Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #500-491

Welcome to the brand new updated version of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*!
The special was first broadcast in 1979, and a lot has changed since then.  The Top 500* has been presented several times, but has not been updated since 2000.  The great thing about our database is that, as sales and airplay figures come in, and as new songs are released, the database automatically keeps track of the rankings.  The rankings themselves can change weekly or even sometimes daily, but generally, The Top 500 Songs* themselves have remained relatively constant for the last five or ten years.  The reason is because there haven't been a lot of new songs that are good enough to move them out.
We will showcase 10 songs each day in The Top 500*.  They are really to be celebrated for they are the crème de la crème of the last 60 years.  Lest anyone thinks it is easy to make this list, just listen to the 300 or so songs in our Prelude* leading up to the special.  We think you'll agree that there are some pretty great songs that did not make The Top 500*!
Before we unveil the first 10 songs, a couple of items of business.  First, methodology.  As we mentioned above, our database of nearly 13,000 songs contains a complex and trademarked* mathematical formula that contains a wealth of information, including chart numbers, month and year of release, single sales, album sales for up to 30 albums that the song is on, awards won, airplay, and competition.  We believe that all of these factors need to be considered to properly rate songs, especially when they are compared across decades.
For instance, one organization ranks songs only by weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart.  We will stress again and again during our presentation that, since each year and even each month is different, one cannot compare weeks at #1 across different eras and be mathematically correct.  That would be the age-old mistake of comparing apples to oranges.  In some years, music is outstanding, while in others, not so much.  Thus, a song that is #1 for 15 weeks in one year may not be as strong as one that is #1 for 4 weeks, and a #5 song may be ranked ahead of a #1 song simply because of the strength of competition.
We will point out the songs that provided the toughest competition for each of The Top 500*.  By including competition in the formula, and only by doing so, one can professionally compare songs.  The more great songs out at the time, and the better each of those songs is, the tougher the competition, and the more impressive the chart numbers achieved.  The organization referred to above actually listed "Macarena" as the #1 song of all-time because it had more weeks at #1.  We kid you not. 

Comments included with each song are taken from random fan comments on YouTube.
The second item of business is the credits we want to give.  One difference in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* is the time we take not only to select and rank the songs compared to other organizations, but in the time we take to research and point out interesting and important facts about each song.  We have been told that the background information is what makes our specials stand above the rest.
We will do this several times, but we want to make sure and thank our sources for this valuable information.  We highly recommend each of these for Rock Era fans interested in knowing more about the music they listen to.  These are the sources used in gathering information about The Top 500*:
American Hit Radio by Thomas Ryan
The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson
The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, edited by 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
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, edited by Jon Pareles and Patricia Romanowski
Who's Who in Rock & Roll, edited by John Tobler
With our methodology explained, and our thanks to our sources, let the countdown commence!


Tossin' And Turnin'
Bobby Lewis

"Great ole jam!"
"Taking you back in time...Classic Hits!"
"good music & good times.."
"This song is an absolute monster."

Bobby Lewis was raised in an orphanage, and was so unhappy at his foster home that he ran away at age 14.  Musically, hee got his start in the Leo Hines Orchestra.  Bobby performed at small clubs in the '50s and recorded on Spotlight Records.  When those releases didn't pan out, Lewis failed several auditions until he tried again at Beltone Records in Manhattan, New York.  This time, Lewis signed a contract and his career was underway. 
 Ritchie Adams, lead singer of the Fireflies, who were also with Beltone, had seen Lewis at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem and gave Lewis the song he had written with Malou Rene, "Tossin' And Turnin'".  Lewis recorded the song with King Curtis on saxophone, and released it at the end of 1960.
"Tossin' And Turnin'" did not debut on the charts until April of 1961, and it had to get by "Runaway" from Del Shannon, "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King, and "Surrender" by Elvis Presley.    
"Tossin' And Turnin'" went to #1 for seven weeks on the Popular chart, and dominated the R&B chart for 10 weeks.  Lewis's smash was later released on the popular "Animal House" Soundtrack.  It has now logged over one million airplays.




"Killer song!"
"Powerful rock from the worlds best band!"
"Truly one of the greatest songs."
"Pure brilliance."


We're up to #499*, and here's a little background for those who weren't around.  In 1968, protests about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War intensified, especially at universities throughout the country.  But the generation that changed history wasn't confined to the U.S.  Thousands of demonstrators marched to the American embassy in London.  There were protests in Poland against their communist government, and university students in France also fought back against the establishment.   

