Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #430-421

We hope you are enjoying our special presentation of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, in celebration of the grand 60th birthday of the Rock Era!

We started our special on May 21, and if you haven't heard all the songs, we strongly encourage you go back and listen to all of them prior to starting today's edition.  We want to again thank some great sources which helped us tell the stories of these classics:

American Hit Radio by Thomas Ryan


The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson

The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, General Editor:  Michael Heatley

The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul by Irwin Stambler

The Guinness Book of Rock Stars by Dafydd Rees & Luke Crampton

The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock by Mike Clifford

Who's Who in Rock & Roll, Edited by John Tobler

And now, on with the countdown!



"Yeah, those were the days.   Music was music."


"One of my favorite songs."

"Sacred memories."



This legendary group from Chicago, Illinois named itself after the river in Greek mythology in which dead souls are ferried across to get to Hades.  They began in 1963 as the Tradewinds.  After changing their name to Styx, they signed with the Chicago label Wooden Nickel, and enjoyed their first hit with the great song "Lady" in 1975.
One of the greatest live bands of their time, Styx paid its dues in spades.  With many of their early recordings ignored by radio, they continued to soldier on, winning fans over one by one with their amazing music, until at one point, Styx was named as the favorite rock band in America in a Gallup poll. 
Styx keyboardist and lead singer Dennis DeYoung wrote this song as a birthday present for his wife Suzanne.  The two at the time were separated, and DeYoung wanted her to know his feelings.  "Being on the road for six years puts a strain on a relationship," Dennis said.
"Babe" was originally recorded as a demo with DeYoung singing all vocals, and Styx members John and Chuck Panozzo playing the backing track.  When guitarists James "J.Y." Young and Tommy Shaw heard the song, they convinced DeYoung to include it on the group's upcoming album Cornerstone.

Shaw overdubbed a guitar solo in the middle of the song, and Styx released it as a single.  In October, 1979, one could also hear the following songs on the radio:  "Another Brick In The Wall", by Pink Floyd "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" from Queen, Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" and "Rock With You", "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles, "My Sharona by the Knack, "Coward Of The County" and "You Decorated My Life" by Kenny Rogers, , Blondie's "Call Me", "Still" by the Commodores, "Lost In Love" from Air Supply, and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band.

"Babe" captured the #1 spot in the United States for 2 weeks, spent an impressive 11 weeks in Top 10 and also reached #9 on the AC chart.   It was a monster hit in Canada, holding down #1 for 6 weeks there, and it became Styx's biggest hit in the U.K. at #6.   

"Babe" not only went Gold; it helped Styx sell five million albums.  

Who's Crying Now

"I love the guitar solo by Neal Schon."
"Awesome song!!!"

This San Francisco band, featuring ex-Santana members Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie, began in 1973.  They signed a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1974, but three years later, the group felt as if it wasn't achieving the success they had hoped for.  Up to this time, Rolie handled most of the vocals, but Journey began in earnest to search for a lead singer.  Robert Fleishmann was hired in 1977, but after a summer tour, Fleishmann was asked to leave. 
So it was back to the drawing board.  In October, Journey found magic.  They hired Steve Perry, who had sent an audition tape to Journey manager Walter Herbert.  Perry proved to be the missing piece, and the group thrived with Steve as their frontman.  While previously Journey's best album (Next) peaked at #85, the first album with Perry as lead singer (Infinity) reached #21.  With Perry's emotional vocals, Journey posted six consecutive Top 20 albums.  After Perry left the group in 1987, it is no coincidence that Journey has only landed one Top 50 album and one Top 15 song in the last 31 years.  And that album and song were recorded when Perry reunited with the group briefly.

Perry wrote the chorus of this song while driving from Bakersfield, California to San Francisco, singing in a cassette recorder.  When he got to keyboardist Jonathan Cain's house, he hummed the song for Cain, who worked out a piano part.  Cain also came up with the title line of "Who's crying now?"  The two songwriters finished the song that afternoon.
Journey released the song as the first single from the album Escape, and it went to #4 on both the Popular and Mainstream Rock charts and #14 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  "Who's Crying Now" also landed at #3 in Canada.

It faced major competition, including "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes, "Endless Love" from Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You", "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John, "I Can't Go For That" by Hall & Oates, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by the Police, "Arthur's Theme" by Christopher Cross, "Slow Hand" by the Pointer Sisters, Journey's own "Don't Stop Believin'", and "Angel Of The Morning" by Juice Newton.
The song helped Escape become Journey's only #1 album.  "Who's Crying Now" not only sold one million singles; it helped sell 25 million albums for the group.  It has topped two million airplays since 1981. 

Cain and guitarist Neal Schon left Journey in 1989 to join John Waite in the group Bad English. 


 The Living Years
 Mike + The Mechanics

"Always loved it!"
"Just about the best lyrics ever!"
"So poignant because we all go through it at some point."
"So much wisdom in these lyrics."

The song was written in stages. B.A. Robertson wrote the first verse before his father died in 1986 (the same year Rutherford lost his dad). The pair composed the music based on this verse, and then a while later Robertson came up with the second verse.

Robertson was working with Rutherford when he got the call that his dad had died, which is reflected in the opening lines of this verse:

I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
Three months before his father died, Robertson's son was born, which we hear in this line:

I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears

The final verse didn't come to him until shortly before the song was recorded.  Robertson was staying at a hotel in Los Angeles and was under pressure to finish the lyric before flying back to Europe.  He recalls going outside to a garden at the hotel when the verse came to him.

Mike Rutherford, who was the bass player and later the guitarist for Genesis, formed Mike + the Mechanics as a side project, using Paul Carrack and Paul Young (the one from the band Sad CafĂ©, not the solo artist).  Carrack, the lead singer for Ace on the 1975 hit "How Long", went on to score the solo hit "Don't Shed A Tear" in 1987.

Mike + the Mechanics brought in the choir from the King's House School in London to sing backing vocals.  The group released the single from their album Living Years.

In January of 1989, the song competed against great songs such as "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Better Midler, "Like A Prayer" by Madonna, "Groovy Kind Of Love" from Phil Collins, and "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys. 

"The Living Years" gave Mike + the Mechanics a #1 song in the U.S. that was extremely popular among Adults (#1 for four weeks).  It also registered at #1 in Canada, Australia, and Ireland, and #2 in the U.K.

The song did not go Gold, and only helped sell half a million albums for the group, but it has been played over five million times in the U.S. alone.

"The Living Years" received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically, and was nominated for the prestigious Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards.  In 1996, Burt Bacharach said "'The Living Years' is one of the finest lyrics of the last 10 years."



Dancing In The Dark 
Bruce Springsteen

"This song is pure genius."
"This song is on my list as one of the best songs of all time!  I just want to go run in the streets and jump 50 feet into the atmosphere.  I love it!"
"His best song."
"One of my favorite songs."

This tremendous song was the last written and recorded for Bruce Springsteen's 1984 album Born in the U.S.A.  Jon Landau, Springsteen's manager and producer, liked the album, but wanted a "guaranteed hit" that represented something fresh, as most of the album had been written two years previous.
The two argued, but Bruce finally wrote the song, and the album made him a superstar.  In fact, Born in the U.S.A. contains more Top 10 songs (7) than his other 45 years of recording combined (5).
"Dancing In The Dark" launched the album, which Springsteen released on Columbia Records.  It competed for radio airplay with "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner, "Hello" from Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson's "Thriller", "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince, "Jump" from Van Halen, "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You", "Time After Time" from Cyndi Lauper, "Missing You" by Jonathan Waite, "Footloose" from Kenny Loggins, and "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean.    
That's an amazing group of songs, yet Springsteen's entry onto the charts still rose to #2 for four weeks in the U.S., and  #1 in the Netherlands and Belgium, #2 in New Zealand, Ireland and Sweden, #3 in Canada, #4 in U.K., #5 in Australia, and #7 in Norway.
"Dancing In The Dark" went Platinum (two million in sales), helped sell 19 million albums, and Won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male.


Tommy Roe

"Great song with a great drum backing."
"Awesome song!"
"I love that song,,times were so easy back then,,,,,"

The artist at #426* formed his first rock group (Tommy Roe and the Satins) while at Brown High School in Atlanta, Georgia.  They signed a recording contract with Judd Records, which was run by Judd Phillips, the brother of Sun Records' Sam Phillips.  The group recorded the song "Sheila", which Roe had written at age 14.  It sold locally but was not promoted beyond that.
While continuing to perform on evenings and weekends, Roe got a job as a technician with General Electric after graduation.  Disc jockey Paul Drew, familiar with Roe's music, recommended him to Felton Jarvis, producer at ABC Records, and Roe signed a solo contract.  The label had him re-record "Sheila", and it was released in 1962.  When the song began to receive major airplay, ABC offered Roe a $5,000 advance to quit his job at GE and tour to promote the song.  "Sheila" of course went on to become a huge hit, and several others followed.   
Roe and Freddy Weller had known each other while both lived in Atlanta.  Roe was on a television show, sharing the billing with Paul Revere & the Raiders.  The Raiders had just lost their guitarist, and were looking at Weller as a replacement.  Weller moved to California, and Roe and he began writing together.  Tommy showed Freddy a song called "Dizzy" that he had been working on but was unable to complete.  The two finished it while on a tour bus one night, and Jimmy Haskell composed the strings.  The song, which includes 11 key changes, features Hal Blaine on drums and Larry Knechtel (later part of the great group Bread) on keyboards. 
Roe released "Dizzy" as a single on ABC Records when great songs such as "Get Back" by the Beatles, "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "Proud Mary" and "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Everyday People" from Sly & the Family Stone, "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel, "You've Made Me So Very Happy" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, "Time Of The Season" by the Zombies, "Traces" from Classics IV, Elvis Presley's "In The Ghetto", and "Crimson And Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells were being played.
"Dizzy" jumped on the radio airwaves in February of 1969, and it quickly reached #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.  It topped the U.S. charts for 4 weeks and spent 9 weeks in the Top 10, and was also  #1 in the U.K. and Canada, #2 in Australia, #4 in both Germany and Norway.

"Dizzy" has sold four million copies in the U.S. and six million worldwide, and it has been played over one million times.

 A Day In The


"A turning point in popular music."
"This song gives me chills every time i listen to it."
"The best song on the best album by the best band in the history of music.
"This is one of the greatest songs ever written, and the perfect end to a near-perfect album."

The act at #425* was told that "Groups with guitars are on the way out" by an executive at Decca Records after he cancelled an audition.  They didn't give up; rather, they proved the executive to be one of the most foolish people to ever walk the earth. 
This next classic is the final song on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  According to John Lennon, he was inspired to write the first two verses after the death of Tara Browne, the 21-year-old heir to the Guinness fortune who had crashed his Lotus in December, 1966.  Brown had been a friend of both Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Lennon's verses were adapted from the article in the newspaper The Daily Mail.
The line "The English Army had just won the war", refers to Lennon's role in the movie How I Won the War, also released in 1967.  As the original concept of Sgt. Pepper's (which included "Penny Lane", a street in Liverpool, and "Strawberry Fields Forever, an orphanage behind Lennon's house) was about youth, McCartney's section includes his memories of his younger years--riding the bus to school, smoking, and going to class.
"A Day In The Life" is probably the Beatles' most elaborate song.  It includes a 40-piece orchestra conducted by McCartney and producer George Martin, a recording session costing £367 (£5,812, or just under $8,650, in 2015), and a final, famous chord of over forty seconds.
Following the final orchestral crescendo, Lennon, McCartney, Ringo Starr, and road manager Mal Evans shared three different pianos, and Martin played the harmonium.  All simultaneously played an E-major chord.  The chord was extended by increasing the recording sound level as the vibration faded.  Towards the end, you can hear the rustling of papers and a squeaking chair.
"A Day In The Life" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist or Instrumentalist.
In 1992, Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the song were sold in a Sotheby's auction for $100,000.  The lyrics were put up for sale again in 2006 in New York City and offers started at $2 million.  Sotheby's auctioned the item again in 2010, when it was purchased for $1,200,000.   




Night Moves
Bob Seger

"Awesome song!"
"One song that will always effect me until the day I die.  Truly love it."
"Can't beat a classic."



Up next, the guy that was Detroit, Michigan's best secret for more than a decade.  Then we all got in on the fun.

For years, Bob Seger wrote songs that were local or regional hits but did not break nationally.  At first, Seger recorded demos financed by his hero Del Shannon, who later became Bob's music publisher.  In 1968, Seger signed with a major label, and reached the Top 20 with "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man".  But the song was quickly forgotten, and his albums remained undiscovered gems. 

In 1977, Bob Seger wrote "Night Moves", featured on the album of the same name.  Seger said in a radio interview that "the song from 1962" he refers to is "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes. 

The story of "Night Moves" is such a typical experience that it nearly always triggers parallel memories in the listener.  One reason for its longevity (besides simply being a great song) is that this song about reminiscing is now old enough to bring back memories in its own right. 

We want to stress that competition is the lynchpin for evaluating songs across different decades and genres.  Songs out the same time as "Night Moves" included "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand, "Go Your Own Way" from Fleetwood Mac, "New Kid In Town" by the Eagles, "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart, Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way", Boston's "More Than A Feeling", "Dancing Queen" by ABBA, "Blinded By The Light" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Fly Like An Eagle" by the Steve Miller Band, "You Don't Have To Be A Star" by Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. and "Love So Right" by the Bee Gees.

"Night Moves" debuted in December, 1976, and reached #4 for two weeks in the United States and #5 in Canada.

