Monday’s Music Moves Me – SONGS ABOUT PLACES I’VE LIVED

It’s Monday so it’s time for Monday’s Music Moves Me. Today’s theme comes from Ellen at 15 and Meowing. The theme is “Names of Places” so I decided to take it in the direction of SONGS ABOUT PLACES I’VE LIVED. This was fun to put together and I hope you have fun listening to my playlist and reading some info on each of the songs. Enjoy!

NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK (BUFFALO)

I was born and raised in Niagara Falls, New York, way back in 1962. The city of Niagara Falls, aside from being one of the world’s seven natural wonders, had been booming since the 50s when everyone was moving there from other states because jobs were more than plentiful. My parents moved there from Pennsylvania for that very reason.

I love my hometown. And I miss it so much…Even though my friends tell me that it’s not the town we grew up in anymore. But the Falls itself is still the amazing, incredible, magnificent waterfalls it has always been. For those who aren’t familiar, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province Ontario and the American state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. (Tons of information at Wikipedia and the NY Falls website).

The view from Prospect Park Observation Tower, looking south, across the American Falls toward the Horseshoe Falls

The city of Buffalo in New York state is located on the shores of Lake Erie. It is known as the “Queen City of the Lakes,” and Niagara Falls is only 25 miles away. The two cities being so close together was great during my wild and crazy “party years” (starting when I was 17 — the legal drinking age in New York state back in my day was 18 but I guess I naturally passed for 18 because I always got into the bars): the bars in Niagara County closed at 3am so we’d hop over the county line because the bars in Erie County didn’t close until 4am! Ah, those were the days…

Anyway, here are a few songs that are about Niagara Falls & Buffalo:

“Niagara Falls” by Chicago – “Niagara Falls” is the fourth single released by the American rock band, Chicago, from their 1986 album, Chicago 18. Lead vocals were shared by Jason Scheff and Bill Champlin. When writing the song, the band misspelled “Niagara” as “Niagra”; this mistake can be seen in the music video’s title and most likely on the album, as Warner Bros. Records and Chicago never corrected it. I gotta say, it has always driven me crazy when people misspell Niagara. I don’t know why it bugs me so much…it bugs me as much as someone misspelling my name (and I’m not talking friends or regular people who misspell my name, I’m talking about professionals and companies who should have correct info in their databases…Like when my voter registration card came in the mail, my name was misspelled. It’s just a hassle and one of my pet peeves).

Following the successful singles, “Will You Still Love Me?” (#3 US pop) and “If She Would Have Been Faithful…” (#17 US pop), “Niagara Falls” only reached #91 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart.

Chicago’s ballad ‘Niagara Falls’ is stylistically much the same as many other 80s pop ballads, but hooks its romance overtures to the permanence of Niagara Falls:

As long as Niagara falls,

Until the end of time,

Till hell freezes over,

You are forever mine

“Niagara” by Barbra Streisand – “Niagara” appears on Barbra Streisand’s Wet, an album released by Barbra Streisand in 1979. The album is a concept album of sorts with all the songs referring to, or expressing different interpretations of, water. Wet is also the first and the last word sung on the album.

The album was a major success for Barbra Streisand, due largely to the album’s No. 1 hit single, “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)”, a duet with American disco singer Donna Summer which underwent a retitling and change of emphasis in order to qualify under the water theme.

The song “Niagara” continued the water-based theme of the album but also weaves the location into a weighted ballad about lost love.

Niagara Falls has a long history of inspiring songwriters, and the landmark has often found its way into the lyrics of iconic songs– and will continue to be quoted, referenced and called upon for inspiration for a long time to come.

Here’s another waterfalls song that doesn’t specifically mention Niagara Falls but I like it so I’m including it because the mighty Niagara Falls is definitely a waterfalls that many chase:

“Waterfalls” by TLC – “Waterfalls” is a song by American recording group TLC. It was written by band member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes with Marqueze Etheridge and Organized Noize for TLC’s second album, CrazySexyCool (1994). The song was released as the third single from the album on May 29, 1995 in the US followed by a UK release on August 5, 1995.

Often considered the group’s signature song, “Waterfalls” was an international hit, topping the charts in many different territories. The song spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the group their second US number one. The song was the number two song of the year on the Billboard 1995 year-end chart. “Waterfalls” also peaked at number one in New Zealand, Switzerland, and Germany, while reaching the top ten in many other countries. “Waterfalls” received critical acclaim, earning two Grammy nominations at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996 for Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The song tackled issues of the illegal drug trade, promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. Jarett E. Nolan of BMG noted that “Waterfalls” was the first number one song ever to reference AIDS in one of its verses. The accompanying music video for the song reflected its socially conscious lyrics. With a million-dollar budget, the video was an MTV staple credited for giving the single much of its success. It stayed atop the MTV Video Monitor chart for over a month, making TLC the first act to ever achieve this feat.

The music video was directed by F. Gary Gray and features Ella Joyce, Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Paul J. Alessi and Gabrielle Bramford. TLC had to force Antonio L.A. Reid to get the budget for the music video, which was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood from June 8–9, 1995.

Like the song itself, the video tackles issues of illegal drug trade and HIV/AIDS, two crises that plagued the 1990s. A young man (Shyheim) goes against his mother’s advice to stop selling drugs and is killed before a drug deal. In other scenes, a woman in a relationship is shown convincing her partner (Alessi) not to use a condom. Afterwards, he looks in the mirror and sees that he has an early symptom of AIDS visible on his face, in the form of Kaposi’s sarcoma. He then sees a small photo frame on the dresser, showing all the people she has had sex with previously. The video also intercuts scenes of liquified versions of TLC performing to the song while standing on top of an ocean and performing in front of a real waterfall. At the end of the video, the young man involved with drug gangs appears in ghost form. He tries to hug his mother as she is walking down the streets, every time he tries to hug her she walks right through him. The bedroom of the couple shows the man’s face faded from the picture with the woman sitting alone on the bed, she too fades away, as they both die from AIDS.

The video won four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best R&B Video, and the Viewer’s Choice Award. Watkins stated in retrospect that the “video spoke for a whole epidemic.” TLC was the first African American group or artist to ever receive the trophy. If you want to see it I’ve included that video in my playlist.

Now for a little Buffalo…

“Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead – “Truckin'” is a song by the Grateful Dead, which first appeared on their 1970 album American Beauty. Written by band members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, and lyricist Robert Hunter, “Truckin'” molds classic Grateful Dead rhythms and instrumentation. The lyrics refer to a drug raid of the band’s hotel lodgings in New Orleans during a concert tour earlier in 1970:

Busted, down on Bourbon Street

Set up, like a bowling pin

Knocked down, it gets to wearing thin

They just won’t let you be

The line, “Busted, down on Bourbon Street” refers to the incident on January 31, 1970 when members of the band were arrested in a drug bust that netted 19 people in New Orleans. The group was in town to play two shows at a club called the Warehouse, and the raid happened the morning after their first show at the French Quarter hotel where they were staying. Lesh, Weir and drummer Bill Kreutzmann were all arrested along with crew members and fans of the band who had joined them at the hotel. The story made the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune the next day, and drew national attention, with Rolling Stone running an article on the incident. Owsley Stanley, a Dead associate known for his pioneering work with LSD, was also arrested and labeled the “King of Acid” in the Times-Picayune piece. According to the Rolling Stone article, the band paid for bail and legal fees for all 19 arrested.

As for the song, its climactic refrain, “What a long, strange trip it’s been”, has achieved widespread cultural use in the years since the song’s release. I know that I’ve used that line on more than one occasion. How about you? Ever find yourself saying that line?

“Truckin’” was recognized by the United States Library of Congress in 1997 as a national treasure. Pretty cool.

So what does it have to do with Buffalo? There’s a line in the song:

Truckin’, up to Buffalo…Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow

Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.

The line “Truckin’ up to Buffalo” became the title of an album: a double CD soundtrack to the DVD video, which was recorded at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park on July 4, 1989.

Rich Stadium was home to the Buffalo Bills. I didn’t see the Bills play there but I did see some awesome artists perform there. Some friends took me for my birthday, I think it was in 1980, to a killer concert. The lineup was George Thorogood, Loverboy, Journey and the Rolling Stones! What a concert that was! In the words of the Grateful Dead, I can honestly say it was a “long, strange trip.”

 

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO

I graduated with my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts/Social Sciences from Niagara County Community College in 1981. In 1982, I moved to Youngstown Ohio to attend Youngstown State University where I majored in Advertising & Public Relations and got my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (BSBA) in 1984.

Ohio has some good people there! I met a ton and made some very good and lasting friendships, and to this day still talk to several of them. On the phone, no less! Who talks on the phone anymore??! My time there was enlightening to say the least. It was college, my first time living away from home and need I say, I had a blast! A good many days spent ditching my Business Economics class to hit the local bar for 10¢ drafts that kicked in at noon. Lots of dating, a few interesting relationships thrown in for good measure, some cool part-time jobs, some wonderful professors…and of course, some trauma. I mean what’s college without some personal trauma.

Anyway, here are a few songs that I associate with my time in Ohio:

“Youngstown” by Bruce Springsteen – “Youngstown” is a song by Bruce Springsteen from his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad. Although many of the songs on the album were performed by Springsteen solo, the lineup for “Youngstown” includes Soozie Tyrell on violin, Jim Hanson on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums, co-producer Chuck Plotkin on keyboards, and Marty Rifkin on pedal steel guitar.

Revisiting a common Springsteen theme, that of the division between the wealthy and the working class, this song is about an unemployed steelworker in Youngstown, Ohio. Most people think that Bruce is singing this song to a woman named Jenny (“my sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down” etc.), but “Jenny” is the nickname given to the Blast Furnace at Youngstown steelworks – The Jeanette Blast Furnace (owned by Youngstown Sheet & Tube, which shut down in 1977, and named after the daughter of W.A. Thomas, who was the President of Brier Hill Steel).

It’s common practice at steelworks to have nicknames for blast furnaces – for example, at Scunthorpe steelworks in the UK the four furnaces are known as Bess, Victoria, Anne and Mary (after four Queens of England/Britain). The fact that Bruce’s character is singing to the furnace, rather than a person, changes the song considerably.

More than a single unemployed steelworker, the song goes deep and tells the tale of the rise and fall of Youngstown, Ohio, over several generations, from the discovery of iron ore nearby in 1803 through the decline of the steel industry in the area in the 1970s. It tells of how in the Civil War, Youngstown made the cannonballs that helped the Union prevail. Then the city built tanks and bombs to help win later wars, such as World War II. Finally, the boys of Youngstown went to fight the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Despite the town’s history, when it became uneconomical to keep the steel mills in Youngstown going, they were shut down, thus doing “what Hitler couldn’t do,” to the devastation of the community.

The song’s story unfolds as the narrative of one family’s history as factory-workers in Youngstown. The narrator of the song himself is a Vietnam War veteran (continuing Springsteen’s fixation with that war, also evident in songs such as “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Lost in the Flood”) and his father fought in World War II. Both also worked in the steel mills. The narrator had worked himself up to the job of scarfer, a difficult but low-paying job that entails torching the steel to remove imperfections. Although he describes the job as one “that would suit the devil well,” it is enough to put food on the table, pay his debts and provide a sense of purpose. When the mill is shut down, he tells the owners that “Once I made you rich enough/Rich enough to forget my name.” Finally, he prays that “the devil comes and takes me/To stand in the fiery furnace of hell.” Towards the end of the song, the scope expands beyond Youngstown to other areas that were devastated by the decline of the steel industry, including the Monongahela Valley, Minnesota’s Mesabi iron range and Appalachia.

The song is set to a sparse melody. Its simple chorus is:

Here in Youngstown

Here in Youngstown

My sweet Jenny, I’m sinkin’ down

Here darlin’ in Youngstown

An abandoned facility of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, owner of the Jeanette Blast Furnace, “Jenny” in the song. Its rusting hulk still stood along the Mahoning River and was visible for miles, constituting with others like it what one newspaper writer described as “the remains of a lost civilization.”

I don’t know if what I saw and photographed back in the early 80s was this particular mill (below) but it sure looks like it. I took some fabulous black & white photos of the closed steel mills, one of them even appearing in a YSU arts publication. I wish I could put my hands on those photos now as I’d share them here. They were quite stunning in their massive starkness.

Bethlehem Steel Mill in Youngstown, Ohio, closed and abandoned

Springsteen was inspired to write “Youngstown” and “The New Timer”, another Ghost of Tom Joad song, after reading Dale Maharidge’s 1985 book Journey to Nowhere: The Saga of the New Underclass, illustrated by Michael Williamson. Journey to Nowhere chronicled the story of middle class Americans who lost their jobs and had become hobos riding freight trains like in the Great Depression. The stories of dying steel towns inspired “Youngstown” and the stories of boxcar hobos inspired “New Timer”.

In an interview with BBC Radio, Springsteen stated that his connection to this song was

“probably through my own kids and my own job, in the sense that the thought of being told after 30 years or so, that what you’re doing isn’t useful anymore, or has no place, or that the world has changed and that’s the way it is. And you’re 50 and gotta find something else to do. That’s almost impossible … I don’t know what I would do in that circumstance.”

With “Youngstown”, he managed to trace the rise of America as an industrial power, and the subsequent breaking of its social contract. This contrast between the mythology of the American Dream and the realities faced by its working-class citizens is among Springsteen’s most familiar themes. Activist historian Howard Zinn included the lyrics of the song in his 2004 book Voices from a People’s History of the United States.

Writing for The New York Times Magazine, author Nicholas Dawidoff said that “Youngstown” was the best song on the album and was an example of “best of his songs [which] have all the tension and complexity of great short fiction.” Not everyone was taken with the song; The Dallas Morning News criticized its “ham-fisted factory/hell metaphor”.

No singles were released from the album in the United States, but “Youngstown” was the song that Columbia Records most pitched to album oriented rock radio stations. The effort met with little success; as one station program director remarked, “Yeah, that’ll get everybody up and dancing.”

The song was popular in Youngstown itself, getting frequent local radio airplay and generating brisk sales of The Ghost of Tom Joad. An editor at The Youngstown Vindicator said that town reaction split into three camps: “Some people are taking this as, ‘Yea Youngstown! Finally somebody noticed!’ Some people are taking it as a real vindication of the working man. And some people feel, ‘Oh no, we thought we had all this behind us!”

Springsteen made a point of playing Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium in January 1996 during the solo acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad Tour, and tickets for the 2,600-seat venue were sold in record time. During the visit he was given the key to the city by Mayor Patrick Ungaro.

Springsteen introduced “Youngstown” at that show by saying, “This is about the men and women who lived in this town and who built this country. It’s about [the people] who gave their sons and daughters to the wars that were fought … and who were later declared expendable.” He added that “You get into tricky territory when you write a song about someone’s hometown. You don’t want to get it wrong.”

The audience, which included many who worked in the mills or had family members who did, was hushed during the performance and then gave Springsteen a standing ovation after its completion. Afterward, Springsteen was relieved that the performance had gone over well and changed his travel plans to stay an extra day and visit historic sites in the area.

Springsteen stands in front of the “Jenny” – a shut-down steel furnace in Youngstown Ohio

And that’s why Bruce Springsteen is so beloved by blue collar folks, of which I proudly am one…

“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Ohio” is a protest song and counterculture anthem written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’s “Find the Cost of Freedom”, peaking at number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 16 in Canada.

The record was mastered with the participation of the four principals, rush-released by Atlantic and heard on the radio with only a few weeks’ delay. Although a live version of “Ohio” was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation albums Decade, released in 1977, and Greatest Hits, released in 2004. The song also appears on Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.

Young wrote the lyrics to “Ohio” after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine. On the evening that CSN&Y entered Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, the song had already been rehearsed, and the quartet—with their new rhythm section of Calvin Samuels and Johnny Barbata—recorded it live in just a few takes. During the same session, they recorded the single’s equally direct B-side, Stephen Stills’s ode to the war’s dead, “Find the Cost of Freedom.” It was released just ten days after the tragedy.

After the double’s release, it was banned from some AM radio stations because of the challenge to the Nixon Administration in the lyrics but received airplay on underground FM stations in larger cities and college towns. Today, the song receives regular airplay on classic rock stations.

The lyrics help evoke the turbulent mood of horror, outrage, and shock in the wake of the shootings, especially the line “four dead in Ohio,” repeated throughout the song. “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming” refers to the Kent State shootings where Ohio National Guardsmen shot and killed four students and Young’s attribution of their deaths to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, even though the National Guardsmen had not been federalized and were under orders from Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes. A tin soldier is a toy soldier, mindlessly controlled by its owner. In this song, Young likens the National Guard troops to tin soldiers controlled by Nixon. It’s likely he got the metaphor from a 1969 song by The Original Caste called “One Tin Soldier,” which went to #1 in Young’s native Canada (it was an American hit two years later for the band Coven). Other songs with the phrase in the title include “The Little Tin Soldier” by Donovan (1965) and “Tin Soldier” by the Small Faces (1967).

Crosby once stated that Young keeping Nixon’s name in the lyrics was “the bravest thing I ever heard.” The American counterculture took the group as its own after this song, giving the four a status as leaders and spokesmen they would enjoy to a varying extent for the rest of the decade.

In his liner notes for the song on the Decade retrospective, Young termed the Kent State incident as ‘probably the biggest lesson ever learned at an American place of learning’ and reported that “David Crosby cried when we finished this take.” Indeed, Crosby can be heard keening “Four, why? Why did they die?” and “How many more?” in the fade.

An article in the Guardian in 2010 describes the song as the ‘greatest protest record’ and ‘the pinnacle of a very 1960s genre.’ while also saying ‘The revolution never came.’

The following is from a Songfacts interview with Jerry Casale, co-founder and bassist of the new wave band Devo, who was on campus the day of the shootings and gave this firsthand account:

“I was a student, I was a member of SDS – an antiwar group called Students for a Democratic Society, trying to restore Democracy at a time when LBJ and Nixon were running roughshod over it. There were several antiwar groups. That protest that day where everybody got shot was a protest against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. It was a secret expansion, Nixon had done it the night before and we found out about it the next day – the whole nation did. They did it without an act of congress, without passing any new law or having any meetings. It was completely unconstitutional.

So we’re out there at noon, about 3,500 students at Kent State were out there. The governor, who certainly was a pro-war kind of guy, Governor Rhodes, he had placed the National Guard inside the heating plant of the school the night before anticipating what would happen when the students found out about Cambodia. Not only did he do that, but he waited until about 9 a.m. on May 4th to declare Martial Law, which suspends all first amendment rights of The Constitution, meaning that any assembly is automatically illegal, you’re automatically committing a crime.

These National Guardsmen poured out of the heating plant, surrounded the protesters, and with a bullhorn announced that Martial Law had been declared and that we were all going to jail. Everybody starts chanting and screaming and they start shooting tear gas and some of the more ballsy protesters, while they’re coughing and choking and puking are trying to throw it back, but most of the kids were anywhere from 50 to 100 yards away from these lines of National Guardsmen with guns.

Nobody believed that the guns were actually loaded with live ammo. They just suddenly formed a row. The first one knelt and the second one stood, and they just shot right into the crowd, shot at all of us, down the hill at all of us. The worst thing about it is that two of the four students killed weren’t part of the demonstration, weren’t part of an antiwar group. They’d just come out of class from the journalism building at that time and come out on their way to their next class and were looking at the protest, just seeing what the hell’s going on, and they got killed. The bullets just went everywhere, it was like a scatter-gun approach, like shooting geese. A lot of the bullets went over the heads of the protesters and kept going straight down the hill. One of the kids that’s paralyzed for life was getting into his car to leave campus after his class, and they shot him in the back. He was at least 200 yards away and wanted nothing to do with what was going on. It was shocking. It pretty much knocked any hippie that I had left in me right out of me that day.

I had been a member of the honors college and the only way I went to school was with a scholarship. My family was poor and I got a scholarship to go to school. What I had to do every year to earn my scholarship was work three months in the summer for the university admitting new students to the honors college, the incoming freshman, and helping them arrange their curriculum, taking them through the registration process. The summer before May 4th, I had befriended Jeffery Miller and Allison Krause, two honor students, and they turn out to be two of the four killed on May 4th. So I’d known both of them nine months before this happened, and so when I realized that this girl on her stomach with a huge exit wound in her back with blood running down the sidewalk was Allison, I nearly passed out. I sat down on the grass and kind of swooned around and lied down. I was in shock, I couldn’t move.

The government and the press tried to lie about what happened as well as they could. The fact that anybody knows what happened is amazing because they did such a good job of muddying it up and lying, it was amazing. The final chapter there was that the parents of the students who were shot and killed banded together and went on a class action suit against Governor Rhodes and the state of Ohio and the National Guard, and summarily lost across the board. These kids that were shot were 18 and 19 years old. Two of them were 18 and two of them were 19. They lost because by law, no one was allowed to be having a protest once Martial Law was declared, and they threw it out of the court system. I don’t think anyone wants to know the truth. It ruins the myth of freedom in America to find out how easily it can be gone.”

The Kent State shootings had a profound effect on some of the students who later became prominent musicians. Chrissie Hynde was a student at the time, and eventually formed The Pretenders. (Interestingly, Chrissie Hynde with the Pretenders is included here in my playlist post as another one of my Ohio songs).  Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale were also on campus, and after the shootings, they developed the band Devo based on the concept of “De-Evolution,” meaning the human race was regressing. Said Casale, “It refocused me entirely. I don’t think I would have done Devo without it. It was the deciding factor that made me live and breathe this idea and make it happen. In Chrissie Hynde’s case, I’m sure it was a very powerful single event that was traumatic enough to form her sensibility and account for a lot of her anger.” Mothersbaugh added, “It was the first time I’d heard a song about something I’d been a participant in. It affected us. It was part of our life.”

The music videos I chose for my playlist have actual news photos from the event. I included a second “Ohio” video at the end of the playlist because it has different event photos and just because it’s a great song worth hearing twice.

“My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders – “My City Was Gone” is a song by the rock group The Pretenders. The song originally appeared in October 1982 as the B-side to the single release of “Back on the Chain Gang”. The song was included on the album Learning to Crawl released in early 1984, and it became a radio favorite in the US. It is sometimes referred to as “The Ohio Song” for its constant reference to the state, though it is not part of the song’s title. The song’s final title was because there had already been a song called “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

The song was written by Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde, and reflected her growing interest in environmental and social concerns; the lyrics take the form of an autobiographical lament, with the singer returning to her childhood home of Ohio and discovering that rampant development and pollution had destroyed the “pretty countryside” of her youth. The song makes a number of specific references to places in and around Akron, Ohio including South Howard Street (line 5), the historic center of Akron which was leveled to make way for an urban plaza with three skyscrapers and two parking decks (line 8).

The opening bass riff from this song “was something that Tony Butler used to play just as a warm-up,” said Steve Churchyard, the engineer for the record.

Use by Rush LimbaughUgh!

The instrumental opening of the song (before Hynde’s vocals appear at about 40 seconds) has been used as the opening theme ‘bumper’ for Rush Limbaugh’s popular American talk radio program since 1984, during his days at KFBK in Sacramento, California. Limbaugh said in 2011 that he chose it because of the irony of a conservative using such an anti-conservative song, though he mainly liked its “unmistakable, totally recognizable bass line.”

In 1999, Rolling Stone magazine reported that, according to Hynde’s manager, Limbaugh had neither licensed the song nor asked permission to use it. According to Rolling Stone, EMI took action after Limbaugh told a pair of reporters in 1997 that “it was icing on the cake that it was [written by] an environmentalist, animal rights wacko and was an anti-conservative song. It is anti-development, anti-capitalist and here I am going to take a liberal song and make fun of [liberals] at the same time.” EMI issued a cease and desist request that Limbaugh stop using the song, which he did. When Hynde found out during a radio interview, she said that her parents loved and listened to Limbaugh and she did not mind its use. A usage payment was agreed upon which she donated to PETA. She later wrote to the organization saying, “In light of Rush Limbaugh’s vocal support of PETA’s campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency’s foolish plan to test some 3,000 chemicals on animals, I have decided to allow him to keep my song, ‘My City Was Gone’, as his signature tune…”

“Girl from Ohio” by the Outlaws – I love the Outlaws. And I love this song! I’m not sure what album it first appeared on but it’s on The Best of the Outlaws: Green Grass and High Tides, a sixteen track compilation album by that southern rock band Outlaws, released in 1996 that featured all their major hits.

This song is a particular favorite of Outlaws founding member Henry Paul. It holds a very special place in his heart: “I really love that song,” Paul says. He wrote it about “my girlfriend, you know that first big one that you get when you’re in high school? She moved to Ohio after she graduated from high school, and it was just like me trying to make it in the music business and wanting to ride back into town as a big star and sweep her off her feet and get her back. And I’ve had a lot of success with that song.”

In fact, it was because of this song that he was able to reconnect with his lost love. Says Paul, “Oh my God, it rekindled this incredible love affair. That woman and I would rekindle that love affair almost like clockwork every ten years. It was a reoccurring sort of theme right up ’til somewhat recently, at which point we figured out that it wasn’t so much her and I, it was more the time in our life. God, I loved that girl. I just loved her.”

 

WASHINGTON DC

I lived in the Washington DC area for six years (1985-1991) and this is where my advertising career sprouted and flourished. It was a very exciting, fast-paced, deadline pressured, high stress, incredibly social industry: as a media planner/buyer I was constantly wined & dined by the television and radio sales reps; as an Account Executive at a classic rock radio station (WCXR 105.9) I was constantly wining and dining my clients and buyers. And then there were all the parties, the fancy-schmancy glitz and glamour events put on by the local media. On top of all that craziness was the reality that I was in a very exhilarating city, a metropolitan tri-state region that is the culturally rich environment of the nation’s capital.

When I moved there, I found a condo close to the office of my new job, having just been transferred from Buffalo, and ended up settling in suburban Maryland, along the B-W Parkway (the Baltimore-Washington Parkway). So it was just a quick hop on the parkway and I could be in Baltimore, which is also a cool city. I always enjoyed the Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Orioles games are fun too.

Here are a few songs about the DC area:

I’m starting off with a goofy ditty that I know absolutely nothing about but sometimes when I think of my days back in DC and Maryland, I think about some of fun times I’ve had with friends and associates there. I always think about crabs. Maryland is known for its crabs, especially blue crabs…and their incredible crab cakes (YUM!). One night a friend took me to her favorite crab house and introduced me to Steamer Clams. We had a big ol’ bucket of Steamers and a bunch of beers and had so much fun. I have not had Steamer Clams since then.

