Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #470-461

We are well underway in our brand new production of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  As good as these are in this range, they get better with each day!


Tears for Fears

"A classic."
"Such a great song!"
"Beautiful to my ears."
"This is pure awesomeness."

The origins of this duo go back to 1980 in Bath, England, when Roland Orzabal (guitar and keyboards) met vocalist and bassist Curt Smith.  Both played in the five-piece band Graduate, which had a near-hit with "Elvis Should Play Ska".   After Graduate broke up, Orzabal and Smith formed Tears for Fears, with the name taken from a book Orzabal read called Prisoners of Pain by Arthur Janov.  In the book, Janov talks about Primal Therapy, or the process of confronting one's fears in order to eliminate them (shedding "tears for fears").

Tears for Fears owns one of 113 songs in The Top 500* performed by British artists.  "Shout" was written by Orzabal and Ian Stanley, and is included on the album Songs from the Big Chair.
The song debuted in June, 1985, and competed with
"Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits, "Sussudio" by Phil Collins, "The Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis & the News, "Heaven" by Bryan Adams, "You Give Good Love" by Whitney Houston, and "Cherish" by Kool and the Gang.

"Shout" was a monster hit, reaching the Top 10 in 25 countries.  It landed at #1 for three weeks, and posted 7 weeks in the Top 10 in the United States.  It also rose to #1 in Germany, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Belgium,  #4 in the U.K., #5 in Norway and Ireland, and #6 in Austria.

"Shout" sold one million copies, and helped Songs from the Big Chair top the five-million mark in sales.  Orzabal captured Songwriter of the Year honors at the Ivor Novello Awards.


Kool and the Gang

"Hummm good!!!!"
"This is a landmark in the history of American song..."
"Excelente clásico!"
"It's definitely the Industry Party Standard."

Here we have Kool and the Gang, one of 17 songs by artists from New Jersey in The Top 500* for all-time. 

The group formed its roots in 1964, when 14-year-old bassist Robert "Kool" Bell formed a group called the Jazziacs.  They later changed their name to the SoulTown Band, as they had begun to include a heavy R&B beat.  In 1969, the band officially became known as Kool and the Gang.  

The group recorded 25 singles before hooking up with lead singer James "J.T." Taylor and producer Eumir Deodato in 1980.  Deodato gave us the classic song "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the theme to the legendary movie 2001.

Kool told Bruce D. Rhodewait of The Los Angeles Herald newspaper:  "The Bible describes life as a celebration, and the idea came from our celebration of our return to the music business." 

Kool and the Gang released the single included on the album Celebrate! in late 1980.  When the American hostages returned from Iran after 444 days of captivity on January 26, 1981, they were greeted by the playing of Song #469*
 "Celebration" hit #1 for two weeks overall, #1 for six weeks R&B and also #1 on the Dance chart in the United States and #1 in Canada and New Zealand, and #2 in the Netherlands and Belgium, #6 in Switzerland, and #7 in the U.K.
"Celebration" competed against "Lady" by Kenny Rogers, "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen, Barbra Streisand's "Woman In Love", "I Love A Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbitt, "Woman" by John Lennon, "All Out Of Love" by Air Supply, Dolly Parton's "9 to 5", "Magic" by Olivia Newton-John, "Sailing" by Christopher Cross", "Upside Down" from Diana Ross, and "Keep On Loving You" by REO Speedwagon.

"Celebration" has sold over two million copies and has been played over one million times.





With Or Without You

"Un clásico!!! Me encanta"
"A classic."
"I love U2. This song is brilliant!"

This Irish supergroup met at drummer Larry Mullen, Jr.'s house in Dublin, Ireland to begin working on their next album in 1985 (we use the term "supergroup" differently than most do.  A group that forms combining members from several established groups does not make them a "supergroup"--being "super" makes one a supergroup.)  This smash came out of those sessions at Mullen's house.  Lead singer Bono wrote the lyrics while he was caught between the responsibilities of being a married man and his role as a musician.  Bono realized that neither part of his life defined him, but rather the tension between the two lives did.  
Bono revealed that everyone in U2 knows what the line "And you give yourself away" means.  He said, "It's about how I feel in U2 at times - exposed.  I'm not going to do many interviews this year.  Because there's a cost to my personal life, and a cost to the group as well."
Although the song has been interpreted as having religious overtones, Bono explained that the lyrics were about romance, saying, "there's nothing more revolutionary than two people loving each other.  One, 'cause it's so uncommon these days, and two, 'cause it's so difficult to do.)

U2 worked on the song that day at STS Studios.  But the song was still very rough--bassist Adam Clayton believed the song sounded too sentimental and "the chords just went round and round and round."   But even though "With Or Without You" didn't make the album The Unforgettable Fire, U2 didn't discard it.  When they began sessions on The Joshua Tree the following year, the group took the song in another direction.

Guided by co-producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, guitarist The Edge began playing ambient guitar, or more open-sounding chords, while Mullen tried a drum kit that was electronically enhanced, and Clayton added more volume.  Yet the group still wasn't happy with the result.

Bono and friend Gavin Friday believed in the song, and continued to work on it.  Friday rearranged it, a different keyboard part was added, and, in the "Do not try this at home department..."The Edge had just received a prototype of the Infinite Guitar.  The guitar allowed sustained notes to be played in a way that was an improvement to the E-Bow that created a wailing sound.    The Edge learned it from Michael Brook when the two worked on the soundtrack album for the movie The Captive
On the very down side, the guitar came with elaborate assembly instructions, and The Edge noted "one wrongly paced wire and you could get a nasty belt of electricity.  This piece of gear would have failed even the most basic of safety regulations."  The Edge talked with author Bill Flanagan (for the book U2 at the End of the World) about his guitar playing on the song:  

Notes actually do mean something. They have power. I think of notes as being expensive. You don't just throw them around. I find the ones that do the best job and that's what I use. I suppose I'm a minimalist instinctively. I don't like to be inefficient if I can get away with it. Like on the end of 'With or Without You'. My instinct was to go with something very simple [...]. I still think it's sort of brave, because the end of "With or Without You" could have been so much bigger, so much more of a climax, but there's this power to it which I think is even more potent because it's held back.

Nevertheless, the Infinite Guitar and the other changes made the difference in the song.  Everyone loved it, so The Edge recorded his part in two takes for co-producer Daniel Lanois in two takes, and Lanois loved it.  Going into the session, U2 was afraid they had run out of ideas for the album, and they considered it a breakthrough moment for The Joshua Tree.         

U2 released the single March 21, 1987.  The competition wasn't strong, with "Livin' On A Prayer" by Bon Jovi and "I Wanna' Dance With Somebody" by Whitney Houston being the only Top 500* songs out at the time. 

"With Or Without You" hit #1 for three weeks on the Popular chart in the United States, and accumulated 8 weeks in the Top 10.  It was a smash on the Album Rock Tracks chart, soaring to #1 for five weeks.  Additionally, the song received considerable airplay on the Adult Contemporary chart.  It is very telling that it was popular on both the AC and Album formats.  You couldn't easily find two more diverse formats, yet U2's song was a hit on both.  "With Or Without You" also reached #1 in Canada and Ireland, #2 in the Netherlands, #4 in the U.K., #5 in Finland and Spain, #7 in Germany, and #10 in France and Switzerland.
"With Or Without You" helped sell 12 million albums for U2, and helped the group win Grammy Awards for Album of the Year & Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.

Like A Prayer

"This is such a classic! All time fave!"
"Á musica é muito linda!"
"This one is truly Epic."
"Thought provoking powerful music & video.. WOW!"

Song #467* showcases Madonna's skills as being a master of marketing that actually began with the album True Blue.  Madonna's first few songs were primarily dance numbers that gave her hits and a substantial following.  She attempted to mend fences with the religious right on the song "Papa Don't Preach", and went after the Spanish audience with the song "La Isla Bonita". 

On the title song from her album Like A Prayer, Madonna continued to work religious themes into her material, and attempted to appeal to blacks by including a black man who was falsely arrested for a murder in her video for the song; the video includes a dream about kissing a black saint.
While Madonna included lyrics that had a basic religious theme, the lyrics also had a double meaning of sexual innuendo.  She and Patrick Leonard combined to both write and produce the song.  Madonna brought in the Andrae Crouch Choir to provide background vocals  to bring out the song's spiritual nature.  Madonna recorded the song at Johnny Yuma Studios in Burbank, California, and released the single on March 3, 1989 on Sire Records. 

The toughest competition for "Like A Prayer" came from "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler, "The Living Years" by Mike + the Mechanics, and "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys.  While it did face those three excellent songs, the rest of the lineup out at the time was not comparatively strong.

Although the song did well, the song didn't have quite the spiritual effect that Madonna had hoped for.  The Vatican condemned the video, and family and religious groups protested its broadcast.  Madonna was terminated from her contract with Pepsi when the groups boycotted Pepsi products. 

For all those things that backfired, "Like A Prayer" was a worldwide smash.  It posted three weeks at #1 on the Popular chart in the U.S., and also hit #3 on the AC chart and did get the R&B airplay Madonna strived for by reaching #20.  The song also topped the charts in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and peaked at #2 in Germany and France.

"Like A Prayer" sold over one million copies, helped sell 14 million albums, and has exceeded one million in radio airplay.




Saturday In The Park

"One of Chicago's greatest songs ever!"
"Great song by a great group..."
"One of the best things that originated in the city of Chicago."
"Awesome!  Great horn section!"

Students at DePaul and Roosevelt universities formed this group in 1967.  Originally, they were known as The Big Thing.  They started out as a cover band, then began working on their own songs.  While Blood, Sweat & Tears had paved the way for a brass section in the Rock Era, they had more of a jazz sound, while Chicago was definitely a rock group with horns.  
After changing their name to Chicago Transit Authority and then shortening it to Chicago, the group racked up 10 quick hits, including "Make Me Smile", "25 Or 6 To 4", "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?", "Beginnings", and "Colour My World".    

Written by Robert Lamm (who sings lead vocals on the song), "Saturday In The Park" was featured on the album Chicago V and debuted in August of 1972.

Competition included "Nights In White Satin" by the Moody Blues, "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me" from Mac Davis, "Brandy" by Looking Glass, and "Witchy Woman" by the Eagles. 

Amidst those songs, "Saturday In The Park" still hit #3 for two weeks, and also reached #8 on the Adult chart.
"Saturday In The Park" has exceeded one million airplays.  It has sold over one million singles and helped sell over 9.5 million albums.





Lionel Richie

"A real love song."
"So romantic."
"This song makes me cry, it's so sweet!!"
"Beautiful ballad."

There are 12 songs from 1982 to make The Top 500*--here's one of them.
Lionel Richie led the Commodores for 13 years before venturing out on a solo career.  His success continued in 1981 with his self-titled debut solo release.  Producer James Carmichael brought in top musicians Joe Walsh, Greg Phillinganes, Paulinho DaCosta and Michael Boddicker. 

Richie not only wrote but co-produced "Truly" for his solo debut.

"Truly" went to #1 in the United States for two weeks and #6 in the U.K., the first of an incredible 13 straight Top 10 songs.  Although Richie's situation is different than other "new" artists, having already been a star with the Commodores, he continues to hold the Rock Era record for consecutive Top 10's "Out of the Gate".  "Truly" camped out in the Top 10 for 10 of its 18 weeks on the chart.  It also topped the Adult Contemporary chart for four weeks, and spent nine weeks at #2 on the R&B chart. 

Richie's smash did this against strong competition from "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor, "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" from Michael Jackson, "Down Under" by Men At Work, "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane" from John Cougar Mellencamp, and "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago.

"Truly" sold over one million singles, helped sell over five million albums, and has surpassed one million airplays.   Richie won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, and he also captured the ASCAP Award for Songwriter of the Year. 


Back In My Arms Again

"Finger poppin' house party music. Memories I will never let go."
"Motown classic!"
"This is my favorite Supremes song!"
"What a great record this is.  Amazing music."

This female trio was formed by Detroit manager Milton Jenkins to complement the male group Jenkins managed, the Primes.  Diana Ross was brought in, and the group was named the Primettes.  Although Smokey Robinson, a neighbor of Ross, failed to interest Motown boss Berry Gordy Jr. in the group, they persisted.  After several personnel changes, Gordy finally relented, but demanded a name change.  Group member Florence Ballard chose the Supremes, although Ross and Mary Wilson did not initially like the name.
The trio released the single "I Want A Guy" in 1960, which promptly flopped. 
The preceding is a story not unlike millions of artists, except most of those millions never see a recording contract.  What followed, of course, is one of the most amazing stories in the history of recorded music.  The Primes went on to become the fabulous Temptations, and the Supremes went on to become the #1 Female Group of the Rock Era*.
The trio finally hit paydirt with their sixth single in 1964, "Where Did Our Love Go".  That opened the floodgates, and "Back In My Arms Again" became the fifth consecutive #1 song for the Supremes, a mark the trio held for 14 years until the Bee Gees eclipsed it with six in 1979.  Whitney Houston then broke that record with seven in a row between 1985 and 1988, a record that still stands.
"Back In My Arms Again" reached #1 on both the Popular and R&B charts in the United States and #1 in Canada, and it had to get through a tough lineup to do it.  "Back In My Arms Again" faced great songs such as "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "Ticket To Ride" by the Beatles, "I Can't Help Myself" by the Four Tops, "California Girls" and "Help Me Rhonda" by the Beach Boys, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher, and "Crying In The Chapel" by Elvis Presley.
"Back In My Arms Again" helped sell over ten million albums for the Supremes, and it has topped two million in radio airplay.



 Classics IV

"Beautiful.  Timeless."
"Still one of the all-time great rock/pop songs as performed by The Classics IV."
"Very beautiful song and great arrangement."

This group out of Jacksonville, Florida began as a cover band, doing instrumentals such as those by the Ventures.  They got their name from the Classic drum set that Dennis Yost had.  When the group began getting requests for songs with vocals, Yost handled those, and the Classics began moving in a different direction.  

