Monday’s Music Moves Me – HALLOWEEN SONGS!

It’s a special holiday edition of Monday’s Music Moves Me this week with our theme being HALLOWEEN. I got into Halloween as a kid and have fond memories of Trick or Treating on cold Western New York evenings (and once I even remember trick or treating in the snow!). But I’ve never really been into Halloween as an adult, especially since my friend Kathie and I were accosted by three men in masks one Halloween night as we were bar-hopping in downtown Niagara Falls. It’s a long story and it wasn’t fun. Since then, I hate people wearing masks. It weirds me out. I don’t like it.

BUT there are some really awesome Halloween songs! I’ve put together a playlist with my favorite Halloween-y songs, with some background information for your enjoyment.

My Halloween Playlist

 

Season of the Witch by Donovan – “Season of the Witch” is one of the first songs to fit the “psychedelic” genre. It was written by Donovan and Shawn Phillips and released in September 1966 on Donovan’s Epic Records (USA) album Sunshine Superman. (Donovan recorded it in May 1966, shortly before his highly publicized arrest for possession of marijuana). Donovan is the Scottish-born singer/songwriter and guitarist most known for his hits “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

Although originally written and recorded by Donovan, a version by The Pandamonium was released in the United Kingdom as a single in November 1966 while Donovan’s version was finally released in June 1967 on the Pye Records compilation Sunshine Superman. (The song was never released as a single but it became a very popular song with fans, enough so that Donovan himself played it live more than most of his other hits.)

Fun Fact: The recording features Bobby Ray on bass and “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums. The hauntingly eerie guitar is provided by Jimmy Page, then a noted session guitarist working in England.

The song was covered by many artists but one that I’m very fond of is by this next band:

Season of the Witch by Vanilla Fudge – Vanilla Fudge is an American rock band known predominantly for their extended rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs (most notably “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”). The band has been cited as “one of the few American links between psychedelia and what soon became heavy metal.” Vanilla Fudge also is known to have influenced other major bands such as The Nice, Deep Purple, Yes, Styx, and Led Zeppelin.

The band’s original lineup—vocalist and organist Mark Stein, bassist and vocalist Tim Bogert, lead guitarist/vocalist Vince Martell, and drummer and vocalist Carmine Appice—recorded five albums during the years 1967–69, before disbanding in 1970. (The band is currently touring with three of the four original members, Mark Stein, Vince Martell, and Carmine Appice with Pete Bremy on bass as Bogert retired in 2009).

Their cover version of “Season of the Witch” was on Vanilla Fudge’s third album Renaissance, released in June of 1968. The band also interpolated lyrics from an Essra Mohawk song, “We Never Learn” into their rendition of “Season of the Witch”. It’s the longest song on the album at 8:40 (8 minutes and 40 seconds).

Witchy Woman by the Eagles – “Witchy Woman” is a song written by Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, and recorded by the American rock band Eagles. Released as the second single from the band’s debut album Eagles, it reached No. 9 on the Billboard Pop singles chart and is the only single from the album to feature Henley on lead vocals.

Background of the song: The guitarist Bernie Leadon first started writing “Witchy Woman” while he was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers. After joining the Eagles, Leadon and Don Henley then finished the song together, and it would be the only song on the Eagles’ debut album where Henley had a writing credit. The song was conceived while Don Henley was living in an old house near the Hollywood Bowl, with his flat mate, Henry Vine (aka ‘Blitz’). Henley said of the origin of the song: “[Leadon] came over one day and started playing this strange, minor-key riff that sounded sort of like a Hollywood movie version of Indian music — you know, the kind of stuff they play when the Indians ride up on the ridge while the wagon train passes below. It had a haunting quality, and I thought it was interesting, so we put a rough version of it down on a cassette tape.” Henley also gave the song an R&B pulse in its music.

The inspiration for the title and lyrics about a seductive enchantress came from a number of women, although Henley had one particular woman in mind – Zelda Fitzgerald whose biography he was reading while writing the song. According to Henley, he was suffering from flu with a very high fever and become semi-delirious, and every time the fever subsided, he would continue to read a book on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, and the character in the song would be a mix of Zelda Fitzgerald “along with amorphous images of girls [he] had met at the Whisky and the Troubadour”. Zelda, the muse behind her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, was known as a wild, bewitching and mesmerizing “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties, and is sometimes thought to be the model for the character of Daisy Buchanan in his novel, The Great Gatsby. In “Witchy Woman”, the line “She drove herself to madness with the silver spoon” may be a reference to Zelda’s time in a mental institution and the special slotted silver spoon used to dissolve sugar cubes with absinthe, the popular 1920s alcoholic beverage distilled from the wormwood tree and called “the green fairy” for sometimes inducing hallucinations.

According to Henley, other influences for the song include books by Carlos Castaneda on shamanism, and a girl he knew who was interested in the occult. Henley said of the song: “An important song for me, because it marked the beginning of my professional songwriting career.” 

Spooky by the Classics IV – “Spooky” was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a “spooky little girl”. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.

This was one of the first songs to get a lot of airplay on the Album Oriented Rock (AOR) format. FM was relatively new, and AOR was a great format for people who wanted to hear songs on rock albums that weren’t necessarily hits.

The Classics IV is a band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, in 1965. The band is often credited for establishing the “soft southern rock” sound. The band, led by singer Dennis Yost, is known mainly for the hits “Spooky”, “Stormy” and “Traces”, released 1967 to 1969, which have become cover standards.

The song was also a hit when covered by the Atlanta Rhythm Section. The Classics IV member Cobb and bandmate Dean Daughtry later became part of the Atlanta Rhythm Section and they re-recorded “Spooky” in 1979, also produced by Buie. It was the second of two singles released from their Underdog LP. Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version hit #17 in the US on Billboard and #15 on Cash Box. It also charted minorly internationally. I’ve also included their version in my playlist.

Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett (and the Cryptkickers) – “Monster Mash” is a 1962 novelty song and the best-known song by Bobby “Boris” Pickett. The song was released as a single on Gary S. Paxton’s Garpax Records label in August 1962. Paxton distributed it to radio stations around southern California. Response was overwhelming, as the stations saw their phone banks lighting up with requests for the song. A deal was struck with London Records, who distributed the song worldwide.

The “Monster Mash” single was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 20–27 of that year, just before Halloween. It has been a perennial holiday favorite ever since.

When a novelty song becomes a surprise hit, a hastily produced album typically follows. In this case, the album was called The Original Monster Mash and included several other monster-themed songs like “Blood Bank Blues,” “Graveyard Shift,” “Transylvania Twist,” “Me And My Mummy” and “Irresistible Igor.”

Pickett was a nightclub entertainer who performed with a group called The Cordials. He wrote “Monster Mash” with his friend Lenny Capizzi. They were both big horror movie fans, and Pickett would do an impression of the actor Boris Karloff (known for playing the monster in many Frankenstein movies) during the speaking part of “Little Darlin'” that went over well in his act. As Capizzi played the piano, he and Pickett put together this song with his Karloff impression in mind. They came up with the plot about Frankenstein’s monster starting a dance craze.

The lyrics are based on the story of Frankenstein, which started as an 1818 novel by Mary Shelley and evolved into various film adaptations. In the story, Dr. Frankenstein creates a creature who comes to life, but what he created is a monster. The book is sober tale of regret and unexpected consequences, but the story is often played for comedy. In this song, the monster throws a big dance party, which is enthusiastically attended by many other creatures of lore (Dracula, Wolfman).

Pickett is imitating Boris Karloff, but is narrating the story as Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster that Karloff famously portrayed. Here he is performing the song on American Bandstand on October 13, 1964, with a comical introduction by a young Dick Clark. I just love his facial expressions!

Pickett and Lenny Capizzi wrote this song in about two hours. They recorded a demo to tape and brought it to Gary Paxton, lead singer of The Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”). They recorded the song with Paxton and studio musicians Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae and Rickie Page, who were credited as “The Cryptkickers.” Paxton, who is credited as the song’s producer, also added the sound effects.

This being 1962, many of the sound effects had to be created in the studio. The sound effects on the song were done as follows:

The coffin being opened was made by pulling a rusty nail out of a lump of wood with the claw of a hammer.

The bubbling sounds came from blowing through a straw in a glass of water.

The sound of the chains was made by dropping chains onto plywood planks on the record studio floor.

This is arguably the most successful novelty song of all time. Bobby Pickett accomplished the rare feat of reaching the top 100 music chart three times with the same song. On October 20, 1962, the original release hit #1 in the US. The song re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 on August 29, 1970 peaking at #91, and then again on May 5, 1972 when it went all the way to #10. The song has sold over four million copies and continues to be a Halloween favorite.

Frankenstein by Edgar Winter Group – “Frankenstein” is an instrumental by The Edgar Winter Group from their album They Only Come Out at Night.

The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for one week in May 1973, being replaced by Paul McCartney’s “My Love”. It sold over one million copies. In Canada it fared equally well, reaching #1 on the RPM 100 Top Singles Chart the following month, the same month that saw it peak at #18 in the UK.

This is one of the most famous instrumental rock songs. In fact, Rolling Stone lists “Frankenstein” as one of the top 25 best rock instrumentals. The single sold over 1 million copies and became a classic rock staple.

It got its title because of the intense editing that went into the song; it became a monster when it was pieced together in the studio. Said Winter: “When we were editing it in the studio, back in those days when you edited something, you physically had to cut the tape and splice it back together, so it was all over the control room, draped over the backs of chairs and the couch. We were making fun of it, trying to figure out how to put it back together, saying ‘Here’s the main body; the leg bone’s connected to the thigh bone… ‘ Then Chuck Ruff, my drummer, says, ‘Wow, man, it’s like Frankenstein.’ As soon as I heard that, I went, ‘Wow, that’s it!’ The monster was born.” Winter frequently refers to the appropriateness of the name also in relation to its “monster-like, lumbering beat.”

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster

Winter played many of the instruments on the track, including keyboards, saxophone and timbales. Rick Derringer produced this and played guitar on the track along with Ronnie Montrose. As the release’s only instrumental cut, the song was not initially intended to be on the album, and was only included on a whim as a last-minute addition. It was originally released as the B-side to “Hangin’ Around”, but the two were soon reversed by the label when disc jockeys nationwide in the United States, as well as in Canada, were inundated with phone calls and realized this was the hit. The song features a “double” drum solo, with Ruff on drums and Winter on percussion. In fact, the working title of the song was “The Double Drum Song”. This was the first hit song that used a synthesizer as the lead instrument.

The group performed the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1973. The song was actually performed three years previously when Edgar was playing with his older brother Johnny Winter at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. This rare recording was recently released as one of several live bonus tracks included in the two-disc Deluxe Edition CD of Johnny Winter’s Second Winter.

Speaking of They Only Come Out at Night, how about my next pick for a Halloween song:

Thriller by Michael Jackson – “Thriller” is a song recorded by American singer Michael Jackson, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones. It is the seventh and final single released by Epic Records from his 1982 studio album Thriller. A 14-minute video showing Jackson in a horror-themed performance premiered on November 14, 1983. It was first shown on MTV on December 2, 1983. The song was not released as a single until January 23, 1984.

In the song, sound effects such as a creaking door, thunder, feet walking on wooden planks, winds and howling dogs can be heard, and the lyrics contain frightening themes and elements. “Thriller” received positive reviews from critics and became Jackson’s seventh top-ten single on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from the album, while reaching the top of the charts in France and Belgium and the top ten in many other countries.

“Thriller” was adapted by director John Landis into a highly successful music video, known independently as “Michael Jackson’s Thriller”. At fourteen minutes the video is substantially longer than the song, which ties together a narrative featuring Jackson and actress Ola Ray in a setting heavily inspired by horror films of the 1950s. In the video’s most iconic scene, Jackson leads other actors costumed as zombies in a choreographed dance routine. Though it garnered some criticism for its occult theme and violent imagery, the video was immediately popular and received high critical acclaim, being nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1984 (the very first MTV Video Music Awards) and winning three (Best Performance Video, Best Choreography, and Viewers Choice). Considered the most famous music video of all time, it was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2009, the first music video ever selected. How cool is that?!

Most homes had VCRs in 1983 and sales of videos were big business. Along with the Jane Fonda workout tapes, you could buy a VHS or beta copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which included the full video and also “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” a behind the scenes documentary. This tape became the best-selling music video at the time, and was later certified by Guinness World Records as the top selling music video of all time, moving nine million units. Part of its appeal was the price, a mere $24.95 at a time when movies on tape cost much more.

The video distribution deal was through a company called Vestron, who approached John Landis about selling the film directly to consumers, which turned out to be very profitable. The timing helped, as the video was released a few weeks before Christmas.

Thriller is by far the best-selling album in the world. In the United States, it was overtaken by The Eagles Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975, but reclaimed the title after Jackson’s death.

Fun Fact: Rod Temperton recalled that when he wrote this song he envisaged “this talking section at the end and didn’t know really what we were going to do with it. But one thing I’d thought about was to have a famous voice in the horror genre to do the vocal. Quincy (Jones, producer)’s wife knew Vincent Price, so Quincy said to me, ‘How about if we got Vincent Price?'” (Source Q magazine August 2009).

Vincent Price, an actor best known for his work on horror films, did the narration at the end of the song, including the evil laugh. Price’s rap includes the line “Must stand and face the hounds of hell.” (This was inspired by the most popular Sherlock Holmes novel to date, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Sir Henry Baskerville’s family is supposedly cursed by a bloodthirsty, demonic hound. Price’s personal friends, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (who appeared in several horror films with him), starred in a loose 1959 film adaptation of it. It was the first Sherlock Holmes film shot in color). Price recorded the central spoken section in this song on his second take, after it had been written by Rod Temperton in the taxi on the way to the studio for the recording session.

Vincent Price, while a guest on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, laughingly stated that when he did the narration for “Thriller” (at the request of Michael Jackson who was a big fan of Price) he had a choice between taking a percentage of the album sales or $20,000. Price was well along in his career, so he took the $20,000. He was good-natured about it when Carson told him he could have made millions off of the royalties due to the vast number of copies sold even at that time. Price laughed heartily and said: “How well I know!”

Vincent Price in Twice Told Tales (1963)

Ghosts by Michael Jackson – “Ghosts” is a 1996 song by Michael Jackson. “Ghosts” was written, composed and produced by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley in 1996. Commentators made observations about the paranoid lyrics, a common theme in Jackson’s work. Its music video was a five-minute clip taken from the much longer film of the same name. It was released as part of the single release “HIStory”/”Ghosts”, a double A-side single from Michael Jackson’s 1997 remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix.

The song would become a top five hit in the UK and Italy, but did not chart as highly elsewhere. Specifically “HIStory/Ghosts” did generally well of music charts worldwide, having charted within the top-ten and top-twenty in multiple countries. The song’s highest peak position was in Italy, charting at number three. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden “HIStory/Ghosts” spent seventeen to eighteen weeks on the charts. In Australia “HIStory/Ghosts” peaked at forty-three before falling off the chart. The single did not appear on any United States Billboard charts.

The music video for “Ghosts” was a five-minute cut-down of the short film of the same title, which Jackson unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the album promotion. It was released theatrically in the US in October 1996 and made its UK debut the following May at the Odeon Leicester Square. The music video won the Bob Fosse Award for Best Choreography in a Music Video.

Written by Jackson and Stephen King and directed by Stan Winston, the short film was inspired by the isolation the singer felt after he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993. It centers on the Maestro (Jackson), who’s nearly chased out of his town by the residents and the mayor (who intentionally resembles Tom Sneddon, a prosecutor in the 1993 accusations) because they believe him to be a “freak.” The film includes several songs and music videos from the albums HIStory and Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix. At 38 minutes, the film holds the Guinness World Record for longest music video. The short version is included in Michael Jackson’s Vision.

Ghost Riders in the Sky by the Outlaws – The original song is “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend,” a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter, film and television actor Stan Jones.

The song tells a folk tale of a cowboy who has a vision of red-eyed, steel-hooved cattle thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them, forever “trying to catch the Devil’s herd across these endless skies”. Jones stated he had been told the story when he was 12 years old by an old cowboy friend. The story resembles the northern European mythic Wild Hunt.

More than 50 performers have recorded versions of the song. One of the charting versions that I’m most familiar with was recorded by the American southern rock band Outlaws and appears on their sixth album Ghost Riders, released in 1980. It is regarded by many fans as the last Outlaws album that followed their old fashioned southern rock style, and also a comeback after some mediocre albums saleswise. Their cover of “(Ghost) Riders In the Sky” was one of their most successful songs, and has earned the band some attention from outside the southern rock circles.

Goblin Girl by Frank Zappa – I’m not much of a Zappa fan but I just had to include this song. “Goblin Girl” is from Frank Zappa’s double album You Are What You Is. It was originally released as a double album in 1981 and later by Rykodisc as a 20-song CD.

Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon – “Werewolves of London” is a rock song composed by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon and performed by Zevon. Included on Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy, it featured accompaniment by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie of Fleetwood Mac. It was produced by Jackson Browne.The single was released by Asylum Records and it entered the American Top 40 charts on April 22, 1978, reaching number 21, and remained in the Top 40 for six weeks. In New Zealand, the song reached number 15. This was the only Top 40 hit for Warren Zevon as singer.

When Zevon was working with The Everly Brothers, he hired Wachtel to play in their backing band. At one point, Phil Everly asked them to write a dance song for the Everly Brothers called “Werewolves of London.” Wachtel and Zevon were good friends and were strumming guitars together when someone asked what they were playing. Zevon replied, “Werewolves of London,” and Wachtel started howling. Zevon came up with the line “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand,” and they traded lyrics back and forth until they had their song.

The lyrics tell the story of “a hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent.” He’s well-dressed (“I’d like to meet his tailor”), well-groomed (“His hair was perfect”), and “preying on little old ladies.”

Henry Hull as Werewolf of London (1935)

Fun Facts: The Chinese restaurant mentioned in the song, “Lee Ho Fook,” is a real location. It is situated on Gerrard Street in London’s Chinatown (the nearest Tube station is Piccadilly). The patron proudly displays Zevon’s photo.

When Zevon played this live, he sometimes replaced the line “I’d like to meet his tailor” with “And he’s looking for James Taylor!”

In 2000, a fight broke out while Zevon was performing this at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Zevon stopped, waited for the fight to end, said “I bet this never happens at Sting concerts,” and continued the song.

Zevon filled in for bandleader/keyboardist/producer Paul Shaffer at Late Night with David Letterman whenever Shaffer was unable to attend the taping of the show. Letterman was a big fan of Zevon, and did some very moving interviews with him before his death, including one in which Zevon gave this advice: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Zevon died of lung cancer in 2003. He lived with the disease longer than doctors expected and made his last album, The Wind, while he was dying.

Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads – “Psycho Killer” is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band the Artistic in 1974, and as Talking Heads in 1975, with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77.

The band’s “signature debut hit” features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad, “Psycho Killer” became what AllMusic calls a “deceptively funky new wave/no wave song” with “an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll.”

The song was the result of lead singer David Byrne trying to write an Alice Cooper song, but it came out much more introspective. It ended up being about the thoughts of a murderer. They lyrics were inspired by the character Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, in the 1960 movie Psycho. Byrne never thought this would be a hit. He considered it a “silly song” at the time, and was surprised when it took off.

Part of the chorus and the bridge are in French. The verse translates to “What I did, that evening, what she said, that evening fulfilling my hope I throw myself towards glory.” The chorus lyric “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” means “What is this?”

The “Fa Fa” part comes from an Otis Redding song called “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Redding and other Soul singers were a big influence on Talking Heads.

An acoustic version was the flip side of the single. In the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads (1992), Jerry Harrison wrote of that b-side acoustic version that featured Arthur Russell on cello, “I’m glad we persuaded Tony [Bongiovi] and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn’t be the only one.”

The song was composed near the beginning of the band’s career and prototype versions were performed onstage as early as December 1975. When it was finally completed and released as a single in December 1977, “Psycho Killer” became instantly associated in popular culture with the contemporaneous Son of Sam serial killings. Although the band always insisted that the song had no inspiration from the notorious events, the single’s release date was “eerily timely” and marked by a “macabre synchronicity”.

“Psycho Killer” was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It reached number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at number 11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker Jr.“Ghostbusters” is a song written and recorded by Ray Parker Jr. as the theme to the film of the same name starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. Debuting at #68 on June 16, 1984, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 11, 1984, staying there for three weeks, and at number two on the UK Singles Chart on September 16, 1984, staying there for three weeks. The song re-entered the UK Top 75 on November 2, 2008, at No. 49.

It was nominated at the 57th Academy Awards for Best Original Song, but lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.

According to Parker, he was approached by the film’s producers to create a theme song for the film, though he only had a few days to do so and the film’s title seemed impossible to include in any lyrics. However, when watching television late at night, Parker saw a cheap commercial for a local service that reminded him that the film had a similar commercial featured for the fictional business. This inspired him to write the song as a pseudo-advertising jingle that the business could have commissioned as a promotion.

Parker added that he got his girlfriend and her friends to shout the title for the chorus, since he didn’t want to sing it. Parker, who was a renowned session musician, played most of the instruments on the track.

Fun Fact #1: Lindsey Buckingham claims to have been approached to write the Ghostbusters theme based on his successful contribution to Harold Ramis’s National Lampoon’s Vacation (the song “Holiday Road”). He turned down the opportunity as he did not want to be known as a soundtrack artist. He mentions this on the “Words & Music” interview disc.

The music video for the song was directed by the same director as the Ghostbusters film, Ivan Reitman, and produced by Jeffrey Abelson. It features a young woman, played by actress Cindy Harrell, who is haunted by a ghost portrayed by Parker, roaming a nearly all-black house interior with vibrant neon designs outlining the sparse architectural and industrial features until the woman finally calls the service. It also contains footage from the film and features cameos from many celebrities of the day, including Chevy Chase, Irene Cara, John Candy, Melissa Gilbert, Ollie E. Brown, Jeffrey Tambor, George Wendt, Al Franken, Danny DeVito, Carly Simon, Peter Falk, and Teri Garr; all of whom exclaim the song’s “Ghostbusters!” refrain when shown. Chase appears again after Garr, but chokes on his cigarette when he tries to exclaim “Ghostbusters!” Franken also pops up in the house before the separately framed cameos begin.

The video concludes with Parker and the stars of the film, in full Ghostbuster costume, dancing down the streets of New York City. The Ghostbusters also perform the same dance in the closing credits to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon series as well as in a trailer for the 2009 Ghostbusters video game.

Fun Fact #2: Huey Lewis sued Parker for plagiarizing the medley to his song “I Want A New Drug” on this track. They settled out of court and agreed not to talk about the case in public, but in 2001, Lewis revealed that Parker paid to settle the suit on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Parker then sued Lewis for violating the terms of their agreement and breaching confidentiality.

Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult – “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” is a song by the American rock band Blue Öyster Cult from their 1976 album, Agents of Fortune. The song, written and sung by the band’s lead guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser, deal with eternal love and the inevitability of death. Dharma wrote the song while picturing an early death for himself.

Released as an edited single, the song was Blue Öyster Cult’s biggest chart success, reaching #7 in Cash Box and #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1976. Additionally, critical reception was mainly positive and, in 2004, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was listed at number 405 on the Rolling Stone list of the top 500 songs of all time.

Blue Öyster Cult was considered a “cult” band, somewhere in the realm of heavy metal with complex and often baffling lyrics dealing with the supernatural. Those inside the cult took the time to understand that like Black Sabbath, BOC combined outstanding musicianship with fantasy lyrics, and they weren’t for everyone. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” exposed them to a wider audience, which was good for business but bad for art. Buck Dharma said in a 1980 interview with NME: “Ever since ‘The Reaper’ was a hit we’ve been under pressure to duplicate that success; the body of our work failed. Even on (1977 album) Spectres everyone tried to write a hit single and that’s a bad mistake. The Cult is never destined to be successful at a format. To be a singles band you have to win the casual buyer.”

Fun Fact #1: The song has been used in several horror movies, including Halloween, The Frighteners and Scream. Stephen King cited the song as the inspiration for his novel The Stand. He quoted the lyrics to this song at the beginning of his novel, in which 99.9% of the US population is killed by a manmade disease called “Superflu.” It is also used in King’s miniseries of the same name during a montage showing the corpses of those who had been killed by the disease. King often quotes songs in the beginning of his books.

Fun Fact #2: The song was memorialized in the April 2000 Saturday Night Live comedy sketch “More Cowbell”. The six-minute sketch presents a fictionalized version of the recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music. Will Ferrell wrote the sketch and played Gene Frenkle, an overweight cowbell player. “Legendary” producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, asked Frenkle to “really explore the studio space” and up the ante on his cowbell playing. The rest of the band are visibly annoyed by Frenkle, but Dickinson tells everyone, “I got a fever, and the only prescription–is more cowbell!” Buck Dharma thought the sketch was fantastic and said he never gets tired of it.

For some reason, the skit’s embed code wouldn’t work but here’s the link to the NBC site where you can watch the entire hilarious skit. Besides Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell, James Franco and Jimmy Fallon are also in the skit. Enjoy!

Murder by Numbers by the Police – “Murder by Numbers” is on English rock band The Police’s fifth and final studio album, Syncronicity, released in June 1983.

The lyrics describe how to get in the mindset of killing people. Sting said it is about the evil deeds of politicians. Sting wrote this with guitarist Andy Summers. It was their only collaboration on Synchronicity; besides the songs “Miss Gradenko” (Stewart Copeland) and “Mother” (Summers), the songs on the album were written entirely by Sting.

This was used as the B-side of “Every Breath You Take,” but it was omitted from the vinyl copy of Synchronicity. At the time, vinyl copies went on sale before cassettes, and CD technology was just emerging. Many people would buy the vinyl copies right away, so leaving this off encouraged them to also purchase the “Every Breath You Take” single or the cassette. At some concerts, Sting introduced this by saying it was about the manipulation of large groups of people, knowing that the audience were being manipulated the whole time.

Fun Facts: This song was featured in the Sigourney Weaver movie Copycat. In the film, a serial killer leaves the lyrics to the song as a clue.

Murder by Numbers is the title of a 2002 movie starring Sandra Bullock.

TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said that this song was performed by “The sons of Satan.” In 1988, a few years after he made his comments, Swaggart was involved in a sex scandal.

Sting appeared at a Frank Zappa concert after meeting the eccentric composer before the show. When he got onstage, the band started to play “Murder by Numbers” as Sting talked about the comments Jimmy Swaggart made about this song being written by Satan, Beelzebub, and Lucifer. He concluded by saying, “I wrote the fucking song, alright?” He went on to sing the whole song with the band and the track appears on Zappa’s live album, Broadway the Hard Way.

Superstition by Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. It was released as the lead single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book (1972). The album was called Talking Book because wonder considered the songs akin to chapters in a book that tell a whole story. On the cover is a rare photo of Wonder without his sunglasses on.

The song’s lyrics are chiefly concerned with superstitions, mentioning several popular superstitious fables throughout the song, and deal with the negative effects superstitious beliefs can bring. Wonder wrote this about the dangers of believing in superstitions. Some of the bad luck superstitions he alludes to include walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror (said to bring seven years of bad luck), and the number 13.

It reached number one in the U.S. and number one on the soul singles chart. The song was Wonder’s first number-one single since “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. Overseas, it peaked at number eleven in the UK during February 1973. In November 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song at No. 74 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

This was intended for Jeff Beck, who was brought in to play some guitar parts on the album in exchange for a song. At one of the sessions, Stevie came up with the riff and wrote some lyrics, and they recorded a rough version of the song that day for Beck. It took Beck a while to record the song due to album delays, and by the time he released it, Wonder’s version had been out for a month and was a huge hit. Beck felt shortchanged, and made some statements in the press that Wonder didn’t appreciate. In 1975, Beck released an instrumental version of Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” on his album Blow By Blow. The album was a hit and helped solidify Beck’s reputation as an elite guitarist.

Jeff Beck finally recorded his own version of this song in December 1972 with bass player Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. They recorded as Beck, Bogert and Appice, and while their album did well, their version of this song was hardly noticed.

Several artists besides Jeff Beck have covered this. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version is still played on Classic Rock radio, and has grown even more popular since Vaughan’s death in 1990.

This song incorporates many elements of rock music, which helped Wonder extend his appeal to a white audience. Before Talking Book was released, Stevie went on tour with The Rolling Stones, which boosted his credibility in the world of rock. When “Superstition” was released, it was warmly welcomed on the same radio stations that played The Stones, earning Wonder many new fans. It also helped Wonder move past his image as a child star.

Wonder appeared in Bud Light commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. As part of the “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work” campaign, which showed superstitious fans acting compulsively in an effort to steer their teams to victory, Wonder appeared as some kind of witch doctor in New Orleans (where the game took place). Asking, “Are you looking for a little mojo?” Wonder then transports our hero to the big game, where he has a voodoo doll to help his cause. The song “Superstition” plays throughout.

Somebody’s Watching Me by Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” is a song by American singer Rockwell from his 1984 debut studio album Somebody’s Watching Me. Rockwell is Kennedy Gordy, son of Motown founder Berry Gordy from a relationship with Margaret Norton. The Motown brain trust came up with the name “Rockwell.” Prince and Madonna were doing very well using one name, and inspiration struck when someone saw a photo of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Kennedy put the demo together with the help of a Motown producer named Curtis Nolen. Berry Gordy didn’t have much faith in his son as a recording artist, but when he heard this, he knew it was a hit and agreed to release it.

The song was released as Rockwell’s debut single and lead single from the album on January 14, 1984, by Motown. It features former Jackson 5 members Michael Jackson (vocals in the chorus) and Jermaine Jackson (additional backing vocals).

“Somebody’s Watching Me” became a commercial success internationally, topping the charts in Belgium, France and Spain. “Somebody’s Watching Me” also peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as reaching number six on the UK Singles Chart.

Due in part to the popularity of the music video, the song is sometimes used for Halloween celebrations, with cover versions found in various collections of Halloween music.

The single’s music video underscores the song’s paranoid tone with a haunted house-inspired theme, including imagery of floating heads, ravens, graveyards, and shower scenes referencing Psycho.

The video opens with Rockwell coming home to discover that the wrong newspaper has been delivered to his doorstep. As he takes a quick shower, he begins to have strange visions (in a manner recalling The Dead Zone) of himself being pursued around his house by assorted ghoulish appartions, of the looming figure of a cadaverous-looking man, and of finding a tombstone engraved with his own name. His shower is interrupted when he hears something outside and goes out on his balcony to investigate. He is shocked to see the man from his visions standing at his gate, but as he struggles to get a better look in spite of the sun in his face he is greatly relieved to see that he is merely a mailman, come to deliver the correct newspaper. As the mailman walks up the path towards the front porch, however, a brief close-up of his arm reveals that he is, in fact, a zombie. Rockwell emerges onto the porch to receive the paper, which the mailman genially hands over. As the mailman brings his other arm around to strike, Rockwell has just enough time to notice that he is not human.

This is Halloween – “This Is Halloween” is a song from the 1993 film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, with music and lyrics written by Danny Elfman. In the film it is performed by the residents of the fictional “Halloween Town”, which is the film’s main setting, and introduces the town’s Halloween-centered lifestyle.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (also known as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas) is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film directed by Henry Selick, and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, a resident from “Halloween Town” who stumbles through a portal to “Christmas Town” and decides to celebrate the holiday, with some dastardly and comical consequences. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens and Glenn Shadix.

The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982, while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. With the success of Vincent in the same year, Walt Disney Studios began to consider developing The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short film or 30-minute television special. Over the years, Burton’s thoughts regularly returned to the project, and in 1990, he made a development deal with Disney. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco; Disney released the film through its Touchstone Pictures banner because the studio believed the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”.

The film was met with both critical and financial success, grossing over $76 million during its initial run. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, a first for an animated film. The film has since been reissued by Walt Disney Pictures, and was re-released annually in Disney Digital 3-D from 2006 until 2009, making it the first stop-motion animated feature to be entirely converted to 3D.

And since my Halloween tradition for the last several years is to turn off all the lights and pretend no one is home and then watch the original 1978 movie Halloween by John Carpenter…and maybe a few more in the franchise… I’m including the Halloween movie trailer here, followed by the theme song.

Halloween, the movie: For those who aren’t familiar: Halloween is a 1978 American slasher film directed and scored by John Carpenter, co-written with producer Debra Hill, and starring Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis in her film debut. It is the first installment of the Halloween franchise. In the film, on Halloween night in 1963, Michael Myers murders his sister in the fictional Midwestern town of Haddonfield, Illinois. He escapes on October 30, 1978 from Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, and returns home to kill again. The next day, Halloween, Michael stalks teenager Laurie Strode and her friends, while Michael’s psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, pursues his patient.

Halloween was produced on a budget of $300,000 and grossed $47 million at the box office in the United States, $23 million internationally, for a total of $70 million worldwide, selling almost 30 million tickets in 1978, equivalent to $269 million as of for 2017. It became one of the most profitable independent films. Many critics credit the film as the first in a long line of slasher films inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). In 2006, 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”.

Some critics have suggested that Halloween may encourage sadism and misogyny by audiences identifying with its villain. Others have suggested the film is a social critique of the immorality of youth and teenagers in 1970s America, with many of Myers’ victims being sexually promiscuous substance abusers, while the lone heroine is depicted as innocent and pure, hence her survival. Nevertheless, Carpenter dismisses such analyses.

Movie Fun Facts: After viewing Carpenter’s film Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) at the Milan Film Festival, independent film producer Irwin Yablans and financier Moustapha Akkad sought out Carpenter to direct a film for them about a psychotic killer that stalked babysitters. In an interview with Fangoria magazine, Yablans stated, “I was thinking what would make sense in the horror genre, and what I wanted to do was make a picture that had the same impact as The Exorcist.” Carpenter and his then-girlfriend Debra Hill began drafting a story originally titled The Babysitter Murders, but, as Carpenter told Entertainment Weekly, Yablans suggested setting the movie on Halloween night and naming it Halloween instead.

Akkad agreed to put up $300,000 for the film’s budget, which was considered low at the time. (Carpenter’s previous film, Assault on Precinct 13, had an estimated budget of $100,000). Akkad worried over the tight, four-week schedule, low budget, and Carpenter’s limited experience as a filmmaker, but told Fangoria, “Two things made me decide. One, Carpenter told me the story verbally and in a suspenseful way, almost frame for frame. Second, he told me he didn’t want to take any fees, and that showed he had confidence in the project”. Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing, and composing the music, retaining rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.

Because of the low budget, wardrobe and props were often crafted from items on hand or that could be purchased inexpensively. Carpenter hired Tommy Lee Wallace as production designer, art director, location scout and co-editor. Wallace created the trademark mask worn by Michael Myers throughout the film from a Captain Kirk mask purchased for $1.98. Carpenter recalled how Wallace “widened the eye holes and spray-painted the flesh a bluish white. In the script it said Michael Myers’s mask had ‘the pale features of a human face’ and it truly was spooky looking. I can only imagine the result if they hadn’t painted the mask white. Children would be checking their closet for William Shatner after Tommy got through with it.” Hill adds that the “idea was to make him almost humorless, faceless—this sort of pale visage that could resemble a human or not.” Many of the actors wore their own clothes, and Curtis’ wardrobe was purchased at J. C. Penney for around a hundred dollars.

It took approximately 10 days to write the script. Yablans and Akkad ceded most of the creative control to writers Carpenter and Hill (whom Carpenter wanted as producer), but Yablans did offer several suggestions. According to a Fangoria interview with Hill, “Yablans wanted the script written like a radio show, with ‘boos’ every 10 minutes.” Hill explained that the script took three weeks to write and much of the inspiration behind the plot came from Celtic traditions of Halloween such as the festival of Samhain. Although Samhain is not mentioned in the plot of the first film, Hill asserts that:

           “…the idea was that you couldn’t kill evil, and that was how we came about the story. We went back to the old idea of Samhain, that Halloween was the night where all the souls are let out to wreak havoc on the living, and then came up with the story about the most evil kid who ever lived. And when John came up with this fable of a town with a dark secret of someone who once lived there, and now that evil has come back, that’s what made Halloween work.”

Hill wrote most of the female characters’ dialogue, while Carpenter drafted Loomis’ speeches on the soullessness of Michael Myers. Many script details were drawn from Carpenter’s and Hill’s adolescence and early careers. The fictional town of Haddonfield, Illinois was derived from Haddonfield, New Jersey, where Hill grew up, and most of the street names were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Laurie Strode was the name of one of Carpenter’s old girlfriends and Michael Myers was the name of an English producer who had previously entered, with Yablans, Assault on Precinct 13 in various European film festivals. In Halloween, Carpenter pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock with two characters’ names: Tommy Doyle is named after Lt. Det. Thomas J. Doyle (Wendell Corey) from Rear Window (1954), and Dr. Loomis’ name was taken from Sam Loomis (John Gavin) from Psycho, the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, who is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis). Sheriff Leigh Brackett shared the name of a Hollywood screenwriter.

“I met this six year old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes; the devil’s eyes […] I realized what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply…evil.”

— Loomis’ description of a young Michael was inspired by John Carpenter’s experience with a real life mental patient.

Carpenter’s inspiration for the “evil” that Michael would embody came when he was in college. While on a class trip at a mental institution in Kentucky, Carpenter visited “the most serious, mentally ill patients”. Among those patients was a young boy around twelve to thirteen years-old. The boy gave this “schizophrenic stare”, “a real evil stare”, which Carpenter found “unsettling”, “creepy”, and “completely insane”. Carpenter’s experience would inspire the characterization that Loomis would give of Michael to Sheriff Brackett in the original film.

The limited budget also dictated the filming location and time schedule. Halloween was filmed in 20 days in the spring of 1978 in South Pasadena, California, and the cemetery at Sierra Madre, California. An abandoned house owned by a church stood in as the Myers house. Two homes on Orange Grove Avenue (near Sunset Boulevard) in Hollywood were used for the film’s climax. The crew had difficulty finding pumpkins in the spring, and artificial fall leaves had to be reused for multiple scenes. Local families dressed their children in Halloween costumes for trick-or-treat scenes.

The Halloween Theme Music: Another major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. Lacking a symphonic soundtrack, the film’s score consists of a piano melody played in a 10/8 or “complex 5/4” meter composed and performed by director John Carpenter. It took Carpenter three days to compose the entire score for the film. Critic James Berardinelli calls the score “relatively simple and unsophisticated”, but admits that “Halloween’s music is one of its strongest assets”. Carpenter stated in an interview, “I can play just about any keyboard, but I can’t read or write a note.” In the end credits, Carpenter bills himself as the “Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra” for performing the film’s score, but he did receive assistance from composer Dan Wyman, a music professor at San José State University.

Some songs can be heard in the film, one being an untitled song performed by Carpenter and a group of his friends who formed a band called The Coupe De Villes. The song is heard as Laurie steps into Annie’s car on her way to babysit Tommy Doyle. Another song, “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, appears in the film.

 

And this wraps up my Halloween themed Monday’s Music Moves Me playlist. Hope you all enjoy it. HAPPY HALLOWEEN and be sure to keep your doors locked and whatever you do, don’t open the closet door or go down in the basement!

 

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.

 

 

Advertisements

Monday’s Music Moves Me – Songs about School

It’s that time of year when another school year has just started. You can’t escape the start of a new school year because before your summer vacation is even close to coming to an end, you’re getting inundated with Back to School commercials on TV and radio and after a while you accept it, get onboard and join in the craze to shop the Tax-Free Weekend hoping that the things you buy qualify as tax-free BTS items (they usually don’t). This time of year always takes me on a trip down memory lane as I remember all those years of wishing that Labor Day weekend wouldn’t end because that was it, the carefree fun of the summer was over.

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is Songs about School. Here are a few of my favorite school-oriented songs.

School’s Out by Alice Cooper – “School’s Out” is a 1972 song first recorded as the title track single of Alice Cooper’s fifth album and written by the Alice Cooper band: Cooper, Michael Bruce, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith.

Cooper has said he was inspired to write the song when answering the question, “What’s the greatest three minutes of your life?” Cooper said: “There’s two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you’re just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you’re sitting there and it’s like a slow fuse burning. I said, ‘If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it’s going to be so big.'”

Cooper has also said it was inspired by a line from a Bowery Boys movie. The title (and song) were inspired by a warning often said in Bowery Boys movies in which one of the characters declares to another, “School is out,” meaning “to wise up.” The Bowery Boys were characters featured in 48 movies that ran from 1946-1958. They were young tough guys in New York City who were always finding trouble. The movies ran on American TV throughout the ’60s and ’70s, eating up a lot of air time on independent stations. It was one of these TV viewings that Cooper saw. In the film, the character Sach (Huntz Hall) did something dumb, which prompted one of the other guys to say, “Hey, Sach, School’s Out!” Cooper like the way the phrase sounded and used it as the basis for this song.

On his radio show, “Nights with Alice Cooper”, he joked that the main riff of the song was inspired by a song by Miles Davis. Cooper said that guitarist Glen Buxton created the song’s opening riff.

The lyrics of “School’s Out” indicate that not only is the school year ended for summer vacation, but ended forever, and that the school itself has been blown up. It incorporates the childhood rhyme, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks” into its lyrics. It also featured children contributing some of the vocals. The song appropriately ends with a school bell sound that fades out.

In a 2008 Esquire interview, Cooper said: “When we did ‘School’s Out,’ I knew we had just done the national anthem. I’ve become the Francis Scott Key of the last day of school.”

“School’s Out” became Alice Cooper’s first major hit single, reaching #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart and propelling the album to #2 on the Billboard 200 pop albums chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 75 song for 1972. In Canada, the single went to #3 on the RPM Top Singles Chart following the album reaching #1. In Britain, the song went to #1 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks in August 1972. It also marked the first time that Alice Cooper became regarded as more than just a theatrical novelty act.

Some radio stations banned the song from their airwaves, stating that the song gave the students an impression of rebelliousness against childhood education. Teachers, parents, principals, counselors, and psychologists also shunned the song and demanded several radio stations ban the song from ever being played on the air. REALLY?? Wow!

How I miss the days of vinyl! This album opened like a school desk and contained a pair of paper panties. This is the kind of “added value” you just don’t get with CDs. Did any of you own that album?

The song is definitely an end of school-year and summer vacation anthem, but it was also used in a Back to School campaign a few years back:

In 2004, the song was also used in a Staples television commercial for the back to school retail period in which Alice appeared as himself. A young girl with black hair, obviously disappointed that school is starting soon, says, “I thought you said ‘School’s out forever.'” Alice (who’s pushing a shopping cart full of her school supplies) replies, “No, no, no … the song goes, ‘School’s out for summer.’ Nice try though.”

 

My Old School by Steely Dan – “My Old School” is a single drawn from Steely Dan’s 1973 album Countdown to Ecstasy. It reached number 63 on the Billboard charts.

The “Old School” referred to in this song is Bard College in Annandale, New York, where Donald Fagen and Walter Becker met. The song is at least partially inspired by an event that occurred at Bard, where both Becker and Fagen, along with their girlfriends, were arrested in a pot raid on a party that was orchestrated by an ambitious young District Attorney named G. Gordon Liddy (hence the line “Tried to warn ya about Geno and Daddy G”). Despite the fact that California has not (yet) tumbled into the sea, both Fagen and Becker have returned to Bard.

This song is so rich with musical artistry. The horns and the guitar work are amazing. Crank this one up for sure!

 

Back to School Again by The Four Tops from the Grease 2 sountrack – “Back To School Again” is the opening number from the 1982 musical Grease 2. With music by Louis St. Louis and lyrics by Howard Greenfield, this uptempo track which features nearly the entire cast, runs to well over six and a half minutes, and contains some classy choreography every bit as impressive in its own way as Michael Jackson’s classic Thriller video; the song’s most noticeable feature is its heavy base line; the theme is evident from the title – first day back after the long American Summer vacation.

The main vocals are performed by The Four Tops, and the horn arrangements are by Andy Huson.

 

Smokin’ in the Boys Room by Brownsville Station – “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is a song originally recorded by Brownsville Station in 1973 on their album Yeah! It reached number 3 in Canada and on the US Billboard Hot 100, and was later certified by the RIAA. It was written by Brownsville Station lead singer/guitarist Michael “Cub” Koda. Koda wrote for various music magazines, including Goldmine, until he died in 2000.

This song is about a group of schoolboys who sneak out of class to smoke tobacco in the boys’ bathroom, only to be found by the principal who reminds them “No smoking allowed in school.” Cub Koda got the idea for the song from memories of hanging out at a movie theater with his childhood friends – they would smuggle cigarettes lifted from their parents into the men’s room at the Clinton Theater in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Friday nights. Coda says the “old duffer” who owned the theater would come after them, but never caught them in the act.

When he found himself in a band, Koda drew from this experience to write the song, shifting the scene from the movie house to the schoolhouse.

It took Koda just a half hour to write the song and an hour for the band to record it. They didn’t think much of it, but the song became far and away their biggest hit. Brownsville Station – comprised of Koda, bass player Michael Lutz and drummer Henry Weck at the time – had released two album previous to Yeah! and were enjoying regional acclaim around Michigan when “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” took them to the national level.

Good Lord, do I remember smokin’ in the lavatories! I don’t smoke anymore. I quit back in August of 1996. But for a good number of years, I was a pretty heavy smoker. I started smoking at a really young age (11) so in junior high and then high school, us “cool kids” were always packed into the stalls in between classes puffin’ away, trying to get in as many drags as we could before the bell rang. I only remember getting caught once. It was during the middle of a class period and I was the only one in the bathroom when I heard the ‘clack, clack, clack’ of heels coming into the bathroom so I ditched my cigarette in the toilet and tried to wave away the smoke but naturally there was smoke cloud billowing above my stall. I guess I was pretty fortunate because even though I was often doing bad things back then, the teachers all liked me so I rarely got in trouble (I was an honor student after all). I came out of the stall and said, “Hi Mrs. (I can’t remember her name)” and she just looked at me with this disappointing look and said, “Get back to class Michele.” Okay. Thanks!

Does this song bring back memories for you?

 

School Days by the Kinks – This song is from Schoolboys in Disgrace (or The Kinks Present Schoolboys in Disgrace), a 1975 album by the Kinks.

The front cover was illustrated by Mickey Finn of T. Rex. It later appeared on NME’s list of the ’50 worst covers of all time’.

According to the back cover liner notes, the story which the album presents is as follows:

Once upon a time there was a naughty little schoolboy. He and his gang were always playing tricks on the teachers and bullying other children in the school. One day he got himself into very serious trouble with a naughty schoolgirl and he was sent to the Headmaster who decided to disgrace the naughty boy and his gang in front of the whole school.

After this punishment the boy turned into a hard and bitter character. Perhaps it was not the punishment that changed him but the fact that he realised people in authority would always be there to kick him down and the Establishment would always put him in his place. He knew that he could not change the past but he vowed that in the future he would always get what he wanted. The naughty little boy grew up… into Mr Flash.

Mr Flash was the name of the villain from the Kinks’ rock opera Preservation (released as Preservation Act 1 and Preservation Act 2).

I don’t know about you but, like the song says, my school days were some of the happiest and most fun times in my life. Although I went through my share of shit back then, for the most part, I enjoyed being a popular kid in school and had a ton of wild and crazy friends and we did some really wild and crazy things…things that keep me smiling and laughing to this day. This song really says it, how I feel about school.

 

What are you favorite songs about school? How do you feel about school? Did you like it, hate it? Why?

 

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 – 9/11 Tribute Songs

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is appropriately timed given the date. Songs featured today are 9/11 tribute songs, in remembrance of all those lost and all those who helped during the most heinous attack in U.S. history when nineteen militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks that killed 2,997 people, injured over 6,000 others and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.

The following songs serve to honor brave souls who will always be thought of as heroes in the wake of this tragedy and to share reactions after the horrid event.  For those of you who know me, it should be no surprise that my first song choice honors a 9/11 canine hero. Let’s start with the story of Roselle, the yellow Labrador guide dog:

Roselle by Michael Gaither – Computer sales manager Michael Hingson was at his desk on the 78th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower on the morning of 9/11 when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the other side of the building, 18 floors above. And he lived to tell the tale because of his guide dog, Roselle.

The yellow lab calmly guided her blind charge and 30 other people down 1,463 steps out of the building. After descending over half the distance, they passed the firemen who were heading up, who Roselle stopped to greet. The descent took just over an hour. Just after they exited the tower, Tower 2 collapsed, sending debris flying. Hingson later said, “While everyone ran in panic, Roselle remained totally focused on her job, while debris fell around us, and even hit us, Roselle stayed calm.” Once clear, Roselle led her owner to the safety of a subway station, where they helped a woman who had been blinded by falling debris. Once they arrived home, Roselle immediately began playing with her retired guide dog predecessor, Linnie, as if nothing important had happened.

A few months after 9/11, after making the talk show rounds with Roselle by his side, Hingson was offered a job as national public affairs director for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Roselle accompanied him on trips around the world until she retired.

In 2004, Roselle was diagnosed with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, but medications were able to control the condition. In March 2007 she retired from guiding after it was discovered that the medication was beginning to damage her kidneys. She continued to live with Hingson, who was assigned a new guide dog, Africa. On June 24, 2011, Hingson suspected that something was wrong with Roselle and took her to her local vet, who diagnosed her with a stomach ulcer. Roselle died two days later on June 26, at 8:52 pm.

In her memory, Hingson wrote a book of their 9/11 experience entitled Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero and set up Roselle’s Dream Foundation, a 501c3 charitable foundation to raise money to help vision-impaired people engage more fully in everyday life. Roselle went on to be posthumously named American Hero Dog of the Year 2011 by the American Humane Society.

Roselle Thunder Dog

Roselle with her Dickin Medal. Roselle and Salty, another guide dog who was also with his owner at the WTC, were awarded a joint Dickin Medal by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals on March 5, 2002. The medal citation reads, “For remaining loyally at the side of their blind owners, courageously leading them down more than 70 floors of the World Trade Center and to a place of safety following the terrorist attack on New York on 11 September 2001.”

Roselle (March 12, 1998 – June 26, 2011) was born in San Rafael, California, on March 12, 1998, at the Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was moved to Santa Barbara, California, to be raised by Kay and Ted Stern. After this she was returned to Guide Dogs for the Blind so that she could be trained as a guide dog. Roselle and her owner, Michael Hingson, first met on November 22, 1999. She was Hingson’s fifth guide dog.

Micheal Hingson and his hero guide dog Roselle

Here is the song written and recorded by Michael Gaither in Roselle’s honor:

And here’s a live acoustic performance by Michael Gaither:

 

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning by Allen Jackson – “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” is a song written by the American singer-songwriter Alan Jackson. It was the lead single from his tenth studio album, Drive (2002). The song’s lyrics center on reactions to the September 11 attacks in the United States, written in the form of questions. Jackson desired to write a song capturing the emotions surrounding the attacks, but found it difficult to do so.

Jackson had finished walking outside and returned indoors to discover news of the attacks on television. He immediately wanted to write a song expressing his thoughts and emotions, but he found it hard to do so for many weeks. “I didn’t want to write a patriotic song,” Jackson said. “And I didn’t want it to be vengeful, either. But I didn’t want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day.”

Finally, on the Sunday morning of October 28, 2001, he woke up at 4 a.m. with the melody, opening lines, and chorus going through his mind. He hastily got out of bed, still in his underwear, and sang them into a hand-held digital recorder so he would not forget them. Later that morning, when his wife and children had gone to Sunday school, he sat down in his study and completed the lyrics.

Initially, he felt squeamish about recording it, much less releasing it, because he disliked the idea of capitalizing on a tragedy. But after he played it for his wife Denise and for his producer, Keith Stegall, and it met with their approval, Jackson went into the studio to record “Where Were You” that week. On Stegall’s advice, Jackson played the finished track for a group of executives at his record label. “We just kind of looked at one another,” RCA Label Group chairman Joe Galante said later. “Nobody spoke for a full minute.”

He debuted the song publicly at the Country Music Association’s annual awards show on November 7, 2001. It was released that month as a single and topped the Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart for five weeks; in addition, it reached number 28 on Billboard’s all-genre Hot 100 chart. The song received largely positive reviews from critics, who appreciated its simple, largely apolitical stance. The song won multiple awards at the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards, including Song of the Year, and also earned Jackson his first Grammy Award for Best Country Song.

 

Tuesday Morning by Melissa Etheridge – “Tuesday Morning” from Melissa Etheridge’s eighth album Lucky is dedicated to the memory of Mark Bingham, his family and friends, paying tribute to all the heroes of 9/11.

Mark Bingham – 9/11 Hero from United Airlines Flight 93

Mark Kendall Bingham (May 22, 1970 – September 11, 2001) was an American public relations executive who founded his own company, the Bingham Group. During the September 11 attacks in 2001, he was a passenger on board United Airlines Flight 93. Bingham was among the passengers who, along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, formed the plan to retake the plane from the hijackers, and led the effort that resulted in the crash of the plane into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thwarting the hijackers plan to crash the plane into a building in Washington, D.C., most likely either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House.

Both for his presence on United 93, as well as his athletic physique, Bingham has been widely honored posthumously for having “smashed the gay stereotype mold and really opened the door to many others who came after him.”

From Wikipedia: On the morning of September 11, Bingham overslept and nearly missed his flight, on his way to San Francisco to be an usher in his fraternity brother Joseph Salama’s wedding. He arrived at the Terminal A at 7:40am, ran to Gate 17, and was the last passenger to board United Airlines Flight 93, taking seat 4D, next to passenger Tom Burnett.

United Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8:00am, but the Boeing 757 did not depart until 42 minutes later due to runway traffic delays. Four minutes later, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Fifteen minutes later, at 9:03 am, as United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, United 93 was climbing to cruising altitude, heading west over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. At 9:25 am, Flight 93 was above eastern Ohio, and pilots Jason Dahl and LeRoy Homer received an alert, “beware of cockpit intrusion,” on the cockpit computer device ACARS (Aircraft Communications and Reporting System). Three minutes later, Cleveland controllers could hear screams over the cockpit’s open microphone. Moments later, the hijackers, led by the Lebanese Ziad Samir Jarrah, took over the plane’s controls, disengaged the autopilot, and told passengers, “Keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board”. Bingham and the other passengers were herded into the back of the plane. The curtain between first class and second class had been drawn, at which point the pilot and co-pilot were seen lying dead on the floor just outside the curtain, their throats having been cut. Within six minutes, the plane changed course and was heading for Washington, D.C. Several of the passengers made phone calls to loved ones, who informed them about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center. Bingham phoned his mother, reporting that his plane had been hijacked and relaying his love for her. According to Hoglan, Bingham said: “Hi mom, I love you very much, I’m calling you from the plane. We’ve been taking over. There are three men that say that they have a bomb.”

After the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, the passengers decided to act. Bingham, along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick, formed a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers. They were joined by other passengers, including Lou Nacke, Rich Guadagno, Alan Beaven, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, Linda Gronlund, and William Cashman, along with flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Cee Ross-Lyles, in discussing their options and voting on a course of action, ultimately deciding to storm the cockpit and take over the plane.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after the plane’s voice data recorder was recovered, it revealed pounding and crashing sounds against the cockpit door and shouts and screams in English. “Let’s get them!” a passenger cries. A hijacker shouts, “Allah akbar!” (“God is great”). Jarrah repeatedly pitched the plane to knock passengers off their feet, but the passengers apparently managed to invade the cockpit, where one was heard shouting, “In the cockpit. If we don’t, we’ll die.” At 10:02 am, a hijacker ordered, “Pull it down! Pull it down!” The 9/11 Commission later reported that the plane’s control wheel was turned hard to the right, causing it to roll on its back and plow into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 580 miles an hour, killing everyone on board. The plane was twenty minutes of flying time away from its suspected target, the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. According to Vice President Dick Cheney, President George W. Bush had given the order to shoot the plane down had it continued its path to Washington.

 

Have You Forgotten? by Darryl Worley –  “Have You Forgotten?” is a song about the September 11 attacks recorded by American country music artist Darryl Worley, who wrote it with Wynn Varble. It was released in March 2003 as the first single and title track from his 2003 compilation of the same name. It was No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs for seven weeks, reaching it after five weeks on the chart, and peaked at number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Worley’s biggest mainstream hit.

Darryl Worley and Wynn Varble wrote the song as “sort of a rallying call” in the wake of the events of 9/11 and the early days of the war in Afghanistan. They felt their own patriotic spirits rising and thought, “There’s probably a bunch of people that feel this way. Let’s find out.”

A controversy surrounding the song arose, however, which held that the message contained in it was an accusation that those who disagreed with the US involvement in Afghanistan had “forgotten” about 9/11. Many felt the war would do nothing to help the anti-terrorist cause, and resented the implication.

But Worley maintains that his message was meant as a supportive one for the victims of 9/11, their families, and the veterans and troops whom he so vigorously and actively supports.

 

Freedom by Paul McCartney – “Freedom” is a song written and recorded by Paul McCartney in response to the September 11 attacks in 2001. McCartney was in New York City at the time of the attacks and witnessed the event while sitting in a plane parked on the tarmac at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

McCartney wanted Americans to help their fellow citizens by buying “Freedom” and donated all proceeds to 9/11 victims. He also wrote anonymous checks to several New York police officers to help them with medical recovery.

The song was featured at the Super Bowl XXXVI pregame show with a Statue of Liberty tapestry rising up in the background as a tribute to the victims of 9/11. McCartney performed the song frequently on his 2002 Driving USA Tour, with most of the proceeds from the tour going to victims of 9/11. The song also appeared on the live album Back in the U.S.

 

 

Here’s my 9/11 Tribute Songs playlist for continuous play:

 

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 – Songs with Boy Names in the Title

Today’s Monday’s Music Moves Me theme is Songs with Boy Names in the Title. I went a little crazy with this one too, putting together a playlist of 44 songs that I really dig with boy names in the titles. Don’t worry, there aren’t 44 songs here in this post, but there are quite a few. I had a hard time choosing which ones I wanted to spotlight so I compiled some of my favorites that are either just fantastic songs or they have particularly neat and interesting stories behind the music. As with any of my lengthy posts, make yourself at home: pop in for a quick visit and check out a few songs or bring a 12-pack over and hang out for awhile and dig into some cool history and some great songs.

The following are my spotlight songs for this theme. If you’d like to listen to all of my 44 choices for Boy Names songs, check out my full playlist at the end of this post. Let’s get started with:

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce – “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” is a song written by American folk rock singer Jim Croce. Released as part of his 1973 album Life and Times, the song was a Number One pop hit for him, spending two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1973. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1973.

Croce was nominated for two 1973 Grammy awards in the Pop Male Vocalist and Record of the Year categories for “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” It was his last number-one single before his death on September 20.

The song’s title character is a man from the South Side of Chicago who, due to his size and attitude, has a reputation as the “baddest man in the whole damn town.” One day, in a bar, he makes a pass at a pretty, married woman named Doris, whose jealous husband proceeds to beat Leroy brutally in the ensuing fight. In the end, Leroy Brown learns a lesson from this painful experience (“Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone”). During the lyrics about the fight, some background voices are heard quietly speaking.

The story of a widely feared man being bested in a fight is similar to Croce’s earlier song “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”

Croce’s inspiration for the song was a friend he met in his brief time in the US Army:

I met him at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We were in lineman (telephone) school together. He stayed there about a week, and one evening he turned around and said he was really fed up and tired. He went AWOL, and then came back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. They put handcuffs on him and took him away. Just to listen to him talk and see how ‘bad’ he was, I knew someday I was gonna write a song about him.

“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” was released in April 1973 and peaked at number one on the American charts three months later. It was still on the charts on September 20 when Croce died in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was the second #1 song on the “Billboard” Hot 100 pop singles chart to include a curse word (“damn”) in its lyrics, after the “Theme from Shaft”.

This is a fabulously fun animated video I found on YouTube. Enjoy!

 

Brother Louie by Stories – “Brother Louie” is a song about an interracial love affair, a romance between a white man and a black woman. The title was written and sung by Errol Brown and Anthony Wilson of the group Hot Chocolate, and was a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart for the band in 1973, produced by Mickie Most. Hot Chocolate was an interracial (four black members, two white) group from London who also had a hit in 1975 with “You Sexy Thing.”

The Hot Chocolate version of this song didn’t gain any traction in the United States, possibly because of the subject matter. The spoken sections portraying the parents’ reactions to the interracial couple were rather graphic, using the epithets “Honky” and “Spook,” which was enough to scare many radio stations away.

“Brother Louie” was covered by the American band Stories (featuring singer Ian Lloyd) about six months after Hot Chocolate’s UK hit. Their version, which left out the spoken parts and a verse where Louie meets the girl’s parents, featured a more pronounced string section and proved much more palatable to American listeners, and went to #1 in the US on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1973 and went on to sell a million plus copies to earn a gold disk. In Canada, the Stories version spent three weeks at number one. It was the only hit for Stories and is often cited as a “one hit wonder”.

Here is Stories on a Midnight Special episode, being introduced by Jose Feliciano:

 

Daniel by Elton John – “Daniel” is a song and ballad by Elton John. It appeared on the 1973 album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. It was written by John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. In the UK, the song reached no. 4 in the official chart. In the US the song reached No. 2 on the pop charts (only held from number one by “My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings) and No. 1 on the adult contemporary charts for two weeks in the spring of 1973. In the US, it was certified Gold on September 13, 1995 by the RIAA. In Canada, it became his second No. 1 single, following “Crocodile Rock” earlier in the year, holding the position for two weeks in the RPM 100 national singles chart. Writers John and Taupin received the 1973 Ivor Novello award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

Bernie Taupin wrote “Daniel” after reading an article in either Time or Newsweek about a Vietnam War veteran who had been wounded, and wanted to get away from the attention he was receiving when he went back home. The last verse in the original draft was cut from the final version, which has led to some speculation on the contents.

“‘Daniel’ had been the most misinterpreted song that we’d ever written,” explained Taupin, in the Two Rooms tribute project. “The story was about a guy that went back to a small town in Texas, returning from the Vietnam War. They’d lauded him when he came home and treated him like a hero. But, he just wanted to go home, go back to the farm, and try to get back to the life that he’d led before. I wanted to write something that was sympathetic to the people that came home.” Regarding the misinterpretations, Taupin says “he’s heard it called a gay anthem and a song about a family dispute.”

Elton John performs “Daniel” on “Top of the Pops” on January 25th 1973, with band members Davey Johnstone on guitar, Nigel Olsson on drums, and Dee Murray on bass guitar.

 

Danny’s Song by Anne Murray – “Danny’s Song” is a song written by the American singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins. It was written as a gift for his brother Danny for the birth of his son, Colin. It first appeared on an album by Gator Creek and a year later on the album Sittin’ In, the debut album by Loggins and Messina. The song is well remembered for both the Loggins and Messina original, as well as Anne Murray’s 1972 top-ten charting cover.

I remember Anne Murray’s version best. Canadian country-pop music singer Anne Murray was a fan of the original recording and recorded a cover version in 1972. The version she recorded of the song omitted two of the lyric verses and is in a different key than the original version by Loggins & Messina. Included on her album of the same name, Murray’s version of “Danny’s Song” was a hit, reaching the Top 10 on three major Billboard music charts in early 1973. On the pop chart, the song reached #7 (returning Murray to that chart’s top ten for the first time since 1970’s “Snowbird”); on the country chart, it peaked at #10; and on the easy listening chart, it spent two weeks at #1 in March of that year. Murray’s version also earned her a Grammy Award nomination in the category Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards of 1974, losing out to “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack.

 

Eli’s Comin’ by Three Dog Night – “Eli’s Comin'” is a song written and recorded in 1967 by American singer-songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro. The song was first released in 1968 as the sixth song of Nyro’s album, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. The song was also covered by Three Dog Night in 1969, on their 1969 albums Suitable for Framing and Captured Live at the Forum. Their version reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Three Dog Night is one of my favorite bands from that era. They formed in 1967 with a line-up consisting of vocalists Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, and Chuck Negron. This lineup was soon augmented by Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass), Michael Allsup (guitar), and Floyd Sneed (drums). They became one of the most successful bands in the United States during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The band registered 21 Billboard Top 40 hits (with three hitting number one) between 1969 and 1975. It helped introduce mainstream audiences to the work of many songwriters, including Paul Williams (“An Old Fashioned Love Song”), Hoyt Axton (“Joy to the World”), Laura Nyro (“Eli’s Comin'”), Harry Nilsson (“One”), Randy Newman (“Mama Told Me Not to Come”), and Leo Sayer (“The Show Must Go On”).

I always wondered where the heck they came up with that name for the band. Here’s the answer: The official commentary included in the CD set Celebrate: The Three Dog Night Story, 1964–1975 states that vocalist Danny Hutton’s girlfriend, actress June Fairchild (best known as the “Ajax Lady” from the Cheech and Chong movie Up In Smoke) suggested the name after reading a magazine article about indigenous Australians, in which it was explained that on cold nights they would customarily sleep in a hole in the ground while embracing a dingo (wild dog). On colder nights they would sleep with two dogs and, if the night was freezing, it was a “three dog night”. Pretty cool, eh?

Here’s one of their greatest hits, Eli’s Comin’:

 

Hit the Road Jack by Ray Charles – “Hit the Road Jack” is a song written by the rhythm and blues artist Percy Mayfield and first recorded in 1960 as an a cappella demo sent to Art Rupe. It became famous after it was recorded by singer-songwriter-pianist Ray Charles with The Raelettes vocalist Margie Hendrix.

Charles’s recording hit number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning on Monday, October 9, 1961. “Hit the Road Jack” won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. The song was number one on the R&B Sides chart for five weeks, thereby becoming Charles’s sixth number-one on that chart.

The continuing popularity of this song is evident by the many professional and semi-professional hockey teams playing the first few lines whenever a player is sent to the penalty box. It’s a part of Major League Baseball too: a version is played over the PA in Chicago Cubs games when an opposing pitcher is ‘chased’ (pulled) from the game. And the song is played at Basketball events too as it’s played over the PA during Chicago Bulls games when an opponent fouls out of the game.

Ray even went commercial with his song: During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kentucky Fried Chicken released a series of TV advertisements that used a re-recorded version of the song, re-titled “Cross the Road Jack”; additionally, the line “and don’t you come back no more” was also changed to “Kentucky Fried Chicken’s got more”.

Here’s Ray Charles on Saturday Live in 1996 (Saturday Live was a British television comedy and music show broadcast from 1985 to 1987, and in 1988 as Friday Night Live. Influenced by the American show Saturday Night Live (in particular its use of guest hosts), it was produced by Paul Jackson. The series made a return in 1996 on ITV. Hosted by Lee Hurst, the series lasted six episodes before being cancelled. This performance was from episode 2:

 

James Dean by the Eagles – “James Dean” is a song written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne, and J. D. Souther, and recorded by the American rock band Eagles for their 1974 album On the Border. It was the second single released from this album, reaching number 77 on the U.S. pop singles chart. The Eagles founding member Bernie Leadon played the guitar solo.

The song is about American actor and cultural icon James Dean (1931–1955) who starred in such films as Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant. The lyrics, “too fast to live, too young to die” refer to the life and abrupt death of Dean in a car crash in 1955.

“James Dean” was first written as for an album originally intended to have a theme on anti-heroes. According to Glenn Frey, he together with Don Henley, Jackson Browne, and J. D. Souther were jamming together after attending a Tim Hardin show at the Troubadour in 1972, and they came up the idea about doing an album about anti-heroes. From this came the songs “Doolin-Dalton” and “James Dean”. The album however evolved into a wild-west themed album Desperado which was released in 1973, and “James Dean” was shelved. When recording began for On the Border, the song was immediately pulled off the shelf and completed. The song was written mostly by Jackson Browne according to Henley.

The B-side “Good Day in Hell” is notable for being the first Eagles track recorded with Don Felder, who joined the band midway through the sessions for the album.

 

Jeremy by Pearl Jam – “Jeremy” is a song by the American rock band Pearl Jam, with lyrics written by vocalist Eddie Vedder and music written by bassist Jeff Ament. “Jeremy” was released in 1992 as the third single from Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten (1991). The song was inspired by a newspaper article Vedder read about a high school student who shot himself in front of his English class on January 8, 1991. It reached the number five spot on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock Billboard charts. It did not originally chart on the regular Billboard Hot 100 singles chart since it was not released as a commercial single in the US at the time, but a re-release in July 1995 brought it up to number 79.

Lyrics: “Jeremy” is based on two different true stories. The song takes its main inspiration from a newspaper article about a 16-year-old boy named Jeremy Wade Delle from Richardson, Texas who shot himself in front of his teacher and his second period English class of 30 students on the morning of January 8, 1991. In a 2009 interview, Vedder said that he felt “the need to take that small article and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance.”

Delle was described by schoolmates as “real quiet” and known for “acting sad.” After coming into class late that morning, Delle was told to get an admittance slip from the school office. He left the classroom, and returned with a .357 Magnum revolver. Delle walked to the front of the classroom, announced “Miss, I got what I really went for,” put the barrel of the firearm in his mouth, and pulled the trigger before his teacher or classmates could react. Lisa Moore, a schoolmate, knew Jeremy from the in-school suspension program: “He and I would pass notes back and forth and he would talk about life and stuff,” she said. “He signed all of his notes, ‘Write back.’ But on Monday he wrote, ‘Later days.’ I didn’t know what to make of it. But I never thought this would happen.”

When asked about the song, Vedder explained:

It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you’re gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-four degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That’s the beginning of the video and that’s the same thing in the end; it does nothing … nothing changes. The world goes on and you’re gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger than those people. And then you can come back.

The second story the song is based on, involved a student that Vedder knew from his junior high school in San Diego, California. He elaborated further in a 1991 interview:

I actually knew somebody in junior high school, in San Diego, California, that did the same thing, just about, didn’t take his life but ended up shooting up an oceanography room. I remember being in the halls and hearing it and I had actually had altercations with this kid in the past. I was kind of a rebellious fifth-grader and I think we got in fights and stuff. So it’s a bit about this kid named Jeremy and it’s also a bit about a kid named Brian that I knew and I don’t know…the song, I think it says a lot. I think it goes somewhere…and a lot of people interpret it different ways and it’s just been recently that I’ve been talking about the true meaning behind it and I hope no one’s offended and believe me, I think of Jeremy when I sing it.

The song gained notoriety for its music video, directed by Mark Pellington and released in 1992, which received heavy rotation by MTV and became a hit. Epic Records had warmed up to the idea of releasing “Jeremy” as a single and music video director Mark Pellington was brought in to handle the project. Pellington said that he “wasn’t a huge fan of the band, but the lyrics intrigued me—I spoke to Eddie, and I really got connected to his passion.” Pellington and Pearl Jam convened in Kings Cross, London, England in June 1992 to film a new version of the “Jeremy” music video. (The original music video for “Jeremy” was directed and produced by photographer Chris Cuffaro).

Working with veteran editor Bruce Ashley, Pellington’s high-budget video incorporated rapid-fire editing and juxtaposition of sound, still images, graphics and text elements with live action sequences to create a collage effect. Actor Trevor Wilson portrayed Jeremy. Wilson filmed his classroom scenes as Jeremy at Bayonne High School in New Jersey. The video also featured many close-ups of Vedder performing the song, with the other members of Pearl Jam shown only briefly. Some of the stock imagery was similar to the original video, but when it came to the band Pellington focused on Vedder. Vedder thus serves as the video’s narrator. Ament said, “It was mostly Mark and Ed’s vision. In fact, I think it would have been a better video if the rest of the band wasn’t in it. I know some of us were having a hard time with the movie-type video that Mark made, because our two previous videos were made live.” The video premiered on August 1, 1992 and quickly found its way into heavy rotation on MTV. Michele Romero of Entertainment Weekly described the music video as “an Afterschool Special from hell.” She stated that “when Eddie Vedder yowls the lyric ‘Jeremy spoke in class today,’ a chill frosts your cranium to the point of queasy enjoyment.” The success of the “Jeremy” video helped catapult Pearl Jam to fame. Pellington stated, “I think that video tapped into something that has always been around and will always be around. You’re always going to have peer pressure, you’re always going to have adolescent rage, you’re always going to have dysfunctional families.” The video won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1993, including Best Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best Metal/Hard Rock Video, and Best Direction. Trevor Wilson appeared with Pearl Jam onstage when they won ‘Best Video of the Year.’ Vedder introduced him to the crowd: “This is Trevor. He lives.” (Note: Sadly, Trevor Wilson died in 2016 at age 36 in a drowning accident in Puerto Rico).

Video Summary: In Pellington’s video, Jeremy is shown being alienated and taunted by classmates at school, running through a forest, and screaming at his parents at a dinner table. Only Jeremy is shown moving in the video; every other character in his life is frozen a series of stationary tableaus. Shots of words depicting others’ presumed descriptions of Jeremy — such as “problem”, “peer”, “harmless”, and “bored” — frequently appear onscreen. Included are two biblical allusions: “the unclean spirit entered”, from Mark 5:13, and “Genesis 3:6”, referencing the creation of sin. As the song becomes more dense and frenetic, Jeremy’s behavior becomes increasingly agitated. Strobe lighting adds to the anxious atmosphere. Jeremy is shown standing, arms raised in a V (as described in the lyrics at the beginning of the song), in front of a wall of billowing flames. Jeremy is later shown staring at the camera while wrapped in an American flag, surrounded by fire.

The final scene of the video shows Jeremy striding into class, tossing an apple to the teacher, and standing before his classmates. He reaches down and draws back his arm as he takes a gun out of his pocket (The gun only appears onscreen in the unedited version of the video). The edited version cuts to an extreme close-up of Jeremy’s face as he puts the barrel of the gun in his mouth, closes his eyes, and pulls the trigger. After a flash of light the screen turns black. The next shot is a pan across the classroom, showing Jeremy’s blood-spattered classmates, all completely still, recoiling in horror. The video ends on a shot of a dangling blackboard, on which all the harsh terms and phrases seen earlier had been scrawled.

Controversy: MTV restrictions on violent imagery prevented Pellington from showing Jeremy putting the gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger at the climax of the video. Ironically, the ambiguous close-up of Jeremy at the end of the edited video, combined with the defensive posture of Jeremy’s classmates and the large amount of blood, led many viewers to believe that the video ended with Jeremy shooting his classmates, not himself. In 1997, Rolling Stone even described the song and video as depicting an unpopular student bringing a gun to class and shooting people.

Pellington himself dismisses this interpretation of the video. He said, “Probably the greatest frustration I’ve ever had is that the ending [of the “Jeremy” video] is sometimes misinterpreted as that he shot his classmates. The idea is, that’s his blood on them, and they’re frozen at the moment of looking.” He had filmed a scene where Jeremy is shown putting the gun in his mouth, but this footage was edited with a zoom effect for the MTV version of the video so the gun was not visible.

After “Jeremy”, Pearl Jam backed away from making music videos. “Ten years from now,” Ament said, “I don’t want people to remember our songs as videos.” The band did not release another video until 1998’s “Do the Evolution”, which was entirely animated.

In 1996, a shooting occurred at Frontier Junior High School in Moses Lake, Washington that left three dead and a fourth injured. The prosecutors for the case said shooter, Barry Loukaitis, was influenced by the edited version of the Pearl Jam music video.

