1982) – “Hurts So Good” is a song by American singer-songwriter John Mellencamp, then performing under the stage name “John Cougar.” The song was a number two hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the first of three major hit singles from his 1982 album American Fool. The others were “Jack & Diane” and “Hand to Hold On To,” which were all released in 1982. The song was also a critical success with Mellencamp winning the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male at the 25th Grammy Awards on February 23, 1983. In his acceptance speech he said, “I don’t know what to say, I’m just an idiot.”
On his 2018 Plain Spoken DVD, Mellencamp talked about what inspired this song:
“When I first started playing in rock bands, I didn’t realize how crude and mean other fellas could be. How crude they were with women and how crude women were. That led me to write a song called ‘Hurts So Good’ because I was playing in these bars and I just could not believe the lows people would go to with each other. The thing that surprised me is that it fit my personality perfectly. I fit right in with all that.”
Mellencamp was raised in the small town of Seymour, Indiana, where he played in bands and planned his escape. At 21, he took a trip to New York City to check out art school (he is a talented painter) and drop off some demos. Before the trip was over, he got an offer from a management company willing to push him as a recording artist. He took the offer (it was money coming in, rather than going out), setting him on an awkward path to stardom.
He got a record deal with MCA but clashed with the label, refusing to mingle with tastemakers or participate in any industry pomp. But he did let his manager change his name to “Johnny Cougar,” which he used for his first two albums, the second of which, A Biography (1978), became a surprise hit in Australia thanks to the single “I Need A Lover.” Going to that country and seeing how fans react to a pop star made him determined to create more hits – not for the adulation, but for the creative freedom. If he was on the radio, critics and record companies wouldn’t matter, and he could call the shots.
For his next two albums, he became “John Cougar” and did everything he could to generate hits, with modest success (“Ain’t Even Done with the Night” reached #17 in 1981). But it was “Hurts So Good,” the first single from his fifth album, American Fool, that gave him the breakthrough he was looking for. Two albums later, he started using his real last name and writing songs like “Pink Houses” and “Rain On The Scarecrow” that reflected more of his true self. The hits kept coming until the ’90s, when his music fell out of fashion in favor of hip-hop and grunge. He stayed the course, making music that fed his artistic appetite and performing to smaller but very enthusiastic audiences.
This is a popular song among masochists. It is not truly about S&M, but probably as close as any popular song has gotten.
MTV played a big part in this song’s success. Before the network launched in 1981, few American acts made videos because there was nowhere to show them in the US. But Mellencamp had been making videos since 1978 with director Bruce Gowers because he was promoted in Europe and Australia, where many outlets broadcast them. These were just performance clips, but for “Hurts So Good” they boosted the budget and did a shoot with bikers, playing up the S&M interpretation of the song with shots of ladies wearing leather and chains. It was exactly what MTV was looking for: a swaggering American rock star in a video with motorcycles and girls. They put the video in hot rotation, giving the song a huge boost. It also helped that MTV reached a huge rural audience (Mellencamp’s stronghold) because cable television was very popular in areas outside of broadcast signals.
FUN FACT: Back when he was a rapper known as Marky Mark, Mark Wahlberg wanted to turn this into a rap song, but Mellencamp would not allow it.
FUN FACT: Mellencamp once owned a tattoo parlor. This led to many family members getting tattoos they wouldn’t have otherwise asked for, like the “Hurts So Good” tattoo on his aunt.
If you’re interested in learning more about John Mellencamp, I did an Artist Spotlight on him with a 4M post from July 2017.
Shake It Off by Taylor Swift (2014) – “Shake It Off” is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift from her fifth album, 1989. Written by Swift, Max Martin and Shellback, it is an uptempo dance-pop track considered to be a departure from Swift’s earlier country pop music style.
1989 is Taylor Swift’s first official pop album, and is titled after the year that the singer was born. The record’s pop sensibilities center on the music of that era. “I was listening to a lot of late ’80s pop music and how bold those songs were and how that time period was a time of limitless possibilities,” she said. “In thinking about that, this album is a rebirth for me. This is my very first documented, official pop album. 1989 is the most sonically cohesive album I have ever made and my favorite album I have ever made.”
The first and lead single from 1989, this track finds Taylor Swift dismissing her haters. The song was inspired by how the country-pop princess has learned to deal with all the false rumors that have circulated since her 2012 Red album.
“I’ve had to learn a pretty tough lesson in the past couple years that people can say whatever they want about at any time, and we cannot control that,” said Swift. “The only thing we can control is our reaction to that … You can either let it get to you … [or] you just shake it off.”
Taylor’s 2011 single “Mean” previously found her taking aim at her critics. Taylor explained to Billboard magazine the difference between this song and her 2010 tune about dealing with haters, “Mean.”
“Four years ago I put out a song called ‘Mean’ from the perspective of ‘Why are you picking on me? Why can I never do anything right in your eyes?’ It was coming from a semi-defeated place,” she explained. “Fast-forward a few years and ‘Shake It Off’ is like, ‘You know what? If you’re upset and irritated that I’m just being myself, I’m going to be myself more, and I’m having more fun than you so it doesn’t matter.'”
“Shake It Off” originated from Swift learning to overcome her fear of not being accepted.
“I think it kind of takes not caring what people think about you a step further to kind of locking the fact that people don’t get you,” she explained to BBC Radio 1’s Breakfast Show. “Kind of taking pride in the fact that you know you are and it honestly doesn’t matter if someone else doesn’t want to understand you. We go through these scenarios in so many different phrases of our lives, no matter what it is.”
Taylor said the tune was born from her own challenges.
