Live 1973. This song is about life on the road, and the rigors musicians face when they're touring. It presents the other side of fame which the public doesn't see - the loneliness and aggravation. Seger wrote the song in what for him, was an unusual way. He told Music Connection: "I hardly ever wrote on the road. I was more of a field general, and there wasn't a lot of time for writing on the road back then. The only two songs that I can think of that I wrote on the road are 'Night Moves' and 'Turn The Page,' but those were basically cases of getting an outline of verses over three-hour periods. The songs weren't totally finished until I had a week or two off the road to really knuckle down on them."
Seger explained: "Our first headline shows ever in a large (twelve thousand seat) hall were the two shows at Detroit's Cobo Arena, September 4th and 5th, 1975. I remember while I was singing this how nice it was to have such good on-stage monitors. I had never heard my voice so well while performing." The version on Seger's greatest hits album was taken from these shows.
Seger suffers from tinnitus, which is a ringing in the ears caused by exposure to loud volumes. This explains the line, "Later in the evening when you lie awake in bed with the echo from the amplifiers ringing in your head."
9/10/1973 - Grand Opera House. This became the anthem song for The Marshall Tucker Band, similar to "Free Bird" for Lynyrd Skynyrd. It was never a Top 40 hit, but was very popular on Album Oriented Radio (AOR) and continues to get a lot of airplay on Classic Rock stations. The open in unusual - it starts with the picking of a guitar and the playing of a flute. Jerry Eubanks of the Marshall Tucker Band played the flute, giving the song a very distinctive sound - it's not a common instrument in the world of Southern Rock.
There is no Marshall Tucker in The Marshall Tucker Band. They saw the name on a key ring where they used to rehearse and decided it would make a good name for their band.
Said the site, "Next time you hear this song in public, take notice and you'll make the strangest observation, especially if there is booze involved. There seems to be something about this particular song that makes the majority (very ironically) close their eyes and sway their head from left to right while singing the song's famous 'Can't you see' line. That universal connection earns this song the top spot on our Southern Rock songs list."
Live 9/10/1973 - Grand Opera House. This was Gregg Allman's signature song, describing how he continued on in the face of obstacles. He wrote the song, but shared the songwriting credit with Kim Payne, a roadie for the band who came up with the classic line, "The road goes on forever." After he wrote this song, Gregg Allman wanted to start recording it right away, so with the help of Kim Payne, who was guarding their equipment, he broke into the band's Macon, Georgia recording studio in the middle of the night and went to work, figuring he should get some tracks down before he forgot them.
This first appeared on the second Allman Brothers album, Idlewild South, but it wasn't released as a single. The song became a live favorite and one very identifiable with Gregg, so when he recorded his first solo album, Laid Back, in 1973, he recorded a new version of this song and released it as a single. It became his biggest hit as a solo artist, charting at #19 US.
A 1976 reggae version by the Jamaican singer Paul Davidson reached #10 in the UK.
This song can be heard in the movie Unbreakable when Bruce Willis's character is lifting weights.
In 2013, this was used by Geico in a commercial for their motorcycle insurance. The spot, titled "Money Man," shows a rider literally made of money cruising while the song plays. The Allman Brothers are certainly popular with the biker crowd, but those familiar with the band found the ad in poor taste, as both Duane Allman and Berry Oakley died in motorcycle accidents.
On June 7, 2017, Jason Aldean, Darius Rucker, Derek Trucks and Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum paid tribute to Gregg Allman, who died on May 27, by opening the CMT Music Awards with a performance of this song.
Live 1987. Sonny Bono was an up-and-coming record producer when he got Cher a job with Phil Spector as a session singer. They started dating and moved in to their manager's house, where Bono would write songs on a piano in the garage. He came up with "I Got You Babe" and wrote the lyrics on a piece of cardboard. Cher didn't like it at first. She recalled to Billboard magazine: "Sonny woke me up in the middle of the night to come in where the piano was, in the living room, and sing it. And I didn't like it and just said, 'OK, I'll sing it and then I'm going back to bed.'"
Sonny changed the key in the bridge to fit her voice and she loved it.Depending on what side of the fence you stand, this is either a beautiful love song or pure schmaltz. To Sonny Bono, it was sincere - an earnest declaration of commitment and support. "The lyrics of my songs are very important to me," he told the New Musical Express in 1966. "I never write anything until that very moment when I feel the emotion conveyed in the words I write. I know what it is like to be kicked around because you dress differently. I know what it is like to see the girl you love hurt because a hotel refuses you admission because of your dress. I know what it is like to have that one person stand by you. There are a lot of other people who have experienced these things and I'm trying to put our feelings into words for everyone."Ahmet Ertegun, who was the boss at the duo's label Atco Records, didn't think much of this song, so he planned to issue it on the B-side of "It's Gonna Rain." Bono was sure "I Got You Babe" was the hit, but he couldn't convince Ertegun.
This was an era when disc jockeys could overrule record executives when it came to airplay, so Bono brought a copy of "I Got You Babe" to the Los Angeles radio station KHJ, and made a deal with their program director, Ron Jacobs. If Jacobs played the song once an hour, he could have it exclusively. When KHJ started playing it, the song got a great reaction, leading Ertegun to issue it as the A-side.
From THE DICK CAVETT SHOW. September 18, 1972. The lyrics were written sometime in the 1890's by a Wellesley College English professor named Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote it as a poem. In 1926, the poem was combined with the music of a hymn written by Samuel Ward called "Materna" for a contest by the National Federation of Music Clubs.A lot of artists have recorded this, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, but Charles' version is the most famous.
Bates was inspired by the beauty of nature during a lecture tour in Colorado Springs. She recalled just before her death in 1929: "One day, some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there."
She continued: "We stood at last on that Gate-of-Heaven summit, hallowed by the worship of perished races, and gazed in wordless rapture over the far expanse... It was then and there, as I was looking out over the sea-like expanse of fertile country spreading away so far under those ample skies, that the opening lines of the hymn floated into my mind."
Live 1987. This is probably Toto's most famous song, but their guitarist Steve Lukather would like you to know that there is much more to the band: Toto were top studio musicians before forming the group, and known as some of the best in the business. Lukather told Rock's Backpages: "A lot of people categorize us as 'that 'Africa' or 'Rosanna' band,' and I hate that s--t. We have a lot more substance than that. Don't get me wrong - those songs have been great to us, but you really don't understand the depth of the band if that's all you know.This song tells the story of a man who comes to Africa and must make a decision about the girl who comes to see him. He is enamored with the country, but must leave if he is going to be with her.
Toto keyboard player David Paich wrote the song, and explained in the liner notes of Toto's Best Ballads compilation: "At the beginning of the '80s I watched a late night documentary on TV about all the terrible death and suffering of the people in Africa. It both moved and appalled me and the pictures just wouldn't leave my head. I tried to imagine how I'd feel about if I was there and what I'd do." Paich had never been to Africa when he wrote the song.
With introspective lyrics like, "I seek to cure what's deep inside, frightened of this thing that I've become," we wondered if this song involved a bit of personal reflection. Turned out, it did. In our interview with David Paich, he explained: "There's a little metaphor involved here, because I was at the age where I was so immersed in my work, 24/7, that at times I felt like I was becoming just a victim of my work. There was a little bit of autobiographical information in there: being consumed by my work, not having time to go out and pursue getting married and raising a family and doing all the things that other people do that were my age at the time."In an article in Time magazine, an unidentified group member said they were looking for a song just to close off the album and did not think "Africa" would do as well as it did. They also mentioned that if you listen closely during the lyrics "catch some waves," you can hear some of them singing "catch some rays."
Live 1969. This is an antiestablishment song of defiance and blue-collar pride, both anti-Washington and against the Vietnam War. John Fogerty and Doug Clifford both enlisted in the Army Reserves in 1966 (to avoid being drafted and shipped to Vietnam) and were discharged in 1968 after serving their military commitments. "The song speaks more to the unfairness of class than war itself," Fogerty said. "It's the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them."
This is one of three political songs on the Willy And The Poorboys album. The others were "It Came From the Sky" and "Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me)."
Richard Nixon was president of the US when group leader John Fogerty wrote this song. Fogerty was not a fan of Nixon and felt that people close to the president were receiving preferential treatment.
This song spoke out against the war in Vietnam, but was supportive of the soldiers fighting there. Like many CCR fans, most of the soldiers came from the working class, and were there because they didn't have connections who could get them out. The song is sung from the perspective of one of these men, who ends up fighting because he is not a "Senator's son."