After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, MTV and VH1 rarely aired the video, and mention of it was omitted in retro-documentaries such as I Love the ’90s. It is still available on the internet, on websites such as YouTube. It can also occasionally be seen playing at Hard Rock Cafe locations. The video occasionally airs on MTV Classic. The video was included in MuchMusic’s list of the 12 most controversial videos. The reason was because of the topic of suicide, and recent school shootings. The scene of Jeremy with the gun in his mouth was not shown. It was also included on VH1’s countdown of the “100 Greatest Songs of the ’90s” at number 11, with several clips of the video shown, including part of the ending. The uncensored version of the video was shown as part of the retrospective “Pearl Jam Ten Revisited” on VH1 Classic in 2009 prior to the album’s re-release, including the shot in which Jeremy puts the gun in his mouth.

Here is that classic controversial video:

 

John Barleycorn (Must Die) by Traffic – John Barleycorn is a British folksong (Roud 164). The character of John Barleycorn in the song is a personification of the important cereal crop barley and of the alcoholic beverages made from it, beer and whisky. In the song, John Barleycorn is represented as suffering attacks, death and indignities that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting.

Many versions of the song have been recorded, including a very popular version by the English rock group Traffic, appearing on their 4th studio album John Barleycorn Must Die released in 1970. Traffic was formed in April 1967 by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. They began as a psychedelic rock group and diversified their sound through the use of instruments such as keyboards like the Mellotron and harpsichord, sitar, and various reed instruments, and by incorporating jazz and improvisational techniques in their music. They disbanded in 1969, during which time Steve Winwood joined Blind Faith. Traffic reunited in 1970 to release their critically acclaimed album John Barleycorn Must Die.

This is an incredible live performance of the song (Not sure when or where):

 

Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode” is a 1958 rock-and-roll song written and first recorded by Chuck Berry. The song was a major hit among both black and white audiences, peaking at number 2 on Billboard magazine’s Hot R&B Sides chart and number 8 on its Hot 100 chart.

“Johnny B. Goode” is considered one of the most recognizable songs in the history of popular music. Credited as “the first rock & roll hit about rock & roll stardom,” it has been recorded by many other artists and has received several honors and accolades. The song is also ranked seventh on Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Written by Berry in 1955, the song is about an illiterate “country boy” from the New Orleans area, who plays a guitar “just like ringing a bell,” and who might one day have his “name in lights.” Berry acknowledged that the song is partly autobiographical and that the original lyrics referred to Johnny as a “colored boy”, but he changed it to “country boy” to ensure radio play. As well as suggesting that the guitar player is good, the title hints at autobiographic elements, because Berry was born at 2520 Goode Avenue, in St. Louis. The song was initially inspired by Johnnie Johnson, the regular piano player in Berry’s band, but developed into a song mainly about Berry himself. Johnson played on many other recordings by Berry, but Lafayette Leake played the piano on this song.

Here’s Chuck Berry performing with his very fancy footwork:

 

Junior’s Farm by Paul McCartney & Wings – “Junior’s Farm” is a song written by Paul and Linda McCartney and performed with McCartney’s band Wings. It was a number-three hit single in the United States. It was issued as a non-album single.

The track was engineered by Ernie Winfrey at Soundshop Studios in Nashville, Tennessee in 1974. While recording in Nashville, the band stayed at the Lebanon, Tennessee farm of Curly Putman Jr., which accounts for the song’s title. Jimmy McCullough played the guitar solo as his Wings debut.

 

Levon by Elton John – “Levon” is a song written and recorded by Elton John, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. It was recorded on February 27, 1971, and is from John’s fourth album Madman Across the Water. The song reached number 24 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number six on the Canadian RPM singles chart.

In Susan Black’s book Elton John in His Own Words, Elton says of “Levon”: “It”s about a guy who just gets bored doing the same thing. It’s just somebody who gets bored with blowing up balloons and he just wants to get away from it but he can’t because it’s the family ritual.”

There are some very unusual names in this song, describing three generations. Alvin Tostig is the father of Levon, who has a son named Jesus. There is a lot of speculation that the name Levon came from Levon Helm, the drummer for The Band, but Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin says that he simply made the name up because he likes it, and the song has nothing to do with Helm.

When Rolling Stone asked Taupin about the song in 2013, he insisted that he has no idea what he intended as the meaning. “It was a free-form writing.” he said. “It was just lines that came out that were interesting.”

This is a great example of Taupin’s intricate, nuanced writing style that leads to many different interpretations. For instance, the “cartoon balloons” that Levon blows up all day could be balloons with cartoon characters printed on them, or perhaps something more figurative, like thought bubbles that appear in comic strips, indicating the thoughts that are constantly rising out of his consciousness.

Taupin and John made a great team because Elton could interpret his lyrics very well, giving life to the characters in the songs with a curious ambiguity that encouraged further listens. In many cases, Elton didn’t know what Taupin had in mind when he wrote the lyrics – when asked he would often reply, “you’ll have to ask Bernie.”

Since this runs 5:37, Elton’s record company wanted to cut this down for the single so that more US radio stations would play it. Elton refused, insisting it be released full-length.

The actual New York Times page 1 headline that included the phrase “God Is Dead” is dated March 24, 1968; the full headline read, “‘God Is Dead’ Doctrine Losing Ground to ‘Theology of Hope’.” The phrase also appeared in a major (page 3) article on January 7, 1970. Smaller pieces dated January and April 1966 that feature the phrase in their headings can also be found. None were on Christmas Day, but the January ones are close!

Sir Elton and his partner David Furnish became parents to a son born on Christmas Day 2010 to a surrogate mother in California. They named him Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John. It is assumed the name “Levon” was chosen because of the song’s line, “He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day.”

Here, Elton John performs “Levon” from his 1971 album “Madman Across the Water”. Recorded live at BBC studios for the “Sounds for Saturday” television series on November 11, 1971:

 

Lido Shuffle by Boz Scaggs – “Lido Shuffle” is a song written by Boz Scaggs and David Paich and introduced on the 1976 Boz Scaggs album, Silk Degrees. It was subsequently released as a single in 1977. Released as the album’s fourth single, “Lido Shuffle” reached number 11 in the US and 13 on the UK Singles Chart.

Boz Scaggs wrote this song with David Paich, who was also his co-writer on “Lowdown.” In our 2013 interview with Scaggs, he talked about how the song came about: “‘Lido’ was a song that I’d been banging around. And I kind of stole… well, I didn’t steal anything. I just took the idea of the shuffle. There was a song that Fats Domino did called ‘The Fat Man’ that had a kind of driving shuffle beat that I used to play on the piano, and I just started kind of singing along with it. Then I showed it to Paich and he helped me fill it out. It ended up being ‘Lido Shuffle.'”

The song is about a drifter looking for a big score. Scaggs and Paich were both very good at crafting songs with intriguing storylines using words and phrases that often show up in a lyric: “A tombstone bar,” “makin’ like a beeline…”

The name Lido is very unusual as well. From the perspective of songcraft, it’s very versatile, allowing the singer to get clear vocal sounds and follow with the “whoa-oh-oh-oh” hook. (Kenny Loggins did something similar on his song “Footloose,” writing the character “Milo” into it (“Woah… Milo, come on, come on let’s go”).

The song’s co-writer David Paich played keyboards on this track. Scaggs played guitar, bass was handled by David Hungate, and Jeff Porcaro played drums. Paich, Hungate and Porcaro would soon form the band Toto.

 

Louie Louie by the Kingsmen – “Louie Louie” is an American rhythm and blues song written by R&B singer Richard Berry in 1955. With his group The Pharaohs, he was also the first to record it, and it got some airplay in some cities in the Western US when it was released in 1957. Various garage bands heard it and started covering the song, until it became a phenomena with the Kingsmen’s 1964 version. It has become a standard in pop and rock, with hundreds of versions recorded by different artists. The song was originally written and performed in the style of a Jamaican ballad. Much of the song’s notoriety comes from the indecipherable lyrics, and in Berry’s original version the words are quite clear: It tells, in simple verse–chorus form, the first-person story of a Jamaican sailor who spends three days traveling to return to the island (Jamaica) to see his lady love.

Dwight Rounds, author of The Year the Music Died, 1964-1972, writes: “The words to ‘Louie Louie’ are almost impossible to understand, and are rumored to be obscene. No question that this added significantly to the sales of the single. There was probably a leak somewhere that the lyrics were obscene; otherwise no one would have realized it. This was the most ingenious marketing scheme ever. The FBI tried to track down Richard Berry, The Kingsmen, and various record company executives. They were never able to determine the actual lyrics used. The Kingsmen insisted they said nothing lewd, despite the obvious mistake at the end of the instrumental, where Jack Ely started to sing the last verse one bar too soon, and can be heard yelling something in the background. Ely also said that he sung far away from the microphone, which caused the fuzzy sound, and that the notoriety was initiated by the record company. The words sound much more like the official version seen below, especially the word “rose” instead of “bone.” The lyrics rumor was a sham. The official lyrics are listed below in plain print, with one of the many alternative versions in italics.

Chorus: “Louie, Louie, oh no. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi, I said. Louie Louie, oh baby. Me gotta go.”

“Fine little girl waits for me. Catch a ship across the sea. Sail that ship about, all alone. Never know if I make it home.”

“Three nights and days, I sail the sea.” Every night and day, I play with my thing.

“Think of girl, constantly.” I f–k you girl, oh, all the way.

“Oh that ship, I dream she’s there. On my bed, I’ll lay her there.

“I smell the rose in her hair.” I feel my bone, ah, in her hair.

“See Jamaica, the moon above.” Hey lovemaker, now hold my thing.

“It won’t be long, me see my love.” It won’t take long, so leave it alone.

“Take her in my arms again.” Hey, senorita, I’m hot as hell.

“Tell her I’ll never leave again.” I told her I’d never lay her again.

The FBI launched an extensive investigation into this song after Indiana governor Matthew Welsh declared it “Pornographic” in early 1964 and asked the Indiana Broadcasters Association to ban it. The investigation spanned offices in several states, with technicians listening to the song at different speeds trying to discern any obscene lyrics. None were found; the FBI eventually figured out what happened when they contacted the FCC. The report details this correspondence:

“She explained that for approximately two years her company has been receiving unfounded complaints concerting the recording of ‘Louie Louie.’ She advised that to the best of her knowledge, the trouble was started by an unidentified college student, who made up a series of obscene verses for ‘Louie Louie’ and then sold them to fellow students. It is her opinion that a person can take any 45 r.p.m recording and reduce its speed to 33 r.p.m. and imagine obscene words, depending upon the imagination of the listener.”

Although the Kingsmen’s version was the subject of an FBI investigation about the supposed but nonexistent obscenity of the lyrics and the investigation ended without prosecution, ironically, the song notably includes the drummer yelling “Fuck!” after dropping his drumstick at the 0:54 mark. (Can you hear it?)

“Louie Louie” has been recognized by organizations and publications worldwide for its influence on the history of rock and roll. A partial list includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, National Public Radio, VH1, Rolling Stone, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recording Industry Association of America. In addition to new versions appearing regularly on YouTube and elsewhere, other major examples of the song’s legacy include the unsuccessful attempt in 1985 to make it the state song of Washington, the celebration of International Louie Louie Day every year on April 11, the annual Louie Louie Parade in Philadelphia from 1985 to 1989, the LouieFest in Tacoma from 2003 to 2012, and the ongoing annual Louie Louie Parade and Festival in Peoria. (Interestingly, and apparently, the song became a national hit when a disc jockey in Boston played it and declared that it was the worst song he ever heard).

This song was prominently featured in the film Animal House, starring John Belushi, despite the fact that it wasn’t actually recorded until almost two years after the period of time in which the movie is set (1962). According to Kenny Vance, who was the musical director on Animal House, John Belushi sang in a garage band that used to perform this song at fraternities. Belushi would sing his version of the dirty lyrics, which he did in the studio while recording his vocals for the movie. Sadly, the tape of Belushi singing his dirty version of the song was lost in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy wiped out Kenny’s home in Queens.

 

Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon – “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” is a song by American singer-songwriter Paul Simon. It was the second single from his second self-titled studio album (1972), released on Columbia Records.

I featured this song in a recent Monday’s Music Moves Me post, when the theme was songs that begin with the first letter of your name. I used a different music video in that post and wanted to showcase this official video for the song. Details:

In 1988, Simon released a video for the song to promote his greatest hits compilation Negotiations and Love Songs. The video was filmed at Mathews-Palmer Park in Hell’s Kitchen, which was standing in for Halsey Junior High School in Forest Hills, Queens, the neighborhood in which Simon grew up and met Art Garfunkel in high school. Many of the children featured in the video were from that same school.

It features an introduction by hip hop emcees (and then-fellow Warner Bros. Records label mates) Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie. Main Source member Large Professor also makes a minor cameo towards the end. The video depicts adults interacting with the youth of an inner-city schoolyard. It shows Simon playing basketball and stickball with the children, and it also features basketball player Spud Webb, baseball legend Mickey Mantle, and football coach-commentator John Madden giving tips to young athletes.

 

Ode to Billie Joe by Bobby Gentry – “Ode to Billie Joe” is a 1967 song written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry, a singer-songwriter from Chickasaw County, Mississippi. The single, released in late July, was a number-one hit in the United States, and became a big international seller. Billboard ranked the record as the No. 3 song for 1967 (the other two that year were #2 “The Letter” by the Box Tops and #1 “To Sir With Love” by Lulu). The song is ranked #412 on Rolling Stone’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The recording of “Ode to Billie Joe” generated eight Grammy nominations, resulting in three wins for Gentry and one win for arranger Jimmie Haskell.

This song has an intriguing story: The song is a first-person narrative that reveals a Southern Gothic tale in its verses by including the dialog of the narrator’s family at dinnertime on the day that “Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.” Throughout the song, the suicide and other tragedies are contrasted against the banality of everyday routine and polite conversation.

The song begins with the narrator, her brother and her father returning, after agricultural morning chores, to the family house for dinner (on June 3). After cautioning them about tracking in dirt, “Mama” says that she “got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge” that “Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge,” apparently to his death.

At the dinner table, the narrator’s father is unsurprised at the news and says, “Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o’ sense; pass the biscuits, please” and mentions that there are “five more acres in the lower forty I got to plow.” Although her brother seems to be somewhat taken aback (“I saw him at the sawmill yesterday … And now you tell me Billie Joe has jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”), he’s not shocked enough to forgo a second piece of pie. The brother recalls that while he was with his friends Tom and Billie Joe, they had put a frog down the narrator’s back at the Carroll County Picture Show, and that he had seen her and Billie Joe together last Sunday speaking after church. Late in the song, Mama questions the narrator’s complete change of mood (“Child, what’s happened to your appetite? I been cookin’ all mornin’ and you haven’t touched a single bite”) and then recalls a visit earlier that morning by Brother Taylor, the local preacher, who mentioned that he had seen Billie Joe and a girl who looked very much like the narrator herself and they were “throwin’ somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

In the song’s final verse, a year has passed, during which the narrator’s brother has married Becky Thompson, and moved away (“bought a store in Tupelo”). Also, her father died from a viral infection, which has left her mother despondent. (“And now mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything”.) The narrator herself now visits Choctaw Ridge often, picking flowers there to drop from the Tallahatchie Bridge into the murky waters flowing beneath.