“I want this song to go out into the world and not be about my critics,” she explained to Fusion‘s Alicia Menendez. “I want it to be about the girl who’s criticizing someone in 11th grade because she thinks that her hair looks stupid. And that girl then goes and cries in the bathroom because of it. These are things that we go through in every phase of our life, starting with your job, and there’s just someone who has it out for you.”
“I had a lot of days where I would come home from school and get in the car, and my mom would try so hard to console me because someone had made fun of me or someone had said something about me or not invited me to something that I was dying to go to,” Taylor continued. “And she would always try to find songs that would bring me out of that. Music always helped distract me from that. So I think my greatest hope is that this started out to be about my life, and I just want it to go out into cars and speakers and earphones and become about their lives.”
Speaking on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man, Taylor said she was inspired to write the song as a way of dealing with some of the gossip she read about herself. One of the strange rumors the singer came across is about where she goes to write. Taylor explained,
“I feel like I don’t have a special song writing lair. I did read an article once though which said that I had a treasure chest of ex-boyfriend’s belongings which I have to go and touch in order to write songs. That was a special day.”
“So I wrote ‘Shake it Off’ so that it’s like a coping mechanism for when people say things like that,” she continued, “Or when I have to Google the person they say I’m dating because I don’t know who it is, or when they say I’ve bought a house in San Diego, and I’m like ‘but have I ever been there though?'”
“And I wanted to write a song that would make people, not feel victimized when they sang it, I didn’t want it to come from a place of ‘Why are you doing this to me? I feel so victimized and sad,'” Taylor added. “I wanted to be like ‘Okay, you’re irritated that I’m being myself. You’re going to talk about me, because I’m being myself, you’re going to make things up about me, because I’m being myself. I’m just going to be myself more.'”
The music video was directed by Mark Romanek (Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” Michael and Janet Jackson’s “Scream”) and shot in June 2014 over three days in Los Angeles. The clip explores the idea of identifying who someone is by the way they dance as we see Swift jiving in an assortment of styles accompanied by some of the world’s best dance crews. “It has a lot of professional dancers in it and me trying to awkwardly keep up,” she told the BBC. “In one scene I kind of find my own people that I like dancing with, and the people I fit in with, so we picked all these fans from Instagram and Twitter and invited them to a place, they had no idea what was gonna happen.”
Here’s a quick look at the instrumentation on this track:
- Drums – The foundation of the song, a variety of drum sounds with various degrees of reverb show up on most of the track. Provide the “sick beat” Swift speaks of.
- Saxophone – That’s a tenor sax playing throughout. Sax was big at the time, also playing a prominent role in “Problem” by Ariana Grande and “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
- Trumpet – Listen for this in the second and third choruses.
- Bass – A deft electric bass accentuates the verses and is most prominent in the chorus. A synth bass provides the low drone heard in the chorus.
- Synthesizer – Adds texture to the chorus.
- Shaker – To go along with the breakdown when Taylor sings, “Shake, shake, shake.” Clever.
- Hand Claps – Augment the drums and come to life in the cheerleader section. Adds another organic element to the song to keep it from sounding too electro.
FUN FACT: The phrase “shake it off” shows up 36 times in this song, mostly in the chorus. “Shake” appears 70 times.
FUN FACT: 1989 was the top selling album of 2014 in the US, clocking up sales of 3.66 million. Runner-up, Disney’s Frozen soundtrack was close behind with 3.53 million copies.
FUN FACT: A video of a Dover, Delaware, policeman singing and dancing along to the sing went viral after being uploaded on January 16, 2015. The clip’s popularity was helped by an endorsement from Swift, who said the cop has “sass.”
I fell in love with this video and I would love to meet this cop!
Living for the City by Stevie Wonder (1973) – “Living for the City” is a 1973 single by Stevie Wonder from his Innervisions album. It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the R&B chart.
Stevie Wonder played all the instruments on the song and was assisted by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff for recording engineering and synthesizer programming. Interestingly, the song’s personnel are listed as: Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocals, Fender Rhodes, drums, Moog bass, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer, handclaps.
It was one of the first soul music songs to deal explicitly with systemic racism and to use everyday sounds of the street like traffic, voices and sirens which were combined with the music recorded in the studio.
Song synopsis: One of Stevie Wonder’s social commentary songs, “Living for the City” tells of a young kid from Mississippi who moves to New York City. Born into a poor family, this young man experiences discrimination in looking for work and eventually seeks to escape to New York City in hopes of finding a new life. Though he dealt with many hardships, he was surrounded by caring people. Through a series of background noises and spoken dialogue, the man reaches New York by bus, where he is quickly taken advantage of and caught with drugs. He is then promptly framed for a crime, arrested, convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison, his dreams destroyed.
Reflecting on the messages in his songs, Wonder said:
“I think the deepest I really got into how I feel about the way things are was in ‘Living for the City.’ I was able to show the hurt and the anger. You still have that same mother that scrubs the floors for many, she’s still doing it. Now what is that about? And that father who works some days for 14 hours. That’s still happening.”
And this wraps up my post of Songs with Finger Snaps and Hand Claps. There are certainly many more songs that feature finger snapping and hand clapping. I have a whole list of songs that I wanted to include but ran out of time. So what are your favorite finger-snapping, hand-clapping songs?
Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) is a blog hop hosted by Marie of X-Mas Dolly, and co-hosted by Cathy of Curious as a Cathy and Stacy of Stacy Uncorked Two other co-hosts recently joined the fun: Alana of Ramlin’ with AM and Naila Moon of Musings & Merriment with Michelle. Be sure to stop by and visit the hosts and the other participants listed below: