Monday’s Music Moves Me – Songs with Names in the Title

Happy Monday everyone! It’s time for another Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) blog hop and this week’s theme is Songs with Names in the Title. Well, at least I thought that was the theme for this week. It was when I copied down the theme list from the site’s sidebar back in June. Imagine my surprise when I went in to add my link to the list today and discovered that the theme is now European Favorites. What?? I had no idea. Oh well. It’s too late now. I’ve spent too much time on this one to toss it away and I don’t have time to do a new one so this is going to be my 4M post for today. The good news is there are a few European favorites in my bunch here so at least they’ll qualify. Sorry guys. I didn’t know the theme had changed.

As for Songs with Names in the Title, there are TONS of songs with names in the titles and in fact I’m working on a comprehensive compilation of my favorite songs in this category. So far I have well over thirty pages and that was just with the Girls’ names!

For today’s 4M feature, here is a sampling of just 20 songs from my project, using Girl names.

A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash – “A Boy Named Sue” is a song written by Shel Silverstein that was made popular by Johnny Cash. Cash was at the height of his success when he recorded the song live at California’s San Quentin State Prison at a concert on February 24, 1969. The concert was filmed by Granada Television for later television broadcast; Carl Perkins played guitar on the performance. The audio of the concert was later released on Cash’s At San Quentin album. Cash also performed the song (with comical variations on the original performance) in December 1969 at Madison Square Garden. The song became Cash’s biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and his only top ten single there, spending three weeks at No. 2 in 1969, held out of the top spot by “Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones. The track also topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts that same year and was certified Gold on August 14, 1969, by the RIAA.

The song tells the tale of a young man’s quest for revenge on a father who abandoned him at three years of age and whose only contribution to his entire life was naming him Sue, commonly a feminine name, which results in the young man suffering from ridicule and harassment by everyone he meets in his travels. Because of this, Sue grows up tough, mean and smartens up very quickly, though he frequently relocates due to the shame his name gives him. Angered by the embarrassment and abuse that he endures in his life, he swears that he will find and kill his father for giving him “that awful name”.

Sue later locates his father at a tavern in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, during the middle of a summer season, and confronts him by saying, “My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!” This results in a vicious brawl that spills outdoors into a muddy street. After the two have beaten each other almost senseless, Sue’s father admits that he is the “heartless hound” (“son of a bitch” in the Johnny Cash version) that named him Sue and explains that the name was given as an act of love. Because Sue’s father knew that he would not be there for his son, he gave him the name, believing (correctly) that the ensuing ridicule would force him to “get tough or die.” Learning this, Sue makes peace with his father and they reconcile. With his lesson learned, Sue closes the song with a promise to name his son “Bill or George, anything but Sue.”

Here is a performance from 1969:

 

Ah Leah by Donnie Iris – one of my favorite hits from the 80s

“Ah! Leah!” is a song by American rock musician Donnie Iris from his 1980 album Back on the Streets. The song was released as a single in late 1980 and reached number 29 on the US Billboard Hot 100, 22 on the Cash Box Top 100, and 19 on the US Billboard Top Tracks chart. The song is widely considered to be Iris’ signature song and was most popular in Canada, where it became a Top 10 hit.

What I didn’t realize about Donnie Iris: Donnie Iris (born Dominic Ierace on February 28, 1943) is an American rock musician known for his work with the Jaggerz and Wild Cherry during the 1970s, and for his solo career beginning in the 1980s with his band, the Cruisers. He wrote the # 2 Billboard hit, “The Rapper”, with the Jaggerz in 1970 and was a member of Wild Cherry after the group had a #1 hit with “Play That Funky Music.” He also achieved fame as a solo artist in the early 1980s with the # 29 hit “Ah! Leah!” and the # 37 hit “Love Is Like a Rock.”

In addition to performing on the first three Jaggerz albums and the fourth and final Wild Cherry album, Iris with his solo band has released eleven studio albums, one EP, two live albums, and two compilation albums. He continues to release new material and tours throughout the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Youngstown and Cleveland, Ohio areas.

Here is Donnie Iris and the Cruisers performing live in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio in 1981

 

Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass – “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” is a 1972 song written and composed by Elliot Lurie and recorded by Lurie’s band, Looking Glass, on their debut album Looking Glass. The single reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100 charts, remaining in the top position for one week. Billboard ranked it as the 12th song of 1972.

The lyrics tell of Brandy, a barmaid in a western seaport harbor town which serves a hundred ships per day. The sailors tell her she’s a fine girl, who would make a good wife, but their life and love is the sea. Brandy falls in love with a sailor who gives her a silver chain from The North of Spain, and her locket holds his name. She would watch his eyes when he told his sailor tales, and felt the raging ocean. In the end, Brandy is left in love with “a man who’s not around” because no harbor was his home, but she can still hear his words, “Brandy you’re a fine girl…”

 

Cecelia by Simon and Garfunkel – “Cecilia” is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel, released in April 1970 as the third single from the group’s fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water. Written by Paul Simon, the song’s origins lie in a late-night party, in which the duo and friends began banging on a piano bench. They recorded the sound with a tape recorder, employing reverb and matching the rhythm created by the machine. Simon later wrote the song’s guitar line and lyrics on the subject of an untrustworthy lover. The song’s title refers to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music in the Catholic tradition.

The song was a hit single in the United States, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. On the Cash Box Top 100, it reached number one.

 

Dear Prudence by the Beatles – “Dear Prudence” is a song by the Beatles from their 1968 album The Beatles (also known as “the White Album”). The song was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Written in India, it was inspired by Prudence Farrow, a sister of actress Mia Farrow, who became obsessive about meditating while practicing with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

From an article I found in Rolling Stone magazine while researching the song: In January of 1968, a then-20-year-old Prudence Farrow finally fulfilled a dream of hers that had been in the making for two years: to study meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India. Accompanied by her sister, actress Mia, Farrow was later joined at the Maharishi’s retreat by none other than the members of the Beatles and their significant others. The Fab Four’s stay in India has been well-documented — aside from seeking spiritual enlightenment through the Maharishi, they wrote songs that later ended up on their self-titled two-record set, better known as the White Album, released later that year.

But Farrow didn’t get caught up in the buzz surrounding the Beatles’ presence at the retreat. Rather, she was more preoccupied with meditating for long hours in her room. Her single-minded devotion to meditation inspired John Lennon to compose “Dear Prudence” (number 63 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Beatles Songs), which later appeared on the White Album. Discussing the song in an interview with Playboy, published posthumously in 1981, Lennon remarked that Farrow “wouldn’t come out of the little hut we were living in… We got her out of the house — she’d been locked in for three weeks and wouldn’t come out. She was trying to find God quicker than anyone else. That was the competition in Maharishi’s camp: who was going to get cosmic first.” (Source: Rolling Stone article by David Chiu, September 4, 2015)

This video shows the members of the Beatles in Rishikesh in 1968. Rishikesh is known as the “Yoga Capital of the World.” In the video, you’ll see the Fab Four with their significant others and shots of Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence.

 

Jackie Blue by Ozark Mountain Daredevils – One of my very favorite songs! The Ozark Mountain Daredevils are an American Southern rock/country rock band formed in 1972 in Springfield, Missouri. They are most widely known for their singles “If You Wanna Get to Heaven” in 1974 and “Jackie Blue” in 1975.

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

Here’s a performance from an Old Grey Whistle Test appearance (OGWT was a British television music show). Recorded live at Shepherd’s Bush, London, March 26, 1976:

 

Jolene by Dolly Parton – “Jolene” is a song written and performed by American country music artist Dolly Parton. It was released in October 1973 as the first single and title track from her album of the same name, produced by Bob Ferguson.

“Jolene” tells the tale of a woman confronting Jolene, a stunningly beautiful woman, who she believes is trying to steal away her lover and begging her “please don’t take my man.” Throughout the song, the woman implores Jolene “please don’t take him just because you can.” According to Parton, the song was inspired by a red-headed bank clerk who flirted with her husband Carl Dean at his local bank branch around the time they were newly married. In an interview, she also revealed that Jolene’s name and appearance are based on that of a young fan who came on stage for her autograph.

The song became Parton’s second solo number-one single on the country charts after being released as a single in late 1973 (prior to the album’s release). It reached the top position in February 1974; it was also a moderate pop hit for her and a minor adult contemporary chart entry. The song has sold 733,000 digital copies in the US since it became available for digital download.

The song was released as a single later in the UK, and became Parton’s first top ten hit song in the country, reaching number seven in the UK Singles Chart in 1976. The song also re-entered the chart when Parton performed at the Glastonbury festival in 2014. The song has sold 255,300 digital copies in the UK as of January 2017.

 

Lorelei by Styx – “Lorelei” is a song from rock band Styx. It is on their 1975 album Equinox, and was released as a single in 1976.

The video below is from the 1996 Return to Paradise tour: on May 21, 1996, twenty years after the release of Lorelei, Styx’s triumphant Return to Paradise tour got underway at the Five Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with Kansas as the opening act. This special 70-plus date Grand Reopening reunion run celebrated Tommy Shaw’s return to the band, following the successful 1995 studio sessions for “Lady ’95,” which had been recorded for inclusion on Styx’s August 22, 1995 Greatest Hits release.

“We didn’t have any idea whether people would still care about us or not,” Tommy recalls of the days and weeks leading up to the RTP tour. “But our then-new manager Charlie Brusco assured us that if you put tickets on sale, people are going to show up. And they did — and in amazing numbers too! Return to Paradise indeed.”

That May 21 Cedar Rapids show also featured the live debut of drummer Todd Sucherman, who had been asked to take over for the ailing John Panozzo. “It was exhilarating,” Todd says. “At the end of the show, I felt like we had just won the Super Bowl.” (note: John Panozzo died in July 1996).

 

Maggie May by Rod Stewart – “Maggie May” is a song written and performed by singer Rod Stewart from his album Every Picture Tells a Story, released in 1971.

“Maggie May” expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a boy involved in a relationship with an older woman, and was written from Stewart’s own experience. In the January 2007 issue of Q magazine, Stewart recalled: “Maggie May was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival.” The woman’s name was not “Maggie May”; Stewart has stated that the name was taken from “… an old Liverpudlian song about a prostitute.”

Rod in a 1998 concert:

 

Mandy by Barry Manilow – In 1974, Barry Manilow recorded the song under the title name of “Mandy”. The song was Manilow’s first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts, and his first gold single. Scott English wrote the lyrics and recorded this song in 1971 as “Brandy.” His version was a hit in the UK. In the US, this was changed to “Mandy” to avoid confusion with the Looking Glass hit “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl).”

The bit about “Mandy” being about Manilow’s dog is an urban myth. Songwriter and original performer Scott English says he was woken by a phone call from a reporter, wanting to know who “Brandy” was. “I would have said anything to get rid of him,” says English, “So I spat out the first thing that came to mind: It was about a dog like Lassie and I had sent her away – now you go away!’ And I hung up on him.”

 

Mary Jane’s Last Dance by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” is a song written by Tom Petty and recorded by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It was recorded on July 22, 1993, while Petty was recording his Wildflowers album, and was produced by Rick Rubin, guitarist Mike Campbell, and Tom Petty. The sessions would prove to be the last to include drummer Stan Lynch before his eventual departure in 1994. This song was first released as part of the Greatest Hits album in 1993. It rose to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming his first Billboard Top 20 hit of the 1990s, and also topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart at #1 for two weeks.

This is another song that I love but the music video, I think, is extremely creepy and disturbing really. But what do I know? Because the music video won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1994. It features Petty as a morgue assistant who takes home a beautiful dead woman (played by Kim Basinger). He then tries to bring her back to life by acting as if she were alive, putting her in front of a television set and then dressing her as a bride, sitting her at the dinner table and dancing with her with no effect. A scene in the video featuring the dead woman wearing a wedding dress in a room full of wax candles is loosely based on a passage from the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. The plot also has similarities with the French movie Cold Moon, itself inspired by a Charles Bukowski short story (“The Copulating Mermaid of Venice“). Later, Petty is shown carrying her to a rocky shore and gently releasing her into the sea. At the end of the video, Basinger, who is seen floating in the water, opens her eyes.

During the final scenes of the video, Petty is seen carrying Basinger through a cave before placing her in the water. The cave is located at Leo Carrillo State Park, California where many movies and television shows were filmed.

I said, “She’s got to look really good, or why would he keep her around after she’s dead?” I thought, Kim Basinger would be good. I’d probably keep her for a day or two, let’s go see if she would do it.” You can make a joke about it, but you have to act a bit to be dead. It’s not easy.  — Tom Petty, on what made him decide that Kim Basinger would be a good choice for the corpse

Now that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was classic, wasn’t it? He was a doll, and he was so sweet and asked me to do it, and both of us are extremely shy so we just said three words to each other the whole time. I’ll never forget how heavy that dress was! And I had to be dead the whole time. You know, it’s really one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, because I had to be completely weightless to be in his arms the way I was. It won all those awards, and the kids love it—even today!  — Kim Basinger

Here’s the video. What do you think of it??

 

Michelle by the Beatles – This is one song that has been sung to me over and over and over throughout the years. The only issue I have with it is that the Beatles spelled Michelle with two L’s instead of the right way with one L, like mine.

“Michelle” is a love ballad by the Beatles, composed principally by Paul McCartney, with the middle eight co-written with John Lennon. It is featured on their Rubber Soul album, released in December 1965. The song is unique among Beatles recordings in that some of its lyrics are in French. “Michelle” won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1967. The song’s win over “Born Free”, “The Impossible Dream”, “Somewhere My Love” and “Strangers in the Night” was seen as something of a triumph for The Beatles, who had in 1966 been nominated, but were unsuccessful, in nine categories. It has since become one of the best known and often recorded of all Beatles songs. In fact, in 1999, BMI named “Michelle” as the 42nd most performed song of the 20th century.

The words and style of “Michelle” have their origins in the popularity of French Left Bank culture during McCartney’s Liverpool days. McCartney had gone to a party of art students where a student with a goatee and a striped T-shirt was singing a French song. He soon wrote a farcical imitation to entertain his friends that involved French-sounding groaning instead of real words. The song remained a party piece until 1965, when John Lennon suggested he rework it into a proper song for inclusion on Rubber Soul.

…we’d tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing… So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be ‘Michelle’. It was just an instrumental, but years later John said: ‘You remember that thing you wrote about the French?’ I said: ‘Yeah.’ He said: ‘That wasn’t a bad song, that. You should do that, y’know.’  — Paul McCartney

McCartney asked Jan Vaughan, a French teacher and the wife of his old friend Ivan Vaughan, to come up with a French name and a phrase that rhymed with it. “It was because I’d always thought that the song sounded French that I stuck with it. I can’t speak French properly so that’s why I needed help in sorting out the actual words”, McCartney said.

Vaughan came up with “Michelle, ma belle”, and a few days later McCartney asked for a translation of “these are words that go together well” — sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble. When McCartney played the song for Lennon, Lennon suggested the “I love you” bridge. Lennon was inspired by a song he heard the previous evening, Nina Simone’s version of “I Put a Spell on You”, which used the same phrase but with the emphasis on the last word, “I love you“.

Here’s Paul McCartney performing in the East Room of the White House, in the company of President Obama and the incomparable Michelle Obama. June 2, 2010.

 

My Maria by B.W. Stevenson – This is one of my favorite songs of all time! It’s a song about a gypsy woman, Maria, who relieves the narrator from problems with which he has been struggling.

“My Maria” is a song co-written by B. W. Stevenson and Daniel Moore. Stevenson released “My Maria” as a single in August 1973, and the song became a Top 10 hit, peaking at number 9 on the US pop chart. It remained in the Top 40 for twelve weeks. In addition, “My Maria” spent one week at number 1 on the US adult contemporary chart. It was Stevenson’s biggest hit. The guitar portion of the track was played by Larry Carlton. Twenty-plus years later, a cover by Brooks & Dunn reached number 1 on the US country music chart and won the 1997 Grammy for Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The artist, B. W. Stevenson (October 5, 1949 – April 28, 1988), was an American country pop artist, working in a genre now called progressive country. “B.W.” stood for “Buckwheat.” Stevenson was born in Dallas, Texas.

Fun fact: Stevenson performed and was taped for the intended pilot of Austin City Limits on October 13, 1974. However, the recording quality was deemed too poor to broadcast. Willie Nelson’s performance taped the following night ended up being aired as the first episode of the long-running program.

Stevenson died undergoing heart valve surgery at the age of 38. Since his death, Poor David’s Pub in Dallas has held an annual songwriting competition in his memory.

 

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” is a song written by Mel Tillis about a paralyzed veteran of a “crazy Asian war” (given the time of its release, widely assumed—but never explicitly stated—to be the Vietnam War) who either lies helplessly in bed or sits helplessly in his wheelchair as his wife “paints [herself] up” to go out for the evening without him; he believes she is going in search of a lover, and as he hears the door slam behind her, he pleads for her to reconsider. The song was made famous by Kenny Rogers and The First Edition in 1969. “Ruby” was originally recorded in 1967 by Johnny Darrell, who scored a number nine country hit with it that year.

In 1969, after the success Kenny Rogers and The First Edition had enjoyed with the hits “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and “But You Know I Love You,” Rogers wanted to take his group more into a country music direction. They recorded their version of the song, with Rogers singing the lead, in a single take. The record was a major hit for them. It made #1 in the UK on the New Musical Express (#2 on the BBC chart) staying in the top 20 for 15 weeks and selling over a million copies by the end of 1970. In the United States it reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #39 on the country chart.

In 1977, now performing solo after the First Edition disbanded in early 1976, Rogers made re-recordings of this, and a number of other First Edition hits, for his 1977 greatest hits package Ten Years of Gold. (It was later issued in the UK as The Kenny Rogers Singles Album.) Ten Years of Gold topped the US country charts under that title, and as The Kenny Rogers Singles Album, it was just as successful in the United Kingdom.

Here’s Kenny & the First Edition performing the song in 1972:

 

Sara Smile by Hall & Oates – “Sara Smile” is a song written and recorded by the American musical duo Hall & Oates. It was released in January 1976 as the second single from their album Daryl Hall & John Oates. The song was the group’s breakthrough single, its first Top 10 hit in the US, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It was written about Hall’s then-girlfriend, Sara Allen. The couple were together for almost 30 years before breaking up in 2001.

 

Sussudio by Phil Collins – “Sussudio” is a song by English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, released as a single in January 1985. The song is the first track on Collins’ third solo studio album, No Jacket Required, released in February of the same year. The song entered frequent rotation on MTV in May: by July both single and album reached number-one on their respective US Billboard charts. In the UK, the song peaked at number 12.