So anyway, here’s a fun little holiday Maryland crab song:

“Crabs for Christmas” by David DeBoy  Lol!

Next up is:

“Rock Creek Park” by The Blackbyrds – Rock Creek Park is a large urban park that bisects the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C. The park was created by an Act of Congress in 1890, and today is administered by the National Park Service.

Donald Byrd was a celebrated jazz trumpeter whose career spanned over half a century and included more than 50 recordings as a bandleader, with dozens more as a sideman. He was one of the few jazzers to come out of the bebop era and successfully transitioned into R&B and funk. During the 1970s, Byrd served on the jazz faculty at Howard University and assembled several of his students to form The Blackbyrds, and he served as the ensemble’s producer. “Rock Creek Park” is the opening track on the band’s third album, 1975’s City Life. There isn’t much to the lyrics, but we can imagine the encounter that gave rise to them. The melody also serves as the hook for Oddisee‘s 2011 track of the same name, which is the title track to an entire album of songs that Rock Creek Park inspired.—from contributor Sriram Gopal

For some reason, this song reminded me of an incredible sculpture, The Awakening by Seward Johnson, that I was introduced to when visiting Hains Point which is on the southern tip of East Potomac Park, a peninsula that is a tourist spot during Washington’s Cherry Blossom time. Although the song has nothing to do with the sculpture, it brought the image of the immense art works to mind.

The Awakening was created by J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in 1980 as part of Washington, DC’s 11th annual Sculpture Conference, and the sculpture was originally installed at Hains Point in East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C.. Hains Point was designated by Congress as the site for a National Peace Garden in 1987. Although no work had started on the National Peace Garden for many years, the decision still prompted the eventual sale of the sculpture by its owner, The Sculpture Foundation. Milton Peterson purchased the sculpture for $750,000 in 2007 for installation at his new National Harbor development in Maryland. Crews removed The Awakening from Hains Point in February 2008 for its move to National Harbor. At the National Harbor development, the sculpture was installed on a specially built beach along the Potomac River.

The Awakening (1980) is a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself, located at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA, just outside the District of Columbia (As mentioned, it used to be in Hains Point).

The statue consists of five separate aluminum pieces buried in the ground, giving the impression of a distressed giant attempting to free himself from the ground. The left hand and right foot barely protrude, while the bent left leg and knee jut into the air. The 17-foot high right arm and hand reach farther out of the ground. The bearded face, with the mouth in mid-scream, struggles to emerge from the earth.

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The Awakening in its former site at Hains Point, Washington, DC. Photos from the Seward Johnson Atelier website

The Awakening was Seward Johnson’s first monumental-scale public artwork. This giant, emerging from the earth at 70 feet in breadth and l7 feet tall, became an international sensation as it sparks multitudes of interpretations.

“It seems as though I’ve had the story of The Awakening described to me in at least sixty different ways. People have asked me if it’s the Second Coming, or Gulliver. I’ve had Buddhists write to ask if it symbolizes man breaking free from bondage, as it does in their religious tradition. A piece like The Awakening is always a hell of a lot of fun because the scale produces such strong effects. Every volume of fairy tales or myths has stories about giants, starting with the Greeks and before.” – Seward Johnson

“Washington, DC” by the Magnetic Fields – The Magnetic Fields (named after the André Breton/Philippe Soupault novel Les Champs Magnétiques) is an American indie pop band founded and led by Stephin Merritt. Merritt is the group’s primary songwriter, producer, and vocalist, as well as frequent multi-instrumentalist. The Magnetic Fields is essentially a vehicle for Merritt’s songwriting. Merritt’s recognizable lyrics are often about love and with irregular or neutral gender roles, and are by turns ironic, tongue-in-cheek, bitter, and humorous.

The band released their debut single 100,000 Fireflies in 1991. The single was typical of the band’s earlier career, characterized by synthesized instrumentation by Merritt, with lead vocals provided by Susan Anway. A more traditional band later materialized; it is now composed of Merritt, Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, and John Woo, with occasional guest vocals by Shirley Simms. The band’s best-known work is the 1999 three-volume concept album 69 Love Songs.

69 Love Songs is their sixth studio album, released on September 7, 1999 by Merge Records. As its title indicates, 69 Love Songs three-volume concept album is composed of 69 love songs, all written by Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt.

The song “Washington DC” is on Volume 2 of the 69 Love Songs album. Vocals by Claudia Gonson.

D.C. is but a blip on the sprawling 1999 masterpiece 69 Love Songs, but it nevertheless inspired one of the album’s most cheerful tracks. That lighthearted mood is probably helped by the fact that it’s led not by Stephin Meritt’s morose bass baritone but Claudia Gonson’s unassuming warble. The song’s lyrical nods to tourist favorites like the cherry blossoms and The Mall seem charmingly unironic, perhaps seen through love goggles because, after all, “It’s my baby’s kiss that keeps me coming back.”—Pat Padua

“Don’t Go Back to Rockville” by R.E.M. – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville” is the second and final single released by R.E.M. from their second studio album Reckoning. The song failed to chart on either the Billboard Hot 100 or the UK Singles Charts.

The song was written by Mike Mills (credited to Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe), in 1980, as a plea to his then girlfriend, Ingrid Schorr, not to return to Rockville, Maryland, where her parents lived. Schorr, who later became a journalist, has written about her amusement with the factual inaccuracies about her relationship with Mills and the background of the song that often appear in books about the band. Peter Buck has stated that the song was originally performed in a punk/thrash style, and that it was recorded for this single in its now more-familiar country-inspired arrangement as a joke aimed at R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs.

Over time, Mike Mills has taken lead vocals instead of Michael Stipe. On R.E.M.’s appearance on VH1 Storytellers in 1998, Mills performed the song solo on piano. A live version of the song was released as the B-side to “Leaving New York” in 2004 and on R.E.M. Live in 2007.

Might as well leave the DC section with this recognizable tune:

“Washington Post March” by John Philip Sousa – “The Washington Post” is a march composed by John Philip Sousa in 1889. Since then, it has remained as one of his most popular marches throughout the United States and many other countries.

In 1889, the owners of The Washington Post newspaper requested that John Philip Sousa, the leader of the United States Marine Band, compose a march for the newspaper’s essay contest awards ceremony. Sousa obliged; “The Washington Post March” was introduced at the ceremony on June 15, 1889, and it became quite popular. It led to a British journalist dubbing Sousa “The March King”. Sousa is honored in The Washington Post building for his contribution to the newspaper and his country.

The composition is in the public domain in the US, as its copyright has expired.

AUSTIN, TEXAS

With all that’s wonderful about Washington DC, it started to get on my nerves. Suddenly the excitement had worn off and I felt like I was in the midst of 3.2 million people with an attitude…and the city kinda turned me into a bitch and I didn’t like it. I wasn’t happy there anymore. I considered going back home and in fact was offered a job at one of the rock stations there but I decided I didn’t want to schlep around making sales calls in 3inch heels having to climb over snow-packed curbs to get in to see clients. (I visited this station in the winter so I experienced it firsthand, trying to navigate the ice and snow going to the interview).

Anyway I went back to my place in the DC area (Maryland) and tried to figure out what to do with my life. When my next vacation came up, I went to visit a good friend who had been living in San Antonio, Texas for several years. To say I was completely blown away is an understatement: the people were super friendly, the attitudes were fantastic, the vibe was completely laid back … it was me! After my vacation there I went back to DC and started telling my friends I wanted to move to San Antonio. Several of my friends had graduated from UT (University of Texas) and they me, “If you liked San Antonio, you will LOVE Austin.” The more I talked to folks, the more that was the apparent general consensus. And so, when I had my next vacation, I set up 12 interviews between the two cities: I interviewed in the beer industry in San Antonio (why, you ask? Well, while in radio, I had several beer clients and dealt with the sales reps and they had a great gig, doing promotions at bars and festivals and having fun all the time so I thought, “Why not? Selling beer can’t be much different from selling radio, right?”) and will most of the radio stations in Austin. I ended up getting a job offer at a station in Austin. I went home, gave notice to the radio station where I had worked for three years (and it was hard to leave those folks), packed up my stuff and three weeks later I was in Austin.

I’ve been here since 1991 and I’m still in love with this city. I could write a book about all that’s happened in my life over these last 27 years and I’ll save that for another time. Being that Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World”, let’s get right to the music.

I found an article online that was a treasure trove of great songs about Austin and Texas. Since it’s 3:00 in the morning on Monday, I don’t have time to go deep on all these great Texas songs, I’m just going to borrow from the article’s author.

Song blurbs taken from an article on the Mapquest Travel website, “10 Songs About Austin” by Andy L. Kubai:

“Texas on a Saturday Night” by Willie Nelson – If there’s anyone who personifies Austin as a musical and socially aware city, it’s Willie Nelson. Heck, the man had a statue erected to him on the corner of Willie Nelson Boulevard (formerly Second Street). His song, “Texas on a Saturday Night,” although never mentioning Austin by name, might as well be about Austin because there are few places in Texas with weekends (and weeknights) as musically and culturally active as Austin. There aren’t any other cities that scream “Willie Nelson” like the one he calls home.

“Travis County” by Gary Clark Jr – (also from Andy’s article): An Austin original, Gary Clark, Jr. is a guitar wizard on the rise. With sonic influences spanning jazz, blues, hip hop, garage, and soul, he’s one of rock’s rising stars. In 2012, he first lit up the stage at ACL (Austin City Limits) with this smart little jumper. Referencing not just the county but the jail, this rock and roller tells the story of a run-in with the law and a stint in Travis County jail. It also hints at the social injustices beneath the fabric of every modern cosmopolitan wonderland.

“Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan – (another Andy article blurb): Stevie Ray Vaughan made his bones on the Austin City Limits stage, so his song “Texas Flood” is especially poignant in the wake of 2015’s horrendous flooding. With talent forged in the emerging Austin music scene of the early 80s, Stevie Ray Vaughan was local guitar hero until David Bowie scooped him up for his Let’s Dance album. After that, Vaughan’s elevator was headed straight up to the top floor. “Texas Flood” represents the sound of Austin City Limits in the 1980s, and Stevie is still a quintessential Austin musician. In fact, his statue welcomes tourists to Lady Bird Lake trail.

Here’s a classic live performance of Stevie doing “Texas Flood” with Double Trouble and Jimmie Vaughan at the Washington Convention Center for the Presidential Inaugural Concert in 1989. The black-tie event was an historical moment: an official inaugural event featuring some of the finest musicians of the ’50s and ’60s from Stax and Chess Records including Bo Diddley, Percy Sledge and Carla Thomas, along with several hotshot Texas blues guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan at the height of their careers. You can buy the complete concert from Shout! Factory right here.

In case this video gets denied here on my post, be sure to click here to see it on YouTube. Awesome and classic Stevie!

“Gimme Some” by Grupo Fantasma – Although this song never actually refers to the city by name, it’s all Austin. If any band represents the fusion sound of this diverse city, it’s Grupo Fantasma. This nine- to ten-piece Tejano, funk, soul, jazz fusion combo has been shaking butts in Austin since 1990. Not only does “Gimme Some” characterize the city’s cultural blend, but with its off-beat humor, it acts as the flip side to Spoon’s “Anything You Want.” Their comical video, lampooning the PBS pledge drives, was shot on renowned local theater group Rude Mechanical‘s stage.

“Screw You, We’re From Texas” by Ray Wylie HubbardThis one makes me giggle because it is sooooo Austin and one of the reasons I love this town!

If there’s any song that covers the devil-may-care attitude that characterizes old Austin (and to a lesser extent, new Austin), it’s Ray Wylie Hubbard’s offbeat “Screw You…” Active in the cow punk, blues, outlaw country, and roots rock scene, Hubbard’s snarky song gets to the nub of Austin’s weirdo vibe, discussing the eclectic style of dress (cowboy boots, jeans, Hawaiian shirt, and mirrored sunglasses) that once characterized the town. He also gives a shout out to classic local venues like StubbsJohn T Floore’s Country Store, and scores of local musicians.

 

That’s all folks! Hope you enjoyed the 4M post I put together with Songs about Places I’ve Lived. Thanks Ellen, from 15 and Meowing for giving us today’s theme. So tell me, were any of these songs new to you? What songs would you include in a post with Songs about Places YOU’VE Lived?

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.

This is a Blog Hop!

 

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

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is another “Freebie” meaning we can choose to do anything. I’m continuing my KALEIDOSCOPE OF COLOR SONGS SERIES featuring the color YELLOW. I’ve put together a playlist of my favorite songs with Yellow in the title, followed of course by some (hopefully) interesting information and trivia tidbits about each song. And then at the end is some cool info about the color Yellow. Enjoy!

 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John – “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is a ballad performed by musician Elton John. Lyrics for the song were written by Bernie Taupin and the music composed by John for his album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Its musical style and production were heavily influenced by 1970s soft rock. It was widely praised by critics, and some critics have named it Elton John’s best song.

The song was released in 1973 as the album’s second single, and entered the Top Ten in both the United Kingdom and the United States. It was one of John’s biggest hits, and surpassed the previous single, “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, in sales and popularity quickly following its release. In the US, it was certified Gold on January 4, 1974 and Platinum on September 13, 1995 by the RIAA.

The Yellow Brick Road is an image taken from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. In the movie, Dorothy and her friends are instructed to follow the yellow brick road in search of the Wizard of Oz, only to find that they had what they were looking for all along. The road leads to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz, often referred to as a metaphor for “The road that leads to life’s fantasies” or “The road that leads to life’s answers.” The lyrics describe wanting to go back to a simpler existence after living what the narrator thought was the good life, but realizing they had simply been treated like a pet.

The Wizard of Oz was reportedly the first film that Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin had ever seen, and he used the imagery in the lyrics relating to his own life as his desire to “get back to [his] roots”.

Bernie Taupin writes the lyrics to Elton’s songs. He often seems to write about Elton, but this one appears to be about him. The lyrics are about giving up a life of opulence for one of simplicity in a rural setting. Elton has enjoyed a very extravagant lifestyle, while Taupin prefers to keep it low key.

Speaking about the song, Taupin said:

“It’s funny, but there are songs that I recall writing as if it was yesterday. And then there are those I have absolutely no recollection of, whatsoever. In fact, I’d have to say that for the most part, if someone was to say that the entire Yellow Brick Road album was actually written by someone else, I might be inclined to believe them. I remember being there, just not physically creating.

There was a period when I was going through that whole “got to get back to my roots” thing, which spawned a lot of like-minded songs in the early days, this being one of them. I don’t believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it. I just I don’t believe I was ever that naïve. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting. My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on. I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal. So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home.”

In Canada, the single reached No.1 on the RPM 100 national singles chart on December 22, 1973 and held the position for one week, making it John’s third No.1 in the year 1973 in that country (following “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel”). In the US, it rose to No.7 and spent 18 weeks on the charts. In Ireland, it reached No. 4; in the UK it peaked at No. 6.

Elton John has always made a priority of playing live on stage as part his long-lasting career. He has played over 3000 concerts in over 75 countries around the world since 1970. In the U.S. he had toured in 49 of the 50 states, except Vermont. That changed in July 2008. In honor of his sold-out show, the local hippie ice cream heroes Ben & Jerry created a dedicated flavor to him. Here is a News excerpt from Rolling Stone’s July 15, 2008 issue:

To celebrate the first time Elton John has ever played the state of Vermont, native ice cream kings Ben & Jerry have concocted a new flavor dedicated to John called “Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road,” with all proceeds benefitting the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The ice cream is described as “an outrageous symphony of decadent chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks.” We assumed “brickle” was just a made-up word to make a punny tie between the ice cream and John’s hit “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” but butter brickle is actually the stuff that Heath Bars are made of. “Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road” will be saying goodbye sooner rather than later, however, as the limited edition flavor will only be available in B&J’s Vermont Scoop Shops from July 18-25. Sir Elton joins Phish [“Phish Food”], Jerry Garcia [“Cherry Garcia”] and Dave Matthews [Dave Matthews Band Magic Brownies”] as musicians who have had a flavor dedicated to them.

The Vermont concert was on July 21, 2008 at the Essex Junction fairgrounds. Elton made a point of having some of the ice cream before the show. The flavor was only on sale for one week but have any of you ever had it?

FUN FACT #1: The song’s flip side is a song called “Screw You”, though the US release re-titled the song “Young Man’s Blues” so as not to offend American record buyers. (I don’t know about you but that wouldn’t have offended me. You??)

FUN FACT #2: Elton John’s One Night Only: The Greatest Hits Live at Madison Square Garden album had this song done as a duet with Billy Joel.

FUN FACT #3: Elton’s John’s vocal range is spectacular. Specific to this song, Ben Folds told Rolling Stone magazine for their 100 Greatest Singers of All Time issue: “He was mixing his falsetto and his chest voice to really fantastic effect in the ’70s. There’s that point in ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,’ where he sings, ‘on the grooound’ – his voice is all over the shop. It’s like jumping off a diving board when he did that.”

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is still regularly included in Elton John’s live performances, although since 1997 he has transposed the key of the song downward (from F major to E-flat major) due to no longer being able to sing its high falsetto chorus. It’s hell getting old…

Earlier this year, Elton John announced his farewell tour with a title that plays off this song: “Farewell Yellow Brick Road”. It’s almost like it’s the end of an era…

Mellow Yellow by Donovan – “Mellow Yellow” is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. It reached No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 and No. 8 in the UK in early 1967.

Donovan set out to capture the mellow vibe of the ’60s with this song, adding what he called “cool, groovy phrases.” These phrases were interpreted in ways he never imagined, as people came up with lots of ideas as to what the song meant. Most of these interpretations concerned drugs, but there were even rumors that the song was about abortion.

There is certainly a drug influence on this song, but it’s about much more than that. In his Songfacts interview, Donovan said: “To be ‘mellow’ is to be cool, to be laid back, but it doesn’t have to be with a smoke. It can be through meditation. And it was meditation that became more serious for The Beatles and me, and presenting that in our music.”

The song was rumored to be about smoking dried banana skins, which was believed to be a hallucinogenic drug in the 1960s, though this aspect of bananas has since been debunked. According to Donovan’s notes, accompanying the album Donovan’s Greatest Hits, the rumor that one could get high from smoking dried banana skins was started by Country Joe McDonald in 1966, and Donovan heard the rumor three weeks before “Mellow Yellow” was released as a single. Here’s the real deal: According to The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, he admitted later the song made reference to a vibrator; an “electrical banana” as mentioned in the lyrics.

This definition was re-affirmed in an interview with NME magazine: In an interview with the June 18, 2011 edition of the NME, Donovan was asked what the song was actually about. He replied: “Quite a few things. Being mellow, laid-back, chilled out. ‘They call me Mellow Yellow, I’m the guy who can calm you down.’ [John] Lennon and I used to look in the back of newspapers and pull out funny things and they’d end up in songs. So it’s about being cool, laid-back, and also the electrical bananas that were appearing on the scene – which were ladies vibrators.”

FUN FACT #1: (As if “Mellow Yellow” being about vibrators wasn’t fun enough…) Paul McCartney dropped by the session and was captured on tape saying “Mellow Yellow” and doing some cheering. His voice is likely somewhere in the mix at the end of the song amid the revelry. The “quite rightly” whispering answering lines in the chorus is not McCartney, as rumored, but rather Donovan himself. Also McCartney played bass guitar (uncredited) on portions of Donovan’s Mellow Yellow album.

Donovan had recently helped out McCartney on another “Yellow” song: He provided the “sky of blue, sea of green” line in “Yellow Submarine.” Both songs hit #2 US in 1966.

FUN FACT #2: The song was used in a popular 1999 commercial for The Gap titled “Everybody in Cords,” promoting their corduroy pants, which come in shades of saffron and yellow.

It was also used in a 1987 commercial for a product called Butter It, which is a “liquid butter alternative.” In that one, the song was altered, with the line “quite rightly” changed to “just butter it.” Here are a few of the spots, three :30s and one :15 second spot.

Donovan pushed to get his songs in as many commercials as he could, since it was great exposure for them and a nice source of income. How he felt about a liquid butter alternative was immaterial.

(In case you’ve ever wondered why I include so many commercials in my posts it’s because I spent most of my career in advertising and sometimes I just really dig fun and clever ads; and even though I record all my favorite television shows on my DVRs so I can fast-forward and blast through all the commercials, I do appreciate what goes into them, from the idea conception to the copywriting to the production and the post-production. I hope you like seeing some of these commercials too).

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree by Tony Orlando & Dawn – “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” is a song by ‘Dawn featuring Tony Orlando’ (Dawn was comprised of Motown/Stax backing vocalist Telma Hopkins, Joyce Vincent Wilson and her sister Pamela Vincent on backing vocals). It was a worldwide hit for the group in 1973.

SONG SUCCESS: ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” won Favorite Pop/Rock Single at the first annual American Music Awards in 1974. The song also got two Grammy nominations: Song of the Year and Best Pop Group Performance. When the trio performed the song at the ceremony in March 1974, they got the attention of Fred Silverman at CBS, who gave them a summer variety series called Tony Orlando and Dawn, which began airing in July. They stayed on the air for three seasons, during which time the group charted more hits, including another #1, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You).”

The song charted internationally: The single reached the top 10 in ten countries, and in eight of those countries it topped the charts at Number One. It reached number one on both the US and UK charts for four weeks in April 1973, number one on the Australian charts for seven weeks from May to July 1973 and number one on the New Zealand charts for ten weeks from June to August 1973. It was the top-selling single in 1973 in both the US and UK.

Origins of the Song: This song was written by Irwin Levine and Larry Brown (credited as L. Russell Brown), who also wrote the previous #1 hit for the group, “Knock Three Times.” The song is based on a story called “Going Home” that Levine read in the January 1972 edition of the magazine Reader’s Digest. The story was originally published in the New York Post on October 14, 1971, appearing in a column called “The Eight Million” written by Pete Hamill.

This is NOT the story of a convict who had told his love to tie a ribbon book to a tree outside of town. I know because I wrote the song one morning in 15 minutes with the late lyrical genius Irwin Levine. The genesis of this idea came from the age old folk tale about a Union prisoner of war–who sent a letter to his girl that he was coming home from a confederate POW camp in Georgia…. Anything about a criminal is pure fantasy….

— L. Russell Brown

Some erroneously claim the song is about an ex-con coming home, probably due to the story which inspired a part of the song: In October 1971, newspaper columnist Pete Hamill wrote a piece for the New York Post called “Going Home”. In it, he told a variant of the Union soldier story, in which college students on a bus trip to the beaches of Fort Lauderdale make friends with an ex-convict who is watching for a yellow handkerchief on a roadside oak in Brunswick, Georgia. Hamill claimed to have heard this story in oral tradition. In June 1972, nine months later, Reader’s Digest reprinted “Going Home”. Also in June 1972, ABC-TV aired a dramatized version of it in which James Earl Jones played the role of the returning ex-con.

According to L. Russell Brown, he read Hamill’s story in the Reader’s Digest, and suggested to his songwriting partner Irwin Levine that they write a song based on it. Levine and Brown then registered for copyright the song which they called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree”. At the time, the writers said they heard the story while serving in the military. Pete Hamill was not convinced and filed suit for infringement. Hamill dropped his suit after folklorists working for Levine and Brown turned up archival versions of the story that had been collected before “Going Home” had been written.

RIBBONS: The origin of the idea of a yellow ribbon as remembrance may have been the 19th-century practice that some women allegedly had of wearing a yellow ribbon in their hair to signify their devotion to a husband or sweetheart serving in the U.S. Cavalry. The song “‘Round Her Neck She Wears a Yeller Ribbon”, which later inspired the John Wayne movie She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, is a reference to this. The symbol of a yellow ribbon became widely known in civilian life in the 1970s as a reminder that an absent loved one, either in the military or in jail, would be welcomed home on their return.

The yellow ribbons appeared again in 1980 when Americans put them on trees to remember the hostages being held in Iran. The song had renewed popularity in 1981, in the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis.

Ten years later, a group called Visual AIDS convinced people attending the Tony Awards to wear small red ribbons as a symbol of AIDS awareness. Soon, many causes produced ribbons with different colors to raise money and awareness. In 2004, the trend extended to rubber bracelets when cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong worked with Nike to promote yellow bracelets labeled “Livestrong” that raised money for cancer research.

FUN FACT #1: In 1977, a Japanese movie called The Yellow Handkerchief was released, based on the same newspaper story this song was based upon. The film was remade in English in 2008, with William Hurt playing the convict returning home.

FUN FACT #2: Levine and Brown first offered the song to Ringo Starr, but Al Steckler of Apple Records told them that they should be ashamed of the song and described it as “ridiculous”.

Yellow Submarine by the Beatles – “Yellow Submarine” is a 1966 song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, with lead vocals by Ringo Starr. It was included on the Revolver (1966) album and issued as a single, coupled with “Eleanor Rigby.” “Yellow Submarine” was the B side to “Eleanor Rigby.” The single went to number one on every major British chart, remained at number one for four weeks, and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award “for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966”. In the US, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the most successful Beatles song to feature Ringo Starr as lead vocalist.

Paul McCartney wrote the majority of this song. He explained shortly after it was released in 1966: “‘Yellow Submarine’ is very simple but very different. It’s a fun song, a children’s song. Originally we intended it to be ‘Sparky’ a children’s record. But now it’s the idea of a yellow submarine where all the kids went to have fun. I was just going to sleep one night and thinking if we had a children’s song, it would be nice to be on a yellow submarine where all your friends are with a band.”

Paul purposely used short words in the lyrics because he wanted kids to pick it up early and sing along.

Ringo sang lead, as he did on many of the lighter Beatles songs, including “Octopus’s Garden” and “Act Naturally.” Originally, Ringo had a spoken intro to go with the children’s story theme, but this was discarded. Ringo did eventually get his chance to narrate for children: he was voice talent on the UK cartoon Thomas the Tank Engine.

Although intended as a nonsense song for children, “Yellow Submarine” received various social and political interpretations at the time. Some people felt this song had deeper meaning about drugs or war, and it was often sung at protests and other rallies as a symbol of unity. The Beatles insisted there was no subtext, but they were used to people reading too much into their songs. On The White Album, there is a song called “Glass Onion” that addresses this issue. (John Lennon used meaningless lyrics to confuse people who were reading too much into his songs. He got a kick out of people trying to analyze his lyrics. Paul McCartney had the original idea for writing a song that had a poke at all those who read too much into the Beatles lyrics; that became “Glass Onion.”)

As with just about every Beatles song, there’s a lot that can be read into this one if you look hard enough. One possible interpretation: Once famous, The Beatles were forced to stay in hotel rooms and live under pressure = Submarine. Because they were having a great time it was Yellow (friends are all aboard). Sea of green = money.

However, McCartney said: “It’s a happy place, that’s all. You know, it was just … We were trying to write a children’s song. That was the basic idea. And there’s nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children’s song.”

The sounds of bubbles, water, and other noises were recorded in the studio. The background vocals (and some effects) were done by John, Paul, and George and they had some help on the fadeout chorus by Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, George Martin, Alf Bicknell (their chauffeur), Geoff Emerick, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithful, Pattie Harrison and a few other staff people that were in the building at the time. The “bubble” effects are John blowing into a straw. All of the speaking parts are done by John and Paul.

The famous folk singer and Scottish musician Donovan, who was McCartney’s friend and neighbor at the time, made a key contribution to this song, coming up with the line “Sky of blue, sea of green.” He likely also recorded backing vocals in the chorus.

After he got the idea for the song, Paul McCartney dropped by Donovan’s place and asked him for suggestions in hashing out a verse. In our interview with Donovan, he explained: “He already had those words to the song, but he seemed to have a hole in the song. So I took his words and turned them around for him.”

This line is Donovan’s best-known contribution to a Beatles song, as it’s the most concrete, but it was simply adding a line; he takes more pride in other Beatles songs he influenced on their shared musical journey. In February 1968, he joined the Beatles on their retreat to India, where he taught McCartney and Lennon the “clawhammer” guitar technique, where the picking hand strikes the strings in a downward motion with the back of the nail. McCartney used this technique on “Blackbird,” and Lennon used it on “Dear Prudence.” He also helped Lennon with another song written in India, “Julia,” which John wrote about his mother.

After The Beatles recorded this song, Donovan recorded his own “yellow” track: “Mellow Yellow.” Paul McCartney came by that session and was recorded hollering, which was likely used in the cheering at the end of the song.

These colorful songs had similar success in America: “Yellow Submarine” hit #2 in September 1966, and in December, “Mellow Yellow” reached that same chart position.

According to Steve Turner’s book A Hard Day’s Write, about a month after the album was released, there were barbiturate capsules that started to be known as “yellow submarines.” McCartney denied any comparison to drugs and said the only submarine he knew that you could eat was a sugary sweet he’s come across in Greece while on holiday. These had to be dropped in water and were known as “submarines.”

The song also inspired a fun film. It became the title song of the 1968 animated United Artists film, also called Yellow Submarine, and the soundtrack album to the film, released as part of the Beatles’ music catalogue. The film featured cartoon avatars of the Beatles. The group had a lot going on at the time, so actors were brought in to voice their lines. In the film, The Beatles try to save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies, who hate music. (I won’t spoil it by telling you how it ends).

The photographic scenes shown in the movie Yellow Submarine are of well-known locations in England, including Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. An orchestral reprise to the song arranged by George Martin titled “Yellow Submarine in Pepperland” is featured at the end of the film and its soundtrack.

FUN FACT: Spanish premier division soccer team Villareal is nicknamed “Los Submarinos Amarillos” (Spanish for “Yellow Submarine”) because of their yellow uniforms.

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Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Brian Hyland – “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” is a novelty song telling the story of a shy girl wearing a revealing polka dot bikini at the beach. It was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and first released in June 1959 by Brian Hyland with orchestra conducted by John Dixon. Vance was inspired after watching his 2-year-old daughter Paula at the beach in her new bikini. Brian Hyland was a 16-year-old high school sophomore at the time of this recording.

The story told through the three verses of the song is as follows: (1) the young lady is too afraid to leave the locker where she has changed into her bikini; (2) she has made it to the beach but sits on the sand wrapped in a blanket; and (3) she has finally gone into the ocean, but is too afraid to come out, and stays immersed in the water – despite the fact that she’s “turning blue” – to hide herself from view. Trudy Packer recited the phrases “…two, three, four / Tell the people what she wore”, heard at the end of each verse before the chorus; and “Stick around, we’ll tell you more”, heard after the first chorus and before the start of the second verse.

Hyland’s version hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1960 and also made the top 10 in other countries, including #8 on the UK Singles Chart. It also reached #1 in New Zealand.

In 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Brian Hyland says:

“Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss had shown this song to a lot of singers but no one wanted to do it. Kapp (the owner of Brian’s record label) thought it was right for me and got really excited about it. It was a number one in America which meant that I could stop riding on the subway and buy some Martin guitars.”

The song had tremendous historical impact: At a time when bikini bathing suits were still seen as too risqué to be mainstream, the song prompted a sudden take off in bikini sales and is credited as being one of the earliest contributors to the acceptance of the bikini in society. The early 1960s saw a slew of surf movies and other film and television productions that rapidly built on the song’s momentum.

This song was used in a prominent ad campaign in 2006 by Yoplait Light yogurt in a series of commercials showing a woman trying to lose weight in order to fit into her “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

 

That’s it for the music portion of our program. Now onto some color definition:

WHAT IS YELLOW??

As promised, the following is some interesting beliefs about the color yellow. Part of the Color Meaning Blog Series presented by Jennifer Bourn of Bourn Creative.

The Meaning of the Color Yellow

Yellow, the color of sunshine, hope, and happiness, has conflicting associations. On one hand yellow stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, enlightenment, remembrance, intellect, honor, loyalty, and joy, but on the other, it represents cowardice and deceit. A dull or dingy yellow may represent caution, sickness, and jealousy.

Studies show that the meaning of the color yellow can be warmth, cheerfulness, increased mental activity, increased muscle energy. The color yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence, and stimulate the nervous system.

Bright yellow is an attention getting color, and when used in combination with black, is creates one of the easiest color combinations to read and see from long distances. This is why school buses, taxi cabs, and traffic signs are painted yellow and black.

The color yellow is a spontaneous and unstable color. It is often associated with food and is highly used in children’s products and marketing advertisements aimed at children. Perceived as a childish color by men, yellow is not a color that should be used when marketing products to prestigious or wealthy men.

If yellow is overused, it can have a disturbing effect. For example, it is a proven fact that babies cry more in rooms painted yellow. Too much yellow causes loss of focus and makes it hard to complete a task. Too much yellow also can cause people to become critical and demanding. Too little yellow causes feelings of isolation and fear, insecurity, and low self-esteem. A lack of yellow can cause one to become rigid, cunning, possessive, or defensive.

Yellow gemstones are believed to aid in clarity for decision-making, boost concentration, increase energy, and offer relief from burnout, panic, nervousness, or exhaustion.

In different cultures yellow has different meanings. In some cultures, yellow represents peace. In Egypt yellow was worn to signify the dead. In Japan, yellow stands for courage. In India, yellow is the color of the merchants.

Other meanings associated with the color yellow:

  • Traditionally, yellow ribbons were worn as a sign of hope as women waited for their men to come home from war. Today, yellow ribbons are still used to welcome homes loved ones.
  • Calling someone “yellow” or “yellow-bellied” is the same as calling them a coward.
  • The term “mellow yellow” stands for laid-back and relaxation.
  • The phrase “yellow journalism” is in reference to bad or irresponsible reporting.

Additional words that represent different shades, tints, and values of the color yellow: Lemon, yellow ocher, golden, saffron, cream, mustard, mellow yellow.

* * * * * 

That’s it for my Yellow Songs edition. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Please tell me what your favorite yellow song is, either from those presented here or some other yellow song — there are quite a few!

 

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

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me – MY FAVORITE MOVIE THEME SONGS

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me has a fun theme from this week’s Spotlight Dancer Alana Mautone (Ramblin’ with AM). She wanted us to focus on Movie and TV Theme Songs. I know what a fun theme this is because my 2016 A-Z Challenge theme was Classic TV Show Theme Songs and Intros.

Since I already did a fairly extensive compilation of Classic TV Show Theme Songs, I decided to focus this one of MY FAVORITE MOVIE THEME SONGS!

Here is my playlist of my favorite theme songs from some of my favorite movies. Of course there’s some extensive information about the movies and their associated theme songs. Yesterday I had decided that I just didn’t have time to “go deep” and put together the kinds of detailed posts that I usually do but when I sat down to start putting it together I just couldn’t help myself. I haven’t gone to bed yet and hopefully this is worth it. Enjoy!

EASY RIDER – “Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

Easy Rider is a 1969 American independent road drama film written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda, and directed by Hopper. Fonda and Hopper played two bikers who travel through the American Southwest and South carrying the proceeds from a drug deal. The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood era of filmmaking during the early 1970s.

A landmark counterculture film, and a “touchstone for a generation” that “captured the national imagination”, Easy Rider explores the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s, such as the rise of the hippie movement, drug use, and communal lifestyle. Real drugs were used in scenes showing the use of marijuana and other substances.

Easy Rider was released by Columbia Pictures on July 14, 1969, grossing $60 million worldwide from a filming budget of no more than $400,000. Critics have praised the performances, directing, writing, soundtrack, visuals, and atmosphere. The film was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1998.

The Film’s Plot

Wyatt and Billy are freewheeling bikers. After smuggling cocaine from Mexico to Los Angeles, they sell their haul and receive a large sum. With the money stuffed into a plastic tube hidden inside the Stars & Stripes-painted fuel tank of Wyatt’s California-style chopper, they ride eastward aiming to reach New Orleans, Louisiana, in time for the Mardi Gras festival.

During their trip, Wyatt and Billy stop to repair one of the bikes at a farmstead and have a meal with the farmer and his family. Later, Wyatt picks up a hippyish hitch-hiker, and he invites them to visit his commune, where they stay for the rest of the day. The notion of “free love” appears to be practiced, with two of the women, Lisa and Sarah, seemingly sharing the affections of the hitch-hiking commune member before turning their attention to Wyatt and Billy. As the bikers leave, the hitch-hiker gives Wyatt some LSD for him to share with “the right people”.

Later, while riding along with a parade in a small town, the pair are arrested for “parading without a permit” and thrown in jail. There, they befriend ACLU lawyer George Hanson, who has spent the night in jail after overindulging in alcohol. George helps them get out of jail and decides to travel with Wyatt and Billy to New Orleans. As they camp that night, Wyatt and Billy introduce George to marijuana. As an alcoholic and a “square”, George is reluctant to try it due to the gateway drug theory but quickly relents.

Stopping to eat at a small-town Louisiana diner, the trio attracts the attention of the locals. The girls in the restaurant think they are exciting, but the local men and a police officer make denigrating comments and taunts. Wyatt, Billy, and George decide to leave without any fuss. They make camp outside town. In the middle of the night, a group of locals attack the sleeping trio, beating them with clubs. Billy screams and brandishes a knife, and the attackers leave. Wyatt and Billy suffer minor injuries, but George has been bludgeoned to death. Wyatt and Billy wrap George’s body in his sleeping bag, gather his belongings, and vow to return the items to his parents.

They continue to New Orleans and find a brothel George had told them about. Taking prostitutes Karen and Mary with them, Wyatt and Billy wander the parade-filled streets of the Mardi Gras celebration. They end up in a cemetery, where all four ingest the LSD the hitch-hiker had given to Wyatt and experience a bad trip.

The next morning, as they are overtaken on a two-lane country road by an old pickup truck, the passenger in the truck reaches for a shotgun, saying he will scare them. As they pass Billy, the passenger fires, and Billy has a lowside crash. Wyatt rides down the road towards the pickup as it makes a u-turn. Passing in the opposite direction, the passenger fires the shotgun out the window. The gunshot is shown as a red blotch that fills the screen, followed by a reverse cut of the riderless motorcycle, flying through the air before landing and becoming engulfed in flames without Wyatt clearly visible.

FUN FACT: According to screenwriter Terry Southern’s biographer, Lee Hill, the part of George Hanson had been written for Southern’s friend, actor Rip Torn. When Torn met with Hopper and Fonda at a New York restaurant in early 1968 to discuss the role, Hopper began ranting about the “rednecks” he had encountered on his scouting trip to the South. Torn, a Texan, took exception to some of Hopper’s remarks, and the two almost came to blows, as a result of which Torn withdrew from the project. Torn was replaced by Jack Nicholson, whom Hopper had recently appeared with in Head (along with another Easy Rider co-star, Toni Basil). In 1994, Jay Leno interviewed Hopper about Easy Rider on The Tonight Show, and during the interview, Hopper alleged that Torn had pulled a knife on him during the altercation, prompting Torn to sue Hopper successfully for defamation.

Cultural Significance

Easy Rider was the third highest-grossing film of 1969, with worldwide gross $60 million, including $41.7 million domestically in the US. Along with Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, Easy Rider helped kick-start the New Hollywood era during the late 1960s and 1970s. The major studios realized that money could be made from low-budget films made by avant-garde directors. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, the films of the so-called “post-classical Hollywood” came to represent a counterculture generation increasingly disillusioned with its government as well as the government’s effects on the world at large, and the Establishment in general. Although Jack Nicholson appears only as a supporting actor and in the last half of the film, the standout performance signaled his arrival as a movie star, along with his subsequent film Five Easy Pieces in which he had the lead role. Vice President Spiro Agnew criticized Easy Rider, along with the band Jefferson Airplane, as examples of the permissiveness of the 1960s counterculture.

The film’s success, and the new era of Hollywood that it helped usher in, gave Hopper the chance to direct again with complete artistic control. The result was 1971’s The Last Movie, which was a notable box office and critical failure, effectively ending Hopper’s career as a director for well over a decade.

Roger Ebert added Easy Rider to his “Great Movies” list in 2004.

Easy Rider soundtrack: The movie’s “groundbreaking” soundtrack featured The Band, The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Steppenwolf. Editor Donn Cambern used various music from his own record collection to make watching hours of bike footage more interesting during editing. Most of Cambern’s music was used, with licensing costs of $1 million, triple the film’s budget.  he film’s extensive use of pop and rock music for the soundtrack was similar to what had recently been used for 1967’s The Graduate.

Bob Dylan was asked to contribute music, but was reluctant to use his own recording of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, so a version performed by Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn was used instead. Also, instead of writing an entirely new song for the film, Dylan simply wrote out the first verse of “Ballad of Easy Rider” and told the filmmakers, “Give this to McGuinn, he’ll know what to do with it.” McGuinn completed the song and performed it in the film.

Originally, Peter Fonda had intended the band Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young to write an entirely original soundtrack for the film, but this failed to materialize for two reasons. For one, cutter Donn Cambern edited the footage much more closely to what was only meant as temptracks than was customary at the time, which led to everyone involved finding them much more suited to the material than they had originally thought. On the other hand, Hopper increasingly got control over every aspect over the course of the project and decided to throw CSNY out behind Fonda’s back, telling the band as an excuse, “Look, you guys are really good musicians, but honestly, anybody who rides in a limo can’t comprehend my movie, so I’m gonna have to say no to this, and if you guys try to get in the studio again, I may have to cause you some bodily harm.”

The soundtrack to this movie is a favorite of mine, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me.

FOOTLOOSE – “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins

“Footloose” is a song co-written and recorded by American singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins. It was released in January 1984 as the first of two singles by Loggins from the 1984 film of the same name (the other one being “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)”). The song spent three weeks at number one, March 31—April 14, 1984 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and was the first of two number-one hits from the film. Billboard ranked it at the No. 4 song for 1984.

The song was very well received, and is one of the most recognizable songs recorded by Loggins. When the American Film Institute released its AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs, “Footloose” reached the 96th position. The song was covered by country music artist Blake Shelton for the 2011 remake of the 1984 film.

It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 1985 ceremony, losing to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from The Woman in Red.

The single version is slightly shorter in length compared to the album version. It begins with a soloed guitar track instead of a drum intro, and features more prominent backing vocals in the mix, particularly towards the end of the song.

Footloose is a 1984 American musical drama film directed by Herbert Ross. It tells the story of Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon), an upbeat Chicago teen who moves to a small town in which, as a result of the efforts of a local minister (John Lithgow), dancing and rock music have been banned.

The film is loosely based on actual events that took place in the small, rural, and religious community of Elmore City, Oklahoma.

The Film’s Plot

Ren MacCormack, a teenager raised in Chicago, moves with his mother to the small town of Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle. Soon after arriving, Ren befriends Willard Hewitt, and from him learns the city council has banned dancing and rock music. He soon begins to fall for a rebellious teenage girl named Ariel, who has an abusive boyfriend, Chuck Cranston, and a strict father, Shaw Moore, who is a reverend of the local church.

After trading insults with Chuck, Ren is challenged to a game of chicken involving tractors. Ren wins when his shoelace becomes stuck and prevents him from jumping from the tractor. Reverend Moore distrusts Ren, and he grounds Ariel, forbidding her to see him. Ren and his classmates want to do away with the no-dancing law and have a senior prom. He drives Ariel, Willard, and Ariel’s best friend, Rusty, to a country bar about 100 miles away from Bomont to experience the joy and freedom of dancing, but once there, Willard is unable to dance and gets into a jealous fight with a man who dances with Rusty. Later, Ren teaches Willard to dance.

Ren decides to challenge the anti-dancing ordinance so that the senior class can hold a senior prom. He goes before the city council and reads several Bible verses to cite scriptural support for the worth of dancing to rejoice, exercise, or celebrate. Although Reverend Moore is moved, the council votes against Ren’s proposal. Vi, Moore’s wife, is supportive of the movement and explains to Moore that he cannot be everyone’s father and that he is hardly being a father to Ariel. She also says that dancing and music are not the problem. Moore feels betrayed that even his wife does not believe in him even though she assures him that she always did, telling him, “Shaw, it’s 20 years now I’ve been a minister’s wife. And I’ve been quiet, supportive, unobtrusive; and after 20 years I still think you’re a wonderful, wonderful preacher. You can lift a congregation up so high they have to look down to see Heaven. But it’s the one-to-one where you need a little work.”

Despite further discussion with Ren about his own family losses in comparison to Moore’s losses and Ariel’s opening up about her own sinful past, even going so far as to admit that she has had sexual relations, Moore cannot bring himself to change his stance. His son Bobby was killed in a car crash while returning from a night of dancing, resulting in Moore’s arranging to ban music and dancing in the community. However, he has a change of heart after seeing some of the townsfolk burning books that they think are dangerous to the youth. Realizing the situation has gotten out of hand, Moore stops the book-burning, rebukes the people, and sends them home.

The following Sunday, Moore asks his congregation to pray for the high school students putting on the prom, which is set up at a grain mill just outside the Bomont town limits. Shaw and Vi listen outside, dancing for the first time in years. Chuck and his friends arrive and start a fight with Willard, who with Ren knocks them out. Ren, Ariel, Willard, and Rusty rejoin the party and happily dance the night away.

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER – “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees

Why it struck a chord: Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, there’s no doubt you’ve gotten your strut on to this song at some point. Though the Gibb brothers’ ”You Should Be Dancing” was meant to be Tony Manero’s crowning moment, the infectious falsetto hook and hip-shakin’ beat of ”Stayin’ Alive” ultimately rocketed Fever‘s iconic soundtrack to the top of the 1978 Billboard Hot 200.

Saturday Night Fever is a 1977 American musical drama film directed by John Badham. It stars John Travolta as Tony Manero, a working-class young man who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a local Brooklyn discothèque; Karen Gorney as Stephanie Mangano, his dance partner and eventual confidante; and Donna Pescow as Annette, Tony’s former dance partner and would-be girlfriend. While in the disco, Tony is the champion dancer. His circle of friends and weekend dancing help him to cope with the harsh realities of his life: a dead-end job, clashes with his unsupportive and squabbling parents, racial tensions in the local community, and his general restlessness.

The story is based upon a 1976 New York magazine article by British writer Nik Cohn, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”; in the mid-1990s, Cohn acknowledged that he fabricated the article. A newcomer to the United States and a stranger to the disco lifestyle, Cohn was unable to make any sense of the subculture he had been assigned to write about; instead, the character who became Tony Manero was based on an English mod acquaintance of Cohn.

A huge commercial success, the film significantly helped to popularize disco music around the world and made Travolta, already well known from his role on TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter, a household name. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, featuring disco songs by the Bee Gees, is one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. The film showcased aspects of the music, the dancing, and the subculture surrounding the disco era: symphony-orchestrated melodies; haute couture styles of clothing; pre-AIDS sexual promiscuity; and graceful choreography. The sequel Staying Alive (1983) also starred John Travolta and was directed by Sylvester Stallone, but received less positive reception. In 2010, Saturday Night Fever was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

FUN FACT: The song has also saved countless lives. “Stayin’ Alive” was used in a study to train medical professionals to provide the correct number of chest compressions per minute while performing CPR. The song has close to 104 beats per minute, and 100–120 chest compressions per minute are recommended by the British Heart Foundation and endorsed by the Resuscitation Council (UK). A study on medical professionals found that the quality of CPR is better when thinking about “Stayin’ Alive”. This was parodied in the Season 5 episode of comedy series The Office “Stress Relief” and the song itself was used in a season 11 episode of the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy in 2015.

On 15 June 2011, the song was featured in a Hands Only CPR PSA campaign video from the American Heart Association and featured actor and medical doctor Ken Jeong in the classic John Travolta outfit from Saturday Night Fever. Vinnie Jones stars in a UK version of this CPR video in association with the British Heart Foundation shown on TV in January 2012.

THE GRADUATE – “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel

The Graduate is a 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols and written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham, based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. A bildungsroman (which, in literary criticism, is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming of age), in which character change is extremely important) that follows its protagonist’s transition into adulthood, the film tells the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).

The film was released on December 22, 1967, received positive reviews and grossed $104.9 million. With the figures adjusted for inflation the film’s gross is $770 million, making it the 22nd highest-ever grossing film in North America. In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Initially, the film was placed at number 7 on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list in 1998. When AFI revised the list in 2007, the film was moved to number 17. The Graduate won the Academy Award for Best Director for Nichols and was nominated in six other categories, making it the last film so far to win Best Director and nothing else.

The Film’s Plot

Benjamin Braddock, aged twenty-one, has earned his bachelor’s degree from Williams College and has returned home to a party celebrating his graduation at his parents’ house in Pasadena, California. Benjamin, visibly uncomfortable as his parents deliver accolades and neighborhood friends ask him about his future plans, evades those who try to congratulate him. Mrs. Robinson, the neglected wife of his father’s law partner, insists that he drive her home. Benjamin is coerced inside to have a drink and Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him. She invites him up to her daughter Elaine’s room to see her portrait and then enters the room naked, making it clear that she is available to him. Benjamin initially rebuffs her but a few days later after his scuba demonstration on his birthday, he clumsily organizes a tryst at the Taft hotel.

Benjamin spends the remainder of the summer drifting around in the pool by day, purposefully neglecting to select a graduate school, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. He discovers that he and Mrs. Robinson have nothing to talk about. However, after Benjamin pesters her one evening, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she entered into a loveless marriage when she accidentally became pregnant with Elaine. Both Mr. Robinson and Benjamin’s parents encourage him to call Elaine, even though Mrs. Robinson makes her disapproval clear.

Benjamin takes Elaine on a date but tries to sabotage it by ignoring her, driving recklessly and taking her to a strip club. After Elaine runs out of the strip club in tears, Benjamin has a change of heart, realizes how rude he has been to her, and discovers that Elaine is someone with whom he is comfortable. In search of a late-night drink they visit the Taft hotel but when the staff greet Benjamin as “Mr. Gladstone” (the name he uses during his rendezvous with Mrs. Robinson) Elaine correctly guesses that he has been having an affair with a married woman and accepts his assurances that the affair is now over. To preempt a furious Mrs. Robinson, who threatens to tell Elaine her version of their affair, Benjamin tells Elaine that the married woman was her mother. Elaine is distraught and returns to Berkeley. Benjamin pursues her there and tries to talk to her. She reveals that her mother’s story is that he raped her while she was drunk, and refuses to believe that it was in fact her mother who seduced Benjamin. After much discussion over several days, Benjamin begins to make inroads with Elaine. However, Mr. Robinson arrives at Berkeley after learning about the affair, confronts Benjamin at his rooming house, and threatens to put him behind bars if Benjamin sees his daughter again. Mr. Robinson then forces Elaine to drop out of college and takes her away to marry Carl, a classmate with whom she had briefly been involved.

Returning to Pasadena in search of Elaine, Benjamin breaks into the Robinson home but encounters Mrs. Robinson. She tells him he will not be able to stop the wedding and then calls the police claiming that her house is being burgled. Benjamin visits Carl’s fraternity brothers who tell him that the wedding is in Santa Barbara, California that very morning. He rushes to the church and arrives just as Elaine is married. He bangs on the glass at the back of the church and screams out “Elaine!” repeatedly. After a brief hesitation, Elaine screams out “Ben!” and starts to run toward him. A brawl ensues as guests try to stop Elaine and Benjamin from leaving together. Elaine manages to break free from her mother, who then slaps her. Benjamin manages to keep the guests at bay by jamming a large cross into the doors of the church. Both he and Elaine then run into the street to flag down a passing bus and take the back seat. Although initially elated at their victory, the pair become increasingly uncomfortable as they journey towards an uncertain future.

The Music: The film boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Originally, Nichols and O’Steen used their existing songs like “The Sound of Silence” merely as a pacing device for the editing until Nichols decided that substituting original music would not be effective and decided to include them on the soundtrack, an unusual move at that time.

According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005, issue, Lawrence Turman, his producer, then made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they had nearly finished editing the film, Simon had only written one new song. Nichols begged him for more, but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he did not have the time. He did play him a few notes of a new song he had been working on; “It’s not for the movie… it’s a song about times past—about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff.” Nichols advised Simon, “It’s now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt.”

On the strength of the hit single “Mrs. Robinson”, the soundtrack album rose to the top of the charts in 1968. However, the version that appears in the film is markedly different from the hit single version, which would not be issued until Simon & Garfunkel’s next album, Bookends. The actual film version of “Mrs. Robinson” does appear on The Graduate soundtrack LP.

THE WAY WE WERE – “The Way We Were” by Barbra Steisand

Why it struck a chord: This 1973 ode to nostalgia is a bona fide tear-jerker that dares you not to cry while listening to it.  Streisand’s ageless voice and the evocative lyrics tell a story of love lost but not forgotten. ”Scattered pictures” and ”misty water-colored memories”? Pass the tissues!

The Way We Were is a 1973 American romantic drama film starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford and directed by Sydney Pollack. The screenplay by Arthur Laurents was based on his college days at Cornell University and his experiences with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

A box office success, the film was nominated for several awards and won the Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for the theme song, “The Way We Were,” It ranked at number 6 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions survey of the top 100 greatest love stories in American cinema. The Way We Were is considered one of the greatest romantic movies ever. The soundtrack album became a gold record and hit the Top 20 on the Billboard 200 while the title song became a million-selling gold single, topping the Billboard Hot 100 respectively, selling more than two million copies. Billboard named “The Way We Were” as the number 1 pop hit of 1974. In 1998, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and finished at number 8 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema in 2004. It was also included in the list of Songs of the Century, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts

Even if you have seen the movie, it’s probably been a long time ago, like me. I enjoyed reading through this Plot found on Wikipedia. It was almost as if I was watching the movie again: I could see the various scenes as I read each sentence. So I decided to share the movie plot here:

Told partly in flashback, it is the story of Katie Morosky (Barbra Streisand) and Hubbell Gardiner (Robert Redford). Their differences are immense: she is a stridently vocal Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions, and he is a carefree WASP with no particular political bent. While attending the same college, she is drawn to him because of his boyish good looks and his natural writing skill, which she finds captivating, although he does not work very hard at it. He is intrigued by her conviction and her determination to persuade others to take up social causes. Their attraction is evident, but neither of them acts upon it, and they lose touch after graduation.

The two meet again towards the end of World War II while Katie is working at a radio station, and Hubbell, having served as a naval officer in the South Pacific, is trying to return to civilian life. They fall in love despite the differences in their background and temperament. Soon, however, Katie is incensed by the cynical jokes Hubbell’s friends make at the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and is unable to understand his indifference towards their insensitivity and shallow dismissal of political engagement. At the same time, his serenity is disturbed by her lack of social graces and her polarizing postures. Hubbell breaks it off with Katie, but soon agrees to work things out, at least for a time.

When Hubbell seeks a job as a Hollywood screenwriter, Katie believes he is wasting his talent and encourages him to pursue writing as a serious challenge instead. Despite her growing frustration, they move to California, where, without much effort, he becomes a successful screenwriter, and the couple enjoy an affluent lifestyle. As the Hollywood blacklist grows and McCarthyism begins to encroach on their lives, Katie’s political activism resurfaces, jeopardizing Hubbell’s position and reputation.

Alienated by Katie’s persistent abrasiveness, and even though she is pregnant, Hubbell has a liaison with Carol Ann, his college girlfriend and the divorcee of J.J., his best friend. After the birth, however, Katie and Hubbell decide to part, as she finally understands he is not the man she idealized when falling in love with, and he will always choose the easiest way out, whether it is cheating in his marriage or writing predictable stories for sitcoms. Hubbell, on the other hand, is exhausted, unable to live on the pedestal Katie erected for him and face her disappointment in his decision to compromise his potential.

Katie and Hubbell meet by chance some years after their divorce, in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Hubbell is with some stylish beauty, and apparently content, is now writing for a popular sitcom as one of a group of nameless writers. Katie, now remarried, invites Hubbell to come for a drink with his lady friend, but he confesses he cannot. He does inquire how their daughter Rachel is doing, just to ascertain that Katie’s new husband is a good father, but shows no intention to meet his daughter.

Katie has remained faithful to who she is: flyers in hand, she is agitating now for “Ban the bomb”, the new political cause. Their past is behind them and all the two share now (besides their daughter, Rachel) is a missing sensation and the memory of the way they were.

LOVE STORY – “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story: Love Story instrumental theme by Henry Mancini and the lyrical version by Andy Williams

“(Where Do I Begin?) Love Story” is a popular song published in 1970, with music by Francis Lai and lyrics by Carl Sigman. The song was first introduced as an instrumental theme in the 1970 film Love Story after the film’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, rejected the first set of lyrics that were written. Andy Williams eventually recorded the new lyrics and took the song to number nine on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 and number one on their Easy Listening chart.

Love Story is a 1970 American romantic drama film written by Erich Segal, who was also the author of the best-selling novel of the same name. It was produced by Howard G. Minsky and directed by Arthur Hiller and starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, alongside John Marley, Ray Milland, and Tommy Lee Jones in his film debut in a minor role.

A tragedy, the film is considered one of the most romantic by the American Film Institute (#9 on the list) and is #37 in the list of highest-grossing films in Canada and the United States. It was followed by a sequel, Oliver’s Story (1978), starring O’Neal with Candice Bergen.

The Film’s Plot

Oliver Barrett IV is the heir of an American upper-class East Coast family attending Harvard College, where he plays ice hockey. He meets Jennifer “Jenny” Cavalleri, a quick-witted, working-class Radcliffe College student of classical music; they quickly fall in love despite their differences.

When Jenny reveals her plans to study in Paris, Oliver is upset that he does not figure in those plans. He proposes, she accepts, and they travel to the Barrett mansion so she can meet Oliver’s parents, who are unimpressed with her and judgmental. Later, Oliver’s father tells him that he will cut him off financially if he marries Jenny. After graduation Oliver and Jenny marry nonetheless.

Without his father’s financial support, the couple struggle to pay Oliver’s way through Harvard Law School; Jenny works as a teacher. Oliver graduates third in his class and takes a position at a respectable New York City law firm. They are ready to start a family, but fail to conceive. After many tests Oliver is told that Jenny is terminally ill.

Oliver attempts to live a “normal life” without telling Jenny of her condition, but she finds out after confronting her doctor. Oliver buys tickets to Paris but she declines to go, wanting only time with him. To pay for Jenny’s cancer therapy, Oliver seeks money from his estranged father, who asks if him if he has “gotten a girl in trouble.” Oliver simply says yes, and his father writes a check.

From her hospital bed, Jenny makes funeral arrangements with her father, then asks for Oliver. She tells him to not blame himself, insisting that he never held her back from music and it was worth it for the love they shared. Jenny’s last wish is made when she asks him to embrace her tightly before she dies. As grief-stricken Oliver leaves the hospital, he sees his father outside, having rushed to New York City from Massachusetts as soon as he heard the news about Jenny and wanting to offer his help. Oliver tells him, “Jenny’s dead,” and his father says “I’m sorry,” to which Oliver responds, “Love– Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Oliver walks back alone to the outdoor ice rink, where Jenny had watched him skate the day she was hospitalized.

 

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM – This entry is a soundtrack as opposed to a theme song. Although this particular soundtrack depicts the film’s theme incredibly well. This may sound odd but Requiem for a Dream is one of my favorite films. And the musical score has much to do with that. The theme of the movie overall is very dark and the music just pulls you deeper and deeper into the story. It’s ominous, especially with the strings. The story delivers to us a front row seat to the raw reality of our flawed human condition and how we can become enslaved by our own thoughts and dreams, and how, in turn, those dreams can ultimately destroy our sense of self and render us helpless. There are no happy endings in this story. It’s disturbing on so many levels. The soundtrack is brilliant in how it grips you and won’t let you go, long after the credits roll. As dark as that sounds, this is one powerful movie where the storyline, the actors and the music work together flawlessly. You’ll be thinking and feeling this movie for quite a while. To me, it was gripping. Kudos to the story and the acting but it was the music that made this film so hard to shake, in my opinion. So that’s my review. Let’s dive in here and see what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The soundtrack was composed by Clint Mansell with the string ensemble performed by Kronos Quartet. The string quartet arrangements were written by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang.

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 American psychological drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., with whom Aronofsky wrote the screenplay.

The film depicts four different forms of drug addiction, which lead to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken by reality, thus leaving them as hollow shells of their former selves.

Requiem for a Dream was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and received positive reviews from critics upon its U.S. release. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

The Film’s Plot:

During the summer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, widow Sara Goldfarb spends her time watching electrifying infomercials. Meanwhile, her son Harry occasionally pawns her cherished television to fund the recreational drug use of his best friend Tyrone and his loving girlfriend Marion.

After Sara receives a call that she has won a spot on a television game show, she becomes excited about attending it in her fancy red dress she used to wear with her husband. However, she is very disappointed to learn that she no longer fits into it. After failing a strict diet, an unscrupulous physician prescribes her a regimen of weight-loss amphetamines. She begins losing weight, while becoming manic.

Harry and Tyrone dream of becoming big drug dealers, having all the drugs and money they need, and at first their small-time dealing business thrives. Harry and Marion are deeply in love, and Harry tells her that he will soon have enough to launch the clothing design business she desires. Sara and her friends wait expectantly every day for the game show invitation to arrive. Harry stops by to give his doting mother an impressive television, but when he implores her to get off the amphetamines, she confesses that the only thing she has to live for anymore is the dream of looking glamorous on a television stage, and the extra attention she receives now from her friends.

As Sara’s tolerance for the amphetamines increases, she craves the high she once had, while becoming frantic about the invitation. When she increases her dosage she develops amphetamine psychosis. When Tyrone is arrested, Harry has to use most of their earned money to post bail. The local supply of heroin becomes restricted, and they are unable to find any for either use or sale. Eventually, Tyrone hears of a large shipment coming, but the price is doubled and the minimum high. Harry, desperate, suggests Marion ask her psychiatrist for money in exchange for affection; she does so at great cost to her romance. When the drug buy goes bad, Harry returns empty-handed to Marion, who is desperate for heroin, and they argue. He departs after giving her the number of a pimp who trades heroin for sex. Harry and Tyrone decide that to put their business back on track, they will drive to Florida to buy directly from the wholesaler there.

After a series of horrifying hallucinations, Sara flees her apartment for the office of the casting agency in Manhattan, to confirm when she will be on TV. She is taken away by ambulance and committed to a psychiatric ward where she is subjected to degrading treatments. When none work, the physician induces a barely lucid Sara to approve electroconvulsive therapy.

Driving to Miami, Harry and Tyrone visit a hospital because of Harry’s increasingly infected needle injection sites. The doctor notices the symptoms of drug abuse, and Harry and Tyrone are arrested. Back in New York, Marion has sex with the pimp to get heroin. Recognizing her addiction, he entices her with a bigger score of heroin if she returns that weekend for a party.

In the climax, Tyrone does hard labor in jail while being taunted by guards and suffers from drug withdrawal; Harry’s infected arm is amputated; Sara undergoes violent electroshock therapy; and Marion is humiliated as the subject of sexual acts at the pimp’s sex party.

When Sara’s friends come to the hospital to visit, they are distraught by her almost vegetative state. Harry wakes crestfallen after the amputation, knowing that Marion will not be visiting him. Tyrone suffers in the prison workhouse remembering his childhood when he was with his mother. Marion lies on her sofa comforted by the heroin she injected, clutching the large bag she earned. That night, Sara dreams she wins the grand prize on a show hosted by her favorite TV host, with Harry as the guest of honor.

FUN FACT: Requiem for a Dream was only Clint Mansell’s second score – after Darren Aronofsky’s first film, Pi – but the instantly classic ‘Summer Overture’ theme became one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of music in the last ten years. At turns innocent and spooky, sad and tubthumping, it fits the youthful and tragic tone of Aronofsky’s critically-acclaimed drug abuse drama exquisitely and would later be rearranged into the tense orchestral theme for the unforgettable The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers trailer.

PHILADELPHIA: “The Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

Why it struck a chord: The Boss’s (Bruce Springsteen) gritty song about desolation was a pitch-perfect accompaniment to the eye-opening 1994 film about one man’s battle against HIV-AIDS. Springsteen’s heart-wrenching lyrics — ”voices of friends vanished and gone” — capture the plight of Tom Hanks’ character Andrew Beckett as he grapples with his identity and mortality

Philadelphia is a 1993 American drama film and one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. It was written by Ron Nyswaner, directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.

Hanks won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the 66th Academy Awards for his role as Andrew Beckett in the film, while the song “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Nyswaner was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but lost to Jane Campion for The Piano.

The Film’s Plot

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters

Andrew Beckett is a senior associate at the largest corporate law firm in Philadelphia. He hides his homosexuality and his status as an AIDS patient from the other members of the firm. A partner in the firm notices a lesion on Beckett’s forehead. Although Beckett attributes the lesion to a racquetball injury, it indicates Kaposi’s sarcoma, an AIDS defining condition.

Shortly thereafter, Beckett stays home from work for several days to try to find a way to hide his lesions. While at home, he finishes the paperwork for a case he has been assigned and then brings it to his office, leaving instructions for his assistants to file the paperwork the following day, which marks the end of the statute of limitations for the case. Later that morning, he receives a call asking for the paperwork, as the paper copy cannot be found and there are no copies on the computer’s hard drive. The paperwork is finally discovered in an alternate location and is filed with the court at the last possible moment. The following day, Beckett is dismissed by the firm’s partners.

Beckett believes that someone deliberately hid his paperwork to give the firm an excuse to fire him, and that the dismissal is actually as a result of his diagnosis with AIDS. He asks several attorneys to take his case, including personal injury lawyer Joe Miller. The homophobic Miller appears to be worried that he could contract Beckett’s illness. After declining to take the case, Miller immediately visits his doctor to find out if he could have contracted the disease. The doctor explains that the routes of HIV infection do not include casual contact.

Unable to find a lawyer willing to represent him, Beckett is compelled to act as his own attorney. While researching a case at a law library, Miller sees Beckett at a nearby table. After a library employee stares down Miller, presumably because Miller is black, a librarian approaches Beckett and announces that he has found a book on AIDS discrimination for him. As others in the library begin to first stare uneasily, the librarian suggests Beckett to go to a private room. Feeling discouraged by the other people’s behavior and seeing the parallels in how he, himself has been unfairly treated, Miller approaches Beckett, reviews the material he has gathered, and takes the case.

As the case goes before the court, the partners of the firm take the stand, each claiming that Beckett was incompetent and that he had deliberately tried to hide his condition. The defense repeatedly suggests that Beckett brought AIDS upon himself by having gay sex, and is therefore not a victim. In the course of testimony, it is revealed that the partner who had noticed Beckett’s lesion, Walter Kenton, had previously worked with a woman who had contracted AIDS after a blood transfusion and so should have recognized the lesion as relating to AIDS. According to that partner, the woman was an innocent victim, unlike Beckett, and further testified that he did not recognize Beckett’s lesions. To prove that the lesions would have been visible, Miller asks Beckett to unbutton his shirt while on the witness stand, revealing that his lesions are indeed visible and recognizable as such.

Beckett eventually collapses during the trial. After Beckett is hospitalized, another partner, Bob Seidman, who noticed Beckett’s lesions confesses that he suspected Beckett had AIDS but never told anyone and never gave him the opportunity to explain himself, which he regretted very much. During his hospitalization, the jury votes in Beckett’s favor, awarding him back pay, damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages, totaling over $5 million. Miller visits the visibly failing Beckett in the hospital after the verdict and overcomes his fear enough to touch Beckett’s face. After Beckett’s family leaves the room, he tells his partner Miguel that he is ready to die. At the Miller home, Joe and his wife are awakened by a phone call from Miguel, who tells them that Beckett has died. A memorial is held at Beckett’s home following the funeral, where many mourners, including Miller, view home movies of Beckett as a happy child.

Critical Reception

Philadelphia earned mostly positive reviews from critics, with Hanks and Washington receiving wide praise for their performances, and garnering a 78% approval rating at online movie critic site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 47 reviews, with an average rating of 6.6/10. In a contemporary review for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars and said that it is “quite a good film, on its own terms. And for moviegoers with an antipathy to AIDS but an enthusiasm for stars like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, it may help to broaden understanding of the disease. It’s a ground-breaker like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), the first major film about an interracial romance; it uses the chemistry of popular stars in a reliable genre to sidestep what looks like controversy.”

Christopher Matthews from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wrote “Jonathan Demme’s long-awaited Philadelphia is so expertly acted, well-meaning and gutsy that you find yourself constantly pulling for it to be the definitive AIDS movie.” James Berardinelli from ReelViews wrote “The story is timely and powerful, and the performances of Hanks and Washington assure that the characters will not immediately vanish into obscurity.” Rita Kempley from The Washington Post wrote “It’s less like a film by Demme than the best of Frank Capra. It is not just canny, corny and blatantly patriotic, but compassionate, compelling and emotionally devastating.”

The Theme Song

“Streets of Philadelphia” is a song written and performed by American rock musician Bruce Springsteen for the film Philadelphia (1993), an early mainstream film dealing with HIV/AIDS. Released as a single in 1994, the song was a hit in many countries, particularly Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and Norway, where it topped the singles charts.

The song was a critical triumph and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song and four Grammy Awards, Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo, and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. In 2004 it finished at #68 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.

The music video for the song, directed by Jonathan Demme and his nephew Ted Demme, begins by showing Springsteen walking along desolate city streets, followed by a bustling park and schoolyard, interspersed with footage from the film. After a quick shot of Rittenhouse Square, it ends with Springsteen walking along the Delaware River, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in the background. Tom Hanks is also visible as the lead character he plays in the film, looking on as Bruce begins the final verse.

FUN FACT: The vocal track for the video was recorded live during the shooting, using a hidden microphone, to a pre-recorded instrumental track. This was a technique, appropriate for emotionally intense songs for which conventional video lip-syncing would seem especially false, that John Mellencamp pioneered in his 1985 “Rain on the Scarecrow” video, and that Springsteen himself had used on his 1987 “Brilliant Disguise” video. Springsteen would go on to use the same technique in his “Lonesome Day” video in 2002.

THE BREAKFAST CLUB – “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds

Why it struck a chord: It was the story of a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, a criminal, and one extraordinary day that would change their lives forever. Asking, ”As you walk on by, will you call my name?” the Scottish rockers’ 1985 track captured the fleeting impressions formed in high school that, 20 years later, were more meaningful than you realized at the time.

The Breakfast Club is a 1985 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by John Hughes, starring Emilio Estevez, Paul Gleason, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy. The storyline follows five teenagers, each members of different high school cliques, who spend a Saturday in detention together and come to realize that they are all more than their respective stereotypes, while facing a strict disciplinarian.

The film premiered in Los Angeles on February 7, 1985. Universal Pictures released the film in cinemas in the United States on February 15, 1985. It received critical acclaim and earned $51.5 million on a $1 million budget. Critics consider it one of the greatest high school films of all time, as well as one of Hughes’ most memorable and recognizable works. The media referred to the film’s five main actors as members of a group called the “Brat Pack.”

The title comes from the nickname invented by students and staff for morning detention at New Trier High School, the school attended by the son of one of John Hughes’ friends. Thus, those who were sent to detention before school starting time were designated members of “The Breakfast Club.” In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Here is a 25th Anniversary Breakfast Club cast interview from ABC News:

And here is another cool video I found on YouTube: For the 30 Year Anniversary, here are 10 Movie Secrets about The Breakfast Club:

Also in 2015, the film was digitally remastered and was re-screened throughout 430 theaters in celebration of its 30th anniversary.

FAME – “Fame” by Irene Cara

Why it struck a chord: Sometimes you just want to dance in the street. Though Cara’s other famous theme song ”Flashdance…What a Feeling” had the same souped-up synthesizer trills, the optimism of youth wins out for ”Fame.” Remember!

Fame is a 1980 American teen musical drama film directed by Alan Parker, and written by Christopher Gore. It chronicles the lives and hardships of students attending the High School of Performing Arts in New York City, (known today as Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School), from their auditions to their freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years.

Producer David De Silva conceived the premise in 1976, partially inspired by the musical A Chorus Line. He commissioned Gore to write the script, originally titled Hot Lunch, before selling it to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). After he was hired to direct the film, Parker rewrote the script with Gore, aiming for a darker and dramatic tone. The script’s subject matter received criticism by the New York Board of Education, which prevented the production from filming in the actual High School of Performing Arts. The film was shot on location in New York City, with principal photography beginning in July 1979 and concluding after 91 days. Parker encountered a difficult filming process, which included conflicts with U.S. labor unions over various aspects of the film’s production.

MGM released Fame using a platform technique which involved opening the film in several cities before releasing it nationwide. The film grossed $21.2 million in North America against a production budget of $8.5 million. It received a mixed response from reviewers who praised the music, but criticized the dramatic tone, pacing and direction. The film received several awards and nominations, including two Academy Awards for Best Original Song (“Fame”) and Best Original Score (Michael Gore), and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song (“Fame”). Its success spawned a media franchise encompassing several television series, stage musicals and a remake released in 2009.

BORN FREE – “Born Free” is a popular song with music by John Barry, and lyrics by Don Black. It was written for the 1966 film of the same name and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Lyricist Don Black managed British singer Matt Monro at the time, and he and Barry asked him to record the song for the film’s soundtrack. The producers of the film considered the song uncommercial, however, and deleted it from the print shown at its Royal Command premiere in London. When Monro, who attended the event, made Black aware of the edit, they successfully lobbied the producers to restore it. Monro’s interpretation appeared over the closing credits in a shortened version recorded especially for the film, which enabled it to qualify for the Academy Award. Monro’s complete commercial recording was released on the film’s soundtrack album and became the singer’s signature tune for the remainder of his career.

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

The Plot

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

FUN FACTS:

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

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

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

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

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

 

I’ll end today’s Movie themed post with my very favorite MOVIE SOUNDTRACK, one that was so popular it had several incarnations ending with the latest, a Deluxe Edition, containing 38 songs! Can you guess what it is? This is super easy for folks who know me and know my personality, my musical tastes and my penchant for “living in the past”, although I prefer to call it nostalgia. Okay, give it a shot. Take a guess. I’ll scroll down to give you time to guess. Be a sport and leave me your guess in the Comments section.

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My favorite soundtrack comes from one of my very favorite films:

THE BIG CHILL

The Big Chill is a 1983 American comedy-drama film directed by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, and JoBeth Williams. The plot focuses on a group of baby boomers who attended the University of Michigan, reuniting after 15 years when their friend Alex commits suicide. Kevin Costner was cast as Alex, but all scenes showing his face were cut. It was filmed in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The soundtrack features soul, R&B, and pop-rock music from the 1960s and ’70s, including tracks by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Rolling Stones, and Three Dog Night.

The Big Chill was adapted for television as the short-lived 1985 CBS series Hometown. Later, it influenced the TV series thirtysomething.

Critical response

Richard Corliss of Time described The Big Chill as a “funny and ferociously smart movie,” stating:

“These Americans are in their 30s today, but back then they were the Now Generation. Right Now: give me peace, give me justice, gimme good lovin’. For them, in the voluptuous bloom of youth, the ’60s was a banner you could carry aloft or wrap yourself inside. A verdant anarchy of politics, sex, drugs and style carpeted the landscape. And each impulse was scored to the rollick of the new music: folk, rock, pop, R&B. The armies of the night marched to Washington, but they boogied to Liverpool and Motown. Now, in 1983, Harold & Sarah & Sam & Karen & Michael & Meg & Nick–classmates all from the University of Michigan at the end of our last interesting decade–have come to the funeral of a friend who has slashed his wrists. Alex was a charismatic prodigy of science and friendship and progressive hell raising who opted out of academe to try social work, then manual labor, then suicide. He is presented as a victim of terminal decompression from the orbital flight of his college years: a worst-case scenario his friends must ponder, probing themselves for symptoms of the disease.”

Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four and said,

“The Big Chill is a splendid technical exercise. It has all the right moves. It knows all the right words. Its characters have all the right clothes, expressions, fears, lusts and ambitions. But there’s no payoff and it doesn’t lead anywhere. I thought at first that was a weakness of the movie. There also is the possibility that it’s the movie’s message.”

If you haven’t seen this film, find a way to! But in case you don’t get a chance, this plot summary pretty much lays it all out for ya. Note: Spoilers below~

Harold Cooper (Kevin Kline) is bathing his young son when his wife, Sarah (Glenn Close), receives a phone call at their Richmond home telling her that their friend, Alex (Kevin Costner), has committed suicide by slashing his wrists in the bathtub of their vacation house in South Carolina, where he had been staying.

At the funeral, Harold and Sarah are reunited with college friends from the University of Michigan. They include Sam (Tom Berenger), a famous television actor now living in Los Angeles; Meg (Mary Kay Place), a chain smoking former public defender who is now a real estate attorney in Atlanta and wants a child; Michael (Jeff Goldblum), a sex-obsessed People magazine journalist; Nick (William Hurt), a Vietnam War veteran and former radio host who suffers from impotence; Karen (JoBeth Williams), a housewife from suburban Detroit who’s unhappy in her marriage to her advertising executive husband, Richard (Don Galloway). Also present is Chloe (Meg Tilly), Alex’s much younger girlfriend.

After the burial, everyone goes from the cemetery to Harold and Sarah’s vacation house, where they are invited to stay for the weekend. During the first night there, a bat flies into the attic while Meg and Nick are getting reacquainted. Sam later finds Nick watching television, and they briefly talk about Karen. The two then go into the kitchen and find Richard making a sandwich, and the three make small talk which turns into a discussion about responsibility and adulthood. At the end of the discussion, Richard states, “Nobody said it was going to be fun. At least, nobody said it to me.”

The next morning Harold and Nick go jogging. Harold tells Nick that his running shoe company is about to be bought out by a large corporation, and that he’s about to become rich. Harold confides in Nick that Sarah and Alex had an affair five years earlier. Nick comforts Harold by saying, “She didn’t marry Alex.”

Richard returns home to look after his kids, but Karen decides to stay in South Carolina for the weekend. Nick, Harold, Michael and Chloe go for a drive (while “Good Lovin'” by the Rascals plays on the car radio), while Sam and Karen go shopping. Meg reveals to Sarah that she wants to have a child, and that she is going to ask Sam to be the father, knowing now that Nick can’t. Out in the countryside, Harold listens to Michael’s plans to buy a nightclub. Chloe takes Nick to the abandoned house that she and Alex were going to renovate. She tells him that he reminds her of Alex, to which Nick replies, “I ain’t him.”

During dinner, Sarah starts tearing up over Alex as the group talks about him. Harold puts “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations on the stereo, and everyone dances while cleaning up the dishes. While the others sit around and smoke marijuana, Meg asks Sam to father her baby, but he declines.

The next morning Nick, Sam and Harold go jogging, and the subject of Alex’s suicide comes up again. Harold’s surprise arrives: sneakers for everyone to wear during the upcoming Michigan football game. The group, minus Nick, watches the game on TV, while Sarah tells Karen about her brief affair with Alex and how it affected their friendship negatively.