Live 1969. This was written by Harry Nilsson, a popular songwriter who had hits as a singer with "Everybody's Talkin'" and "Without You." Nilsson was inspired to write "One" from the rhythm of a telephone busy signal that he kept hearing. This was the first song on Three Dog Night's first album. It was one of 21 US Top 40 hits for the group, who did very well with songs written by other artists. Other hits by Three Dog Night include "Joy to the World" (written by Hoyt Axton), "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" (written by Randy Newman) and "The Show Must Go On" (written by Leo Sayer). This is about loneliness. It was used in the film Recess: School's Out when the character of TJ is lonely and bored after all his friends go to summer camps.
According to McLean (as posted on his website), this song was originally inspired by the death of Buddy Holly. "The Day The Music Died" is February 3, 1959, when Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash after a concert. McLean wrote the song from his memories of the event ("Dedicated to Buddy Holly" was printed on the back of the album cover). The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album was also a huge influence, and McLean has said in numerous interviews that the song represented the turn from innocence of the '50s to the darker, more volatile times of the '60s - both in music and politics.
Talking about how he composed this song when he was a guest on the UK show Songbook, McLean explained: "For some reason I wanted to write a big song about America and about politics, but I wanted to do it in a different way. As I was fiddling around, I started singing this thing about the Buddy Holly crash, the thing that came out (singing), 'Long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.'
I thought, Whoa, what's that? And then the day the music died, it just came out. And I said, Oh, that is such a great idea. And so that's all I had. And then I thought, I can't have another slow song on this record. I've got to speed this up. I came up with this chorus, crazy chorus. And then one time about a month later I just woke up and wrote the other five verses. Because I realized what it was, I knew what I had. And basically, all I had to do was speed up the slow verse with the chorus and then slow down the last verse so it was like the first verse, and then tell the story, which was a dream. It is from all these fantasies, all these memories that I made personal. Buddy Holly's death to me was a personal tragedy. As a child, a 15-year-old, I had no idea that nobody else felt that way much. I mean, I went to school and mentioned it and they said, 'So what?' So I carried this yearning and longing, if you will, this weird sadness that would overtake me when I would look at this album, The Buddy Holly Story, because that was my last Buddy record before he passed away."
This song made the 26-year-old McLean very famous very quickly, which was difficult for the songwriter. McLean was prone to depression, losing his father at age 15 and dealing with a bad marriage when recording the album. So when the song hit, it thrust him into the spotlight and took the focus away from the body of his work. In a 1973 interview with NME, he explained: "I was headed on a certain course, and the success I got with 'American Pie' really threw me off. It just shattered my lifestyle and made me quite neurotic and extremely petulant. I was really prickly for a long time. If the things you're doing aren't increasing your energy and awareness and clarity and enjoyment, then you feel as though you're moving blindly. That's what happened to me. I seemed to be in a place where nothing felt like anything, and nothing meant anything. Literally nothing mattered. It was very hard for me to wake up in the morning and decide why it was I wanted to get up."
Source: Songfacts.com (learn more at songfacts.com)
Live 1964. Historians have not been able to definitively identify The House Of The Rising Sun, but here are the two most popular theories:1) The song is about a brothel in New Orleans. "The House Of The Rising Sun" was named after its occupant Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (which means "Rising Sun" in French) and was open for business from 1862 (occupation by Union troops) until 1874, when it was closed due to complaints by neighbors. It was located at 826-830 St. Louis St. 2) It's about a women's prison in New Orleans called the Orleans Parish women's prison, which had an entrance gate adorned with rising sun artwork. This would explain the "ball and chain" lyrics in the song.
The melody is a traditional English ballad, but the song became popular as an African-American folk song. It was recorded by Texas Alexander in the 1920s, then by a number of other artists including Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Josh White and later Nina Simone. It was her version The Animals first heard. No one can claim rights to the song, meaning it can be recorded and sold royalty-free. Many bands covered the song after it became a hit for The Animals. In 1964, this folk song about a New Orleans brothel became a transatlantic hit for a British rock band when The Animals recorded it. Their version landed at #1 in the UK on July 9, and in America on September 5.
The Animals performed this song while touring England with Chuck Berry in May 1964. It went over so well that they recorded it between stops on the tour. In our 2010 interview with Animals lead singer Eric Burdon, he explained: "'House of the Rising Sun' is a song that I was just fated to. It was made for me and I was made for it. It was a great song for the Chuck Berry tour because it was a way of reaching the audience without copying Chuck Berry. It was a great trick and it worked. It actually wasn't only a great trick, it was a great recording."
Live in Central Park, NY. 1981. Paul Simon was looking for a publishing deal when he presented this song to Tom Wilson at Columbia Records. Wilson thought it could work for a group called The Pilgrims, but Simon wanted to show him how it could work with two singers, so he and and Art Garfunkel sang it to the guys at Columbia Records, who were impressed with the duo and decided to sign them. This was one of the songs Simon & Garfunkel performed in 1964 when they were starting out and playing the folk clubs in Greenwich Village. It was their first hit. Simon & Garfunkel did not write this about the Vietnam War, but by the time it became popular, the war was on and many people felt it made a powerful statement as an anti-war song.
The first recording was an acoustic version on Simon & Garfunkel's first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, which was billed as "exciting new sounds in the folk tradition," and sold about 2000 copies. When the album tanked, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel split up. What they didn't know was that their record company had a plan. Trying to take advantage of the folk-rock movement, Columbia Records had producer Tom Wilson add electric instruments to the acoustic track, and released it as a single. Simon and Garfunkel had no idea their acoustic song had been overdubbed with electric instruments, but it became a huge hit and got them back together. Had Wilson not reworked the song without their knowledge, the duo probably would have gone their separate ways. When the song hit #1 in the States, Simon was in England and Garfunkel was at college.
Paul Simon took six months to write the lyrics, which are about man's lack of communication with his fellow man.
Live at Farm Aid 1985. With a straightforward metaphor and complete lack of pathos, this is not a typical Neil Young song. It finds him mining for a "heart of gold," which depending on your perspective, is either a touching and heartfelt sentiment, or a mawkish platitude. Rolling Stone took the churlish view, complaining that the album evoked "superstardom's weariest clichés." The listening public and Young's fans were far more accepting, however, and the song became his biggest hit. By far, this was the biggest hit for Young as a solo artist, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 on March 18, 1972 (the Harvest album went to #1 a week earlier, supplanting Don McLean's American Pie). A very influential musician, he was never too concerned about making hit records. His next-highest Hot 100 entry was his next single, "Old Man," which reached #31.
Young wrote this in 1971 after he suffered a back injury that made it difficult for him to play the electric guitar, so on the Harvest tracks he played acoustic. Despite the injury, Young was in good spirits (possibly thanks to the painkillers), which is reflected in this song. The next few years were more challenging for Young, as he suffered a series of setbacks: his son Zeke was born with cerebral palsy, his friend Danny Whitten died, and he split with his girlfriend, Carrie Snodgress. His next three albums, which became known as "The Ditch Trilogy," expressed these dark times in stark contrast to "Heart of Gold."
This song was recorded at the first sessions for the Harvest album, which took place on Saturday, February 6, 1971 and were set up the night before.
Neil Young was in Nashville to record a performance for The Johnny Cash Show along with Tony Joe White, James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt. Elliot Mazer, a producer who owned nearby Quadrafonic Studios, set up a dinner party on February 5, inviting the show's guests and about 50 other people. Mazer was friends with Young's manager Elliot Roberts, who introduced the two at the gathering. Young and Mazer quickly hit it off when Neil learned that Elliot has produced a band called Area Code 615. Young asked if he could set up a session the next day, and Mazer complied.
Nashville has an abundance of studio musicians, but getting them to work on a Saturday could be a challenge. Mazur was able to get one member of Area Code 615: Drummer Kenny Buttrey. The other musicians he found were guitarist Teddy Irwin, bass player Tim Drummond, and pedal steel player Ben Keith. All were seasoned pros.
Keith, who had never heard of Neil Young, recalls showing up late and sitting down to play right away. He says they recorded five songs before they stopped for introductions.