Collins has said that he “improvised” the lyric. Collins was just playing around with a drum machine, and the lyric “su-sussudio” was what came out of his mouth. “So I kinda knew I had to find something else for that word, then I went back and tried to find another word that scanned as well as ‘sussudio,’ and I couldn’t find one, so I went back to ‘sussudio'”, Collins said. According to Collins, the lyrics are about a schoolboy crush on a girl at school.

 

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond – “Sweet Caroline” is a song written and performed by American recording artist Neil Diamond and officially released on September 16, 1969, as a single with the title “Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)”. The song reached #4 on the Billboard chart and eventually went platinum for sales of one million singles. The song has proven to be enduringly popular, and as of November 2014 has sold over two million digital downloads in the United States.

Diamond wrote this song about his second wife, Marcia Murphey, who he married in 1969 (they divorced in 1995). He needed a three-syllable name to fit the melody, however, so “Sweet Marcia” didn’t work. The name Caroline is one he had written down, and it fit the song perfectly, so that’s what he used.

Neil Diamond is a great manipulator of the media, and has shifted his story about this song to fit the occasion. There was longtime speculation that the song is about Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the American president John F. Kennedy. Diamond has since revealed that this Caroline gave him the idea for the name, but had nothing to do with the song’s inspiration.

In 2007, however, Diamond performed the song via satellite at Caroline Kennedy’s 50th birthday party, and said that the song was about her. He told the Associated Press: “I’ve never discussed it with anybody before – intentionally. I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday. I’m happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have expressed it to Caroline. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy.”

Diamond added that he was a young, broke songwriter in the ’60s when he saw a cute photo of Caroline Kennedy in a magazine. Said Diamond: “It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony. It was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there.” A few years later, Diamond wrote the song in a Memphis hotel in less than an hour. Caroline was 11 years old when the song was released.

SWEET CAROLINE AND BASEBALL?? Even though the song has nothing to do with Boston, the Red Sox, baseball or New England, it is played at Red Sox home games in Fenway Park before the Red Sox bat in the the 8th inning. Amy Tobey, who worked the music at Fenway, first started playing the song in 1997 – it’s often reported that she played it in honor of a Red Sox employee who named her newborn daughter “Caroline,” but Tobey told NPR that she simply liked the song. It caught on with the fans, becoming a popular selection between innings. When Charles Steinberg took over as Red Sox executive vice president of public affairs in 2002, he championed the song, and instituted it as an 8th inning ritual (strategically placed before the Sox come up to bat late in the game), where it has been played ever since. Caroline Kennedy even attended a game that year, which was before Neil Diamond revealed her as the inspiration.

The song is an audience participation number in that the crowd sings “dum-dum-dum” after the words “Sweet Caroline” in the chorus and “so good, so good, so good” after “good times never seemed so good,” assisted by the music director who ducks the song down at this point so the crowd sounds louder. This Fenway ritual is portrayed in the Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon movie Fever Pitch.

On April 16, 2013, the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, the New York Yankees—longtime Red Sox rivals—announced they would play the song during their home game, preceded by a moment of silence, as a tribute to the victims. On Saturday, April 20, 2013, during the 8th inning of the Red Sox-Kansas City game in Fenway Park, Neil Diamond made a surprise appearance at Fenway Park where he performed the song in its traditional 8th inning timeslot. Diamond, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just two days earlier, appeared in street clothes rather than his usual lustrous performance garb as he led the crowd in a full version of the song.

The song was sung at sporting events across the country after the Boston Marathon bombings, in efforts to show solidarity with those affected by the tragedy. It was also played right before the start of the Hamburg Marathon in Hamburg, Germany, on Sunday, April 21, 2013, subsequent to a minute of silence. The song was also played before the start of the Stockholm Marathon in Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday, June 1, 2013, as a tribute to those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.

On April 25, 2013, “Sweet Caroline” was played following a tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing during the NFL Draft. Diamond has announced that he will donate all royalties from sales of the song since the marathon bombings to the One Fund Boston charity to help the people most affected by the bombings. Diamond said that sales of the song surged nearly 600 percent in the week after the bombings, to 19,000 copies, up from 2,800 the week before.

 

Take a Letter Maria by R. B. Greaves – “Take a Letter Maria” is a song written and recorded by R. B. Greaves, an American soul singer. The song has a Latin music flavor, complete with a mariachi-style horn section featuring trumpets. It tells of a man who has learned of his wife’s infidelity the night before, and dictates a letter of separation to Maria, his secretary, whom he asks out for dinner later in the song in order to “start a new life.” The song was released in September 1969, quickly gaining regular airplay and peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. It stayed in the Billboard chart for 15 weeks. The single was certified gold in December 1969, with one million copies shipped. By 1970, sales of the song totaled 2.5 million.

 

The Ballad of John & Yoko by the Beatles – “The Ballad of John and Yoko” is a song written by John Lennon, attributed to Lennon–McCartney as was the custom, and released by the Beatles as a single in May 1969. The song, chronicling the events associated with Lennon’s marriage to Yoko Ono, was the Beatles’ 17th and final UK number one single. It reached number eight in the U.S.

Interestingly, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” never appeared on the surveys of WLS in Chicago or WABC in New York, two of the largest Top 40 stations in the US. Several US radio stations declined to broadcast the song because of what they saw as sacrilegious use of the words Christ and crucify in the chorus:

Christ, you know it ain’t easy,

You know how hard it can be,

The way things are going,

They’re gonna crucify me.

Authored by Lennon while on his honeymoon in Paris, the song tells of the events of his marriage, in March 1969, to Ono, and their publicly held honeymoon activities, including their “Bed-In” at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel and their demonstration of “bagism.”

(Bagism is a term which was created by John Lennon and Yoko Ono as part of their extensive peace campaign in the late 1960s. The intent of bagism was to satirize prejudice and stereotyping. Bagism involved literally wearing a bag over one’s entire body. According to John and Yoko, by living in a bag, a person could not be judged by others on the basis of skin color, gender, hair length, attire, age, or any other such attributes. It was presented as a form of total communication: instead of focusing on outward appearance, the listener would hear only the bagist’s message. John and Yoko introduced the idea during a well-received press conference in Vienna on March 31, 1969 and explained it more thoroughly in a June 14, 1969 interview with David Frost. Bagism reflected the whimsical, carefree, and often comedic mood of John and Yoko’s other peace efforts, such as their Bed-Ins. By catching the attention of the masses with its outlandish premise, bagism presented a powerful social and political message to the world. As Lennon stated, “Yoko and I are quite willing to be the world’s clowns; if by doing it we do some good.”

Yoko said that bagism was inspired by the theme of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which was “One sees rightly only with the heart, the essential is invisible to the eyes.” She hoped that the bag (by hiding her and John’s physical appearance) would make their essence, or the essence of their message, visible).

Lennon brought the song to McCartney’s home on April 14, 1969, before recording it that evening. Recalling the controversy engendered by Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” remark in 1966, McCartney was alarmed at the references to Christ in the new song but agreed to assist Lennon. Ono later said: “Paul knew that people were being nasty to John, and he just wanted to make it well for him. Paul has a very brotherly side to him.”

The song was recorded without George Harrison (who was on holiday) and Ringo Starr (who was filming The Magic Christian). In Barry Miles’ biography, McCartney recalls that Lennon had a sudden inspiration for the song and had suggested that the two of them should record it immediately, without waiting for the other Beatles to return. Reflecting this somewhat unusual situation, the session recordings include the following exchange:

Lennon (on guitar): “Go a bit faster, Ringo!”

McCartney (on drums): “OK, George!”

It’s hard to find actual Beatles recordings on YouTube. This is an APPLE 45 r.p.m. single vinyl record of the Beatles song “The Ballad of John and Yoko” side “A” played on an old 60`s “SEARS SOLID STATE” turntable. The sound isn’t great but at least you can hear the full song. Plus seeing that old turntable sure brings back some memories.

In searching for the song I found this wonderful piece, The Ballad of John & Yoko: The Story Behind the Bed-In for Peace. It is featured on Canada’s History channel: Established in 1994 as a charitable organization devoted to popularizing Canadian history, Canada’s History aims to make Canadians more aware and appreciative of their past.

You can hear the song in the background and there is some great footage of the famous event.

 

So that’s my Monday’s Music Moves Me post for July 17. 2017. Do you like any of the songs that I featured here? What are your favorite songs with Girls names in the titles?

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.

 

 

BATTLE OF THE BANDS: Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel

It’s July 15th so not only are we halfway through summer but it’s also time for another Battle of the Bands. This month’s battle features a hit song by Stealers Wheel. Stealers Wheel was a Scottish folk rock/rock band formed in Paisley, Scotland, in 1972 by former school friends Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty. Their best-known hit is “Stuck in the Middle with You“, a Dylan-esque pop favorite recorded in April, 1974. The band broke up in 1975 and re-formed briefly in 2008.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the song: “Stuck in the Middle with You” (sometimes known as “Stuck in the Middle”) was released on Stealers Wheel’s 1972 eponymous debut album. Gerry Rafferty provided the lead vocals, with Joe Egan singing harmony. Rafferty’s lyrics are a dismissive tale of a music industry cocktail party written and performed as a pastiche of Bob Dylan. (I didn’t know what a pastiche was and had to look it up. In case you’re wondering too, it’s an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another artist).

The band was surprised by the single’s chart success. The single sold over one million copies, eventually peaking at number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 8 in the UK, and number 2 in Canada.

Any Tarrantino fans out there? The song is used in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs, during the scene in which the character Mr. Blonde (played by Michael Madsen) taunts and tortures bound policeman Marvin Nash (Kirk Baltz) while singing and dancing to the song. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Tarantino recalled:

“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!'”