During the game, Michael offers to father Meg’s child, alluding to the fact that they had sex in college during the March on Washington. At halftime, Chloe, Sam, Harold and Michael go outside to play touch football. Nick returns, with a police car following him. The officer says that Nick ran a red light and was belligerent, but says that he will drop the charges if Sam would hop into Nick’s Porsche as his TV character, J. T. Lancer, always does. Sam is unsuccessful and hurts himself, but the officer drops the charges anyway and apologizes to Harold.

Karen later tells Sam that she loves him, wants to leave Richard and live with Sam and her two sons. When they kiss, Sam pulls away and tells Karen not to leave Richard, as she will regret it in the long run. He confesses that it was “boredom” that caused his own marriage to fail, and he doesn’t want her to make the same mistake. Karen feels misled and angrily storms into the house.

Harold is on the phone with his daughter, Molly, and lets Meg talk to her. Observing their interaction on the phone, Sarah decides to let Harold impregnate Meg, but does not tell him yet.

The group once again discusses Alex. Nick says, “Alex died for most of us a long time ago,” but Sam disagrees and leaves. Karen follows him, and the two have sex outside. Sarah tells Harold about Meg’s situation, while Chloe and Nick go to bed together, even though he warns her of his condition. Meg and Harold then have sex – she says “I feel like I got a great break on a used car” – while Michael and Sarah joke around and interview each other with a video camera.

In the morning while Karen is packing her clothes, she subtly tells Sam that she has decided to stay with Richard. At the breakfast table, Harold reveals that Nick and Chloe will be staying in the guest house for a while so they can renovate the old abandoned house. Sam and Nick then make up from their argument the night before. Nick gives Michael an old clipping of an article he had written about Alex, which Alex had saved. At the end of the movie, Michael states, tongue in cheek, “Sarah, Harold. We took a secret vote. We’re not leaving. We’re never leaving.” They all laugh and “Joy to the World” plays as the credits roll.

Here’s a link to The Big Chill Soundtrack – Deluxe Edition. Enjoy!

 

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.

 

Mondays’ Music Moves Me: A Kaleidoscope of Color Songs – the PURPLE edition

It’s Monday’s Music Moves Me time and today is a Freebie theme so I am continuing with my series A Kaleidoscope of Color Songs. Today’s playlist is the PURPLE edition, featuring my favorite songs with purple in the title. Here is my Purple playlist, followed by information and fun facts on each of the songs. And to learn what the color purple means, see the color interpretation at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix – “Purple Haze” is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and released as the second record single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience on March 17, 1967. As a record chart hit in several countries and the opening number on the Are You Experienced debut American album, it was many people’s first exposure to Hendrix’s psychedelic rock sound.

The song features his inventive guitar playing, which uses the signature Hendrix chord and a mix of blues and Eastern modalities, shaped by novel sound processing techniques. Because of ambiguities in the lyrics, listeners often interpret the song as referring to a psychedelic experience, although Hendrix described it as a love song.

Hendrix claimed this was inspired by a dream where he was walking under the sea. In the dream, he said a purple haze surrounded him, engulfed him and got him lost. It was a traumatic experience, but in his dream his faith in Jesus saved him. At one point, Hendrix wrote the chorus as “Purple Haze, Jesus Saves,” but decided against it.

Hendrix claimed this had nothing to do with drugs, but it’s hard to believe they weren’t an influence. The lyrics seem to vividly portray an acid trip, and Hendrix was doing plenty of drugs at the time.

Hendrix wrote the lyrics on the day after Christmas in 1966. He wrote a lot more than what made it to the song. The track was developed at a press function that he attended at East London’s Upper Cut Club, run by the former boxer Billy Walker. Hendrix launched into the scorching riff in the club’s compact dressing room and every head turned. “I said, write the rest of that,” said Chandler. “That’s the next single!” It was premiered live on January 8,1967, in Sheffield in the north of England.

Jimi and producer Chas Chandler used some unusual studio tricks to get the unique sound. To create the background track that sounds distant, they put a pair of headphones around a microphone and recorded it that way to get an echo effect.

When the recording was sent to Hendrix’s American label, a note said, “deliberate distortion, do not correct.”

The track was the penultimate song Hendrix played in concert, on September 6, 1970, days before his death.

In March 2005, Q magazine ranked “Purple Haze” at number one in its list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Tracks Ever!” The song placed at number two on Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time” list, which noted that the song “unveiled a new guitar language charged with spiritual hunger and the poetry possible in electricity and studio technology”. It also appears at number 17 on the magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list, with the comment that “it launched not one but two revolutions: late-Sixities psychedelia and the unprecedented genius of Jimi Hendrix”. Author and music critic Dave Marsh called it the “debut single of the Album Rock Era”. In 1995, “Purple Haze” was included as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”. NPR named the song to its list of the “100 Most Important American Musical Works of the 20th Century” in 2000. In 2008, it was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which “honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance”.

In addition to the audio cut I included in my playlist, here is an early music video of Jimi Hendrix performing “Purple Haze”.

Purple Rain by Prince – “Purple Rain” is a song by Prince and The Revolution. It is the title track from the 1984 album of the same name, which in turn is the soundtrack album for the 1984 film of the same name, and was released as the third single from that album. The song is a combination of rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music. It reached number 2 in the United States for two weeks, and it is considered to be one of Prince’s signature songs. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1984, shipping one million units in the United States, and was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry in 2013.

Following Prince’s death in 2016, the song rose to number one on the US and UK iTunes Charts, allowing “Purple Rain” to re-enter the Billboard Hot 100 at number 17, later reaching number four. It also re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 6, making it two places higher than its original peak of number 8. Originally peaking at number 12 in France, “Purple Rain” reached number one on the national singles chart. In the United States, it has sold an additional 1,186,215 copies after becoming available as digital downloads.

“Purple Rain” was originally written as a country song and intended to be a collaboration with Stevie Nicks.  According to Nicks, she received a 10-minute instrumental version of the song from Prince with a request to write the lyrics, but felt overwhelmed. She said: “I listened to it and I just got scared. I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.'” At a rehearsal, Prince then asked his backing band to try the song: “I want to try something before we go home. It’s mellow.” According to Lisa Coleman, Prince then changed the song after Wendy Melvoin started playing guitar chords to accompany the song: “He was excited to hear it voiced differently. It took it out of that country feeling. Then we all started playing it a bit harder and taking it more seriously. We played it for six hours straight and by the end of that day we had it mostly written and arranged.”

Prince explained the meaning of “Purple Rain” as follows: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.”

It was not the first time that the phrase “purple rain” appeared in the lyrics of a song. In November 1965, “Purple Rain Drops” was released as the B-side of “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” which became a Top Ten hit for Stevie Wonder. The phrase appears again in the 1972 song: Top Ten-charting “Ventura Highway” by America. The latter song was written by Dewey Bunnell. The title track of Prince’s preceding album, 1999, included similar references to a doomed ending under a purple sky (“…could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple…”).

The song was written for the Purple Rain film, but it served Prince very well in concert, where it was often his showstopper. He retained many of the visual elements from the movie performance in his shows, which isn’t much of a stretch – the concert scenes were filmed at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, where Prince often performed.

On the tour to promote the album (conveniently called the “Purple Rain World Tour”), Prince’s band, The Revolution, would play the intro to this song for about eight minutes while Prince underwent a costume change before emerging in fresh duds to complete the performance.

Apparently Prince had concerns that “Purple Rain” might be too similar to Journey’s hit ballad “Faithfully.” The song’s composer, Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain, recalled to Billboard magazine that the Purple Legend rang him up at Columbia Records’ office in Los Angeles. “I want to play something for you, and I want you to check it out,” Prince told him. “The chord changes are close to ‘Faithfully,’ and I don’t want you to sue me.”

Cain had no problem with the song he heard. “I thought it was an amazing tune,” the Journey musician said. “I told him, ‘Man, I’m just super-flattered that you even called. It shows you’re that classy of a guy. Good luck with the song. I know it’s gonna be a hit.'”

Prince provided one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime moments when he performed this song in the rain at the 2007 game between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears. After blasting through bits of several songs, he slowed things down for a sensuous rendition of “Purple Rain.” The stadium turned dark, and purple lights glistened through raindrops as Prince enraptured the crowd with a silhouetted guitar solo that produced a stunning visual. Colts fans will remember the game, but for the rest of us, Prince’s performance on the field was the highlight.

Prince admitted the success of the film and its music was overwhelming. “In some ways Purple Rain scared me,” he noted in The Observer. “It’s my albatross and it’ll be hanging around my neck as long as I’m making music.”

This was the last song Prince played live; it was the closing number at his April 14, 2016 concert at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which was his last, as he died a week later.

Purple Heather by Van Morrison – “Purple Heather” is from Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison’s seventh studio album Hard Nose the Highway, released in 1973.

It is Morrison’s second solo album to contain songs not written by him. The last song on the album, “Purple Heather” is the traditional “Wild Mountain Thyme” written by F. McPeake as a variant of Robert Tannahill’s “The Braes of Balquhidder”, and re-arranged by Morrison.

“Wild Mountain Thyme” (also known as “Purple Heather” and “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?”) is a Scottish folk song written by Francis McPeake I, who wrote the song for his wife. Francis McPeake is a member of a well-known musical family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The lyrics and melody are a variant of the song “The Braes of Balquhither” by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill (1774–1810). Tannahill’s original song is about the hills (braes) around Balquhidder near the Scottish village Lochearnhead. It was first published in Robert Archibald Smith’s Scottish Minstrel (1821–24).

Unless you’re a fan of Van Morrison, you probably haven’t heard this song. His Hard Nose the Highway album, on which “Purple Heather” appears, didn’t get great critical reception. According to Ritchie Yorke, the Australian-born author and music journalist who published Morrison’s biography, Into the Music in 1975, the album enjoyed rave reviews at the time of release. He cited one dissenting critic Charlie Gillett, who wrote in Let It Rock: “The trouble with Hard Nose the Highway is that although the music is quite often interesting, it doesn’t have a convincing emotional basis…Despite the lack of inspiration and of melodic focus, the record is attractive to listen to. But Van Morrison has set high standards for himself and Hard Nose the Highway doesn’t live up to them.”

Stephen Holden in his 1973 Rolling Stone review said: “Hard Nose the Highway is psychologically complex, musically somewhat uneven and lyrically excellent. Its surface pleasures are a little less than those of St. Dominic’s Preview and a great deal less than those of Tupelo Honey, while its lyric depths are richer and more accessible than those of either predecessor. The major theme of Hard Nose is nostalgia, briefly but firmly counter-pointed by disillusion.”

Later assessments in The Rolling Stone Record Guide (1979) and The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) were less generous. In the former, Hard Nose was listed as Morrison’s only one-star album to date; reviewer Dave Marsh called it “a failed sidestep, a compromise between the visionary demands of Morrison’s work and his desire for a broad-based audience.” In the later edition, Paul Evans called the record the “vaguest and weakest” of Morrison’s 1970s output.

In the opinion of biographer Erik Hage, “Hard Nose the Highway seems to have suffered a lot of unnecessary criticism—many commentators consider it his worst and most uninspired album—perhaps because it followed such a remarkable run of LPs, and because two truly forward-thinking albums had come before and after it (1972’s Saint Dominic’s Preview and 1974’s Veedon Fleece).”

Even so, I really like the song. Hopefully you all will too. (BTW, Rod Stewart also did a cover of this song).

Purple Sky by Kid Rock – “Purple Sky” is from Born Free, the eighth studio album by American musician Kid Rock. It was released on November 16, 2010 with the title track as its lead single. Unlike Rock’s other albums, this album does not contain any profane lyrics. Imagine that!

The album was produced by Rick Rubin featuring several high-profile artists such as T.I., Sheryl Crow, and Bob Seger. This is Kid Rock’s first album not to receive a Parental Advisory sticker (due to its lack of profanity) and is his first all-country album. Kid Rock describes it as “very organic blues-based rock and roll”.

“Purple Sky” was written by R. J. Ritchie, Marlon Young and Jason Boland. The song is an adaptation of “Telephone Romeo,” a track from Pearl Snaps, a 1999 Country album by Jason Boland & the Stragglers. Kid Rock explained to Billboard magazine: “That was started by Jason Boland, a country singer Oklahoma/Texas guy. I always enjoyed his stuff. I found that song, it was called ‘Telephone Romeo,’ it wasn’t quite there yet. I switched it around and made it about what I perceived to be a relationship about the girl you grow up next door to, she’s really the one you’re supposed to be with, but you’ve got to go out and see it all first yet to realize that.”

Purple People Eater novelty song – “The Purple People Eater” is a novelty song written and performed by Sheb Wooley, which reached no. 1 in the Billboard pop charts in 1958 from June 9 to July 14, reached no. 12 overall in the UK singles chart and topped the Australian charts.

“The Purple People Eater” is the novelty song to end all novelty songs. It’s one of the few rare cases where a pure novelty made it to #1 on the charts, for one thing. It’s also unusually long-lived, popping up again and again in cartoons, TV commercials, YouTube videos, and film soundtracks.

The song is notable for a confused impression people tend to get from it, which may be intentional. The creature’s full description is “a one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater,” but the lyrics make it clear that this is a creature who eats purple people. Yet whenever anyone is asked to depict the figure, they invariably make the creature itself purple, suggesting that it will eat people of any old color. It’s a natural impression to get considering the hail of adjectives. Incidentally, we also know that it isn’t a one-eyed creature who eats “one-horned flying purple people,” because the lyrics also have the creature “playing rock ‘n’ roll music through the horn in his head,” and also it is the creature, itself, who flies because the lyrics say it “came down to Earth and lit in a tree.”

“The Purple People Eater” tells how a strange creature (described as a “one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple people eater”) descends to Earth because it wants to be in a rock ‘n’ roll band. The premise of the song came from a joke told by the child of a friend of Wooley’s; Wooley finished composing it within an hour.

The creature is not necessarily purple, but rather it eats purple people:

I said Mr Purple People Eater, what’s your line?

He said eating purple people, and it sure is fine

But that’s not the reason that I came to land

I wanna get a job in a rock ‘n roll band

The creature also gives an additional reason for choosing not to eat the narrator, because the narrator is “so tough”.

The ambiguity of the song was present when it was originally played on the radio. In responses to requests from radio disc jockeys, listeners drew pictures that show a purple-colored “people eater”.

The voice of the purple people eater is a sped-up recording, giving it a voice similar to, but not quite as high-pitched or as fast, as Mike Sammes’s 1957 “Pinky and Perky”, or Ross Bagdasarian’s “Witch Doctor”, another hit from earlier in 1958; and “The Chipmunk Song” which was released late in 1958. (The Chipmunks themselves eventually covered “Purple People Eater” for their 1998 album The A-Files: Alien Songs.) The same technique used to make the high voices (speeding up the recording – especially successful for The Chipmunks), is also used to produce the tinny sounding saxophone solo at the end.

The song shouts out to current novelty hits of the time, such as The Royal Teens’ “Short Shorts” and The Champs’ “Tequila” (both from 1958). Apparently, the creature is also a fan of Little Richard, as he sings something resembling “Tutti Frutti”(from 1955) about 1:30 in.

According to Wooley, MGM Records initially rejected the song, saying that it was not the type of music with which they wanted to be identified. An acetate of the song reached MGM Records’ New York office. The acetate became popular with the office’s young people. Up to 50 people would listen to the song at lunchtime. The front office noticed, reconsidered their decision, and decided to release the song.

The Sheb Wooley version crossed to the Billboard R&B listings, and while it did not make Billboard’s country chart, it reached #4 on the Cashbox country listing.

Wooley re-recorded the song in 1979 under the title “Purple People Eater” and it was released on the King label.

The song and character were used as the basis for the Disney Channel film in 1988. In Purple People Eater, a young boy plays the song and accidentally summons the creature itself, who then befriends him on an adventure. Neil Patrick Harris plays the boy, who later went on to play Doogie Howser M.D. The cast also includes Ned Beatty, Shelley Winters, Thora Birch, Little Richard, Chubby Checker and Wooley himself.

Deep Purple by Donnie & Marie Osmond – “Deep Purple” was the biggest hit written by pianist Peter DeRose*, who broadcast, 1923 to 1939, with May Singhi as “The Sweethearts of the Air” on the NBC radio network. “Deep Purple” was published in 1933 as a piano composition. The following year, Paul Whiteman had it scored for his suave “big band” orchestra that was “making a lady out of jazz” in Whiteman’s phrase. “Deep Purple” became so popular in sheet music sales that Mitchell Parish added lyrics in 1938.

The second most popular version, which hit number one on the U.S. pop charts (the 100th song to do so) in November 1963 and also won that year’s Grammy Award for Best Rock and Roll Record, was recorded by Nino Tempo & April Stevens (who are brother and sister). It remained in the Top 40 for twelve weeks and was #1 on the Hot 100 the week before John F. Kennedy was assassinated. This version of the song is notable for April Stevens’ speaking the lyrics in a low and sweet voice during the second half of the song while her brother sings. According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, when the duo first recorded the song as a demo, Tempo forgot the words, and Stevens spoke the lyrics to the song to remind him. The record’s producers thought Stevens’ spoken interludes were “cute” and should be included on the finished product, but according to Stevens, her brother was not as easily convinced: “He didn’t want anyone talking while he was singing!”

Another brother-and-sister team (and the one that is featured in my playlist), Donny and Marie Osmond, revived “Deep Purple” in 1975 and took it into the Top 20 on the U.S. and Canadian pop charts. It peaked at #14 in March 1976 on the Billboard Hot 100, with Marie intoning the balmy lyrics during the break as April Stevens had done in the version with Nino Tempo.

Donny and Marie’s “Deep Purple” was a yet bigger Adult Contemporary hit. It peaked at number eight on both the U.S. and Canadian charts. The song spent 23 weeks on the pop chart, far longer than any other song by the Osmond family. “Deep Purple” is ranked as the 42nd biggest U.S. hit of 1976.

FUN FACT: *The British rock band Deep Purple got their name from Pete DeRose’s hit as it was the favorite song of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother; she would also play the song on piano.

 

That’s it for the PURPLE edition in my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs series. Are you a purple fan? Do you know what the color purple means? According to Bourn Creative’s Color Meaning Blog Series:

Purple combines the calm stability of blue and the fierce energy of red. The color purple is often associated with royalty, nobility, luxury, power, and ambition. Purple also represents meanings of wealth, extravagance, creativity, wisdom, dignity, grandeur, devotion, peace, pride, mystery, independence, and magic.

The color purple is a rare occurring color in nature and as a result is often seen as having sacred meaning. Lavender, orchid, lilac, and violet flowers are considered delicate and precious.

The color purple has a variety of effects on the mind and body, including uplifting spirits, calming the mind and nerves, enhancing the sacred, creating feelings of spirituality, increasing nurturing tendencies and sensitivity, and encouraging imagination and creativity.

Purple is associated spirituality, the sacred, higher self, passion, third eye, fulfillment, and vitality. Purple helps align oneself with the whole of the universe.

 

What do you think of the color? What is your favorite purple song? Please let me know in the Comments section. Thanks for coming by today. Stay tuned for the next installment of my Kaleidoscope of Color Songs series in two weeks.

 

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

 

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me: VALENTINE’S EDITION – Favorite Rock Love Songs

It’s time for another Monday’s Music Moves Me. With it almost being mid-February, this is the VALENTINE’S EDITION with a theme of Love Songs. I’ve chosen to highlight some (ah, sorry, more like A TON) of my favorite Rock Love Songs.

As you gear up for your Valentine’s Day love-fest this week, enjoy my Rock Love Songs playlist of 41 fantastic love songs and ballads. There’s a s**tload of information and fun facts about each of the songs. It’s ridiculously long (but it’s a good resource!) which will take forever to read through, so just click on the playlist, let the music begin and then pick and choose which songs you want to know more about.

Something by The Beatles, written by George Harrison – “Something” is a song by the Beatles, written by George Harrison and released on the band’s 1969 album Abbey Road. It was also issued as a single coupled with another track from the album, “Come Together”. “Something” was the first Harrison composition to appear as a Beatles A-side, and the only song written by him to top the US charts before the band’s break-up in April 1970.

The song drew high praise from the band’s primary songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney; Lennon stated that “Something” was the best song on Abbey Road, while McCartney considered it the best song Harrison had written. As well as critical acclaim, the single achieved commercial success, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States and making the top five in the United Kingdom. The song has been covered by over 150 artists, making it the second-most covered Beatles song after “Yesterday”. Artists who have covered the song include Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, James Brown, Shirley Bassey, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, Ike & Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Isaac Hayes, Julio Iglesias and Neil Diamond. Harrison said his favorite version of the song was James Brown’s, which he kept in his personal jukebox.

George Harrison began writing “Something” in September 1968, during a session for the Beatles’ self-titled double album, commonly known as “the White Album.” In his autobiography, I, Me Mine, he recalls working on the melody on a piano, while Paul McCartney carried out overdubs in a neighboring studio at London’s Abbey Road Studios. Harrison put the composition “on ice” at first, believing that with the tune having come to him so easily, it might have been the melody from another song. In I, Me, Mine, he adds that the middle eight for “Something” “took some time to sort out”.

The song’s opening lyric was taken from the title of “Something in the Way She Moves”, a track by Harrison’s fellow Apple Records artist James Taylor. While musically Harrison imagined the composition in the style of Ray Charles, his inspiration for “Something” was his wife, Pattie Boyd. In her 2007 autobiography, Wonderful Today, Boyd recalls: “He told me, in a matter-of-fact way, that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful …” Boyd discusses the song’s subsequent popularity among other recording artists and concludes: “My favorite [version] was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in the kitchen at Kinfauns.”

Having begun to write love songs that were directed at both God and a woman, with his White Album track “Long, Long, Long”, Harrison later cited alternative sources for his inspiration for “Something”. In early 1969, according to author Joshua Greene, Harrison told his friends from the Hare Krishna Movement that the song was about the Hindu deity Krishna; in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 1976, he said of his approach to writing love songs: “all love is part of a universal love. When you love a woman, it’s the God in her that you see.” By 1996, Harrison had denied writing “Something” for Boyd, adding that “everybody presumed I wrote it about Pattie” because of the promotional film accompanying the release of the Beatles’ recording, which showed each member of the band with his respective wife.

Author Ian Inglis writes of the confident statements that Harrison makes throughout regarding his feelings for Boyd. Referring to lines in the song’s verses, Inglis writes: “there is a clear and mutual confidence in the reciprocal nature of their love; he muses that [Boyd] ‘attracts me like no other lover’ and ‘all I have to do is think of her,’ but he is equally aware that she feels the same, that ‘somewhere in her smile, she knows.'” Similarly, when Harrison sings in the middle eight that “You’re asking me will my love grow / I don’t know, I don’t know”, Inglis interprets the words as “not an indication of uncertainty, but a wry reflection that his love is already so complete that it may simply be impossible for it to become any greater”. Richie Unterberger of AllMusic describes “Something” as “an unabashedly straightforward and sentimental love song” written at a time “when most of the Beatles’ songs were dealing with non-romantic topics or presenting cryptic and allusive lyrics even when they were writing about love”.

Angel by Aerosmith – “Angel” is a power ballad by American rock band Aerosmith. It was written by lead singer Steven Tyler and professional songwriting collaborator Desmond Child.

It was released in 1988 as the third single from the band’s successful 1987 album Permanent Vacation. It quickly climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the second highest chart performance for any Aerosmith single, behind their #1 smash “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”.

Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler wrote this song with Desmond Child, who is one of the most successful songwriters of his time because Aerosmith was on the ropes after releasing two underperforming albums (Rock in a Hard Place (1982) and Done with Mirrors (1985)), John Kalodner of Geffen Records insisted that they bring in outside writers to help restore them to their former glory. The band balked at first (sharing songwriting credits can be costly), but were impressed when Child helped them refine their raucous rocker “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” into a surefire hit.

Child’s next composition for the band was “Angel,” which unlike “Dude” sounded nothing like Aerosmith. It’s a relationship song with none of the bawdy humor you would expect from the band. With Tyler pleading, “Come and save me tonight,” there is a wuss factor to it that horrified longtime fans. Tyler knew he was compromising, and won’t be putting the song on his highlight reel anytime soon. As John Kalodner explained in the band’s biography Walk This Way: “Tyler says that I ruined his career by making him write ‘Angel’ with Desmond.”

There was a huge upside to the song: it was their biggest US hit to that point, charting at #3 and earning lots of radio play.

This slick ballad was not typical of Aerosmith’s work, but the song was a hit and led to several successful slow songs over the next few years, including “Amazing” and “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.” Since the band had a huge catalog of rockers and a history of unruly behavior, they managed to avoid the Foreigner trap and maintain their status as a rock band despite the occasional forays into ballad territory. It helped that their next single was “Rag Doll,” which picked up the pace.

You might notice some similarity between this song and the early Aerosmith hit “Dream On.” When Steven Tyler sat down to write with Desmond Child, he played him the chord to “Dream On” to get them started. They had the bones of “Angel” together a short time later.

From the Beginning by Emerson Lake & Palmer – I love this song! “From the Beginning” is a song written by Greg Lake and performed by the progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It was released on their 1972 album Trilogy. It hit #39 in the US and was their highest charting single there.

A heartfelt song of devotion, Lake claims that the inspiration for the song has left his memory. Says Lake: “Very often lyrics simply come about simply because of the way one feels at a moment in time. There is no earth moving moment of divine inspiration or grand plan and I’m sure that was the case with this song. Although very young at the time I sometimes had moments of reflection and maybe also perhaps a feeling that I could be a better person, I think this was just one of those.”

Lady by Styx – “Lady” is a 1973 rock ballad written and performed by the rock band Styx. It was first released on Styx II and was a local hit in the band’s native Chicago, but initially failed to chart nationally. The song gained success shortly after Styx left Wooden Nickel Records to move to A&M Records in 1974 as it began picking up airplay nationwide, eventually peaking at #6 on the Billboard Top 40 in March 1975.

“Lady” was written by Styx keyboard player Dennis DeYoung for his wife, Suzanne Feusi, the first song he ever wrote for her. His wife Suzanne was his high school sweetheart; other songs he wrote about her include “Babe” and “The Best of Times.” DeYoung’s marriage endured, even through a late ’90s health scare that ended his time with the band. He has often exclaimed how much he loves her and what an important part of his life she is.