Live 1971. America was formed in England by sons of US servicemen who were stationed there. Lead singer Dewey Bunnell wrote this when he was 19. Although the song is commonly misinterpreted about being on drugs, it is not: Bunnell based the images in the lyrics on things he saw while visiting the US. This was originally titled "Desert Song," since Bunnell wrote it based on the desert scenery he encountered when his dad was stationed at an Air Force base in Santa Barbara County, California. Many people thought this was a Neil Young song when they heard it, and many rock critics pointed out the similarities. In a strange twist, "A Horse With No Name" replaced Young's "Heart of Gold" at #1 in the US.
The song tells a rather abstruse tale about a trip though the desert. While the landscape is unforgiving, the singer also finds comfort in that scenario.
According to Dewey Bunnell, the "horse" represents a means of entering a place of tranquility, and this tranquil place was best represented by the desert, which sounded pretty good to him while he was stuck in rainy England.
As for why the horse had no name and why it went free after nine days, Bunnell doesn't have any answers - it seems the various listener interpretations are far more colorful than any meaning he assigned to it.
The group's self-titled debut album was released in the UK in late 1971, but didn't contain this song. When they were contemplating a single, they considered "I Need You," but decided to come up with a new song instead. The group went back to the studio and recorded "A Horse With No Name," which Bunnell had written.
Released as a single in the UK, it shot to #3 in January 1972, prompting the group's label, Warner Bros., to issue the single in the US and also release the album with the song included. On March 25, both the single and album hit #1 in the US; the song stayed at the top spot for three weeks, the album for five.
The album was recorded in London where the band was located. In February, when the song started climbing the charts in the US, the group embarked on a tour of the States, playing club shows before supporting the Everly Brothers as the opening act on their North American tour.
"I Need You" was released as the follow-up single, reaching #9 US. The group would become one of the most successful acts of the '70s and score another US #1 hit with "Sister Golden Hair."
Live 1980. Rare old time footage of Mainstreet performance. Seger wrote this song about his high school years in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The song explores the promise of youth, and what Seger calls his "awakening" after being a quiet, awkward kid for most of his youth. The actual street Seger sings about in this song is Ann Street, which was off of Main Street in Ann Arbor. Seger recalled to the Chicago Sun-Times: "It was a club. I can’t remember the name of the club, but the band that played there all the time was called Washboard Willie. They were a Delta and Chicago blues band. Girls would dance in the window. They were a black band, and they were very good. That’s where I would go but I was too young to get in. It wasn’t in a great part of town but college students loved to go there."
The nostalgic tone of this song led many critics to compare Seger to Bruce Spingsteen, sometimes unfavorably. The NMEwrote, "Leaning heavily on anyone so personally stylized as Springsteen has got to qualify as an error of judgment."
Seger acknowledges Springsteen as an influence at that time, but insists he wasn't going after Bruce's sound or image. There weren't many rock musicians writing introspective hit songs about life in working-class America at the time, and with Springsteen in a legal dispute with his manager that kept him from recording, Seger had 1977 to himself.
Seger recorded this song at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield, Alabama. The studio was owned by four of the guys who played on the track: David Hood (bass), Jimmy Johnson (rhythm guitar), Roger Hawkins (drums) and Barry Beckett (keyboards). The lead guitarist on the session was Pete Carr.
While most of Seger's work was done with his Silver Bullet Band, he did make a few trips to Alabama to record at MSSS, taking advantage of the talented musicians and lack of distractions. His hit "Old Time Rock And Roll" was also recorded there.
Live at the American Music Awards, 1985. After Prince released his 1999 album in 1982, he toured in many of the same cities Bob Seger did. Prince was amazed at how crowds connected with Seger's songs like "Night Moves" and "Mainstreet," which were slow songs that told stories to which people could relate. Prince decided to write a song in that style, and "Purple Rain" was the result. Prince admitted the success of the film and its music was overwhelming. "In some ways Purple Rain scared me," he noted in The Observer. "It's my albatross and it'll be hanging around my neck as long as I'm making music."
The album was actually the soundtrack to the first movie Prince made. He went on to make three more: Under The Cherry Moon, Sign O' The Times, and Graffiti Bridge. Purple Rain won Prince an Oscar for Best Original Song Score (not to be confused with the Best Original Score category, won that year by A Passage to India).
The song "Purple Rain" was the centerpiece of the film and a key plot point. In the movie, the female members in Prince's band, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, write a song that Prince ignores, prompting a tirade from Wendy ("Every time we give you a song you say you're going to use it but you never do. You're being paranoid as usual..."). At the end of the film, Prince's crew is in a heated rivalry with another band (The Time), who do a blistering set that Prince must follow. When Prince takes the stage, he introduces "Purple Rain" as being written by Wendy and Lisa, then tears down the house with it.
Wendy and Lisa were real members of Prince's band until 1987 when they left to record as a duo. This song, however, was composed solely by Prince. It's a love song, with Prince singing about his devotion to a girl, but it also serves as a catharsis, releasing the pent-up frustrations that had been building throughout the movie. The "Purple Rain" is a place to be free.
Live 1977. This song was written by the Bee Gees for the movie Saturday Night Fever. They recorded their own version, but also had Tavares do it. Both versions were used in the movie and on the soundtrack, but the Tavares version was released as a single, peaking at #32 in America on May 6, 1978, the same week "Night Fever," another Bee Gees song from the film, was at #1. This was produced by by Freddie Perren, who was responsible for most of the Jackson 5's early hits. He later co-produced and co-wrote the classic Gloria Gaynor hit "I Will Survive." In 1978, Perren won a Grammy for his work on a couple of songs he did on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack: Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" and this one.
Like the Bee Gees, Tavares is also a brother act: Arthur, Ralph Vierra, Perry Lee, Antone and Feliciano. They started performing in 1963 when they were known as Chubby and the Turnpikes. They changed their name to Tavares in 1969 and enjoyed several transatlantic hits in the mid 1970s including "Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel," "Don't Take Away The Music" and "Whodunit."
Many disco songs are about dancing or celebrating the nightlife, but in this one the singer has discovered his love for a woman he hadn't noticed before, and he wants the world to know it. The sentiment is sweet ("This is the only way that we should fly"), but a little creepy ("If I lose your love I know I would die"), and it's told very quickly as the Bee Gees knew that getting to the chorus quickly was key to a disco hit.
Live 1980. This song is about a guy who meets a girl (Lola) in a club who takes him home and rocks his world. The twist comes when we find out that Lola is a man. As stated in The Kinks: The Official Biography, Ray Davies wrote the lyrics after their manager got drunk at a club and started dancing with what he thought was a woman. Toward the end of the night, his stubble started showing, but their manager was too tanked to notice. Ray Davies revealed to Q magazine in a 2016 interview: "The song came out of an experience in a club in Paris. I was dancing with this beautiful blonde, then we went out into the daylight and I saw her stubble." The Kinks came up with the riff after messing around with open strings on guitars. The group's guitarist, Dave Davies, contended that he deserved a songwriting credit on the track, leading to additional friction with his brother Ray, who got the sole composer credit.
This revived the career of The Kinks, at least in America where their popularity was fading. Their previous Top 40 in the States was "Sunny Afternoon" in 1966.
Ray Davies said: "I wrote Lola to be a great record, not a great song. Something that people could recognize in the first five seconds. Even the chorus, my two-year-old daughter sang it back to me. I thought, 'This must catch on.'" The line "You drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola" was recorded as "it tastes just like Coca-Cola." The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) refused to play it because of the commercial reference, so Ray Davies flew from New York to London to change the lyric and get the song on the air.
Live 1985. Dionne Warwick's official music video for 'That's What Friends Are For' ft. Elton John, Gladys Knight & Stevie Wonder. "Dionne & Friends" is Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Gladys Knight. They recorded this song as a single to raise money for the American Foundation For AIDS Research (AmFAR). AIDS was a widely misunderstood disease in 1985, and this recording helped draw attention to the cause and educated people about the disease. Proceeds from the song raised over $500,000 for AmFAR. The Dionne & Friends version won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance by A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Song Of The Year. Surprisingly, the Performance award was Elton John's first Grammy - somehow none of his previous material was deemed worthy.