The Reservoir Dogs: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was the first soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film and set the structure his later soundtracks would follow. This includes the extensive use of snippets of dialogue from the film. The soundtrack has selections of songs from the 1960s to ’80s. (Only the group Bedlam recorded original songs for the film). Reasoning that the film takes place over a weekend, Tarantino decided to set it to a fictional radio station ‘K-Billy’ (presumably KBLY)’s show “K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies Weekend”, a themed weekend show of broadcasts of songs from the seventies. The radio station played a prominent role in the film. The DJ for the radio was chosen to be Steven Wright, a comedian known for his deadpan delivery of jokes.

An unusual feature of the soundtrack was the choice of songs; Tarantino has said that he feels the music to be a counterpoint to the on-screen violence and action. He also stated that he wished for the film to have a 1950s feel while using ’70s music. A prominent instance of this is the torture scene to the tune of “Stuck in the Middle with You“. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Stealer’s Wheel music video is quite strange, in my opinion. Even the explanation of it didn’t make sense: “The video portrays the band performing in a corner of a large, empty building. Their performance is intercut with shots of Egan (who is miming to the by-then-departed Rafferty’s vocal track, although Gerry Rafferty did not die until January 2011) at a small banquet table with a number of garishly-dressed and made-up supper guests. These include an actual clown, a bespectacled bowler-hatted gent devouring spaghetti and a lavishly dressed woman eating cream cakes and grapes. The clown, who has difficulty eating a plastic chicken, continually squeezes Egan out whenever he tries to take food from the table. The guitar solo is played on a guitar played flat with an empty beer bottle used as a slide. Eventually, the other band members appear, driving off the strange characters so that Egan can sit down at last.”

HUH??? Whatever. It’s a good song. Enjoy! (and remember, this version is presented as the original source only; don’t vote for this one):

 

Now for my Battle: In searching for covers of this song I found four that I really liked and ironically two of them were by Jazz artists and the other two by Country artists. I couldn’t decide which two to pick, so with a little input from Stephen, I’m going to do my first FOUR-WAY BATTLE in which you’ll place TWO votes: one for your Jazz favorite and one for your Country favorite. Then next month I’ll have the two winners from each genre battle it out for a championship win in August. Hope you guys are okay with this.

Jazzy covers

Jazz Contender #1:  Michael Bublé – Micheal Bublé (born September 9, 1975) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, actor and record producer. He has won several awards, including four Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards. Bublé’s interest in jazz music began around age five when his family played Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album at Christmastime.

Here’s his jazzy take on Stuck in the Middle with You:

 

Jazz Contender #2:  Nicole Henry – Nicole Henry is an American jazz singer. She has performed in the world’s most acclaimed jazz venues, including clubs such as the Tokyo’s famed Cotton Club and Blue Note NYC. She has performed at numerous festivals including the Festival Miami and the San Jose Summer Jazz Fest (2014).

In 2013, she sang new renditions of hits from the 1970s for her album So Good, So Right: Nicole Henry Live recorded in front of sold-out crowds at Feinstein’s in New York. Stuck in the Middle with You is on that album:

 

Country covers

Country Contender #1:  Keith Urban – Keith Lionel Urban (born 26 October 1967) is a New Zealand born country musician (singer, songwriter, guitarist, TV show judge and record producer) with an impressive award-winning career.

This cover version of Stuck in the Middle with You is from the 2004 re-release of The Ranch’s self-titled album. The Ranch was a country music trio, which formed in 1997 by Peter Clarke on drums and percussion, Jerry Flowers on harmony vocals and bass guitar, and Keith Urban on lead vocals, guitar, ganjo, and keyboards. Most of the group’s material was co-written by Urban and Vernon Rust. Self-titled album The Ranch is the band’s only album. It was released by Capitol Nashville in 1997. After disbanding the group The Ranch, Urban resumed his solo career. Due to his solo success, The Ranch’s album was re-issued in February 2004 on Capitol/EMI as Keith Urban in The Ranch with two bonus tracks: “Billy” and “Stuck in the Middle with You“. Here is that bonus track:

 

Country Contender #2:  Juice Newton – Judy Kay “Juice” Newton (born February 18, 1952) is an American pop and country singer, songwriter, and musician. To date, Newton has received five Grammy Award nominations in the Pop and Country Best Female Vocalist categories (winning once in 1983), as well as an ACM Award for Top New Female Artist and two Billboard Female Album Artist of the Year awards (won consecutively).

Juice Newton did this cover of Stuck in the Middle with You in 1985 on her tenth studio album Old Flame (released in November 1985).

Old Flame was recorded after Newton signed a new recording contract with RCA. It peaked at number fifteen on the Billboard album chart. In his review of the album music critic Thom Owens notes that “out of all of Juice Newton’s albums, Old Flame has the strongest country roots and influences”. Featured on the album were cover versions of Del Shannon’s “Cheap Love”, Roy Hamilton’s “Hurt”, The Byrds’s “Feel a Whole Lot Better” and Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle with You”.

 

TIME TO VOTE! Which two versions do you like better and why? Please pick one from the Jazz group battle and one from the Country group battle. When you’re done voting, please visit these other BOTB participants and check out their cool battles:

Thanks for your participation and your votes! I’ll be back next month, on August 15th, for the Stuck in the Middle with You Championship, pitting the winners from today’s battle against each other. Until then, rock on…

 

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me – Freebie Focus on John Cougar Mellencamp

It’s Monday so it’s time for the Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) blog hop! Last week we used a 4th of July theme and my holiday post included the song, R.O.C.K. in the USA by John Cougar Mellencamp. And during this past week, I’ve just been in a Heartland Rock kind of mood.  Heartland rock is a genre of rock music that is exemplified by the commercial success of singer-songwriters Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, and John Mellencamp. It is characterized by a straightforward musical style, a concern with the average, blue-collar American life, and a conviction that rock music has a social or communal purpose beyond just entertainment.

Heartland Rock speaks directly to me. So I decided to do my 4M Freebie post on John Cougar Mellencamp. The following is a little background info on this artist and showcases some of my favorite songs by him. At the end is an extended playlist in case you want to groove all day on the ever-relatable John Cougar Mellencamp.

image sourced my last.fm

John J Mellencamp (born October 7, 1951), previously known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Cougar Mellencamp and now simply as John Mellencamp, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, painter, and actor. He is known for his catchy, populist brand of heartland rock, which emphasizes traditional instrumentation.

Mellencamp rose to superstardom in the 1980s while honing an almost startlingly plainspoken writing style that, starting in 1982, yielded a string of Top 10 singles including “Hurts So Good,” “Jack & Diane,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Pink Houses,” “Lonely Ol’ Night,” “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Paper in Fire,” and “Cherry Bomb.” He has amassed 22 Top 40 hits in the United States. In addition, he holds the record for the most tracks by a solo artist to hit number one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with seven, and has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning one. Mellencamp released his latest album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, on April 28, 2017, to widespread critical acclaim.

Mellencamp is also one of the founding members of Farm Aid, an organization that began in 1985 with a concert in Champaign, Illinois, to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Farm Aid concerts have remained an annual event over the past 32 years, and as of 2017 the organization has raised over $50 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.

Mellencamp is critically acclaimed and widely respected throughout the industry. Johnny Cash called Mellencamp “one of the 10 best songwriters” in music. Said longtime Rolling Stone contributor Anthony DeCurtis: “Mellencamp has created an important body of work that has earned him both critical regard and an enormous audience. His songs document the joys and struggles of ordinary people seeking to make their way, and he has consistently brought the fresh air of common experience to the typically glamour-addled world of popular music.”

The late Billboard magazine editor-in-chief Timothy White said in 2001:

John Mellencamp is arguably the most important roots rocker of his generation. John has made fiddles, hammer dulcimers, Autoharps and accordions lead rock instruments on a par with electric guitar, bass and drums, and he also brought what he calls ‘a raw Appalachian’ lyrical outlook to his songs. Mellencamp’s best music is rock ‘n roll stripped of all escapism, and it looks directly at the messiness of life as it’s actually lived. In his music, mortality, anxiety, acts of God, questions of romance and brotherhood, and crises of conscience all collide and demand hard decisions. This is rock music that tells the truth on both its composer and the culture he’s observing. (Source: Wikipedia)

WHY SO MANY NAMES IS WHAT I WANTED TO KNOW:

To make a long story short: For starters: After about 18 months of traveling back and forth from Indiana to New York City in 1974 and 1975, Mellencamp finally found someone receptive to his music and image in Tony DeFries of MainMan Management. DeFries insisted that Mellencamp’s first album, Chestnut Street Incident, a collection of covers and a handful of original songs, be released under the stage name Johnny Cougar, insisting that the bumpy German name “Mellencamp” was too hard to market. Mellencamp reluctantly agreed, but the album was a complete failure, selling only 12,000 copies. Mellencamp confessed in a 2005 interview: “That (name) was put on me by some manager. I went to New York and everybody said, ‘You sound like a hillbilly.’ And I said, ‘Well, I am.’ So that’s where he came up with that name. I was totally unaware of it until it showed up on the album jacket. When I objected to it, he said, ‘Well, either you’re going to go for it, or we’re not going to put the record out.’ So that was what I had to do… but I thought the name was pretty silly.” (Wikipedia)

He parted ways with that manager and Rod Stewart’s manager Billy Gaff took an interest in him and signed him to the Riva Records label. It was in 1979 when he started going by John Cougar with the release of his self-titled album. In 1980, his album Nothin’ Matters & What If It Did yielded two Top 40 singles, “This Time” (No.27) and “Ain’t Even Done With the Night” (No.17). In 1982, he released his breakthrough album, American Fool, which contained the singles “Hurts So Good,” an uptempo rock tune that spent four weeks at No. 2 and 16 weeks in the top 10, and “Jack & Diane,” which was a No. 1 hit for four weeks. A third single, “Hand to Hold on To,” made it to No. 19. “Hurts So Good” went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 25th Grammys.

With some commercial success under his belt, Mellencamp had enough clout to force the record company to add his real surname, Mellencamp, to his stage moniker. The first album recorded under his new name John Cougar Mellencamp was 1983’s Uh-Huh, a Top-10 album that spawned the Top 10 singles “Pink Houses” and “Crumblin’ Down” as well as the No. 14 hit “Authority Song,” which he said is “our version of ‘I Fought the Law’.”

It was his 1991 album, Whenever We Wanted, that was the first with a cover billed to John Mellencamp—the Cougar was now gone forever. Whenever We Wanted yielded the Top 40 hits “Get a Leg Up” and “Again Tonight,” but “Last Chance,” “Love and Happiness” and “Now More Than Ever” all garnered significant airplay on rock radio.

And from that point on, through today, he goes by John Mellencamp. Wowsa!

Most recently: In December 2015, Mellencamp began recording a duets album with Carlene Carter (daughter of June Carter), who was his opening act for all shows on the Plain Spoken Tour (promoting his 2014 album) and would join Mellencamp for two songs during his set. “We really enjoyed singing together on tour,” Carter told The Advocate. “Our voices clicked really good. John got the idea to do an album together. I was blown away.” The result was Mellencamp and Carter’s duets album, titled Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, which was released this year on April 28, 2017. “We wrote a couple of songs together, and she wrote some and I wrote some,” Mellencamp told USA Today.

Here are just a few of my favorite John Cougar Mellencamp songs, from various versions of his name incarnations, in no particular order:

Crumblin’ Down – “Crumblin’ Down” is the lead single from John Mellencamp’s 1983 album Uh-Huh. It was a top-ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Mainstream Rock charts. “Crumblin’ Down” was the first single released by Mellencamp to include his real last name: previous releases were credited to “John Cougar.”

It was written by Mellencamp and longtime writing partner George Green. According to Green, the song attempts to answer the question of what to do when success eventually fades, and “the big-time deal falls through.” The song touches on Mellencamp’s fame as well as the frustrations of losing one’s livelihood: the lyrics were inspired, in part, by Mellencamp’s cousin losing his job as an electrical engineer.

Here’s the video that received heavy play on MTV:

 

Cherry Bomb –  “Cherry Bomb” is a 1987 hit song released as the second single from Mellencamp’s ninth studio album The Lonesome Jubilee.

The song was a success in the U.S., reaching #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, #12 on the Adult Contemporary Chart and becoming a top ten hit on the main Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it reached #8.

“Cherry Bomb” is a nostalgic song that reflects back on Mellencamp’s teenage years hanging out in clubs with his friends. In a 1989 BBC radio interview, Mellencamp said: “Cherry Bomb is just a name of a club that I made up. The real name of the club was The Last Exit—The Last Exit Teen Club actually was the name of the place. It was a place that we went as kids. The whole world seemed to exist there. Everything that was important happened down in the basement of this church is what it was.”

 

Paper in Fire – another 1987 hit from The Lonesome Jubilee album. The song was a success in the U.S., reaching #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and becoming a top ten hit on the main Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also topped the Canadian Singles Chart, and charted on various European singles charts.

The inspiration for the song was revealed in a 1989 interview with the BBC: Mellencamp said: “‘Paper in Fire’ deals with a lot of biblical things – paper in fire, in fact, is hell, and is referred to in the Bible as hell. ‘A man will be cast into paper in fire.’ It’s in there, believe me, it’s in there. That’s where that term came from.”

The line “we keep no check on our appetites,” from the song’s final verse, was cited in the 1963 movie Hud, which is one of Mellencamp’s favorite movies and has inspired many of his songs.

 

Rain on the Scarecrow – “Rain on the Scarecrow” was co-written by John Mellencamp and George M. Green for Mellencamp’s eighth studio album Scarecrow. Released in September 1985, it peaked at #2 on the U.S. chart.

About the album: The overall theme of the album is the fading of the American dream in the face of corporate greed. Rolling Stone wrote that songs such as “Face of the Nation,” “Minutes to Memories” and “Small Town” have a “bittersweet, reflective tone.”

In his 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit, Mellencamp said: “With Scarecrow, I was finally starting to find my feet as a songwriter. Finally, for the first time, I realized what I thought I wanted to say in song. …I wanted it to be more akin to Tennessee Williams, John Steinbeck, Faulkner, as opposed to the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan.”

 

Check It Out – “Check It Out” is a 1987 song by John Mellencamp released as the third single from his album The Lonesome Jubilee in 1988. The single was a top 20 hit, reaching number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music in this song is fantastic and I love the electric violin especially. Here is the live performance from a concert on December 11, 1987 at the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana:

 

Pink Houses – “Pink Houses” was released on the 1983 album Uh-Huh on Riva Records. It reached #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in early 1984. “Pink Houses” was ranked #439 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Recorded in a farmhouse in Brownstown, Indiana, the song was inspired when Mellencamp was driving along an overpass on the way home to Bloomington, Indiana from the Indianapolis airport. There was an old black man sitting outside his little pink shotgun house with his cat in his arms, completely unperturbed by the traffic speeding along the highway in his front yard. “He waved, and I waved back,” Mellencamp said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “That’s how ‘Pink Houses’ started.”

The song also served as a scathing critique of Yuppies and Reaganomics and the overall “Greed is good” atmosphere of the time.

Its Use in Politics: In 2004, the song was played at events for Senator John Edwards’ presidential campaign. The song was also used at events for Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign.

“Pink Houses” along with “Our Country” was played by Senator John McCain at political events for his 2008 presidential campaign. Mellencamp contacted the McCain campaign pointing out Mellencamp’s support for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and questioning McCain’s use of his music; in response, the McCain campaign ceased using Mellencamp’s songs.

In January 2009, Mellencamp played “Pink Houses” at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.

In 2010, “Pink Houses” was used by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) at events opposing same-sex marriage. At Mellencamp’s instruction, his publicist sent a cease and desist letter to NOM stating that “Mr. Mellencamp’s views on same sex marriage and equal rights for people of all sexual orientations are at odds with NOM’s stated agenda” and requesting that NOM “find music from a source more in harmony with your views than Mr. Mellencamp in the future.”

Love it!

 

Small Town – “Small Town” is a song released on the 1985 album Scarecrow. The song reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Mellencamp wrote the song about his experiences growing up in a small town in Indiana, having been born in Seymour, Indiana, and living in Bloomington, Indiana, which, at the time of the release of the song, was much smaller. The music video has references to both towns.

“I wrote that song in the laundry room of my old house,” Mellencamp told American Songwriter magazine in 2004. “We had company, and I had to go write the song. And the people upstairs could hear me writing and they were all laughing when I came up. They said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ What else can you say about it?”

Here John Mellencamp performs “Small Town” at Farm Aid III held on September 19, 1987 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp founded Farm Aid in 1985 and serve on the board of directors. The three agreed that family farmers were in dire need of assistance and decided to plan a concert for America. Farm Aid III was held in Lincoln, Nebraska at Memorial Stadium. Artists including Emmylou Harris, Steppenwolf, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, John Denver, Lou Reed, Joe Walsh, and many more performed).

 

And here’s a few of his earlier songs: “The singles were stupid little pop songs,” Mellencamp told Record Magazine in 1983:

Ain’t Even Done with the Night – One of Mellencamp’s earliest of hit songs, from the 1981 album Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did. It was his fourth studio album, under his pseudonym of John Cougar. It includes the moderate hits “Ain’t Even Done with the Night,” which reached #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the album’s second single.

Here’s a live performance of Ain’t Even Done with the Night in 1981, with some odd costuming, in my opinion:

 

This Time – “This Time” is the lead single, also from the 1981 album Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did. The song peaked at #27 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The woman on the album’s cover and in the music video for “This Time” is actress Edith Massey, a member of the Dreamlanders troupe who often appeared in the films of John Waters. Massey was chosen because, as Mellencamp told Rolling Stone in late 1980, “I was looking for a typical heavy woman to convey a lower-middle-class way of living.”

 

A decade later, this next song is a powerful social commentary from Mellencamp’s 1991 album Whenever We Wanted. This, his 11th album, is the first to be credited simply to Mellencamp’s given name (i.e., without the “Cougar” name).

The album includes the hits “Get A Leg Up” (#1 for three weeks on the Album Rock Tracks chart), “Now More Than Ever” (#3 on the Album Rock Tracks chart), “Last Chance” (#12 on the Album Rock Tracks chart), and “Again Tonight” (#1 for two weeks on the Album Rock Tracks chart). “Get A Leg Up” (#14) and “Again Tonight’ (#36) also cracked the Billboard Hot 100. (You can see these videos in my full playlist below).

Regarding the styling of the album: After his previous two albums (The Lonesome Jubilee and Big Daddy) featured such non-traditional rock instruments as the accordion and violin, Mellencamp said that on Whenever We Wanted he wanted to put those instruments “back in their cases” and return to a harder-edged sound. Mellencamp further elaborated on the album, saying: “It’s very rock ‘n’ roll. I just wanted to get back to the basics.”

Love and Happiness

 

Finally, here is one of Mellencamp’s newly released songs from his 23rd studio album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies (released April 28, 2017):

Easy Target – Politically-charged “Easy Target” was dropped (premiered) on the eve of Trump’s inauguration (January 19, 2017) on Yahoo’s The Katie Couric Interview. It is John’s reflection on the state of our country.

Ahead of the performance, John Mellencamp sat down with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric to discuss the inspiration behind the song, the Trump inauguration, and his views on a divided country. An outspoken artist, Mellencamp continues his journey to convey the truth through this passionate and plain-spoken song.

As for the album’s cover art:

The artwork on the front cover of Sad Clowns & Hillbillies was taken from a 2005 Mellencamp painting called “Twelve Dreams.” This marks the first time since 1991’s Whenever We Wanted that Mellencamp has displayed one of his paintings on an album cover.

Without further ado, here is “Easy Target”:

 

JOHN MELLENCAMP INTERVIEW: CBS SUNDAY MORNING

Mellencamp was interviewed earlier this month by Jane Pauley and aired on CBS Sunday Morning (July 2, 2017). Thanks Alana (Ramblin’ with AM), for the reminder! This is a fantastic interview and gives great insight into John Mellencamp the man. Take a few minutes and check it out:

 

Didn’t get enough? Below is a comprehensive playlist of Mellencamp songs (30 of them, including some of his newest material) that I really enjoy so if you want to listen to a big long block of John Cougar Mellencamp today, here’s your ticket:

 

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.

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Monday’s Music Moves Me – 4th of July Edition

It’s Monday and that means it’s time for Monday’ Music Moves Me (4M), 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.

Today’s 4M is a special 4th of July Edition in which we present songs having to do with freedom, independence, celebration and America. I was just going to put together a simple playlist and let ‘er rip, but there are so many interesting facts about many of the songs that I’m featuring I figured I’d elaborate and include some fun factoids that I discovered on Wikipedia.

So, here is my 4th of July playlist:

“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” – John Mellencamp

“R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”, subtitled “A Salute to 60’s Rock,” is a rock song written and performed by John Mellencamp. It was the third single from his 1985 album Scarecrow and a top-ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Top Rock Tracks charts.

 

“Where the Stars & Stripes & the Eagle Fly” – Aaron Tippin

“Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” is a song written by Kenny Beard, Casey Beathard and co-written and recorded by American country music singer Aaron Tippin. The song reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for one week. In addition to this, it also peaked at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Tippin’s first and, to date, only entry into the Top 20. In addition, it was Tippin’s last single to reach the Top Ten on the country charts. The song was released in the wake of the September 11 attacks. All proceeds from the single went to the Red Cross and its relief efforts for the families of the September 11 attacks. According to then label president, Larry Goodman, the single raised approximately $250,000.

 

“Philadelphia Freedom” – Elton John

Some have interpreted “Philadelphia Freedom” as an American patriotic song, owing to patriotic lyrics such as “From the day I was born I waved the flag,” the history of Philadelphia as being symbolic with American ideals of freedom as Philadelphia was the site of the Constitutional Convention, houses the Liberty Bell and served as the first capitol of the United States, along with the song’s release, which coincided with the United States Bicentennial. But in reality, it was really written to honor Billie Jean King, a good friend of Elton’s. According to Wikipedia: Recorded in the summer of 1974, during breaks between sessions for Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the song was at the time the only song Elton John and Bernie Taupin had ever consciously written as a single, as John told journalist Paul Gambaccini. John was looking to honor Billie Jean King, and so asked Taupin to write a song called “Philadelphia Freedom” as a homage to her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms.

In His Song: The Musical History of Elton John, Elizabeth Rosenthal recounts that Taupin said, “I can’t write a song about tennis,” and did not. Taupin maintains that the lyrics bear no relation to tennis, Philly Soul, or even flag-waving patriotism. Nonetheless, the lyrics have been interpreted as patriotic and uplifting, and even though it was released in 1975, the song’s sentiment, intentionally or not, meshed perfectly with an American music audience gearing up for the country’s bicentennial celebration in July 1976. (Source: Wikipedia)

Here’s Elton John performing this great hit on Soul Train in 1975:

 

“Livin’ in America” – James Brown

“Living in America” is a 1985 song composed by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight and performed by James Brown. It was released as a single in 1985 and reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song entered the Billboard Top 40 on January 11, 1986, and remained on the chart for 11 weeks.

The song was prominently featured in the film Rocky IV. In the film, Brown sings the song before Apollo Creed enters the boxing ring, in reference to the character’s patriotic image. It appeared on the Rocky IV soundtrack album. The full version of the song (nearly six minutes long) was included on Brown’s 1986 album, Gravity, and on various compilations throughout the 1990s.

 

“Born in the U.S.A.” – Bruce Springsteen

“Born in the U.S.A.” is a 1984 song written and performed by Bruce Springsteen, and released on the album of the same name. One of Springsteen’s best-known singles, Rolling Stone ranked the song 275th on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and in 2001, the RIAA’s Songs of the Century placed the song 59th (out of 365). The song addresses the harmful effects of the Vietnam War on Americans and the treatment of Vietnam veterans upon their return home. It is an ironic retort to the indifference and hostility with which Vietnam veterans were met.

The song was in part a tribute to Springsteen’s friends who had experienced the Vietnam War, some of whom did not come back; it also protests the hardships Vietnam veterans faced upon their return from the war.

The song’s narrative traces the protagonist’s working-class origins, induction into the armed forces, and disaffected return to the States. An anguished lyrical interlude is even more jolting, describing the fate of the protagonist’s (literal or figurative) brother (in some recordings or live shows, the word “brother” is replaced with “buddy”):

I had a brother at Khe Sanh

Fighting off the Viet Cong

They’re still there; he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon

I got a picture of him in her arms, now

The Battle of Khe Sanh involved the North Vietnamese Army, not the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (Viet Cong) heard in the song lyrics. Eventually the Americans prevailed and broke the siege, only to withdraw from the outpost a couple of months later. Khe Sanh thus became one of the media symbols of the futility of the whole war effort in the States.

Two scholars writing in the journal American Quarterly explored the song as a lament for the embattled working-class identity. Structurally, they noted that “the anthemic chorus contrasted with the verses’ desperate narrative,” a tension which informs an understanding of the song’s overall meaning: the nationalist chorus continuously overwhelms the desperation and sacrifice relayed in the verses. They point out that the imagery of the Vietnam War could be read as metaphor for “the social and economic siege of American blue-collar communities” at large, and that lyrics discussing economic devastation are likely symbolic for the effect of blind nationalism upon the working class. The song as a whole, they felt, laments the destabilization of the economics and politics protecting the “industrial working class” in the 1970s and early 1980s, leaving only “a deafening but hollow national pride.” (Source: Wikipedia)

 

“American Pie” – Don McLean

“American Pie” is a song by American folk rock singer and songwriter Don McLean. Recorded and released on the American Pie album in 1971, the single was a number-one US hit for four weeks in 1972. The song was listed as the No. 5 song on the RIAA project Songs of the Century.

The repeatedly mentioned “day the music died” refers to the 1959 plane crash which killed early rock and roll performers Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. (The crash was not known by that name until after McLean’s song became a hit.) The meaning of the other lyrics has long been debated, and for decades, McLean declined to explain the symbolism behind the many characters and events mentioned. However, the overall theme of the song is the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation as symbolized by the plane crash which claimed the lives of three of its heroes.

In 2017, McLean’s original recording was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”

When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean jokingly replied, “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” He also commented on the popularity of his music, “I didn’t write songs that were just catchy, but with a point of view, or songs about the environment.”

In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript went for auction in New York City, in April 2015. The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2 million. In the sale catalogue notes, McLean revealed the meaning in the song’s lyrics: “Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. … It [life] is becoming less idyllic. I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense.” The catalogue confirmed some of the better known references in the song’s lyrics, including mentions of Elvis Presley (“the king”) and Bob Dylan (“the jester”), and confirmed that the song culminates with a near-verbatim description of the death of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Free Concert, ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

“American Woman” – The Guess Who

“American Woman” is a song released by the Canadian rock band The Guess Who in January 1970, from their sixth studio album of the same name. It was later released in March 1970 as a single backed with “No Sugar Tonight”, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Billboard magazine placed the single at number three on the Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1970 list. On May 22, 1970, the single was certified as gold by the RIAA.

The song’s origins took the form of a live jam that emerged during a curling rink concert in Southern Ontario (various recollections include Kitchener and Mississauga, while Burton Cummings, the lead singer, recalls the curling rink was “The Broom and Stone”—a popular Scarborough location for concerts at the time). When Bachman broke a string he unknowingly played the riff to American Woman when tuning the replacement string. He played it louder and Cummings improvised the lyrics to fit what Bachman was playing. They liked what they had played and noticed a kid with a cassette recorder making a bootleg recording and asked him for the tape. The subsequent studio recording features the original almost completely unchanged; only a few lines were added.

In an interview with Randy Bachman in Songfacts he elaborated further, calling this “an anti-war protest song,” explaining that when they came up with it on stage, the band and the audience had a problem with the Vietnam War. Said Bachman: “We had been touring the States. This was the late ’60s, one time at the US/Canada border in North Dakota they tried to draft us and send us to Vietnam. We were back in Canada, playing in the safety of Canada where the dance is full of draft dodgers who’ve all left the States”.

Cummings (the song’s lyricist) insists it has nothing to do with American pride. “What was on my mind was that girls in the States seemed to get older quicker than our girls and that made them, well, dangerous.” Cummings told the Toronto Star in 2014. “When I said ‘American woman, stay away from me,’ I really meant ‘Canadian woman, I prefer you.’ It was all a happy accident.”