DeYoung recounted to Contemporary Keyboard magazine for the January 1981 issue that the first time he ever played acoustic piano was when the band arrived at the recording studio to record “Lady” and saw the piano in the studio; DeYoung had written the song on an electric piano, but decided to try it out on the piano instead, and liked the sound so much that he switched to the piano for the recorded version. It didn’t get much promotion and went nowhere until a DJ named Jeff Davis on WLS in Chicago rediscovered the song when he heard it on a jukebox at a pizza place on the north side of Chicago. Determined to make it a hit, Davis convinced management to let him play the song on his Saturday Night show, which had an audience in 38 states and a few foreign countries. The song became a major hit on the station, spending two weeks at #2 on the WLS survey, and was ranked as the 29th biggest hit of 1975 on their year-end countdown.

This is the only song from the band’s four Wooden Nickel-era albums that is still performed live; all other material from those years has been long disowned by the band. Former lead singer Dennis DeYoung also performs the song regularly on his solo tours. At some of his solo concerts Dennis DeYoung would sing this with no other music or backup vocals except for his wife Suzanne, who was also one of his backup singers.

Love Will Keep Us Alive by the Eagles – “Love Will Keep Us Alive” is a song written by English musicians and songwriters Jim Capaldi, Paul Carrack, and Peter Vale. It was first performed by the Eagles in 1994, during their “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour, with lead vocals by bassist Timothy B. Schmit.

Carrack had joined forces with Timothy B. Schmit and Don Felder of the Eagles for an ambitious, but ultimately unrealized, recording project. Schmit and Felder soon reunited with the rest of the Eagles and their Hell Freezes Over album, bringing with them one of the songs Carrack had co-written, “Love Will Keep Us Alive.” It was recorded by the Eagles and won an ASCAP award as being the most-played song in the US in 1995.

Felder, lead guitarist for the Eagles from 1974 until his dismissal in 2001, had submitted a demo of ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’ long before it became a comeback adult contemporary and country hit in 1994 for a reformed Eagles. Back then, he was told by the Eagles’ manager that the material “wasn’t strong enough.” A second pass by the full band did the trick.

Although the song was never formally released as a single in the US, and thus was not eligible to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 under the rules then in place, it did spend three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart in early 1995 and was No. 22 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart. In the United Kingdom, “Love Will Keep Us Alive” was issued as a single and peaked at No. 52 on the UK Singles Chart.

Waiting for a Girl Like You by Foreigner – “Waiting for a Girl Like You” is a 1981 power ballad by the British-American rock band Foreigner. The distinctive synthesizer theme was performed by the then-little-known Thomas Dolby.

It was the second single released from the 1981 album 4 and was co-written by Lou Gramm and Mick Jones. It has become one of the band’s most successful songs worldwide, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on Billboard’s Rock Tracks chart. On the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, the song reached number 5. The song peaked at number 8 on the UK Singles Chart.

“Waiting for a Girl Like You” achieved a chart distinction by spending its record-setting 10 weeks in the number 2 position of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, without ever reaching the top. It debuted on the Hot 100 chart dated October 10, 1981. It reached the number 2 position in the week of November 28, where it was held off the number 1 spot by Olivia Newton-John’s single “Physical” for nine consecutive weeks, and then by Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” for a tenth week on January 30, 1982. Because of its chart longevity, it ended up being the number 19 song on the Top 100 singles of 1982. The song was the band’s biggest hit until “I Want to Know What Love Is” hit number 1 in 1985.

In his 2013 autobiography, Jukebox Hero: My Five Decades in Rock ‘n’ Roll, written with Scott Pitoniak, Lou Gramm recounts the unusual inspiration behind his fevered singing in Foreigner’s breakthrough ballad, “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”

“This gorgeous, dark haired woman – an absolute knockout – walked into the control room and plopped herself down in the front row of theater seats near the glass that looks out into the studio where I was singing. I figured she was someone Mick (guitarist/cowriter Mick Jones) and Rick (bass player Rick Wills) knew, and to be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off her because she was so stunning. I began serenading her as if she were the girl I’d been waiting for all my life. I gave it my all for about 45 minutes, and just as I finished my final take, she smiled at me, waved good-bye, and waked out of the control room. Like a teenage boy with raging hormones, I walked into the control room and immediately asked ‘Who was that?’ The guys looked at me funny. ‘What do you mean,’ Mick said. ‘We thought she was somebody you knew.’ We all started acting giddy, barged out of the room, and jogged down the hallway in search of this mystery woman. We never did track her down, and to this day I have no idea who she was. All I know is that she inspired me to hit all the right notes for that ballad. I have never sung that song better than I did that day.”

Several months later, when I spoke to Lou, he acknowledged the story, and acknowledged that the mystery woman still hadn’t popped out of the woodwork to identify herself (actually, I imagine long lines of women appearing for that particular casting call, should Lou ever announce it). But as far as waiting for someone like her, both for the writing and the performing of the song, Lou did want to backtrack somewhat from his printed sentiments. “I mean, there’s always a certain amount of truth in the lyrics and things you’ve lived, and then you embellish it with a little imagination.”

But in fact, by that time he’d already found the girl he’d been waiting for. “Oh yeah,” Lou said. “Absolutely.”

You’re the Inspiration by Chicago – “You’re the Inspiration” is a song written by Peter Cetera and David Foster for the group Chicago and recorded for their album Chicago 17 (1984), with Cetera singing lead vocals. The third single released from that album, it reached number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1985, and also climbed to the top position on the adult contemporary chart at the same time.

From the band’s last album with Peter Cetera, this song celebrates someone who has finally found the person who inspires him.

David Foster, who became one of the biggest hit-makers of the ’80s and ’90s, wrote this song with Peter Cetera and also produced the album. In working with Foster, the band made some adjustments to their sound in the interest of achieving more hits. Three members of the band were primarily horn players, and they had little to do on most of the Foster/Cetera songs. The upside was huge, however, since the band found a new audience and was able to continue unabated for three more decades.

The official music video depicted the band performing intercut with scenes of embracing couples of varying ages ranging from young kids to a couple resembling Billy Idol and Madonna at the time. Lead singer Peter Cetera is seen wearing a T-shirt from the British goth band Bauhaus. I included a different video in my playlist but you can see the official music video here.

FUN FACT: Cetera and Foster wrote this song for Kenny Rogers. When Rogers didn’t record it, they rewrote it a bit and recorded it for Chicago.

Without You by Harry Nilsson – “Without You” is a song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans of British rock group Badfinger, and first released on their 1970 album No Dice. The song has been recorded by over 180 artists, and versions released as singles by Harry Nilsson (1971) and Mariah Carey (1994) became international best-sellers. Paul McCartney once described the ballad as “the killer song of all time”. In 1972, writers Ham and Evans received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

Sadly, the story did not end well for Badfinger: Both Ham and Evans became despondent when they encountered various legal difficulties and committed suicide. Ham hanged himself in 1975 and Evans did the same in 1983.

Harry Nilsson, at the time best known for his hit “Everybody’s Talkin'” and for composing such hits as Three Dog Night’s “One”, heard Badfinger’s recording of “Without You” at a Laurel Canyon party, and mistook it for a Beatles song (Badfinger was signed to the Apple label, which was the Beatles label). After realizing it was not, he decided to cover the song for his album Nilsson Schmilsson in 1971. The song was released as a single in October 1971, and it stayed at number 1 on the U.S. pop chart for four weeks, from February 13 to March 11, 1972. The song also spent five weeks atop the U.S. adult contemporary chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1972.

In the UK, the song spent five weeks at number 1 on the British pop chart, beginning on March 11, and sold almost 800,000 copies. It went to Number One in several other countries, including Australia (for 5 weeks), Ireland (2 weeks) and New Zealand (2 weeks).

The single was produced by Richard Perry, who later explained, “It was a different record for its time. It was a big ballad with a heavy backbeat, and although many artists have cut songs like it since, no one was doing it then.”

Nilsson’s version added an orchestra and gave the song a dramatic production. Gary Wright who worked with Badfinger on George Harrison’s projects, played the piano. Also featured are Klaus Voormann (bass), Jim Keltner (drums) and Tom Plovanic (acoustic guitar). The string and horn arrangements are by Paul Buckmaster.

When Nilsson recorded it, he initially played the song slow and dark, accompanied only by piano. Producer Richard Perry recalled to Mojo magazine April 2008 that he had to persuade an unwilling Nilsson to record it as a big ballad: “I had to force him to take a shot with the rhythm section. Even while we were doing it, he’d be saying to the musicians, ‘This song’s awful.'”

In 1973, Nilsson won the “Best Male Pop Vocal” Grammy award for the song. While Nilsson rarely gave live concerts, he did perform the song with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in September 1992.

FUN FACT (Well, not fun, but interesting): Mariah Carey’s version debuted at #1 in the UK in 1994 and hit #3 in the US. Nilsson died of heart failure on January 15, 1994 – the same day Carey’s version was released in the US. Later in 1994, Nilsson’s version was reissued to take advantage of the renewed interest.

Here’s a FUN FACT: This song was featured in a 2016 television commercial for Heinz that first aired during the Super Bowl. In the spot, a pack of dachshunds dressed like hot dogs run toward a group of humans dressed as ketchup, mustard, and other sauces. The commercial campaign title was “The Wiener Stampede.” Do you remember this commercial?

Heaven by Bryan Adams – “Heaven” is a song by the Canadian singer-songwriter Bryan Adams recorded in 1983, written by Adams and Jim Vallance. It first appeared on the A Night in Heaven soundtrack album the same year and was later included on Adams’ album Reckless in 1984. It was released as the third single from Reckless and reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985, over a year and a half after the song first appeared on record. The single was certified Gold in Canada in 1985.

The song was written while Adams served as the opening act on Journey’s Frontiers Tour. Adams had played over 100 dates with Journey during 1983. During that time, he and his songwriting partner Jim Vallance co-wrote “Heaven”, which was inspired by Journey’s hit “Faithfully”. It was recorded at the Power Station in New York City on June 6 and 7, 1983. Halfway through the recording session, drummer Mickey Curry – who had warned Adams about his limited availability that day – announced that he had to leave since he had committed in advance to a Hall & Oates session. Since the recording session for “Heaven” was running behind schedule, Adams called Journey drummer Steve Smith, who happened to be in New York City at the time and he filled Curry’s drumming position. The song first appeared on the soundtrack to the 1983 film, A Night in Heaven, although it was not released as a single at that time.

Adams was unconvinced that “Heaven” was suitable for his next studio album, Reckless, a feeling that was echoed by producer Jimmy Iovine, who was working with Adams at the time. Iovine thought the song was too ‘light’ for the album and recommended that Adams not include it. But at the last moment, Adams changed his mind.

The song provided Bryan Adams with his first number one single and third top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was number 24 on Billboard magazine’s Top Pop Singles of 1985.

Amanda by Boston – “Amanda” is a power ballad by the rock band Boston written by Tom Scholz. The song was released as the first single from the band’s third album, Third Stage, in 1986. This was the first single Boston released after a seven-year layoff. Remarkably, it was the first and only #1 hit for the band, whose songs “Don’t Look Back” and “More Than a Feeling” got constant airplay.

The song was written by Boston mastermind Tom Scholz, who was more concerned with crafting meticulous melodic rock than with pouring his heart out. The song is actually very romantic, with Brad Delp singing about telling his girl “I Love You” for the first time, which for most guys happens in a fit of passion, and in the famous Meat Loaf song, leads to a life sentence. This amorous spontaneity is typical of Boston’s music, which is all about feeling and living in the moment. “Amanda” was most likely chosen as a name because it scans so well, the perfect word to follow lines like “I’m gonna tell you right away, I can’t wait another day…”

Girls’ names ending in A have a great history in song, with Rhonda, Layla, Lola and Rosanna preceding Boston’s Amanda.

MTV launched in 1981, and once it caught on a few years later, just about every hit song had a video attached to it. This was one of the few exceptions, and the only #1 hit of 1986 without a video, since Boston didn’t make them for their songs.

Although the song did not have a promotional music video, “Amanda” became the band’s highest charting single in the United States and Canada. In the United States, the single topped the Billboard Hot 100 in November, 1986, for two consecutive weeks (the band’s only number 1 on the Hot 100), and topped for three consecutive weeks on the Mainstream Rock chart, in October of the same year, while in the latter the single topped RPM magazine’s Top Singles and Adult Contemporary charts

Boston’s first album was released in January 1977, and their second in September 1978. They were on schedule for a third album, which they started recording in 1981, when industry politics and creative differences shelved the project, and the band broke up, with guitarist Barry Goudreau releasing a solo album and drummer Sib Hashian joining Sammy Hagar’s band.

Before the split, however, Boston put a lot of effort into recording this song. In 1984, a bootleg copy of this song was leaked to radio stations. The band was still signed to Epic Records at the time, and someone at the label apparently delivered the 5-inch demo reel of the song to at least one program director at a small market station.

If the record was leaked in New York or L.A., it would have been pulled quickly as word got to Epic, but with the song circulating in small markets, it took a few weeks before Epic caught on. Charlie Mitchell, who was Music Director/DJ at one of these stations, explained to Forgotten Hits that jocks were instructed to talk over the beginning and end of the song so competing stations couldn’t steal it off the air. Said Mitchell: “We went along for a few weeks, playing our bootleg “Amanda”… the corporate PD had even copied it and sent it to the other couple of properties in our group. None were within earshot of a CBS Records (parent company of Epic) office so I guess everything was fine. Until it wasn’t. I was told that one of the other PD’s in our chain had gone ahead and reported “Amanda” as an add to Radio & Records, and the conversation went roughly like this:

R&R: “What new Boston record?!”

PD: “It’s called “Amanda”. I’ve got it here on a 5-inch reel.”

A cease-and-desist immediately followed. Apparently from Walter Yetnikoff himself to our corporate PD via telephone. And as we all know, when it finally came out for real, 2 1/2 years later, it was on MCA!”

Boston fared much better in the US than in the UK, where their slick sound and intergalactic album art didn’t catch on. This song didn’t even chart in Britain; the album reached #1 in the US, but only #37 in the UK.

After this song became a hit, the previous two Boston albums re-entered the US chart. Boston became one of the biggest catalog sellers of the ’80s and ’90s, when record companies would send you a bunch of albums for a penny if you signed up for their club. Were you a member of one of those clubs?? So many of us Baby Boomers were…

Harden My Heart by Quarterflash – “Harden My Heart” is song by rock group Quarterflash. It is a million-selling Gold-certified single and was featured on the band’s Platinum-selling Quarterflash album, released in 1981.

In this song, the singer finds the strength to leave her man, and is determined to do it without getting squishy. Written by their guitarist Marv Ross, it was a regional hit in the Pacific Northwest when the group called itself Seafood Mama. After a shuffling of the lineup and a name change to Quarterflash, the reissued single became a US Top 5 hit.

Something you don’t see too often: a female lead singer who also plays the saxophone part. Rindy Ross (wife of group member Marv Ross) from Quarterflash did just that on this song and their follow up single “Find Another Fool.”

Released the same year MTV went on the air, the video contains many random images that have nothing to do with the song, including jugglers, a little person, a makeup table in the dessert, well-dressed guys on motorcycles, and a sax solo in the rain. It was fairly common in the early ’80s to throw lots of disjointed scenes into the videos in an attempt to create a memorable image.

FUN FACT: Quarterflash took its name from an Australian slogan: “a quarter flash and three parts foolish.”  I always wondered about that name. I have no idea what the Aussie slogan means though. Do you?

FUN FACT: Elton John rarely used opening acts at his concerts, but after this song hit the charts in 1982, he enlisted Quarterflash for the job.

The Flame by Cheap Trick – “The Flame” is a ballad written by British songwriters Bob Mitchell and Nick Graham. The song was first offered to English singer Elkie Brooks, who turned it down, and was then released by Cheap Trick, for whom it was a hit single in 1988. The song appeared on the band’s Lap of Luxury album. “The Flame” reached number one on the American Billboard Hot 100 in July 1988. It also reached number one in Australia and Canada.

Cheap Trick had a huge breakthrough with their 1979 live album Cheap Trick at Budokan, which brought “I Want You To Want Me” into the Top 10. In 1980, bass player Tom Petersson left the group, and for most of the decade they had a hard time finding another hit, with none of their singles reaching the Top 40.

Peterson returned to the group for their 1988 album Lap of Luxury, which included the big ballad that would get them back on the airwaves: “The Flame.” This was the dawn of the hair metal era, when the likes of Cinderella and Poison were cracking the charts wide open with similar songs. Cheap Trick already had the MTV-ready look and the rock pedigree, they just needed the song.

“The Flame” checked all the boxes, and although it wasn’t something the band would whip up themselves, they liked it better than the other option. In an interview with Gerry Galipault, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos explained: “The vice president at Epic told us he had these two songs and they’re both gonna be #1. He goes, ‘We got one for you and one for the group Chicago, but you can have first choice.’ He said, ‘I think the one ‘The Flame’ would be good for you guys.’ The other one was ‘Look Away,’ and it sounded like some girl singing on the demo. We really didn’t like that song anyway, so ‘Sure, we’ll do ‘The Flame.’ We’re game.'”

The song is a tender ballad where the singer tells a girl he will always be there for her. It was not typical of Cheap Trick’s sound, and was also their only hit not written or co-written by their guitarist Rick Nielsen. The song succeeded in exposing the band to a much larger audience. This was Cheap Trick’s only #1 hit, remaining at the top spot in the US for two weeks in the summer of 1988.

FUN FACT: Reportedly, the band disliked the song at first; Cheap Trick’s lead guitarist, backing vocalist and primary songwriter Rick Nielsen disliked the song so much on first hearing that he yanked it from the tape player and ground the cassette beneath his boot heel.

I Found Someone by Cher – “I Found Someone” is the name of a chart single originally written and composed for Laura Branigan by Michael Bolton and Touch keyboardist Mark Mangold. The song was a bigger hit for Cher in 1987, reaching the Top 10.

The most successful version of “I Found Someone” was released by American singer/actress Cher as the first U.S. and European single from her eighteenth album Cher and was released on November 19, 1987 by Geffen. The single was also released on VHS containing the concert version of the video. Cher’s version was produced by Michael Bolton. Fashion photographer Matthew Rolston’s full cover photo featured a slightly overexposed close-up of Cher’s face, gazing into the lens as she pushes back a mane of tight curls before a bright blue background.

The lyrics tell of a woman who has found someone else that is healing the heartache from a previous relationship and taking away her loneliness.

Part of a much-heralded musical comeback at the height of her movie career, a big-budget music video featured the singer-actress with her then-boyfriend Rob Camilletti. The couple were a big story in the tabloids at the time, as he was seventeen years her junior, and the video was the aspiring actor’s debut. The video was in heavy rotation on MTV and Cher’s version went to #10 in the U.S. and to #5 in the UK.

Reason to Live by Kiss – “Reason to Live” is a song by the American hard rock/heavy metal band Kiss. It is featured on the group’s 1987 studio album Crazy Nights. Written by singer/guitarist Paul Stanley and professional songwriter Desmond Child, “Reason to Live” is a power ballad, heavy on keyboards and production. The B-side is the Gene Simmons-helmed album track “Thief in the Night”.

The song’s official music video (directed by Marty Callner and produced by Callner, Doug Major and Bill Brigode) received airplay on MTV. It shows the band playing the song live on a large, well-lit stage, interspersed with shots of a young blonde woman (portrayed by Playboy Playmate and model Eloise Broady), who is visibly distressed over relationship troubles with Stanley. She vents her frustrations by throwing a wine bottle at a picture of the two of them and then burning it at the end of the video. When Stanley visits her house, she comes out of hiding and douses his Porsche 928 with gasoline before setting it on fire. It is implied that Stanley ended the relationship with the woman due to her unstable behavior.

The live portion of the video (band performing the song) was filmed in the Orange Pavilion in San Bernardino, California, while the scenes of the woman as well as her house were shot in Hollywood, California. The Porsche in the video was a gift from Simmons to Stanley, in appreciation of the latter’s dedication to the band. Simmons’ bass bears an image of him in his classic “Demon” makeup.

Released as a single in 1987, the song would prove to be a minor hit for the band. It made the Top 40 charts in the United Kingdom, and reached number 34 on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. It also peaked at the 64 position on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States.

Broken Wings by Mr. Mister – “Broken Wings” is a 1985 song recorded by American pop rock band Mr. Mister. It was released in September 1985 as the lead single from their second album Welcome to the Real World. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1985, where it remained for two weeks. It was released as the band was just about to embark on a US tour opening for Tina Turner. The song peaked at number four in the United Kingdom, the highest chart position the group ever achieved in Britain. “Broken Wings” became the first of two consecutive number ones of the band on the American charts, the other chart-topper being “Kyrie”.

This classic pop song was inspired by a book the lyricist John Lang read called The Broken Wings, which was written by the Lebanese poet-philosopher Kahlil Gibran. The book, which was written in 1912, is a story of a love that is doomed by social convention.

Its theme is echoed in this song: picking up the pieces of your life and moving on. There is a note of heartbreak, however, as the singer is asking the girl to spread her wings and fly away, hoping that love will bring her back.

John Lang wrote this song with Mr. Mister frontman Richard Page and guitarist Steve George. According to Page, they were at his home in California when the three of them came up with the song in about 20 minutes and recorded it on Page’s tape machine. The song is a mix of synth, digitally delayed guitar, bass and drums. The song’s hissing intro was an effect created by the sound of a crash cymbal played in reverse.

Released ahead of the album, the song went to #1 US in December 1985, marking a breakthrough for the band, whose biggest hit from their first album was “Hunters of the Night,” which peaked at #57. The follow-up single, “Kyrie,” also went to #1.

The video shows Richard Page driving a classic Ford Thunderbird convertible through a parched Los Angeles landscape. He comes to a church, where a hawk arrives for divine guidance (the scene: where Page is sitting in a church when a Harris’s Hawk flies in through the window and lands next to him on the pew and they exchange a gaze) and then continues his journey, which takes him to the ocean. The full band is also featured in performance scenes. Also appearing in the video are an unknown man and woman dancing tango. They are only shown from the waist down.

The black-and-white clip was directed by Oley Sassone, who would go on to direct episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. In our interview with Sassone, he explained:

“The subtext of the story and what I wanted the audience to feel was our hero’s own backstory in his mind. The tango dancers, juxtaposed with the images of him getting lost while driving, tossing a map and instead following the hawk overhead was, symbolically, his own soul, his own voice deep inside telling him to carry on – to lead him to a new path, a new beginning.”

VH1 went on the air in 1985, the same year this song was released. The video did very well on the network, and also on MTV, which was only four years old but had become kingmaker in the industry.

I Wanna Know What Love Is by Foreigner – “I Want to Know What Love Is” is a power ballad by the British-American rock band Foreigner. It was released in November 1984 as the lead single from their fifth album, Agent Provocateur. The song hit number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is the group’s biggest hit to date. It remains one of the band’s best-known songs and most enduring radio hits, charting in the top 25 in 2000, 2001, and 2002 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Recurrents chart. This Foreigner song was ranked by Billboard as the #4 Billboard Hot 100 single of 1985. It was the band’s third Platinum single in the U.S. and their first and only Gold single in the UK. The song is also featured in a number of films.

Written and composed by Mick Jones, with an uncredited portion (somewhere between 5% according to Jones and 40% according to Gramm) by Lou Gramm, and produced by Jones and Alex Sadkin.

“I always worked late at night, when everybody left and the phone stopped ringing. “I Want To Know What Love Is” came up at three in the morning sometime in 1984. I don’t know where it came from. I consider it a gift that was sent through me. I think there was something bigger than me behind it. I’d say it was probably written entirely by a higher force.”  — Mick Jones

The song has received positive retrospective reviews from critics, with Bret Adams of AllMusic writing: “It’s not hard to see why it became Foreigner’s first #1 single. Its dreamy, hypnotic feel is due in part to Lou Gramm’s soulful lead vocals and the New Jersey Mass Choir’s background vocals.”

“We did a few takes, and it was good, but it was still a bit tentative. So then they all got round in a circle, held hands and said The Lord’s Prayer. And it seemed to inspire them, because after that they did it in one take. I was in tears, because my mum and dad were in the studio too, and it was so emotional.”   –Mick Jones on recording with the choir.

Love Bites by Def Leppard – “Love Bites” is a power ballad recorded by the English rock band Def Leppard in 1987 on the album Hysteria. It is Def Leppard’s only number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 to date.

When record producer and songwriter Robert John “Mutt” Lange originally brought the song to the band’s attention, it was a country ballad, which the band thought sounded like nothing they had done before. The band then added power rock elements and emotive backing vocals similar to those used in R&B ballads at the time. The title “Love Bites” was originally used for a very different song that was eventually re-titled “I Wanna Be Your Hero”, and which appeared as a Hysteria B-side and later on the album Retro Active.

Following the huge momentum generated by “Pour Some Sugar on Me”, the song was released in August 1988 and quickly shot to the top of the U.S. charts for one week. The song also hit number eleven in the UK (their second best showing from the album). This is the only track from the Hysteria album with keyboards.

From Songfacts: The J. Geils band told us in 1980 that “Love Stinks,” but Def Leppard reminds us that it also bites. In this song, Joe Elliott has a lot of questions:

When you make love, do you look in the mirror?

Who do you think of, does he look like me?

It sounds like his girlfriend has taken up with another guy, but then it becomes clear that Joe is still in the picture:

When I’m with you are you somewhere else?

Am I gettin’ thru or do you please yourself?

Ah, seems she’s a bit disconnected when it comes to intimacy, and if there is another guy, he’s part of her fantasy. Joe has the opposite problem:

I don’t wanna touch you too much baby

‘Cos making love to you might drive me crazy

So she needs additional mental stimulation, and he can’t handle too much of her touch. Love bites indeed.

           According to the song, here’s what love does:

Bites

Bleeds

Brings Me to My Knees

Lives

Dies

Begs

Pleads

In our interview with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, he said of this song, “It was just a standard rock ballad but it had something else going for it. Lyrically, it kind of painted a picture, and in a song you always want to do that, paint a picture. ‘On a dark desert highway,’ the first line of ‘Hotel California,’ great song, it just paints an image for you straight off the bat and that’s the sign of a really good song. It takes you right there. ‘Love Bites’ did that as well.”

FUN FACT: A popular rumor about the song concerns the final seconds. After the line, “If you got love in your sights, Watch out, Love Bites,” what is seemingly heard is “Jesus of Nazareth, Go to Hell.” This rumor has been refuted by the band, most notably on a Hysteria documentary. The line is in fact producer Mutt Lange rambling in a Yorkshire accent, to the effect of “Yes it does, Bloody Hell,” with the aid of a vocoder.