"Dionne & Friends" was originally just Dionne. She recorded a string of hits written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the '60s before an acrimonious parting with the songwriters. She finally reunited with Bacharach to record the theme song to a short-lived 1984 TV series called Finder of Lost Loves. Bayer Sager suggested that Warwick record "That's What Friends Are For," but when Dionne heard it, she envisioned it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. Dionne put down her tracks, and when Wonder arrived to do his part, Elizabeth Taylor and Neil Simon dropped by. Knowing of Taylor's commitment to AIDS research, Bayer Sager suggested they made the song a charity effort, and all agreed it was a great idea. They decided to add another singer to the mix, so Gladys Knight was invited. The last piece of the puzzle was Elton John, who was suggested by Clive Davis, head of Arista Records (which released the single).
Live 1975. Rare footage. This song is about a father-daughter relationship. Stevie wrote it on the guitar in about five minutes in Aspen, Colorado. She was surrounded by mountains and thinking, "Wow, all this snow could just come tumbling down around me and there is nothing I can do about it." When she feels like this she just goes to a room and writes her thoughts down so she can read it and ponder what she has written. Lindsey and Stevie were recording as a duo using the name Buckingham-Nicks before they were asked to join Fleetwood Mac. They had already released an album and were planning to include this on their next one. When Stevie wrote "Landslide" and "Rhiannon," Lindsey was on the road with the Everly Brothers backing them up on guitar.
Nicks said of this song: "My dad did have something to do with it, but he absolutely thinks that he was the whole complete reason it was ever written. I guess it was about September 1974, I was home at my dad and Mom's house in Phoenix, and my father said, 'You know, you really put a lot of time into this [her singing career], maybe you should give this six more months, and if you want to go back to school, we'll pay for it. Basically you can do whatever you want and we'll pay for it - I have wonderful parents, and I went, 'cool, I can do that.' Lindsey and I went up to Aspen, and we went to somebody's incredible house, and they had a piano, and I had my guitar with me, and I went into their living room, looking out over the incredible Aspen skyway, and I wrote 'Landslide.' Three months later, Mick Fleetwood called. On New Year's Eve, 1974, called and asked us to join Fleetwood Mac. So it was three months, I still had three more months to go to beat my six month goal that my dad gave me."
Live 1970. This was written by Randy Newman, the nephew of Academy Award-winning composer Lionel Newman. The song is about a party that left a "bad taste" in the writer's mouth. The drug scene was fairly new to American middle-class youth at that time. Randy Newman explained in a 2017 interview with Rolling Stone: "It's a guy going to a party, and he's a little scared. The first line ("Will you have whiskey with your water or sugar with your tea") was a vague connection to acid. I don't remember being thrown off by that stuff then. If I was that unsophisticated - which is possible - I wouldn't admit it."
Eric Burdon & The Animals released the first version of this song, including it on their 1967 album Eric Is Here. That same year, P.J. Proby also covered the song.
At this point, Randy Newman had yet to release any solo material. When he started recording his own material (starting with his 1968 debut album) many of the songs had already been recorded by others. "Mama Told Me Not to Come" was included on his second album, 12 Songs, which came out around the same time Three Dog Night issued it. Newman had little chart success as an artist in these early years, but Three Dog Night did, and their raucous rendition was the one listeners preferred. Newman at first dismissed them as a "teeny-bopper" band, but later rescinded that statement, saying he liked their version a great deal.
He enjoyed the royalty checks as well, a fact confirmed by Three Dog Night's lead singer Cory Wells who said after it became a #1 hit, Newman called him and said "I just want to thank you for putting my kids through college."
Live 1977. This is the first Hall & Oates single to hit #1 on the Billboard Top 100, and it propelled them to superstardom. The character in this song is based on a real person, the spoiled heir to a fast food fortune who had dated Sara Allen, Daryl Hall's longtime girlfriend. Her stories of him inspired Hall to write this song, but he had to change the character to a girl, since he was the one who would be singing it. According to Hall, his original lyric was: He can rely on the old man's moneyHe's a rich guy.
In an interview with American Songwriter, Daryl Hall revealed that the guy he wrote this song about is named Victor Walker. He says Walker came to their apartment acting very strange, and Daryl realized that he could get away with it, since his father would pay to make his problems go away. Hall says that Walker knows the song is about him.
Daryl Hall was shocked to find out that the infamous serial killer David "Son Of Sam" Berkowitz claimed he was inspired to murder by this song. It is unlikely that this song actually compelled Berkowitz to kill, as it was released after he started his killing spree, and Berkowitz cited many influences, including his neighbor's dog, when asked why he killed. Nonetheless, it was very disturbing for Hall and Oates to have their song associated with Berkowitz, and they made reference to this in their 1980 song "Diddy Doo Wop (I Hear the Voices)" from their Voices album in the lyrics: "Charlie liked The Beatles, Sam he liked Rich Girl."