The song’s lyrics have been the matter of some debate, often interpreted as an attack on U.S. politics (especially the draft). Jim Kale, the group’s bassist and the song’s co-author, explained his take on the lyrics:

“The popular misconception was that it was a chauvinistic tune, which was anything but the case. The fact was, we came from a very strait-laced, conservative, laid-back country, and all of a sudden, there we were in Chicago, Detroit, New York – all these horrendously large places with their big city problems. After that one particularly grinding tour, it was just a real treat to go home and see the girls we had grown up with. Also, the war was going on, and that was terribly unpopular. We didn’t have a draft system in Canada, and we were grateful for that. A lot of people called it anti-American, but it wasn’t really. We weren’t anti-anything. John Lennon once said that the meanings of all songs come after they are recorded. Someone else has to interpret them.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Here’s The Guess Who doing a performance in the early 70s; not sure what show they were on. I saw them in concert back in my college days (early 80s) but by that time they were playing smaller venues and without all the original members. They are by far my favorite band of all time!

 

“Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue” by Toby Keith

This is probably my favorite patriotic song.

“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” is a song written and recorded by American country music artist Toby Keith. The song was written in late 2001, and was inspired by Keith’s father’s death in March 2001, as well as the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States later that year. It was released in May 2002 as the lead single from the album, Unleashed. The song topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart becoming his biggest solo hit on that chart.

On March 24, 2001, Keith’s father, Hubert Keith (H.K.) Covel, was killed in a car accident. That event and the September 11, 2001 attacks prompted Keith to write the song “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American)”, a song about his father’s patriotism and faith in the USA. It took him 20 minutes to write the song. Keith declares that the song was written with reference to the war in Afghanistan, claiming to be indifferent on other conflicts, “But you don’t have to listen but once to the words to understand that the song was strictly for Afghanistan.” I have no stance on the Iraq war,” he continues, “but the second [that I say], Ι have no stance there, I’m not smart enough to tell whether we should be in there or not”. At first, Keith refused to record the song and only sang it live at his concerts for military personnel.

The reaction was so strong that the Commandant of the Marine Corps James L. Jones told Keith it was his duty as an American citizen to record the song. “It’s your job as an entertainer to lift the morale of the troops,” Jones said to Keith. “If you want to serve, that is what you can do.” As the lead single from the album Unleashed (2002), “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue” peaked at number 1 on the country charts over the weekend of July 4.

In a November 2003 interview with CBS, Keith gave his take on the song: “It wasn’t written for everybody. And when you write something from your heart – I had a dad that was a veteran, taught me how precious our freedom is – I was so angry when we were attacked here on American soil that it leaked out of me. You know, some people wept when they heard it. Some people got goose bumps. Some people were emotionally moved. Some cheered, turned their fists in the air.”

The song was the last song aired by the Armed Forces Radio Network in Baghdad prior to ceasing operations in Baghdad during the drawdown from Iraq. It was selected by service members who were polled. (Source: Wikipedia)

The song also has some interesting controversy:

ABC invited Keith to sing “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” on a patriotic special it produced in 2002; however, the host of the show, Canadian-born newsman Peter Jennings, requested Keith soften the lyrics of the song or choose another song to sing. Keith refused both requests and did not appear on the special. The rift gave the song a considerable amount of publicity, which led to many national interviews and public performances of the song. During an interview with 60 Minutes, Keith spoke about his public comments about Jennings, saying “I thought it was hilarious. My statement was, ‘Isn’t he Canadian?’ to a bunch of press. They laughed and then I said, ‘Well, I bet Dan Rather wouldn’t kick me off his show,’” says Keith.” Responding to criticisms of the network decision, a representative for ABC stated that because Keith was performing in Utah when the show would broadcast, Keith could be on the program only as the opening act, and that the song was “angry” and “not the kind of tone the producers wanted to use to begin this three-hour celebration.”

Keith had a public feud with the Dixie Chicks over both the song and comments they made about President George W. Bush. The lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, Natalie Maines, publicly stated that the song was “ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” Keith responded by belittling Maines’ songwriting skills, and by displaying a backdrop at his concerts showing a doctored photo of Maines with Saddam Hussein. On May 21, 2003, Maines wore a T-shirt with the letters “FUTK” on the front at the Academy of Country Music Awards. While a spokesperson for the Dixie Chicks said that the acronym stood for “Friends United in Truth and Kindness”, many, including host Vince Gill, took it to be an obscene shot at Keith and understood the acronym to mean “Fuck You, Toby Keith.” In August 2003, Keith publicly declared he was done feuding with Maines “because he’s realized there are far more important things to concentrate on.”

Maines later admitted that the FUTK shirt was, in fact, a shot at Keith.” In the 2006 documentary Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, backstage footage prior to her appearance wearing the F.U.T.K. shirt recorded the conversation between Maines and Simon Renshaw and confirmed that the original intent of the shirt was, in fact, a shot at Keith in response to his criticism of her: the letters stood for “Fuck You Toby Keith”. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

“America” by Simon & Garfunkel

“America” is a song performed by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel, which they released from their fourth studio album, Bookends, in 1968. Produced by the duo and Roy Halee, the song was later issued as a single in 1972 to promote the release of Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.

The song was written and composed by Paul Simon, and concerns young lovers hitchhiking their way across the United States, in search of “America,” in both a literal and figurative sense. It was inspired by a 1964 road trip that Simon took with his then girlfriend Kathy Chitty. The song has been regarded as one of Simon’s strongest songwriting efforts and one of the duo’s best songs. A 2014 Rolling Stone reader’s poll ranked it the group’s fourth best song.

In 2004, Bob Dyer, a former disc jockey from Saginaw, Michigan, explained the song’s genesis in an interview with The Saginaw News. According to Dyer, Simon wrote the song while visiting the town in 1966, when he booked him for Y-A-Go-Go, a concert series hosted by the Saginaw YMCA.

“I asked Paul Simon if they were still charging the $1,250 we paid them to play and he said they were getting about four times that much then. Then I asked him why he hadn’t pulled out, and he said he had to see what a city named Saginaw looked like. Apparently, he liked it; he wrote ‘America’ while he was here, including that line about taking four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.”

In 2010, lyrics from the song began appearing spray-painted on vacant buildings and abandoned factories in the town of Saginaw, Michigan, which is mentioned in the song. The group of artists, Paint Saginaw, decided to paint the phrases after the population had dwindled vastly, noting that the song became rather “homesick” for the town’s residents. The song’s entire lyrics are painted on 28 buildings in the city, including railroad tracks and bridge supports. (Source: Wikipedia)

 

I’ll end my America set with the classic from Ray Charles:

“America the Beautiful” – Ray Charles

In 1976, while the United States celebrated its bicentennial, a soulful version popularized by Ray Charles peaked at number 98 on the US R&B Charts, and is included on the soundtrack for the movie The Sandlot.

Here are the lyrics to Ray Charles version:

Oh beautiful for heroes proved,

In liberating strife,

Who more than self, our country loved,

And mercy more than life,

 

America, America may God thy gold refine,

Til all success be nobleness

And every gain divined.

 

And you know when I was in school,

We used to sing it something like this, listen here:

 

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties,

Above the fruited plain,

 

But now wait a minute, I’m talking about

America, sweet America

You know, God done shed his grace on thee,

He crowned thy good, yes he did, in brotherhood,

From sea to shining sea.

 

You know, I wish I had somebody to help me sing this

(America, America, God shed his grace on thee)

America, I love you America, you see,

My God he done shed his grace on thee,

And you oughta love him for it,

Cause he, he, he ,he crowned thy good,

He told me he would, with brotherhood,

(From sea to shining Sea).

Oh lord, oh lord, I thank you Lord

(Shining sea).

 

 

If you’d like to listen to my 4th of July playlist in its entirety, here you go:

 

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY Y’ALL!

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Monday’s Music Moves Me –  Let’s Get Kinky!

This is my second week participating in the Monday’s Music Moves Me blog hop. It’s a “Freebie” week which means we don’t have to follow a specific theme and instead can choose whatever music we want to feature. I say Let’s Get Kinky with a time-capsule set of The Kinks!

The Kinks were an English rock band formed in North London in 1964 by brothers Ray and Dave Davies. They are regarded as one of the most important and influential rock bands of the era. The band emerged during the height of British rhythm and blues and Merseybeat and they were briefly part of the British Invasion of the US until their touring ban in 1965.

The group opened 1965 with their first tour of Australia and New Zealand, with Manfred Mann and the Honeycombs. An intensive performing schedule saw them headline other package tours throughout the year with acts such as the Yardbirds and Mickey Finn. Tensions began to emerge within the band, expressed in incidents such as the on-stage fight between Avory and Dave Davies at The Capitol Theatre, Cardiff, Wales in May that year. After finishing the first song, “You Really Got Me”, Davies insulted Avory and kicked over his drum set. Avory responded by hitting Davies with his hi-hat stand, rendering him unconscious, before fleeing from the scene, fearing that he had killed his bandmate. Davies was taken to Cardiff Royal Infirmary, where he received 16 stitches to his head. To placate the police, Avory later claimed that it was part of a new act in which the band members would hurl their instruments at each other.