Is This Love by Whitesnake – “Is This Love” is a song by English rock band Whitesnake. (btw, Whitesnake was the name of several of frontman David Coverdale’s solo projects after he left Deep Purple). “Is This Love” was released in the UK in March 1987 as the second single from their self-titled album. This mid-tempo rocker shows the sensitive side of David Coverdale, who wrote the song with guitarist John Sykes. Missing the typical Whitesnake swagger, this song finds Coverdale waiting by the phone for his girlfriend to call.

The single was a hit for Whitesnake, reaching number 9 in the UK Singles Chart and number 2 in the US singles chart, making it their second-biggest US hit after “Here I Go Again” which hit number 1. The number 1 spot at the time was held by “Faith” by George Michael. The single was reissued in 1994 to promote Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits. This version reached number 25 on the UK Singles Chart.

“Is This Love” has been a mainstay in Whitesnake’s live shows since 1987. As such, it is featured on several of their live albums.

The song was written by vocalist David Coverdale and guitarist John Sykes during the album’s early writing process (which took place in the south of France), but it was long rumored that the song had originally been written for Tina Turner. Coverdale confirmed these rumors in the booklet of Whitesnake’s 20th anniversary edition, by saying:

Before I’d left [for the south of France] a friend at EMI had asked me for any ideas that would work for Tina Turner. So that was where the original idea for “Is This Love” came from.

FUN FACT: A music video was also made, featuring Coverdale’s then-girlfriend actress/model Tawny Kitaen. The videos for both this and “Here I Go Again” feature Tawny Kitaen. They both take place at 5:55 in the morning on city streets filled with fog.

The “Is This Love” music video depicts the band playing the song on a misty stage, intercut with scenes of Coverdale singing, Kitaen dancing and the two of them together. Due to Coverdale firing the other members of the band before the album was released, he is the only Whitesnake member present on both the recording and in the music video; this was the case for all music videos released for songs from the 1987 album. Wow! This version of the group was breaking up when the single was released, and Coverdale had to put together another band to go on the road to promote it.

Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon – “Can’t Fight This Feeling” is a power ballad performed by the American rock band REO Speedwagon. The single remained at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks from March 9 to March 23, 1985.

The song first appeared on REO Speedwagon’s 1984 album Wheels Are Turnin’. It was the group’s second number-one hit on the U.S. charts (the first being 1981’s “Keep on Loving You”, also written by Kevin Cronin) and reached number sixteen in the UK. “Can’t Fight This Feeling” has appeared on dozens of ‘various artists’ compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums.

In this song, a man is falling in love with a girl he has been friends with for a long time. When the band had difficulty coming up with songs for their Wheels Are Turnin’ album, they took time off so each member could write alone. Lead singer Kevin Cronin went to Molokai, Hawaii, during his “time off.” There he played around with a song that he wrote 10 years earlier but never finished. When he stopped tinkering with his composition, it had become a song about a person’s fear of change – even though he knows that he MUST change.

Kevin Cronin’s girlfriends have provided inspiration for several REO hits – he says this one is based on an amalgamation of these relationships, but the song has a deeper meaning.

“Really, what the song is about was about my inability to have the courage to express myself,” he said in a Songfacts interview. “I was brought up in an Irish-Catholic family, and you were taught to always keep a bright face, always act like everything was OK, even if maybe everything on the inside wasn’t so OK. So that’s something I’ve struggled with, and over the years have gotten better at.

 

At that time, the only way I knew to express those feelings was to write songs about them. I’ve learned over the years that it works better to talk to people! You can actually become closer to other human beings when you are vulnerable and express yourself and are free to tell the truth and to be honest and to be up front with your feelings. It does work. Back in those days, the best that I could do was write a song about it.”

Two videos were made for this song: one that shows them goofing around in a rehearsal space before performing it, and another far more elaborate video directed by Kevin Dole that shows a baby going through different life stages from birth to death. Heavy on compositing and special effects, it was cutting edge for 1984.

REO Speedwagon performed this song at the 1985 Live Aid concert; they followed Rick Springfield and they were introduced by Chevy Chase, mentioning that the song was a number-one single at the moment in the United States.

Keep On Loving You by REO Speedwagon – “Keep On Loving You” is a soft rock power ballad written by Kevin Cronin and performed by American rock band REO Speedwagon. It features the lead guitar work of Gary Richrath. The song first appeared on REO Speedwagon’s 1980 album Hi Infidelity. It was the first REO Speedwagon single to break the top 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, reaching the number-one spot for one week in March 1981. The single was certified Platinum for U.S. sales of over one million copies. It peaked at number seven in the UK Singles Chart. “Keep On Loving You” has been described as “a mainstay on most ’80s soft rock compilations” and has appeared on dozens of ‘various artists’ compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums.

This song is lead singer Kevin Cronin’s response after he found out his wife Denise had been cheating on him before they were married. Instead of leaving her, he decided that he would keep on loving her no matter what, as he made that promise:

When I said that I loved you I meant that I loved you forever

And I’m gonna keep on lovin’ you

Cronin called it, “The most painful song I ever wrote.”

An anthem of fidelity, “Keep On Loving You” is often cited as one of the more romantic songs ever written – VH1 included it on their Top 40 Love Songs show. It didn’t work out for Kevin Cronin though, as he and his wife split up a few years after the album was released. He re-married in 1992.

In a Songfacts interview with Cronin, he said:

“That song is a yin-yang thing, where there is obviously trouble in paradise in the verses, but I always believed that people are capable of changing, and that if your life runs into a tough spot, it doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to run from it. You can also look it in the eye, and if there is enough worthwhile in the relationship to keep it going, then you give it all you’ve got, and that’s what I did. Even in giving it all I got, at some point, we realized that it just wasn’t going to work. So when I wrote that line, I meant it. I tried my best, but it just didn’t happen.”

The title suggests a blissful love free from complications, leading some people to use it at weddings. Bad idea, says Kevin Cronin. “a lot of people over the years have told me how they played that song at their wedding and it was the first dance at their wedding, or it’s “their song” with their boyfriend or girlfriend,” he told Songfacts. “My first thought is always, ‘Wait. Did you listen to the verses of the song?!'”

REO Speedwagon was one of the first rock bands to score big with power ballads in the ’80s. They had the good fortune of being one of the hottest bands in America when MTV launched on August 1, 1981, so the network played their videos, even though they were low-budget affairs. With director Bruce Gowers, they shot four videos in one day, including the clip for “Keep On Loving You,” which lead singer Kevin Cronin said “made us look like even bigger dorks than we were.”

The video shows Cronin with a hot female psychiatrist. He explained in the book I Want My MTV: “Someone figured out that you had to have a hot chick in the video. The psychiatrist was this gorgeous model with librarian glasses. She was out of our league, big-time.”

Most of the band’s videos were dominated by performance footage, and they weren’t photogenic enough to compete on the network with the likes of Duran Duran, Van Halen and other acts who did a better job matching a picture to the sound. A few years into MTV’s existence, REO was out.

Before REO Speedwagon recorded this, they were known as a hard rock band. Keyboardist Neal Doughty initially had concerns about recording this love ballad, but his fears were allayed when this proved to be a breakthrough hit for the band. He recalled to Noisecreep in a 2011 interview:

During the making of the Hi Infidelity album, most of REO Speedwagon was going through some kind of personal turmoil. I’m talking about divorces and all sorts of crazy stuff. I remember when Kevin played me ‘Keep on Loving You’ for the first time I was a bit apprehensive about recording it. You have to remember, up to that point we were known as a rock band and here was this soft song.

 

I wasn’t sure how our hardcore fans would react to a ballad. But then Gary Richrath pulled out his guitar, cranked his amplifier to 11 and started playing along with Kevin. From that point, it felt right. Gary and Kevin had such different writing and playing styles and it worked so great on ‘Keep on Loving You.’ Once that song hit radio, it exploded. We finally had the hit that our label and we had wanted for years. It changed our lives forever.”

Alone by Heart – “Alone” is a song composed by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly. It first appeared via Steinberg and Kelly’s 1983 pet project, I-Ten, on Taking a Cold Look. It was later recorded by Valerie Stevenson and John Stamos in their roles as Lisa Copley and Gino Minelli, on the original soundtrack of the CBS sitcom Dreams in 1984. American rock band Heart made it a number-one US and Canadian hit in 1987. Twenty years later, Celine Dion recorded it for her album Taking Chances.

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meatloaf – “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” is a love song performed by the American musician Meat Loaf in his solo career, preceded by “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” and followed by “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. It is a track off his 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, written by Jim Steinman. It reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a million-selling Gold single from the RIAA. It stands as one of his career signature tunes, still enjoying recurrent airplay.

“Two out of three ain’t bad” is a trite cliché often used for comic effect. (“How was your date?” “He was tall, handsome, and incredibly boring.” “Well, two out of three ain’t bad.)

Jim Steinman, who was Meat Loaf’s songwriter, turned the saying into a song about the elusive nature of love. The song begins with Meat Loaf getting kicked to the curb by his girl, presumably because he won’t tell her he loves her. He makes the case that even though he will never love her, he’s good enough, since after all he does want her and need her, and happy endings are only for fairy tales.

We then learn that his commitment issues step from a previous relationship – one with the only woman he will ever love. She once left him with the same explanation: I want you, I need you, but I’ll never love you.

In a 2003 interview for the VH1 Ultimate Albums series, Steinman recalls:

“I remember Mimi Kennedy [a cast member of Jim’s then-current musical Rhinegold] telling me, she said, you know, when I was probably complaining why no one liked my stuff and couldn’t get a deal, she says, “Well Steiny, your stuff is so complicated. Can’t you write something simple?” And while she was saying that the oldies station was on the radio and it was playing that old Elvis song, ‘I Want You, I Need,’ whatever it was. ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You’, you know. I just started singing my own song but it was ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You.’ She said, “Why don’t you write something simple like that, ‘I want you, I need you, I love you’?” I said, “Well I’ll try.” I don’t try to make them complicated. I remember going home and I tried so hard but the best I could do was: I want you, I need you but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you, don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad. So it was still a twist but it was my closest to a simple song, and one Elvis could have done.”

FUN FACT: Todd Rundgren produced the Bat Out Of Hell album. On this song, he used the other three members of his band Utopia: Kasim Sulton on bass, Willie Wilcox on drums, and Roger Powell on synthesizer. Rundgren played guitar and also sang backup on this one.

November Rain by Guns & Roses – “November Rain” is a power ballad by the American hard rock band Guns N’ Roses. Written by the band’s lead singer Axl Rose, the song was released as a single in 1992 from their third studio album, Use Your Illusion I (1991). It features a sweeping orchestral backing and is one of Guns N’ Roses’ longest songs.

“November Rain” peaked at number 3 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the longest song in history to enter the top ten of that chart. The original version of this song was 25-minutes long, and was edited down to 8:59. It is the longest ever Top 10 hit and contains the longest guitar solo in a Top 10 single. Slash actually plays two guitar solos in the song.

The lyrics and the video are based on a short story by Del James called “Without You”. The story is part of a collection called The Language Of Fear, which was brought back to market in 2008 after being out of print. The new version of the book contains an intro by Axl Rose, who wrote: “Del James has a personal knowledge of most of the situations he writes about, and has a love of the gutter from having been there.” James contributed lyrics to two Guns N’ Roses songs: “The Garden” and “Yesterdays,” and has directed several music videos.

The video was directed by Andy Morahan (who had done the popular George Michael videos for “Father Figure” and “Faith,” and worked with GnR on “Don’t Cry” and “You Could Be Mine”).

A huge production, the “November Rain” video cost over $1.5 million to make, but reaped rewards for the band, as it got a lot of play on MTV. It stars actress and model Stephanie Seymour, Axl Rose’s girlfriend at the time. In the video, she and Axl get married with Slash serving as best man and the rest of the band in the front row. After the wedding, it starts raining and the next scene is Stephanie’s funeral in the same church.

Slash (from Q magazine, July 2004): “We got into doing these huge production videos and by ‘November Rain’ it was too much, just too involved. At the end of the day it was a great video but that’s when I started realizing that it was getting out of hand.” (You can read more about the production of this amazing video at a previous 4M post I did for the Autumn Songs theme).

Out of hand or not, it won for Best Cinematography at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, where it also received a Video Vanguard award. Guns N’ Roses performed this at the end of the show with Elton John on piano.

FUN FACT #1: The guy who crashes through the wedding cake around the 7-minute mark of the video is Riki Rachtman, host of the MTV show Headbangers Ball. He and Axl Rose were friends.

FUN FACT #2: The GnR albums Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II were released simultaneously. This was a bold move, but the band was huge and the albums both sold very well. When they were released, Use Your Illusion II was the #1 album in the US, followed by Use Your Illusion I. The last time an artist had the top two albums at the same time was in 1974, when two Jim Croce albums held the top spots shortly after his death.

FUN FACT #3: Axl Rose was working on this as early as 1983. Former L.A. Guns guitarist Tracii Guns said: “When we were doing that EP for L.A. Guns, like in 1983, he was playing ‘November Rain’ on piano. Way back then. It was the only thing Axl knew how to play, but it was his. He’d go: ‘Someday this song is gonna be really cool.’ And I’d go: ‘It’s cool now. But it’s not done, you know.’ And like anytime we’d be at a hotel or anywhere there’d be a piano, he’d just kinda play that music. And I’d go: ‘When are you gonna finish that already, you know?’ And he’d go: ‘I don’t know what to do with it.'”

Open Arms by Journey – “Open Arms” is a song by American rock band Journey. It was released in 1981 as a single from their seventh studio album Escape. Co-written by band members Steve Perry and Jonathan Cain, the song is a power ballad whose lyrics are an empowering plea to a lover to forgive past wrongdoings and agree to start anew, a song about a couple who drifted apart but found each other again and realized how much they love each other. It is one of the band’s most recognizable radio hits and their biggest US Billboard Hot 100 hit, reaching number two in February 1982 and holding that position for six weeks.

Journey’s recording of “Open Arms” has been described as one of the greatest love songs ever written; VH1 named the song as the greatest power ballad of all time. Mike DeGagne of AllMusic has described it as “One of rock’s most beautiful ballads”, which “gleams with an honesty and feel only Steve Perry could muster.”

Jonathan Cain had begun writing the song while he was still a member of The Babys, but Babys vocalist John Waite turned down the melody as “sentimental rubbish.” Cain eventually finished the song with Steve Perry during the writing sessions for Escape, changing the key from A to D and changing the melody slightly, but it was almost left off the album; Journey’s guitarist Neal Schon reportedly disliked the song because “it was so far removed from anything [Journey] had ever attempted to record before”. Drummer Steve Smith recalls that Schon noted that it “sounds kinda Mary Poppins”, added to which the other members of the band were against the idea of performing ballads.

In 2005 Perry commented on the emotions he felt while producing Live in Houston 1981: The Escape Tour and listening to the band performing the song 24 years previously:

“I had to keep my head down on the console when “Open Arms” was on. There is one line in the song that I always wanted to be a certain way. I have ideals about certain things. The line “wanting you near” — I just wanted that line to go up and soar. I wanted it to be heartfelt. Every time it would come by I would just have to keep my head down and try to swallow the lump in my throat. I felt so proud of the song.”

In the Journey episode of VH1’s Behind the Music, Perry recalls the recording sessions for the song becoming an ordeal; Schon taunted Perry and Cain in the studio. But when the band performed it in concert for the first time during their Escape Tour in the fall of 1981, the audience was thunderstruck, much to Schon’s disbelief. After two encores, the band left the stage and Schon suddenly said, “Man, that song really kicked ass!” Perry recalled being incensed at Schon’s hypocrisy. “I looked at him, and I wanted to kill him,” he later said.

This third single from Escape not only went on to become the band’s highest charting single and sent album sales into orbit, but pioneered the entire concept of the power ballad. “Now everybody’s got to have one,” said Perry. “Don’t Stop Believin'” has become Journey’s most popular song, but it only charted at #9 in America; “Open Arms” was the group’s biggest hit on the Hot 100, reaching #2.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” is the title of a power ballad song by American glam metal band Poison. It was released in October 1988 as the third single from Poison’s second album Open Up and Say… Ahh!. It is the band’s only number-one hit in the U.S., reaching the top spot on December 18, 1988, for three weeks (carrying over into 1989) and it also charted at #11 on the Mainstream Rock chart. It was a number 13 hit in the UK. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was named number 34 on VH1’s “100 Greatest Songs of the 80s”, #100 on their “100 Greatest Love Songs” and #7 on MTV and VH1 “Top 25 Power Ballads”.

Musically, the song starts quietly and features two guitar solos, one mellow and one fast. During the writing of the song, Poison had been playing at a cowboy bar called “The Ritz” in Dallas, Texas, accounting for the song’s recognizable references to cowboys in the chorus, along with the twang in Bret Michaels’ vocals, which give the song a country feel not often heard in power ballads composed by glam metal bands.

In an interview with VH1’s Behind the Music, Michaels said the inspiration for the song came from a night when he was in a laundromat waiting for his clothes to dry, and called his girlfriend (Tracy Lewis) on a pay phone. Michaels said he heard a male voice in the background and was devastated; he said he went into the laundromat and wrote “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” as a result.

On a Behind the Music special, Michaels explained the metaphoric meaning behind the rose and thorn in this song. He said that the rose was his career taking off, and the thorn was the fact that it was costing him his relationship with his girlfriend Tracy.

When the song first came out, it was a Dallas Country station that actually spun it first, before the rock stations picked the tune up. Michaels recalled to Billboard magazine: “This was back before anyone thought about a crossover. We had ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn’ at #1 Pop, #1 Rock, and Top 40 Country, which was unheard of.”

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing by Aerosmith – “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is a power ballad performed by American hard rock band Aerosmith for the 1998 film Armageddon which Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv Tyler starred in. U2 was originally asked to perform this song for the movie – the idea for Aerosmith performing it only came after Liv was cast. The song got a huge bump from its placing in Armageddon, which was the top-grossing film of 1998.

Written by Diane Warren, the song debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 (the first #1 for the band after 28 years together). It is one of three songs performed by the band for the film, the other two being “What Kind of Love Are You On” and “Sweet Emotion”. The song stayed at number one for four weeks from September 5 to 26, 1998. The song also stayed at number 1 for several weeks in several other countries including Australia, the Philippines, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. It sold over a million copies in the UK and reached number four on the UK Singles Chart. In a 2008 survey conducted by the cable music channel Magic TV, this was voted by its UK viewers as the nation’s favorite love song.

The song helped open up Aerosmith to a new generation and remains a slow dance staple. Diane Warren wrote this song, which is about treasuring every moment spent with another person. Diane found inspiration for this song after hearing about an interview where James Brolin said that when his wife Barbra Streisand was away, he missed her even when he was sleeping. When she set out to write a song for Armageddon, she thought this was a good sentiment to express, since the film deals with the impending destruction of all on Earth.

This song extended Aerosmith’s reign as the hottest rock band of the ’90s. Their 1993 album Get a Grip contained four hit singles which also did very well on MTV. With a new generation of fans discovering the group’s back catalog, they were as popular as ever, selling out shows worldwide. Their follow-up album, Nine Lives, was a struggle to make and wasn’t released until 1997. It was far less popular, with none of its singles cracking the Top 25. Aerosmith could still fill stadiums, but had to come off the road in April 1998 when Steven Tyler tore his ACL in a microphone stand mishap during a show in Anchorage.

The band was on the wane and facing the possibility of empty seats when they resumed their tour at the end of the summer, but this song revived their fortunes. The tour resumed on September 9, when “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” was the #1 song in America. The album title proved prescient, as once again they became the most popular rockers in the land, still cranking out hits while their contemporaries like The Rolling Stones were forced to lean on their legacies to sell tickets.

FUN FACT #1: The song is notable for having been nominated for both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song.

FUN FACT #2: British heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury celebrated his upset victory on November 28, 2015 over Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany with some in-ring karaoke. “I promised everybody I’d sing a song after this fight,” Fury said. “So this is to my UK fans, my Irish fans, my American fans and my new German fans; and most of all, this is a dedication to me wife.” The newly crowned heavyweight champion then proceeded to belt out this song.

Considering he just went 12 rounds, it wasn’t a bad rendition. Joe Perry was impressed. “I thought it was great!” he told Vanyaland. “To belt it out like that… talk about being in shape. My hat’s off to him; and to sing to his wife… he’s a class act!”

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel – “In Your Eyes” is a song by English rock musician Peter Gabriel from his fifth solo album So (1986). It features African musician Youssou N’Dour singing some choruses translated into his native Wolof. Gabriel’s lyrics were inspired by an African tradition of ambiguity in song between romantic love and love of God. According to Gabriel, the lyrics could refer to either the love between a man and woman or the relationship between a person and God.

“In Your Eyes” was not released as a single in the UK but it was released in the US as the third single from So, achieving strong radio airplay and regular MTV rotation. It reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks on September 13, 1986, and peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November.

This is one of the few slow songs that gets consistent airplay on rock radio. It was not real popular when it came out, but continues to get constant airplay on a variety of formats, as listeners never seem to tire of it.

The song was used twice in the 1989 Cameron Crowe film Say Anything…, as well as in its trailer. An iconic scene from the film occurs when broken-hearted Lloyd Dobler serenades his ex-girlfriend, Diane Court, outside her bedroom window by holding a boombox up above his head and playing the song for her. Repopularized by its usage in the film, the song reentered the US charts but narrowly failed to crack the top 40 in its second run, reaching as high as No. 41.

Crowe says that Rosanna Arquette, who is believed to be the inspiration for the song, encouraged Peter Gabriel to consider allowing the film to use the song. The producers of Say Anything were charged about $200,000 to use the song, but it was worth the price as it became one of the most famous scenes in movie history. The scene became a cultural touchstone, which was a little strange for Gabriel.

In a September 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, discussing the 25th anniversary of So, Gabriel commented on the cultural impact of the scene,

“It definitely gave [the song] a second life, because now it’s so often parodied in comedy shows and it is one of the modern day Romeo and Juliet balcony clichés. I’ve talked to John Cusack about that. We’re sort of trapped together in a minuscule moment of contemporary culture.” In October 2012, as Gabriel played the first few bars of the song during a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Cusack walked onto the stage, handed him a boombox and took a bow, before quickly walking off again. Cameron Crowe was also present at the concert and later tweeted “Peter Gabriel and John Cusack on stage together at the Hollywood Bowl tonight. Won’t forget that… ever.”

Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel – “Just the Way You Are” is a song by Billy Joel; it is the third track from his 1977 album The Stranger. It became both Joel’s first US Top 10 and UK Top 20 single (reaching #3 and #19 respectively), as well as Joel’s first gold single in the US. It was Joel’s first chart entry in the UK. The song also topped the Billboard Easy Listening Chart for the entire month of January 1978.

Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth. A pure expression of unconditional love, he gave it to her as a birthday present. Sadly, after nine years of marriage, Joel and Elizabeth divorced in 1982. Joel’s next two marriages didn’t work out either: he was married to Christie Brinkley from 1985-1994, and to Katie Lee from 2004-2010.

“Every time I wrote a song for a person I was in a relationship with, it didn’t last,” Joel said. “It was kind of like the curse. Here’s your song – we might as well say goodbye now.”

“Just the Way You Are” won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1979 ceremony. It was a breakthrough for Joel, whose biggest hit to this point was “Piano Man,” which reached #25 in the US.

Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: “I was absolutely surprised it won a Grammy. It wasn’t even rock ‘n’ roll, it was like a standard with a little bit of R&B in it. It reminded me of an old Stevie Wonder recording.”

After Joel recorded this, he didn’t think much of it, considering it a “gloppy ballad” that would only get played at weddings. He credits his producer, Phil Ramone, with convincing him that it was a great song. Ramone brought Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow into the recording studio to hear the song, and of course they loved it, which was good enough for Billy. On Australian TV in 2006, Joel confirmed: “We almost didn’t put it on an album. We were sitting around listening to it going naaah, that’s a chick song.”

Joel explained just how the song came to be to USA Today:

“I dreamt the melody, not the words. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going, ‘This is a great idea for a song.’ A couple of weeks later, I’m in a business meeting, and the dream reoccurs to me right at that moment because my mind had drifted off from hearing numbers and legal jargon. And I said, ‘I have to go!’ I got home and I ended up writing it all in one sitting, pretty much. It took me maybe two or three hours to write the lyrics.”

FUN FACT: Joel played this on a 1988 episode of Sesame Street where he appeared with the deaf actress Marlee Matlin. They pay a visit to Oscar the Grouch, where Joel sings an altered version of the song to the trash-can dweller while Marlin signs the lyrics. Joel makes it clear that Oscar is fine the way he is, as he sings:

Don’t go changing just to please me

‘Cause being friendly’s not your style

Don’t want to hear you saying “thank you”

I would hate to see you smile

Just be grouchy

Really grouchy

You’ve done it pretty well so far

You Make Loving Fun by Fleetwood Mac – “You Make Loving Fun” is a song written and sung by Christine McVie of the British-American band Fleetwood Mac. It was released as the fourth and final 45 rpm single from the band’s album Rumours in 1977 (my favorite Fleetwood Mac album, just ahead of Tango in the Night). Its fourth top-ten hit, the song peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song was inspired by an affair McVie had with the band’s lighting director. During the recording of Rumours the marriage of bassist John McVie and keyboardist and co-singer Christine McVie was ending. Christine started seeing the band’s lighting technician Curry Grant and she penned this song about the relationship. Drummer Mick Fleetwood quipped to Q magazine June 2009: “Knowing John, he probably thought it was about one of her dogs.”

She apparently told her then-husband John McVie that the song was about her dog “to avoid flare-ups.” He found out later what it was really about. On the American Top 40 program of November 26, 1977, Casey Kasem described the song as “an emotional biography of the love lives of all five members.”

Christine McVie sang lead vocals on this track, which was one of four songs she wrote solo for the Rumours album. McVie had nothing prepared when the band started working on the album at The Record Plant studios in Sausalito, California. “I thought I was drying up,” she said in Q magazine. “I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day in Sausalito, I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that.”

Early tracking of the song was done, according to McVie, in the absence of Lindsey Buckingham, which allowed her the freedom to “build the song on my own”. The recording sessions were saturated with cocaine use. Buckingham played rhythm guitar, Nicks played tambourine. John McVie’s bass was rerecorded again later, and Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie dubbed Hohner Clavinet parts. In an interview with the New York Post she remarked that she wanted it to be the third US single from the album, but instead “Don’t Stop” was chosen, which boosted the album’s commercial success in the US and the UK.