Questions arose among the listeners: what did Billie Joe and his girlfriend throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and why did Billie Joe commit suicide? Speculation ran rampant after the song hit the airwaves, and Gentry said in a November 1967 interview that it was the question most asked of her by everyone she met. She named flowers, an engagement ring, a draft card, a bottle of LSD pills, and an aborted baby as the most often guessed items. Although she knew definitely what the item was, she would not reveal it, saying only “Suppose it was a wedding ring.” “It’s in there for two reasons,” she said. “First, it locks up a definite relationship between Billie Joe and the girl telling the story, the girl at the table. Second, the fact that Billie Joe was seen throwing something off the bridge – no matter what it was – provides a possible motivation as to why he jumped off the bridge the next day.”

When Herman Raucher met Gentry in preparation for writing a novel and screenplay based on the song, she confessed that she had no idea why Billie Joe killed himself. Gentry has, however, commented on the song, saying that its real theme was indifference:

“Those questions are of secondary importance in my mind. The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes. First, the illustration of a group of people’s reactions to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made. Second, the obvious gap between the girl and her mother is shown when both women experience a common loss (first Billie Joe, and later, Papa), and yet Mama and the girl are unable to recognize their mutual loss or share their grief. ”

The bridge mentioned in this song collapsed in June 1972. It crossed the Tallahatchie River at Money, about ten miles north of Greenwood, Mississippi, and has since been replaced. The November 10, 1967 issue of Life Magazine contained a photo of Gentry crossing the original bridge.

In this photograph from the November 10, 1967 issue of Life magazine, Bobbie Gentry strolls across the Tallahatchie Bridge in Money, Mississippi. The bridge collapsed in June 1972.

Recording: “Ode to Billie Joe” was originally intended as the B-side of Gentry’s first single recording, a blues number called “Mississippi Delta”, on Capitol Records. The original recording, with no other musicians backing Gentry’s guitar, had eleven verses lasting seven minutes, telling more of Billie Joe’s story. The executives realized that this song was a better option for a single, so they cut the length by almost half and re-recorded it with a string orchestra. The shorter version left more of the story to the listener’s imagination, and made the single more suitable for radio airplay. The song is noted for its long descending scale by the strings at the conclusion, suggesting the flowers falling after being dropped off the Tallahatchie Bridge and ending up in the river water below.

Adaptations: The song’s popularity proved so enduring that in 1976, nine years after its release, Warner Bros. commissioned author Herman Raucher to adapt it into a novel and screenplay, Ode to Billy Joe. The poster’s tagline, which treats the film as being based on a true story and even gives a date of death for Billy (June 3, 1953), led many to believe that the song was based on actual events. In Raucher’s novel and screenplay, Billy Joe kills himself after a drunken homosexual experience, and the object thrown from the bridge is the narrator’s ragdoll. The film was released in 1976, directed and produced by Max Baer, Jr, and starring Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor. Only the first, second, and fifth verses were sung by Bobbie Gentry in the film, omitting the third and fourth verses.

In the novel, the ragdoll is the central character’s confidant and advisor. Tossing him off the bridge symbolizes throwing away her childhood, becoming a self-contained adult.

Billy Joe’s story is analyzed in Professor John Howard’s history of gay Mississippi entitled Men Like That: A Queer Southern History as an archetype of what Howard calls the “gay suicide myth”.

Cultural Impact: Soon after the song’s chart success, the Tallahatchie Bridge saw an increase in those willing to jump off of it. Since the bridge height is only 20 feet, death or injury was unlikely. To curb the trend, the Leflore County Board enacted a law fining jumpers $100.

Do you remember this song and did you have questions regarding the characters and why Billie Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge?

Here Bobbie Gentry sings her hit song, “Ode To Billie Joe,” on The Andy Williams Show, February 13, 1971

 

The Ballad of Curtis Lowe by Lynyrd Skynyrd – “The Ballad of Curtis Loew” is a song written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant and recorded by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was first released on the band’s 1974 album, Second Helping and again on their compilation, The Essential Lynyrd Skynyrd and later on All Time Greatest Hits. It is on many of their compilation albums and before the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash, was performed once live on stage. Ed King says, “The original version of the band only played ‘Curtis Loew’ one time on stage. We were playing in a basement in some hotel and thought we’d try it. We never played it again until the Tribute Tour with Johnny Van Zant.”

A young boy wakes up “before the rooster crows” and searches for soda bottles to cash in to give some money to a man named Curtis Loew, who buys wine and plays his Dobro guitar “across his knees” for the boy all day. Curtis is described as a “black man with white curly hair” who “looked to be sixty”. The boy idolizes Curtis, returning to him, despite receiving beatings from his mama, to hear the old man play and clap along. The boy recalls “people said he [Curtis] was useless. Them people all were fools.” He professes Curtis to be “the finest picker to ever play the blues”. When Curtis eventually dies, the boy notes that nobody “came to pray”. The song ends with a lament to Curtis: “I wish that you was here so everyone would know.”

Origin: The band’s website says that the song is based on a composite of people who actually lived in the Van Zants’ original neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida.

Curtis Loew is not the name of an actual person from Ronnie Van Zant’s life. Rather, Curtis Loew is a composite of different people, including Skynyrd lead guitarist Ricky Medlocke’s grandfather, Shorty Medlocke. Contrary to the song’s lyrics, Shorty was not black.

The country store “is based on Claude’s Midway Grocery on the corner of Plymouth and Lakeshore [Blvd] in Jacksonville.” The business has since been renamed Sunrise Food Store, but still occupies the same location.

The specific spelling of the surname comes from Ed King writing the liner notes for the Second Helping and deciding to name the bluesman after the Jewish Loew’s Theatre.

Here’s Lynryd Skynyrd performing the song Live at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky in 2007:

 

The Jack by AC/DC – Well, Jack is a boy’s name (which is why I included it, and also because I really like it) but this song isn’t about a boy. It’s about an STD.

This song is about a venereal disease – “The Jack” is Australian slang for Gonorrhea, which is also known as “The Clap.” AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott explained the origin of the song in a 1976 interview with Sounds. Said Scott: “We were living with this houseful of ladies who were all very friendly and everyone in the band had got the jack. So we wrote this song and the first time we did it on stage they were all in the front row with no idea what was goin’ to happen. When it came to repeatin’ ‘She’s got the jack’ I pointed at them one after another.” Added guitarist Angus Young: “After that, wherever we did the song the girls in the audience would run to the back of the hall.”

Bon Scott was known for his outrageous behavior both on and off stage. He told this story in the same Sounds interview:

“One time I had the jack and this girl wanted f–kin’ and she was so ugly I figured, shit! Nobody else would have her so she wouldn’t spread it. But when we’d finished she went next door to Phil (Rudd, their drummer) and gave it to him. And a few weeks later she sent him a doctor’s bill for 35 dollars for the cure. Well, next time she came to a show I got her up on stage in the middle of ‘The Jack’ and explained how she’d got it wrong and it was me owed her the money.” On mike that was.

AC/DC takes the music in their songs much more seriously than their lyrics. They would often finish songs by writing lyrics that amuse them, and this is a good example of that technique.

And this song is a red-flag warning of the consequences of being a promiscuous groupie!

The video below is of AC/DC Live at the Pavillion De Paris on December 9, 1979, during the tour that would be singer Bon Scott’s last. Bon Scott was AC/DC’s lead singer and lyricist from 1974 until his death in 1980. AC/DC’s popularity grew throughout the 1970s, initially in Australia, and then internationally. Their 1979 album Highway to Hell reached the top twenty in the United States, and the band seemed on the verge of a commercial breakthrough. However, on February 19, 1980, Scott died after a night out in London. AC/DC briefly considered disbanding, but the group recruited vocalist Brian Johnson of the British glam rock band Geordie. AC/DC’s subsequent album, Back in Black, was released only five months later, and was a tribute to Scott. It went on to become the second best-selling album in history.

Details of Bon Scott’s death: On February 19, 1980, Scott, 33, passed out after a night of heavy drinking in a London club called the Music Machine (currently known as KOKO). He was left to sleep in a Renault 5 owned by an acquaintance named Alistair Kinnear, at 67 Overhill Road in East Dulwich. The following morning, Kinnear found Scott lifeless, and alerted the authorities. Scott was rushed to King’s College Hospital in Camberwell, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. It has been contended that pulmonary aspiration of vomit was the cause of Scott’s death, but the official cause was listed on the death certificate as “acute alcohol poisoning” and classified as “death by misadventure.”

In the July 2004 issue of Classic Rock, Scott was rated as number one in a list of the “100 Greatest Frontmen Of All Time” ahead of Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant. Hit Parader ranked Scott as fifth on their 2006 list of the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Vocalists of all time.

Watch Bon Scott’s final performance of The Jack:

 

Timothy by The Buoys – “Timothy” is a song written by Rupert Holmes and recorded by The Buoys in 1970, presenting the unnerving story of three men trapped in a collapsed mine, two of whom apparently resort to cannibalism against the third (the eponymous character Timothy). The song managed to reach the U.S. Billboard Top 40 chart on April 17, 1971, remaining on the chart for eight weeks, peaking at #17, as listed in The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn. On the U.S. Cash Box Top 100, it spent two weeks at #13. In Canada, the song reached #9.

This song has an interesting story: According to his own account, Holmes and a colleague had discovered the Buoys and convinced Scepter Records to sign them to a one-single contract. Since the deal did not call for the label to promote the single, the band would have to find some other way to get themselves and their song noticed. Holmes suggested a novel solution to this problem: to purposefully record a song likely to be banned, thus generating publicity for the Buoys under the time-honored axiom that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Holmes has cited the country song “Sixteen Tons” (a 1947 song about the hard life of a coal miner) and the 1959 film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play Suddenly, Last Summer (which also contains allusions to cannibalism) as inspirations for “Timothy.” He decided to combine the themes of those two works into a ballad of three miners—Timothy, Joe and the singer—trapped by a cave-in, sung in the first person from the perspective of one of the miners. By the time they’re rescued, only two of them remain. Although the fate of the missing man, Timothy, is never explicitly revealed, it is strongly implied by the fact that the two survivors, once hungry and with no access to food and only enough water for two people, show no sign of hunger when they’re rescued. Indeed, the singer’s “stomach was full as it could be;” how they found food, however, is purposely left blank, and the singer has blacked out the experience leaving him unable to recall how they found food or what happened to Timothy (the lyrics make it clear he suspects he and Joe ate Timothy; “God, why don’t I know?!”). To make the song appealing to listeners, Holmes disguised the borderline-gruesome lyrics to a degree by juxtaposing them against a light, bouncy melody with heavy emphasis on brass and string accompaniment. Although not an official member of the band, Holmes did play piano on this song in addition to writing it.

“Timothy” attracted little attention when it was first released, in large part because Scepter Records did not promote the record. Soon, however, it became popular among young listeners who were able to deduce Timothy’s fate from the lyrics. Only as the song became more frequently requested did radio stations begin to take note of the song and its unsettling subject matter. Then, just as Holmes and the Buoys had expected, the song started getting banned.

Under normal circumstances, a radio ban would be considered the “kiss of death” for a single’s prospects on the Billboard music charts, which at that time were based heavily on radio airplay. Yet “Timothy” had already attracted such a great following that as some radio stations banned the song, competing stations would pick it up to meet the demand. As a result, instead of dropping off as expected, the song continued slowly moving up the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Once they realized they had a hit record on their hands, Scepter Records executives tried to claim that Timothy was really a mule, not a person, in order to get radio stations that had banned the song to reconsider. When asked about this claim, however, Holmes refused to play along with the Scepter executives. Even so, “Timothy” kept climbing the chart, finally peaking at #17. Holmes’ entrepreneurial approach to songwriting had worked better than he, the Buoys, or Scepter Records ever expected. To appease the stations that banned the song, Scepter created two promotional singles with the original version on the A-sides and one of two differently edited versions on the B-sides. One edit revises the lyric “My stomach was full as it could be” to “Both of us fine as we could be”. The second version includes the “stomach” lyric but bleeps out the word “hell” in the second verse.

The success of “Timothy” and its writer’s methods may have worked too well for the Buoys’ sake. Although Scepter did re-sign the band to record an album, they were left with the problem of how to follow up on a hit song as unusual as “Timothy”. Ultimately the Buoys proved unable to duplicate that feat, although they did manage one more minor hit with “Give Up Your Guns” (also co-written by Holmes) before disbanding; two of the members of the Buoys went on to form Dakota, a band that had a modest following in the 1980s. Meanwhile, Holmes himself continued his career as a songwriter and, by the end of the decade, also as a successful recording artist in his own right, having two top-ten hits in “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” in late 1979 and “Him” in 1980.

 

Uncle Albert, Admiral Halsey by Paul McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is a song by Paul and Linda McCartney from the album Ram. Released in the United States as a single on August 2, 1971, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 4 September 1971, making it the first of a string of post-Beatles, McCartney-penned singles to top the US pop chart during the 1970s and 1980s. Billboard ranked the song as number 22 on its Top Pop Singles of 1971 year-end chart. It became McCartney’s first gold record as a solo artist.

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is composed of several unfinished song fragments that McCartney stitched together similar to the medleys from the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. In the later years of The Beatles, they did this a lot as a way to put unfinished songs to good use.

For this song, McCartney combined pieces of various unfinished songs and as a result his creation “Uncle Albert – Admiral Halsey” contains 12 different sections over the course of its 4:50 running time. This jumble of musical textures, comic character voices, sound effects and changing tempos turned off a lot of listeners, but many others thought it was brilliant.

The song is especially notable for its sound effects, including the sounds of a thunderstorm, with rain, heard between the first and second verses, the sound of a telephone ringing and a message machine, heard after the second verse, and the sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda’s voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the “Admiral Halsey” portion of the song.

McCartney said “Uncle Albert” was based on his uncle. Albert was Albert Kendall, who married Paul’s aunt Milly (becoming “Uncle Albert”) and provided inspiration for a portion of this song suite. Albert had a habit of getting drunk and reading from The Bible; the only time he read from the Bible was when he was drinking. “He’s someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming it was like a nostalgia thing.” McCartney also said, “As for Admiral Halsey, he’s one of yours, an American admiral”, referring to Fleet Admiral William “Bull” Halsey (1882–1959). McCartney has described the “Uncle Albert” section of the song as an apology from his generation to the older generation, and Admiral Halsey as an authoritarian figure who ought to be ignored.

Paul McCartney won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971 for the song. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies. On the US charts, the song set a songwriting milestone as the all-time songwriting record (at the time) for the most consecutive calendar years to write a #1 song. This gave McCartney eight consecutive years (starting with “I Want to Hold Your Hand”), leaving behind Lennon with only seven years. The song wasn’t released as a single in the UK, but in America it became McCartney’s first #1 hit as a solo artist.

Similar to the song being a stitched string of fragments, this video follows in the same vein with snippets and pieces of Paul and Linda McCartney’s family life:

 

Vincent by Don McLean – “Vincent” is a song by Don McLean written as a tribute to Vincent van Gogh. It is also known by its opening line, “Starry Starry Night”, a reference to Van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. The song also describes different paintings done by the artist. It was created on the 100th anniversary of the midpoint of Van Gogh’s life.

McLean wrote the lyrics in 1971 after reading a book about the life of the artist. The following year, the song became the number one hit in the UK Singles Chart and No. 12 in the US. Coincidentally, it spent 12 weeks on the Hot 100. In the US, “Vincent” also peaked at number two on the Easy Listening chart. Billboard ranked it as the No. 94 song for 1972.