Following a mid-year tour of the United States, the American Federation of Musicians refused permits for the group to appear in concerts there for the next four years, effectively cutting off the Kinks from the main market for rock music at the height of the British Invasion. Although neither the Kinks nor the union gave a specific reason for the ban, at the time it was widely attributed to their rowdy on-stage behavior. It has been reported that an incident when the band was taping Dick Clark’s TV show Where The Action Is in 1965 led to the ban. Ray Davies recalls in his autobiography, “Some guy who said he worked for the TV company walked up and accused us of being late. Then he started making anti-British comments. Things like ‘Just because the Beatles did it, every mop-topped, spotty-faced limey juvenile thinks he can come over here and make a career for himself” following which a punch was thrown and the AFM banned them.”

After a fallow period in the mid-1970s, the band experienced a revival during the late 1970s and early 1980s with albums Sleepwalker (1977), Misfits (1978), Low Budget (1979), Give the People What They Want (1981) and State of Confusion (1983). In addition, groups such as Van Halen, the Jam, the Knack, the Pretenders and the Fall covered their songs, helping to boost the Kinks’ record sales. The Kinks broke up in 1996, a result of the commercial failures of their last few albums and creative tension between the Davies brothers. Ray Davies (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and Dave Davies (lead guitar, vocals) remained members throughout the group’s 32-year run.

The following are my favorite Kinks songs, presented in order of release dates:

You Really Got Me – written by Ray Davies, “You Really Got Me” was released in August 1964 as the group’s third single, and reached number one on the UK singles chart the next month, remaining for two weeks. The song became the group’s breakthrough hit; it established them as one of the top British Invasion acts in the United States, reaching number seven there later in the year. “You Really Got Me” was later included on the Kinks’ debut album, Kinks.

The lyrics of the song are about lust and sex. Dave Davies said of the song’s lyrics, “‘You Really Got Me’ [is] such a pure record, really. It’s a love song for street kids. They’re not going to wine and dine you, even if they knew how to chat you up. [They say] ‘I want you—come here.'”

The song was covered by American rock band Van Halen in 1978 for their debut album Van Halen, reaching the Billboard Top 40. As the band’s first single, it was a popular radio hit which helped jump-start the band’s career, as it had done for the Kinks 14 years earlier. This version, which was cited by Eddie Van Halen as an “updated” version of the original, featured “histrionic” guitar playing by Eddie Van Halen and “vocal shenanigans” by David Lee Roth. The song had been played by the band live for years before its studio release. On the radio, it is often featured with “Eruption”, the instrumental that precedes it on the album, as an intro. (I’ve included a video of Van Halen’s version at the end of this post).

The following video shows a very early Kinks, performing in 1965 on the show Shindig! Shindig! was an American musical variety series which aired on ABC from September 16, 1964 to January 8, 1966.

 

All Day and All of the Night – “All Day and All of the Night” is a song from 1964. It reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 7 on Billboard’s US chart in 1965. The song was released on the American studio album Kinks-Size.

 

Tired of Waiting for You – “Tired of Waiting for You” was a 1965 hit. The song was released as a single in January 1965 in the UK and in February 1965 in the US. It then appeared on their second studio album Kinda Kinks.

According to Ray Davies, the music for “Tired of Waiting for You” was written on the train to the recording studio and the words were written at a coffee shop during a break in the session.

“Tired of Waiting for You” was written before “All Day and All of the Night,” but “All Day and All of the Night” was released first due to its similarities to the band’s first UK hit, “You Really Got Me.”

It reached No.1 on both the UK Singles Chart and Melody Maker, becoming the band’s second UK chart-topper since “You Really Got Me.” The single also reached No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the highest charting Kinks single in the US until the band’s 1983 hit “Come Dancing” tied it.

Here’s another television performance on the British show Shindig! appearing on July 7, 1965:

 

 Where Have All the Good Times Gone – written by Ray Davies, it was first released as the B-side to “Till the End of the Day,” and was then included on their album The Kink Kontroversy in 1965 (1966 in the US).

Ray Davies said, “We’d been rehearsing ‘Where Have All the Good Times Gone’ and our tour manager at the time, who was a lot older than us, said, ‘That’s a song a 40-year-old would write. I don’t know where you get that from.’ But I was taking inspiration from older people around me. I’d been watching them in the pubs, talking about taxes and job opportunities.”

 

Lola – This is probably my favorite Kinks song. The song details a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible transgender woman, whom he meets in a club in Soho, London. In the song, the narrator describes his confusion towards a person named Lola who “walked like a woman and talked like a man”. Although Ray Davies claims that the incident was inspired by a true encounter experienced by the band’s manager, alternate explanations for the song have been given by drummer Mick Avory.

The song was released in June 1970. Commercially, the single reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Due to its controversial subject matter and use of the brand name Coca-Cola, the single received backlash and even bans in Britain and Australia. The single version (mono) used the words “cherry cola” while the album version (stereo) uses the name “Coca-Cola”. The track has since become one of The Kinks’ most iconic and popular songs

This video features a 1970 performance on Britain’s Top of the Pops television show:

 

Celluloid Heroes – written by lead vocalist and principal songwriter Ray Davies, the song debuted on the Kinks 1972 album Everybody’s in Show-Biz.

The song names several famous actors of 20th century film, and also mentions Los Angeles’s Hollywood Boulevard, alluding to its Hollywood Walk of Fame. The actors mentioned are Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Bela Lugosi, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, George Sanders, and Mickey Rooney

Here’s a cool video I found on YouTube:

 

Sleepwalker – another of my favorites. Written by Ray Davies, “Sleepwalker” is the debut single from The Kinks’ 1977 album of the same name. Here’s a great 1977 performance but the video embedding was disabled so you’ll have to jump over to the YouTube site to check it out. But do go. It’s worth it!  https://youtu.be/NC5BR3RL6ug

If you’d rather stay here and just listen to a studio version of the song, here you go:

 

Father Christmas – This 1977 single is one of my holiday favorites. It tells of a department store Father Christmas who is beaten up by a gang of poor kids who tell him to give them money instead of toys, as toys are impractical; and asks that the toys be given “to the little rich boys.” At one point, a child asks the narrator to give his/her father a job for Christmas—or, if he must deliver a toy, a machine gun.

 

A Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy – “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” is the lead single and fourth track from The Kinks’ 1978 album Misfits. Written by Ray Davies, the song was inspired by the band’s then-tumultuous state at the time, with two members leaving the band during the recording of Misfits. Released as the first single from the album, the track was the band’s most successful single in years, peaking at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100.

 

Low Budget – “Low Budget” is the sixth track of the Kinks 1979 album of the same name. Recorded in January 1979, it describes a man giving up his “expensive tastes” in order to save money. Like many of the tracks on Low Budget, it applies to the economic troubles occurring during the time that the album was released, such as strikes in Great Britain (and the gas and oil crisis in the US). However, AllMusic’s Richard Gilliam claimed that the track’s theme could “easily apply to just about any modern recession.”

Although “Low Budget” refers to economic problems of the times in general, it also refers to some of Ray Davies’ own personal concerns. In the song, Davies mocks his own fear of not having money and his frugality. The song also references Davies’ vanity. The singer describes himself as once being well dressed and able to afford cigars, but now has to buy discount clothes and chew mints. He describes himself as “a cut-price person in a low-budget land.” But despite being reduced to poverty, the singer expresses pride in his hair and his teeth. Author Thomas Kitts notes that even the title, used in the refrain “I’m on a low budget” could refer to Davies keeping himself on a tight budget.

Here are The Kinks performing live in Providence, Rhode Island on September 23, 1979:

 

Destroyer – “Destroyer” was written by Ray Davies and released as a track on the group’s nineteenth album Give the People What They Want in August 1981. It was the album’s lead single in the US. In 1982, the single reached #3 on the Billboard Rock Top Tracks chart and #85 on the Billboard Hot 100.

It was not released as a single in the UK and was available only when the album was released there in January 1982. (The album’s lead single in the UK was “Better Things”).

The song features many callbacks to previous Kinks songs, both lyrically and musically. The track borrows the main riff from The Kinks’ 1964 song, “All Day and All of the Night”, one of the band’s first hits. The lyrics are a continuation of The Kinks’ 1970 hit song, “Lola”, about a transgender individual. In “Destroyer”, the protagonist of the song becomes paranoid after taking Lola back to his place.

 

Come Dancing – “Come Dancing” was a 1983 hit single in both the US and the UK, the track was included on the album State of Confusion. The song is a nostalgic look back at childhood memories of its writer: the Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies, remembering his older sister going on dates to the local Palais dance hall where big bands would play. The lyrics tell how the Palais has been demolished and his sister now has her own daughters who are going on dates. Great video!

 

Living On a Thin Line – “Living on a Thin Line” is a track written by Dave Davies for The Kinks’ 1984 album Word of Mouth. It has been praised as being on of Dave Davies greatest songs. I really like this song.

“Living on a Thin Line” is one of two songs on Word of Mouth written by Dave Davies (the other being “Guilty”). Davies said, in his biography Kink, that the track was influenced by The Kinks’ long and difficult career, along with his hatred toward politicians. The song’s lyrics compare the barbaric times of medieval England to today, saying that “inside we’re the same as we ever were”.

The song, despite not having much commercial success, has become a fan-favorite. The track has also been played three times in the American TV show The Sopranos’ 2001 episode “University.” Producer Terence Winter has said that it is the series’ most asked about song.

 

Now if this hasn’t been enough Kink, let’s get a little more kinky: Here is Van Halen’s cover of “You Really Got Me” – in a 1980 performance:

 

Have yourself a very kinky week…

 

This is a Blog Hop! Be sure to drop by the other participants blogs and check out their Monday’s Music Moves Me (4M) posts!


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