Live in Central Park, 1991. This song is about a self-obsessed person becoming aware of his surroundings. In a 1990 interview with SongTalk magazine, Simon explained: "'You Can Call Me Al' starts off very easily with sort of a joke: 'Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?' Very easy words. Then it has a chorus that you can't understand. What is he talking about, you can call me Betty, and Betty, you can call me Al? You don't know what I'm talking about. But I don't think it's bothersome. You don't know what I'm talking about but neither do I. At that point. So where did "Al" and "Betty" in this song come from? That stems from a 1970 party that Simon hosted with his wife, Peggy Harper. Simon's friend, the composer Stanley Silverman, brought along another composer named Pierre Boulez, and when he made his exit, Boulez called Simon "Al" and his wife "Betty." Boulez was French, and he wasn't being rude - it was just his interpretation of what he heard.
The second verse is really a recapitulation: A man walks down the street, he says... another thing. And by the time you get to the third verse, and people have been into the song long enough, now you can start to throw abstract images. Because there's been a structure, and those abstract images, they will come down and fall into one of the slots that the mind has already made up about the structure of the song.
So now you have this guy who's no longer thinking about the mundane thoughts, about whether he's getting too fat, whether he needs a photo opportunity, or whether he's afraid of the dogs in the moonlight and the graveyard."
Live August 1987. This was featured in the movie Back to the Future and included on the soundtrack. It plays in a scene where Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) hears it as he rides his skateboard from Doc's house to school. The film's director Robert Zemeckis wanted Lewis to do the song - Huey Lewis & the News were rising stars with a modern sound that worked well in the movie, which takes place in both 1955 and 1985. Lewis had never done film work and hesitated at first, since he didn't want to write a song called "Back to the Future." When Zemeckis told him that the song didn't have to be about the movie, Lewis accepted the challenge.
The song has a very universal message that works very well outside of the film. Lewis was newly married and had two young children when he wrote it with his bandmates Johnny Colla and Chris Hayes. His family provided inspiration for the lyrics. Lewis was working on this song while the movie was in post production. By the time Lewis delivered the song, most of the scenes were mixed; the only place the song worked was the scene where Marty is on his skateboard going to school. This scene has nothing to do with the power of love, but music fits the vibe and works in context.
Live @ The Hollywood Palace, 1966. This was written by the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who deliberately set out to write a rock song for the Supremes. Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland were a big part of the Motown Sound. They not only wrote most of the hits for The Supremes, The Four Tops, and many other acts on the label, but they also produced and arranged the sessions, giving them nearly complete control of the product. Lamont Dozier created the stuttering guitar line, which was inspired by the radio's signal for news flashes. It was played by Robert White, who was one of the guitarists for Motown's studio band, The Funk Brothers. He is perhaps best known for performing the lead lines on the Temptations classic chart topper "My Girl."
Lamont Dozier explained in a 1976 interview with Blues & Soul magazine how he came up with these tales of woe: "I've often broken up with a girlfriend for a week just to be able to get that real feeling of hurt so that I can write what I write from experience! I should add that I always make sure we patch up again after the week's over. But I'm constantly working at the piano – that's my source of release, like a tranquilizer for me."
One of Wonder's social commentary songs, this tells of a young kid from Mississippi who moves to New York City. In Mississippi, he dealt with many hardships, but was surrounded by caring people. In New York City, he is quickly taken advantage of and is caught with drugs. His dreams are destroyed when he is sentenced to 10 years in jail.Reflecting on the messages in his songs, Wonder said: "I think the deepest I really got into how I feel about the way things are was in 'Living For The City.' I was able to show the hurt and the anger. You still have that same mother that scrubs the floors for many, she's still doing it. Now what is that about? And that father who works some days for 14 hours. That's still happening."
This won a 1974 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song. The album it came from Innervisions won the Grammy Award for the Album of the Year. Wonder asked one of the janitors at the studio to say the "Get into that cell, ni--er" line. Public Enemy later sampled the line on "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" a track on their 1989 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album.