The song makes use of the accordion, vibraphone, strings, and guitar.

The fabulous art-filled video features Don McLean’s “Starry, Starry Night” set to a slideshow of Vincent Van Gogh paintings. Enjoy!

In 2000, PBS aired Don McLean: Starry, Starry Night, a concert special that was filmed in Austin, Texas.

 

You Don’t Mess Around with Jim by Jim Croce – “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” is a 1972 single by Jim Croce from his album of the same name. The song was also Croce’s debut single when it was released in June 1972 on ABC Records as ABC-11328. The song first aired on KHJ 930 AM in Los Angeles when ABC Records promotion man Marty Kupps took the single to the radio station where it appeared on the KHJ “30” chart at number 27 during the week of June 6th 1972. After spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song reached a peak of #8 the week ending Sept. 9, 1972. Croce performed the song on American Bandstand on Aug. 12, 1972. Billboard ranked it as the No. 68 song for 1972.

This song was Croce’s first single. After several years struggling for success and battling music industry politics, the song got the promotion it deserved when rep at ABC/Dunhill named Matty Singer visited radio stations in the Philadelphia area to promote the song. It got solid airplay and national attention, which was followed by lots of positive press for the album. You Don’t Mess Around With Jim wasn’t released until nine months after it had been recorded, so Croce and his musical partner Maury Muehleisen had perfected the songs in performance. When critics saw the show, they usually had very nice things to say in their reviews.

The lyrics to “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim” are set at an underground pool hall on 42nd Street in New York City. “Big” Jim Walker, a pool hustler who is not too bright but is respected because of his tough reputation, his considerable strength and size, and his skill at pool, has formed a sort of gang of “bad folks” who regularly gather at night in the pool hall. Their recurring word of advice is as follows:

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape

You don’t spit into the wind

You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger

And you don’t mess around with Jim

A fellow pool player named Willie “Slim” McCoy comes from south Alabama to the pool hall to get his money back from Jim after being hustled out of it the previous week. When Jim comes in, McCoy ambushes and kills him, stabbing him in “about a hundred places” (to the point where “the only part that wasn’t bloody was the soles of [his] feet”) and shooting him “in a couple more”. It is implied that McCoy now has his money back as well as the respect formerly granted to Jim, and the regulars at the pool hall have now changed their advice to strangers: “You don’t mess around with Slim”.

The song is noted for its spoken recitation, which is heard following the third verse and chorus:

Yeah, Big Jim got his hat

Find out where it’s at

And it’s not hustlin’ people strange to you

Even if you do got a two-piece custom-made pool cue

This is followed by the repeat of the Chorus and the repeated Coda before the song’s fade.

(Croce tells a similar story— a much-feared tough guy who gets his comeuppance from someone even tougher— in his later hit single “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”).

So how did Croce come up with these lyrical stories? They’re based on actual people that Jim knew, according to Ingrid Croce, his wife at the time:

The “Jim” in this song is not Croce. Ingrid Croce, who was married to Jim at the time of his death in 1973, told Songfacts: “Jim (Croce) sold air time for a radio station. When he got out of college, his parents wanted him to get a good 9-to-5 job. We had always intended to do music, but he’d had a college education and the first to graduate from his family with a college education, they wanted him to become a professional, to really do something that would get pension, and good solid work. So Jim went out, because we were married, and he got a job helping me to get through school at the time, and he started selling air time in a really shady area down in south and west Philadelphia. He used to go to some of these pool halls to sell the air time, because it wasn’t a very good neighborhood. He would sit there and watch the pool games and see what people were doing, and he ended up with a guy named Jim Walker, who was one of the guys who used to play pool there. And that’s really the story behind it, he used to hang out at any of those little shops down on South Street and down in west Philly where it really was quite unacceptable for him to be trying to sell air time down there, but it was one of those things where he was hoping someday he could actually bring his music to the radio, so he thought it might be a good way to get going as a salesman. Then later he met a guy whose name was Melvin Goldfield, and Melvin was an artist, and he grew up in areas like that, and Melvin used to take him down to the dumps down in south Philadelphia and tell him about all kinds of stories that went on down there, and introduced him to a lot of the guys. Jim actually did run into this guy, Big Jim Walker, pool-shootin’ son of a gun. And so that story really comes out of an experience that he kind of put the story together.”

For Jim Croce, the touring life meant mostly one small college campus after another. When he was killed at age 30 on September 20, 1973 in Natchitoches, Louisiana, he was doing what he had done many times before – taking off at night in a light plane from a small airstrip. The plane snagged in a treetop at the end of the dim runway outside Natchitoches, and sent 30-year-old Jim and five others to their deaths. Maury Muehleisen, Jim’s lead guitarist and constant companion, also died in the crash. The tree Jim Croce’s plane crashed into after leaving a gig at Northwestern College is gone, but Highway 1 takes you right to the end of the runway where the tragic incident occurred. Address: Natchitoches Regional Airport, Hwy 1, Natchitoches, LA.

Croce’s death left his wife Ingrid Croce very much alone. She had already lost both her parents, and after Jim’s fatal accident at age 26, she was instantly transformed into a single mother and thrust into 12 years of litigation to retrieve the right to her husband’s royalties. Two years later her only son, Adrian James, suffered a neurological disease that left him with limited eyesight, and her own singing career was dashed when surgery damaged her vocal cords.

Ingrid Croce became a very effective businesswoman, opening two restaurants and three bars in the Gaslamp district of San Diego, including one named Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar. A giant mural portrait of Jim Croce takes up the back wall of that restaurant, and Ingrid says it serves as an inspiration to her “To build a community for me and Jim’s memories.”

Jim’s son Adrian Croce also became a musician. A singer, songwriter and pianist, he specializes in an up-tempo brand of Jazz. (thanks, Kain – Charleston, SC)

 

There you have my spotlight of Boy Names in the Title songs. Do you have a favorite in the mix I put together? Do you like learning the stories behind songs? Were you surprised by any of the background facts that were presented? 

For a LONG Block of 44 of my favorite Boy Name Songs, click on the full playlist below. Crank it up and 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.

 

 

 

Monday’s Music Moves Me: Artist Spotlight on Gordon Lightfoot

This is a freebie week in the Monday’s Music Moves Me blog hop which means we are free to do anything we want with the music post. I decided to shine a spotlight on Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. 

Following is a bit of background on the man and his music, along with a few of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs. They may be your favorites too as they were his biggest hits in the 1970s.

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. CC OOnt (born November 17, 1938) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music and has been credited for helping define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s. He has been referred to as Canada’s greatest songwriter and internationally as a folk-rock legend.

He experienced chart success in Canada with his own recordings, beginning in 1962 with the No. 3 hit “(Remember Me) I’m the One.” Lightfoot’s recordings then made an impact on the international music charts as well in the 1970s, with songs such as “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970) — his first U.S. top 10 hit reaching #5. “Sundown” (1974) a #1 hit, “Carefree Highway” (1974) which followed reaching #10, “Rainy Day People (1975) at #25, and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976) (No. 2, Hot 100).

The 1970s is the decade that I’m most familiar with in terms of Gordon Lightfoot music. His music career has spanned more than five decades, producing more than 200 recordings. Lightfoot band members have displayed loyalty to him, as both musicians and friends, recording and performing with him for as many as 45 years. That speaks volumes about his character as a person, in my opinion. That’s a lot of loyalty in what is often a very fickle industry.

He helped define the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s, with his songs recorded by artists such as Bob Dylan, Gene Clark, Dan Fogelberg, Jimmy Buffett, and Jim Croce. Robbie Robertson of The Band described Lightfoot as “a national treasure.” Bob Dylan, also a Lightfoot fan, called him one of his favorite songwriters. Lightfoot has acknowledged Bob Dylan as being one of his primary influences and Dylan, besides being a friend of Lightfoot’s, is also a true admirer. In 1985 Dylan wrote in the liner notes to his Biograph box set, ‘Gordon Lightfoot, every time I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever.’

Gordon Lightfoot has had an incredible and prolific career, winning an impressive amount of awards and honors, including sixteen Juno Awards (nine for Top Songwriter, five for Top Male Vocalist and two for Composer of the Year), four ASCAP awards for songwriting and he was also nominated for five Grammy Awards, plus so many more awards. You can read about his extensive and illustrious career at his Wikipedia page and at Lightfoot!, the most complete source of Gordon Lightfoot information online and the most up to date new concert listings.

Fun Fact: In February 2010, Gordon Lightfoot was the victim of a death hoax originating from Twitter, when then-CTV journalist David Akin posted on Twitter and Facebook that Lightfoot had died. Lightfoot was at a dental appointment at the time the rumors spread and found out when listening to the radio on his drive home. Lightfoot dispelled those rumors by phoning Charles Adler of CJOB, the DJ and radio station he heard reporting his demise, and did an interview expressing that he was alive and well. That has to be freaky, driving along and hearing a news report stating that you’re dead! Do you remember that happening a few years ago?

The following are my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs:

If You Could Read My Mind – This song reached number one on Canadian music charts and was Lightfoot’s first recording to appear on the American music charts, reaching number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in February 1971. Later in the year it reached number 30 in the UK. The song also reached number one for one week on the Billboard Easy Listening chart.

Lightfoot has cited his divorce for inspiring the lyrics, saying they came to him as he was sitting in a vacant Toronto house one summer. At the request of his daughter, Ingrid, he performs the lyrics with a slight change now: the line “I’m just trying to understand the feelings that you lack” is altered to “I’m just trying to understand the feelings that we lack.” He has said in an interview that the difficulty with writing songs inspired by personal stories is that there is not always the emotional distance and clarity to make lyrical improvements such as the one his daughter suggested.

In 1987 Lightfoot took a lawsuit out against the writer of “The Greatest Love of All”, alleging plagiarism of 24 bars of “If You Could Read My Mind”. Lightfoot has stated that he dropped the lawsuit when he felt it was having a negative effect on the singer Whitney Houston, as the lawsuit was about the writer and not her.

 

Sundown – “Sundown” is Lightfoot’s one and only #1 hit in the U.S. It was released as a single in March 1974 and reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts and No. 13 on the Hot Country Singles chart. As well it was No. 1 in Canada on RPM’s national singles chart.

The song’s lyrics describe a troubled romantic relationship, with the narrator recounting an affair with a “hard-loving woman [who’s] got me feeling mean.” There are rumors that “Sundown” was inspired by Lightfoot’s then girlfriend, Cathy Smith, later more infamously known for her involvement in the 1982 drug-related death of actor John Belushi. Lightfoot has commented in interviews that Smith was “the one woman in my life who most hurt me”.

Here’s Gordon on The Midnight Special (probably in the year 1974):

 

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – a song written, composed, and performed by Gordon Lightfoot to commemorate the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald during a severe storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, resulting in the loss of all 29 crew members.

Lightfoot stated that in the original newspaper article he saw after the Edmund Fitzgerald sank, the name ‘Edmund’ was spelled incorrectly as ‘Edmond’. He thought at the time that those men deserved a fitting and accurate tribute and if not for that misspelling he may not have felt compelled to write the song.

In late November 1975 Lightfoot read a Newsweek magazine article about the loss of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. He drew his inspiration from this article, entitled “The Cruelest Month” which was published in Newsweek’s November 24, 1975 issue. Most of the lyrics in his song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” released the following year, were based on facts in the article.

He wrote the song over three days in November 1975, finishing it around noon of the third day. He went straight to the studio that afternoon and recorded it on the first take. Lightfoot considers this song to be his finest work. He continues his practice of meeting privately with the family members of the men who perished in the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking when his touring schedule allows.

Appearing originally on Lightfoot’s 1976 album Summertime Dream, the single version hit number 1 in his native Canada (in the RPM national singles survey) on November 20, 1976, barely a year after the disaster. In the United States, it reached number 1 in Cashbox and number 2 for two weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 (behind Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s The Night”), making it Lightfoot’s second-most-successful single behind “Sundown”. Overseas it was at best a minor hit, peaking at number 40 in the UK Singles Chart.

 

Carefree Highway – “Carefree Highway” is a song written by Gordon Lightfoot and was the second single release from his 1974 album, Sundown. The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent one week at #1 on the Easy Listening chart in October 1974.

It’s a song about the freedom of the open road. The song’s name comes from a section of Arizona State Route 74 in north Phoenix. Said Lightfoot, “I thought it would make a good title for a song. I wrote it down, put it in my suitcase and it stayed there for eight months.” The song employs “Carefree Highway” as a metaphor for the state of mind where the singer seeks escape from his ruminations over a long ago failed affair with a woman named Ann. Lightfoot has stated that Ann actually was the name of a woman Lightfoot romanced when he was age 22: “It [was] one of those situations where you meet that one woman who knocks you out and then leaves you standing there and says she’s on her way.”

 

Those are my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs and are part of the soundtrack of my life. The following two songs I just came across while putting together this artist spotlight. Both are powerful in their message.

Black Day in July – This song is about the 1967 Detroit riot, also known as the Detroit Race Riots (or the 12th Street Rioting) that erupted in July 1967. Forty-three people died in the riots.

The 1967 Detroit riot was a violent public disorder that turned into a civil disturbance in Detroit, Michigan. It began in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 23, 1967. The precipitating event was a police raid of an unlicensed, after-hours bar then known as a blind pig (this is a new term to me; I’ve never heard a speakeasy referred to as a ‘blind pig.’ Have you?), just north of the corner of 12th Street (today Rosa Parks Boulevard) and Clairmount Avenue on the city’s Near West Side. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in the history of the United States, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit’s 1943 race riot.

To help end the disturbance, Governor George W. Romney ordered the Michigan Army National Guard into Detroit, and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The result was 43 dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,200 arrests, and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. The scale of the riot was surpassed in the United States only by the 1863 New York City draft riots during the American Civil War and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. The riot was prominently featured in the news media, with live television coverage, extensive newspaper reporting, and extensive stories in Time and Life magazines. The staff of the Detroit Free Press won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for general local reporting for its coverage.

Several songs directly refer to the riot. The most prominent was “Black Day in July”, written and sung by Gordon Lightfoot for his 1968 album Did She Mention My Name? Others include “Motor City Is Burning”, from the MC5’s 1969 album Kick Out the Jams; “Panic in Detroit”, from David Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane; and the title track from Detroit producer and DJ Moodymann’s 2008 EP Det.riot ’67, which sampled audio recordings from news reels talking about the riot.

Here’s a sobering video with historical footage of that event and its aftermath as a backdrop to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Black Day in July”:

 

Ode to Big Blue – a song about the plight and widespread killing of blue whales. “Ode to Big Blue” tells the legend of a great whale who lost his whole family to hunters, but died a natural death. It also makes a statement about whaling: “They’ve been taken by the men for the money they can spend; and the killing never ends, it just goes on.”

Many whales are near the point of extinction yet many countries still continue to hunt them. Some of the history of the whaling industry is depicted in this video. It’s a haunting song for sure.

 

That’s it for my Artist Spotlight. For a continuous block of Gordon Lightfoot, I’ve put together a 10-song playlist, including the ones presented above plus the following: Beautiful, Early Morning Rain, Rainy Day People and The Pony Man. 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.