While the band was playing Daytona Beach, talent agent Paul Cochran heard them, and he and Buddy Buie began managing the group.  Cochran and Buie formed an alliance with publisher Bill Lowery, and after moving to Atlanta, Georgia, Lowery helped the Classics sign a recording contract with Capitol Records.

The group set out on recording, but soon found that there was already a group called the Classics.  To distinguish themselves from the group, the band changed their name to the Classics IV, since at the time there were four people in the band.

The group's first single failed, so the Classics IV signed a new recording contract with Imperial Records.  The band added lyrics to a jazz instrumental called "Spooky", which was a regional hit for Atlanta saxophonist Mike Sharpe.  "Spooky" became a big hit and started the Classics IV on their way. 

The group hired drummer Ken Venable so Yost could be the front man.  Buie, J.R. Cobb and Emory Gordy, Jr. wrote "Traces", which debuted on the chart in February of 1969.

Some of the songs out at the same time included "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "Proud Mary" 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, "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe, "Time Of The Season" by the Zombies, "Crimson And Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells, and "Touch Me" by the Doors. 

"Traces" was a solid mass appeal hit, peaking at #2 on both the Popular and Adult charts.  The song has proved its strength over the years with five million airplays.   
Members of the Classics IV later formed the popular '70s band Atlanta Rhythm Section.          



Hurts So Good
John Cougar

"The guitar in this song is just amazing."
"Love this song man--right on!"
"Old school, old fashioned, true and honest rock! Brings back a whole lot of memories."
"Rock at its finest."

Born with a tumor in his neck, which doctors removed with two vertebrae, this artist was in the bands Crepe Soul and Snakepit Banana Barn in Indiana.  He was fired from the latter because they claimed he couldn't sing.  How many songs from Snakepit Banana Barn are in The Top 500 for the Rock Era*?  None.  The lesson here is that when you allow people who don't know what they are doing to influence your life, things won't work out for you.  But when you take control of your own life, and follow your passion, great things happen. 

After working at several jobs, including carpentry and at a phone company, John Mellencamp, armed only with a demo he made of Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Kicks", set off for New York City.  There, he met Tony De Fries, who offered to record him and arranged a recording contract with MCA Records. 

John Mellencamp wrote this song with George Green, a childhood friend, and Mellencamp produced it as well.  He recorded it at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, and featured it on the album American Fool, the last album credited to his stage name of John Cougar. 

"Hurts So Good" posted a solid four weeks at #2  (kept away from #1 by Survivor's "Eye Of The Tiger") and spent an impressive 16 of 28 weeks in the Top 10.  In addition to the aforementioned classic by Survivor, "Hurts So Good" also faced "Open Arms" by Journey, "I Love Rock & Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Ebony And Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", "Maneater" from Hall & Oates, "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, and "Truly" by Lionel Richie during its chart run.  

Cougar won a Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Hurts So Good", which went Gold and helped John sell over nine million albums. 

When Mark Wahlberg was a rapper known as Marky Mark, he wanted to turn this into a rap song, but Mellencamp would not allow it.  If only other artists had the guts to say no.


You're No Good
 Linda Ronstadt

"Linda's voice is from another more gorgeous place. Natural, unadorned and a great band as always."
"A real true singer. The Queen of Hearts."
"Okay young girls out there who want to be a good singer and get on some TV talent show, class is in session. Your teacher will be Ms. Ronstadt and THIS is how you do it."

We're up to the talented woman who is the undisputed Remake Queen of all-time.  She took songs that had been recorded by other artists, and not only made them better, but somehow made them her own.  It was Linda's covers that people often remember, not the original hits.
This song was written by Clint Ballard, Jr, a song that initially was a hit for Betty Everett in 1963.  At the time this song was recorded, Ronstadt had been closing her live performances with the song.  Just as her album Heart Like a Wheel was being completed, Ronstadt decided to record the song.  Rather than using the arrangement Everett had used, Linda and her band worked on a new arrangement.
Ronstadt recalled how the song came to be: 

Ed Black, who played six-string guitar and pedal steel, started to play a rhythm riff on his Les Paul.  Kenny Edwards...the bass player...echoed the riff in octaves.  Andrew Gold added a sparse drum track, giving me a basic track to sing over. We did a few takes, picked one we liked, and then Andrew, who always played guitars and keyboards went to work with [producer] Peter [Asher] and began to work up layers of guitar, piano and percussion tracks.  

"You're No Good" fought against "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles, Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John, "Cat's In The Cradle" by Harry Chapin, "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli, "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers, and "Mandy" by Barry Manilow for radio airplay.  Ronstadt reached #1 with her remake, and also placed at #10 on the Adult chart. 
"You're No Good" has helped sell 9.5 million albums and has been played over two million times since 1975. 

And with those ten, Inside The Rock Era is now 40 songs in to The Top 500 for the Rock Era*.  Don't miss a day or a song!  The special continues tomorrow right here!

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