The song has helped sell over 16 million albums, including 5 million for Seger's breakthrough album Night Moves.  The song "Night Moves" helped transform Seger from a Midwestern performer to a national star.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named this classic as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll





"Is there a more beautiful song..???"
"What a beautiful classic!"
"Loooove this song soooo sad SOOO good..."
 "Wonderful song.  I melt every time I hear it."

One of fourteen songs from 1979 to make The Top 500*, here's another example of a great Lionel Richie ballad.
In 1971, when Suzanne de Passe, Creative Vice President at Motown, was looking for an opening act for Motown's biggest stars, the Jackson 5, she saw this group perform at the Turntable in New York City.  De Passe booked them for the tour, and by the end of the decade, the Commodores were Motown's biggest act.

Written by lead singer Lionel Richie, "Still" was recorded for the Commodores album Midnight Magic, and released in September on Motown Records.

But "Still" had to do some fancy navigating to make it up the chart.  Along the way, it encountered great songs that included "Another Brick In The Wall" by Pink Floyd, "Babe" by Styx, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" from Queen, Michael Jackson's "Rock With You", "My Sharona" by the Knack, "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles, "Coward Of The County" and "You Decorated My Life" by Kenny Rogers, "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg, and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" from the Charlie Daniels Band.
In the end, "Still" did rise to the top for one week, and it spent 13 weeks in the Top 10.  The Commodores had a multi-format hit, with the song reaching #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #1 on the R&B chart as well. 


My Love
"Such a pretty song from an ERA of beautiful music....and the best years of my youth!"
 "Amazing.  Just brilliant songwriting."

"Beautiful song."

"Timeless melody."

After the split of the Beatles in 1970, Paul McCartney embarked on a career that would far surpass any of his former bandmates.  From 1971 through 1980, that career included the group Wings.  Upon forming Wings, Paul put the group through a two-week concert tour of England, McCartney's first public performance in six years.  The group loaded their equipment into a van and set up shows on the fly, going to various cities unannounced and uninvited.  They went into a venue, asked permission to play from the startled but enthusiastic managers, and then put up posters around town announcing the concert.  The shows thrilled audiences throughout the country.  

John Lennon and McCartney are obviously two of the best songwriters of all-time, but while both could write great rock songs, Paul had the edge on John when it came to love songs.  He continued to hone his talent while with his new group Wings, and scored a major hit with this one, which debuted in April of 1973. 

It faced major competition--"Killing Me Softly With His Song" by Roberta Flack, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce, ""The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence, Shambala" from Three Dog Night,  Elton John's "Daniel", "Give Me Love--Give Me Peace On Earth" by George Harrison, "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group, Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water". 

"My Love" soared to #1 for 4 weeks , an additional 2 weeks at #2 and resided in the Top 10 for 9 weeks.  It also reached #1 for three weeks on the Adult chart. 

"My Love" has sold over one million copies and has helped sell over 5.5 million albums.




Young Love
Tab Hunter

"Beautiful song!"
"Great sound."

When the Rock Era was in its infancy, it was common for several artists to record the same song.  Publishers wanted to maximize their revenue--the more songs recorded of their title, the more airplay, and the more sales.  The biggest battle over a song was "Young Love".
Ric Cartey, who co-wrote the song along with Carole Joyner, recorded it first on RCA Records.  Cartey's version didn't make it, so he played it for Sonny James, who also recorded it.  Randy Wood, president of Dot Records, felt James' version would do well on the Country chart, but he wanted a popular song.  He called up actor Tab Hunter, whose vocal experience was limited to high school choir.  But Hunter recorded it, and ten days later, the song was in record stores. 
James' version bounced up the charts, with Hunter close in pursuit.  When Sonny's version stalled at #2, Hunter moved past him into the #1 position.  Tab registered six weeks in the top spot, in fact, and he also placed his song at #8 on the R&B chart.
In addition to James' "Young Love", Hunter competed against "Hound Dog", "Don't Be Cruel, "Love Me Tender" and "Too Much" from Elvis Presley, and "Singing The Blues" by Guy Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Warner Brothers had Hunter under contract for movies, and they weren't too happy with this latest development.  When the company started its own record company the next year, Hunter's "Young Love" had something to do with it; Warner Brothers did not want its stars earning money for other companies.
"Young Love" has received over three million airplays, but a large majority of those were in the Rock Era's first two decades.
Hunter starred in over 40 films, including Damn Yankees, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, Grease 2Battle Cry, The Burning Hills, That Kind of Woman, and Ride the Wild Surf.

Tomorrow, you get 10 more of the greatest songs of the last 60 years, as we edge close to The Top 400*. 

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