“You Make Loving Fun” was a concert staple for Fleetwood Mac and was played during every tour involving Christine McVie from 1976 until 1997, a year before McVie’s departure from the band and retirement from touring. It has since been revived for Fleetwood Mac’s 2014-2015 tour when McVie rejoined the band.

You’re My Best Friend by Queen – “You’re My Best Friend” is a song by the British rock band Queen, written by bass guitarist John Deacon. It was originally included on the album A Night at the Opera in 1975, and later released as a single. In the US, “You’re My Best Friend” went to number sixteen.

Deacon wrote the song for his wife, Veronica Tetzlaff. He enjoyed a rather quiet home life, and particularly in the early days of the group he was very shy and quiet, unwilling to put his song suggestions forward.

This song features a Fender Rhodes electric piano, which was a popular choice at the time, with many rock songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder and Steely Dan using the instrument. John Deacon wanted to write a song incorporating the instrument, but Freddie Mercury did not want to play it. “I refused to play that damn thing,” Mercury said. “It’s tiny and horrible and I don’t like them. Why play those when you have a lovely superb piano.”

So Deacon took the Rhodes home, learned to play it, and started writing this song.

In this song, he plays a Wurlitzer electric piano in addition to his bass guitar work. The characteristic “bark” of the Wurlitzer’s bass notes plays a prominent role in the song. During live performances, the band used a grand piano rather than an electric, and it would be played by Freddie Mercury, while Deacon played the bass guitar just like in the original recording.

The band answered Tom Browne on December 24, 1977 in a live BBC Radio One interview, regarding Deacon’s control of the piano for the recording:

              “Well, Freddie didn’t like the electric piano, so I took it home and I started to learn on the electric piano and basically that’s the song that came out…when I was learning to play piano. It was written on that instrument and it sounds best on that. You know, often on the instrument that you wrote the song on.” — John Deacon

 

“I refused to play the damn thing [the Wurlitzer]. It’s tinny and horrible and I don’t like them. Why play those things when you’ve got a lovely superb grand piano? No, I think, basically what he [John] is trying to say is it was the desired effect.” — Freddie Mercury

The music video, directed by Bruce Gowers, shows the band in a huge ballroom surrounded by over one thousand candles, including a huge chandelier hung from the ceiling. The video was filmed in April 1976 at Elstree Studios, London. Additionally, Deacon is seen playing a grand piano rather than the Wurlitzer he used on the recording.

After Freddie Mercury died in 1991, Deacon became something of a recluse – he was involved in the posthumous album Made in Heaven, and on the 1997 single “No-One But You,” he retired from music and has declined to tour with the band on their subsequent tours with Paul Rodgers and Adam Lambert. The band still maintains contact with him, and run decisions by him – according to Brian May, the rule is that if Deacon does not reply to an email, that’s his way of saying it has his approval.

The song was used in several TV shows and films such as Hot in Cleveland, Will & Grace, EastEnders, My Name is Earl, The King of Queens, the end credits of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The Simpsons, Shaun of the Dead, Peter’s Friends, and The Secret Life of Pets.

Wild Horses by Rolling Stones – “Wild Horses” is a song by the Rolling Stones from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

This started as a song for Keith Richards’ newborn son Marlon. It was 1969 and Keith regretted that he had to leave his son to go on tour. Mick Jagger rewrote Keith’s lyrics, keeping only the line “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” His rewrite was based on his relationship with Marianne Faithfull, which was disintegrating.

Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, the singer Marianne Faithfull, claims “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” was the first thing she said to Mick after she pulled out of a drug-induced coma in 1969. There are other theories as to Mick’s muse for this song, however. Jagger’s longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall in The Observer Magazine April 29, 2007, said: “‘Wild Horses’ is my favorite Stones song. It’s so beautiful. I don’t mind that it was written for Bianca.” (Not likely, since Jagger didn’t meet his future wife Bianca until 1970, which was after the song was recorded).

However, in the liner notes to the 1993 Rolling Stones compilation album Jump Back, Jagger states,

“I remember we sat around originally doing this with Gram Parsons, and I think his version came out slightly before ours. Everyone always says this was written about Marianne but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally.”

Keith Richards says, “If there is a classic way of Mick and me working together this is it. I had the riff and chorus line, Mick got stuck into the verses. Just like “Satisfaction”. “Wild Horses” was about the usual thing of not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be.”

Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney – “Maybe I’m Amazed” is a song written by Paul McCartney that was first released on his 1970 album McCartney. It was written in 1969 just before the Beatles broke up. McCartney wrote this song about his wife Linda. He credits Linda with helping him get through this difficult time. Paul never wavered in his love for Linda, and even made her part of his band so she could tour with him. Sadly, Linda died of breast cancer in 1998.

The studio version of this song was never released as a single (no tracks on the album were), but it is one of the most enduring songs on McCartney’s first solo album. Although most of his debut solo album was recorded at his home in London, McCartney recorded “Maybe I’m Amazed” entirely in EMI’s Number Two studio in Abbey Road, on the same day as he recorded “Every Night”. He played all the instruments: guitars, bass, piano, organ and drums. Although McCartney declined to release the song as a single in 1970, it nonetheless received a great deal of radio airplay worldwide.

A promotional film was made, comprising still photographs of McCartney, his wife Linda, stepdaughter Heather, and daughter Mary, which first aired in the UK on April 19, 1970 on ITV in its own slot, and as a part of an episode of CBS Television’s The Ed Sullivan Show.

In a review for the McCartney album on release, Langdon Winner of Rolling Stone described “Maybe I’m Amazed”, as “a very powerful song”, that states “one of the main sub-themes of the record, that the terrible burden of loneliness can be dispelled by love.” Winner continued to describe the track as “the only song on the album that even comes close to McCartney’s best efforts of the past. It succeeds marvelously.”

A concert version was released as a single in 1977 to promote the Wings Over America live album. Credited to Paul McCartney & Wings, it went to #10 in the US in April 1977 and reached #28 in the United Kingdom.

Regarded as one of McCartney’s finest love songs, it achieved the #347 position in the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list compiled by Rolling Stone magazine in November 2004. In a late 2009 Q&A with journalists held in London to promote his live album Good Evening New York City, McCartney said “Maybe I’m Amazed” was “the song he would like to be remembered for in the future.”

FUN FACT: McCartney, an animal rights activist, appeared on The Simpsons episode 3F03, “Lisa the Vegetarian.” McCartney helps Lisa become a vegetarian and tells her that if you play this song backwards, you hear a recipe for lentil soup. Over the closing credits of that episode, if you listen carefully, you can hear the backwards message. As an extra feature on The Simpsons DVD, you can hear McCartney read the recipe and say, “There you have it Simpsons lovers, oh and by the way, I’m alive.”

The lentil soup recipe Paul speaks backwards is:

– one medium onion, chopped

– two tablespoons of vegetable oil

– one clove of garlic, crushed

– one cup of carrots, chopped

– two sticks of celery, chopped

– half a cup of lentils

– one bay leaf

– one tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley

– salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

– two and a quarter cups of vegetable stock or water

With the exception of John Lennon, each Beatle has been on at least one episode of The Simpsons. George Harrison was on the episode “The B- Sharps” and Ringo was on the “The Letter.”

God Only Knows by the Beach Boys – “God Only Knows” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher (a British-American lyricist who co-wrote eight songs with Wilson) for American rock band the Beach Boys, released in May 1966 as the eighth track on the group’s album Pet Sounds. Two months later, it was released as the B-side of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in the United States. In other countries, “God Only Knows” was the single’s A-side, peaking at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. According to historian John Robert Greene, “God Only Knows” led to the reinvention of the popular love song.

Genres attributed to “God Only Knows” include baroque rock, baroque pop, art pop, psychedelic rock, avant-pop, and experimental pop. Brian Wilson has said that he wrote the song as an attempt to match the standard of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, which was released in December 1965. In his recollection, he was under the influence of marijuana when he heard it and was “so blown away” with the album that he sat at his piano and began writing the song.

The song names God in its title and lyrics, unusual for a pop single of its time, as Asher recalled: “Unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one [in 1966] thought you could say ‘God’ in a song.” The sentiments expressed in its lyric were not specific to any God, and could be addressed to any higher force, being a song about moving forward after loss. Wilson explained that his and Asher’s intention was to create the feeling of “being blind but in being blind, you can see more.”

The song is told from the point of view of someone contemplating life after death to their lover, as Asher describes, “‘I’ll love you till the sun burns out, then I’m gone,’ ergo ‘I’m gonna love you forever.'” Wilson explained that “God Only Knows” was “a vision that Tony and I had. It’s like being blind but in being blind, you can see more. You close your eyes; you’re able to see a place or something that’s happening.” He initially hated the opening line of the song as “it was too negative.” He eventually gave in after hearing the subsequent lyrics. In 1976, Brian said there was no one particular that the song was written for.

Jim Fusilli, the author who wrote Pet Sounds, the book that explores the album, the band’s history and his deeply personal reaction to Wilson’s plight and the deeper meanings of the songs, extrapolated that the song was “a mature proclamation of love and a desperate plea. And it’s a distillation of what much of Pet Sounds is about: the sense that if we surrender to an all-consuming love, we will never be able to live without it. And, though we’re uncertain that the reward is worth the risk, we yearn to surrender.” Fusilli also noted a closing phrase Wilson had once written to his wife in 1964: “Yours ’til God wants us apart.”

James Perone wrote: “While Wilson’s character may indeed be in love with the woman to whom he sings, there is a hint that part of this ‘love’ may be self-serving and part of a cycle of codependency.” Asher denied that the song alluded to suicide. He describes his interpretation:

This is the one [song] that I thought would be a hit record because it was so incredibly beautiful. I was concerned that maybe the lyrics weren’t up to the same level as the music; how many love songs start off with the line, “I may not always love you”? I liked that twist, and fought to start the song that way. Working with Brian, I didn’t have a whole lot of fighting to do, but I was certainly willing to fight to the end for that. … “God Only Knows” is, to me, one of the great songs of our time. I mean the great songs. Not because I wrote the lyrics, but because it is an amazing piece of music that we were able to write a very compelling lyric to. It’s the simplicity—the inference that “I am who I am because of you”—that makes it very personal and tender.

“God Only Knows” is frequently cited for referencing “God” in its title, a decision that Wilson and Asher agonized over, fearing it would not get airplay as a result. As Wilson’s then-wife Marilyn describes, “The first time I heard it, Brian played it for me at the piano. And I went, ‘Oh my God, he’s talking about God in a record.’ It was pretty daring to me. And it was another time I thought to myself, ‘Oh, boy, he’s really taking a chance.’ I thought it was almost too religious. Too square. At that time. Yes, it was so great that he would say it and not be intimidated by what anybody else would think of the words or what he meant.”

Asher explains that he and Brian “had lengthy conversations during the writing of ‘God Only Knows’, because unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing ‘God Bless America’, no one thought you could say ‘God’ in a song. No one had done it, and Brian didn’t want to be the first person to try it. He said, ‘We’ll just never get any air play.’ Isn’t it amazing that we thought that? But it worked.” Wilson added that although he feared putting the word “God” in the title of the song, he eventually agreed to keep it, firstly, “because God was a spiritual word”, and secondly, because the Beach Boys would “be breaking ground.”

Music critic Jim DeRogatis states that, as was common in psychedelic rock, the spiritual invocations in “God Only Knows” express non-specific sentiments which could be addressed to any higher force, and that it is “less of a prayer than a sensitive meditation about moving forward in the face of loss”. Even though the Wilson family did not grow up in “a particularly religious household”, younger brother and bandmate Carl Wilson was described as “the most truly religious person I know” by Brian. Carl was forthcoming about the group’s spiritual beliefs stating:

“We believe in God as a kind of universal consciousness. God is love. God is you. God is me. God is everything right here in this room. It’s a spiritual concept which inspires a great deal of our music.” Gil writes: “It’s a love song, yes, but again, echoing its classical forebears, there is something not quite secular about it. Yes, ‘God Only Knows’ is a common, casual phrase, but in this context it feels much more literal.”

Sung by his younger brother Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys’ recording was produced and arranged by Brian using an unorthodox selection of instruments, including French horn, accordions, sleigh bell, harpsichord, and a quartet of violas and cellos heard throughout the piece. And an impressive number of musicians: According to Brian, many of the musicians who were present at the “God Only Knows” sessions claim that those sessions were some of “the most magical, beautiful musical experiences they’ve ever heard”. He added that there were 23 musicians present during the “God Only Knows” sessions, though only 16 are credited as being present on the actual take that was used for the final song. At the time, 23 musicians was an astounding number of musicians for a pop record. All the musicians played simultaneously, creating “a rich, heavenly blanket of music”. A string section was overdubbed thereafter.

Brian originally intended to sing lead vocal on “God Only Knows” but after the instrumental portions of the song had been recorded, Brian thought Carl could impart the message better than he could. Brian reflected in October 1966, “I gave the song to Carl because I was looking for a tenderness and a sweetness which I knew Carl had in himself as well as in his voice. He brought dignity to the song and the words, through him, became not a lyric, but words.” At the time, it was rare for Carl to sing lead on a Beach Boys song.

  “I was honored to be able to sing that one. It is so beautifully written, it sings itself. Brian said something like, ‘Don’t do anything with it. Just sing it real straight. No effort. Take in a breath. Let it go real easy.’ I was really grateful to be the one to sing that song. I felt extremely lucky.” —Carl Wilson

“God Only Knows” was voted #25 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the second of seven Beach Boys songs to feature (the first being “Good Vibrations” at #6), and was ranked by Pitchfork Media as the greatest song of the 1960s. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.

Thank You by Led Zeppelin – “Thank You” is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin from their album Led Zeppelin II (1969), written by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

“Thank You” signaled a deeper involvement in songwriting by singer Robert Plant: it was the first Led Zeppelin song for which he wrote all the lyrics. According to various Led Zeppelin biographies, this is also the song that made Jimmy Page realize that Plant could now handle writing the majority of the lyrics for the band’s songs. Plant wrote the song as a tribute to his then-wife Maureen.

Jimmy Page played an acoustic guitar solo on this, something he rarely did. This became a showcase for John Paul Jones’ keyboard work during live shows.

FUN FACT #1: The song ends with a church organ that fades to silence and comes back about 10 seconds later. This creates a problem for radio stations, who must decide between accepting the “dead air” or cutting it off. Some stations run edited versions, with the silence eliminated. Some radio stations play this together with “The Lemon Song” because there’s no pause between them on the album.

FUN FACT #2: The lyrics, “If the sun refuse to shine” and “When mountains crumble to the sea” came from a Jimi Hendrix song called “If 6 Was 9.”

Your Song by Elton John – “Your Song” is a song composed and performed by English musician Elton John with lyrics by his longtime collaborator, Bernie Taupin. It originally appeared on John’s self-titled second studio album (1970). The song was released in the United States in October 1970 as the B-side to “Take Me to the Pilot”. Both received airplay, but “Your Song” was preferred by disc jockeys and replaced “Take Me to the Pilot” as the A-side, eventually making the top 10 in several countries.

This was Elton’s first single to chart. Before he hit it big, he worked as a songwriter and studio musician, and for a time was the warm-up act for Three Dog Night, who recorded this song on their 1970 album It Ain’t Easy (they had previously recorded Elton’s “Lady Samantha”). When it looked like Elton might finally make it in the States with his own version of “Your Song,” Three Dog Night chose not to release it as a single in an effort to give this young upstart a chance to make it on his own. Way cool. I’ve always liked the Three Dog Night and now I like them even more!

This was one of the first songs Elton John wrote with Bernie Taupin. They met after a record company gave John some of Taupin’s lyrics to work with. Eventually, they both moved into John’s parents’ house, where they started working together. Bernie wrote the words for this song over breakfast at Elton’s parents’ house, where he was staying. The original lyrics have coffee stains on them. “The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s apartment in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I recall, on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper,” said Taupin. Elton then wrote the music in about 20 minutes, as he often did with Taupin’s lyrics in their early days.

The song was written in 1967, when Bernie Taupin was 17 (“hence the extraordinarily virginal sentiments,” he has said). Elton has said that this song is not about anyone in particular, so Taupin has refused to reveal the identity of the person – if such person exists – who inspired this song. He explained in a 1989 interview with Music Connection:

“It’s like the perennial ballad ‘Your Song,’ which has got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music, but I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve.

 

Now I could never write that song again or emulate it because the songs I write now that talk about love coming from people my age usually deal with broken marriages and where the children go. You have to write from where you are at a particular point in time, and ‘Your Song’ is exactly where I was coming from back then.”

Elton appeared on US TV for the first time performing this on The Andy Williams Show. He was shy and dressed very plain, which changed a few years later when he became known for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant personality.

After hearing “Your Song” John Lennon said Elton was “The first new thing that’s happened since we (The Beatles) happened.” They ended up becoming good friends.

This song helped alter the music landscape in the early ’70s. After it came out, singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King had a lot of success with heartfelt songs featuring a prominent vocal and a soft piano or guitar.

Both Elton John and Bernie Taupin agree that this is one of their best efforts. Said Taupin:

“I think ‘Your Song’ is a gem. Our classic, I’m not sure. I’ll let others decide that. But it’s like an old friend, it means so many things on equally as many levels. It’s certainly proved its worth, and I’ve heard it sung a million times. It’s like a good dog, it’s always there.”

Elton performs this at all his concerts. He once said of this song: “I don’t think I’ve written a love song as good since.” He has called it “A perfect song,” and says that the older he gets, the more the lyrics resonate with him.

FUN FACT #1: Elton’s 1975 song “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” is about the writing of this song.

FUN FACT #2: Billy Joel performed this with Elton at the 2001 “Concert For New York” to benefit victims of the World Trade Center attacks. Unfortunately it was not included on the CD of the show.

Elton performed this at the “Concert for Diana” on July 1, 2007. It was the first song in the program.

FUN FACT #3: This was featured in an episode of The Simpsons when Apu gave his wife a present every day of the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. This made Homer and the other men of Springfield very upset, and when they heard that Elton John was coming to town, they kidnapped him, thinking he (Elton) was there for Apu. Elton performed this song at the end of the episode with the lyric “This one’s from Apu” in place of “This one’s for you.”

FUN FACT #4: Elton John had played keyboards on several of the Hollies’ tracks, including their hit song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and the English band had hoped to record this song themselves. “We knew Reg [Elton John’s real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight] because he was a staff writer with a music publisher we used. He was writing songs well before he became famous,” recalled their guitarist/vocalist Tony Hicks to The Daily Mail June 15, 2013. “One was ‘Your Song.’ I thought it would be a good one for the Hollies, and asked the publisher for permission to record it. He told me Elton had recorded it himself and it was due to be released in the US. He said, ‘But it probably won’t happen for him, so wait until it’s all over.'”

At that time Elton had yet to break into the charts. “Well, it did happen – ‘Your Song’ became Elton’s first big hit,” added Hicks, “and one that’s unfailingly identified with him. But it so easily could have been Our Song.”  Interesting.

Layla by Derrick & the Dominoes – “Layla” is a song written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon, originally released by their blues rock band Derek and the Dominos, as the thirteenth track from their album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (November 1970). Its famously contrasting movements were composed separately by Clapton and Gordon.

The song was inspired by a love story that originated in 7th-century Arabia and later formed the basis of The Story of Layla and Majnun by the 12th-century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, because it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, young girl and went crazy and so could not marry her. In his autobiography, Clapton states, “Ian Dallas told me the tale of Layla and Majnun [sic], a romantic Persian love story in which a young man, Majnun, falls passionately in love with the beautiful Layla, but is forbidden by her father to marry her and goes crazy with desire.” The song was further inspired by Clapton’s then unrequited love for Pattie Boyd, the wife of his friend and fellow musician George Harrison of the Beatles. Clapton and Boyd would eventually marry.

“Layla” was unsuccessful on its initial release. The song has since experienced great critical and popular acclaim, and is often hailed as being among the greatest rock songs of all time. Two versions have achieved chart success, the first in 1972 and the second (without the piano coda) 20 years later as an acoustic Unplugged performance by Clapton. In 2004, “Layla” was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, and the acoustic version won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rock Song.

Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – “Our House” is a song written by British singer-songwriter Graham Nash and recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on their album Déjà Vu (1970). The single reached #30 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #20 on the Cash Box Top 100. The song, “an ode to countercultural domestic bliss”, was written while Nash was living with Joni Mitchell, recording both Crosby, Stills & Nash and Déjà Vu.

The song originates in a domestic event that took place while Graham Nash was living with Joni Mitchell (and her two cats) in her house on Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles), after they had gone out for breakfast and had bought an inexpensive vase on Ventura Boulevard. Nash wrote the song in an hour, on Mitchell’s piano.

In October 2013, in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air”, Nash elaborated:

Well, it’s an ordinary moment. What happened is that Joni [Mitchell] and I – I don’t know whether you know anything about Los Angeles, but on Ventura Boulevard in the Valley, there’s a very famous deli called Art’s Deli. And we’d been to breakfast there. We’re going to get into Joan’s car, and we pass an antique store. And we’re looking in the window, and she saw a very beautiful vase that she wanted to buy… I persuaded her to buy this vase. It wasn’t very expensive, and we took it home. It was a very grey, kind of sleety, drizzly L.A. morning. And we got to the house in Laurel Canyon, and I said – got through the front door and I said, you know what? I’ll light a fire. Why don’t you put some flowers in that vase that you just bought? Well, she was in the garden getting flowers. That meant she was not at her piano, but I was… And an hour later ‘Our House’ was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.

In the same interview, Nash was asked about the harmonies in the song: “It’s me and David [Crosby] and Stephen [Stills] doing our best. That’s all we ever do. You know, we’re lucky enough to be able to do, you know, anything that we want to do, musically. And, you know, these two guys are incredible musicians. Crosby is one of the most unique musicians I know, and Stephen Stills has got this blues-based, South American kind of feeling to his music. And I’m this, you know, Henry VIII guy from England… You know, it’s not supposed to work, but it does, somehow.”

Nights in White Satin by Moody Blues – “Nights in White Satin” is a 1967 single by the Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward and first featured as the segment “The Night” on the album.

Band member Justin Hayward wrote and composed the song at age 19 in Swindon, and titled the song after a girlfriend gave him a gift of satin bedsheets. The song itself was a tale of a yearning love from afar, which leads many aficionados to term it as a tale of unrequited love endured by Hayward. Hayward said of the song, “It was just another song I was writing and I thought it was very powerful. It was a very personal song and every note, every word in it means something to me and I found that a lot of other people have felt that very same way about it.”

The London Festival Orchestra provided the orchestral accompaniment for the introduction, the final rendition of the chorus, and the “final lament” section, all of which were in the original album version. The “orchestral” sounds in the main body of the song were actually produced by Mike Pinder’s Mellotron keyboard device, which would come to define the “Moody Blues sound”.

Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us by Jefferson Starship – “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is a song co-written by Albert Hammond and Diane Warren, recorded by the American rock band Starship in 1986. It is a duet featuring Starship vocalists Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas. Featured as the theme to the romantic comedy film Mannequin, it hit No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1987 and reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart for four weeks the following month and became the UK’s 2nd biggest selling single of 1987. The song also reached the top 10 in six European countries. The single became the first number one single by songwriter Diane Warren. At the time, it made Grace Slick (aged 47) the oldest woman to have a number one single in the United States, though the record was later broken by Cher’s “Believe” in 1999 (aged 52).

The power ballad also received an Academy Award nomination for “Best Original Song” at the 60th Academy Awards. In addition to appearing on the Mannequin soundtrack, the song was also released on Starship’s album No Protection in July 1987. The music video was released in late 1986 to promote Mannequin.

In a radio interview, Albert Hammond said that the idea for the song came from his impending marriage to his live-in girlfriend of seven years, after his divorce from his previous wife was finalized. He had said to Diane Warren, “It’s almost like they’ve stopped me from marrying this woman for seven years, and they haven’t succeeded. They’re not gonna stop me doing it.” The song has been considered “feel good” propelled by a strong synthesizer beat.

FUN FACT: The song had played a major role in 1993 for the Montreal Canadiens NHL team during their 24th conquest of the Stanley Cup. While driving home after a lost game, head coach Jacques Demers heard the song playing on the radio and realized it was an empowering song. The next day, he brought to the Montreal Forum a cassette tape with the song on it and distributed among players a small card saying “We’re on a mission, nothing’s gonna stop us”. They soon started to win. He played the song throughout all the playoff games and they eventually won the Stanley Cup that year, over Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in the Finals.

FUN FACT: A music video (released in 1987) was produced for the song. It shows Mickey Thomas pursuing a mannequin come to life, played by Grace Slick, wrapped around footage from the film. Meshach Taylor, who plays window dresser Hollywood Montrose in the film, makes a cameo. It has more than 25 million views on YouTube as of October 20, 2017.

Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton – “Wonderful Tonight” is a ballad written by Eric Clapton. It was included on Clapton’s 1977 album Slowhand. Clapton wrote the song about Pattie Boyd. The female vocal harmonies on the song are provided by Marcella Detroit (then Marcy Levy) and Yvonne Elliman.

On 7 September 1976, Clapton wrote “Wonderful Tonight” for Pattie Boyd while waiting for her to get ready to attend Paul and Linda McCartney’s annual Buddy Holly party. Of “Wonderful Tonight”, Boyd would say: “For years it tore at me. To have inspired Eric, and George before him, to write such music was so flattering. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was the most poignant reminder of all that was good in our relationship, and when things went wrong it was torture to hear it.” The song is mentioned in her autobiographical book Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me.

You Are So Beautiful by Joe Cocker – “You Are So Beautiful” is a song written by Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher. Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys contributed to the song’s genesis, but his official credit was omitted. It was first recorded by Preston and made popular by Joe Cocker.

Preston’s original version first appeared on his album The Kids & Me (1974) and as the B-side on the 45 rpm pressing of his pop hit, “Struttin'”. Cocker’s producer, Jim Price, created a slowed-down arrangement for Cocker’s version, which first appeared on the album, I Can Stand a Little Rain (released later in 1974). In 1975, the Joe Cocker version was released as a single and peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and number 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The Cocker version helped the album become successful and was his biggest hit until his duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong”.

 

Wow, that was a heavy dose of love songs! Those were my favorites. What are yours? Tell me in the Comments below. Did you find anything particularly interesting in the information shared here?

 

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