Against that backdrop, we have this song.  Up until this point, the Beatles had largely stayed out of politics.  But if anyone was going to break the trend for the group, it was going to be John Lennon.  John made several good points in the song; one of them being that before someone talked about toppling the system, he wanted to see the plan for a better system.  In other words, talk is cheap. 

The phrase "it's gonna' be alright" was born from Lennon's Transcendental Meditation in India, putting forth the idea that God would take care of the world no matter what happened politically.
The Beatles began recording the song May 30, focusing on the rhythm track.  Take 18 was 10 minutes and 17 seconds, and the group added overdubs in the next two sessions.  On June 4, the group extended the track further to 10 minutes and 46 seconds.  The first half of the track was almost the same as what became known as "Revolution 1" on the album, or the single "Revolution".  It did not include the electric guitar and horn of the final version, but featured two tape loops that were faded in and out during the song. 
 After the final chorus, there was an extended coda, similar to "Hey Jude", only 40 seconds of which made it on to the album.  "Track 20", as the song became known as, featured a repeating instrumental backing, with Paul McCartney and George Harrison singing "dada, mama" repeatedly in childlike voices, Lennon's histrionic vocals were randomly distorted in speed, and radio tuning noises, similar to "I Am The Walrus", appeared.  Take 20, some of which made it onto the album version called "Revolution 9", is a fascinating example of the tremendous experimentation that the group was doing at the time, as they continued to change the history of Rock music. 
Lennon decided to split the track into two parts:  the first being a conventional song and the second featuring all of the experimental recording.  He and wife Yoko Ono worked on "Revolution 9" over several sessions.  On June 21, the Beatles recorded several overdubs to the first part of Take 20 that became "Revolution 1", or "Revolution".  Harrison added lead guitar and a brass section of two trumpets and four trombones was recorded.  Lennon wanted "Revolution 1" to be the next single, but McCartney and Harrison argued that the existing track was too slow for a single.  The Beatles began rehearsing for a faster and louder version on July 9, and recording commenced the following day.
A rapid-fire fuzz guitar riff, unlike anything the group had ever done, opened the song, with the guitars of Lennon and Harrison featured throughout the track.  The Beatles achieved the distorted sound by directly plugging the guitar sound into the mixing console.  Engineer Geoff Emerick routed the signal through two microphone preamplifiers in which he kept the overload just below the point of overheating the console.
Lennon overdubbed his opening scream and double-tracked some of his vocals.  "Revolution" was also recorded in a higher key than "Revolution 1" on the album, and it ended in a climax, rather than the fade out ending of the latter.  Nicky Hopkins added electric piano on July 11, with final overdubs added on July 13 and mixing on July 15. 
"Revolution" was released as the flip side to "Hey Jude" on August 26.  Because of the changes mentioned above, it does not appear on any studio album, but is the version featured on The Blue Album and other compilations. 
Besides the Beatles' "Hey Jude", other songs out at the time included "People Got To Be Free" by the Rascals, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "Everyday People" from Sly & the Family Stone, "Love Child" by the Supremes, and the Doors' "Hello, I Love You".
At the time, "Revolution" only reached #12, but it has helped sell an incredible 41 million albums, and has been played one million times.


Lay Down Sally
Eric Clapton
"Sveglia con un grande artista, un ottimo brano, brillante ...trascinante..."
"Eric Clapton is timeless & the epitome of coolness that near fades or goes out of style. I just never get tired of this song."
"Amazing Eric!!! great song!!"
"I love this song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Eric Clapton once studied stained glass design at the Kingston College of Art, but he was bitten by the performing bug.  Eric would join a band, then get bored, as he was with the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek in the Dominoes in succession.  Just as with his personal relationships, Clapton was better off being by himself.

In 1978, Clapton, Marcy Levy, and George Terry combined to write "Lay Down Sally", with Eric writing it in the style of one of his favorite songwriters, J.J. Cale.  Levy toured with Bob Seger  before becoming a backup singer for Clapton.  Much later, she would become part of the group Shakespear's Sister.

Clapton recorded the song at Olympic Studios in London, and released it as the first single from his Backless album.  "Lay Down Sally" debuted in January of 1978, going against songs such as "How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin' Alive" and Night Fever" by the Bee Gees (no getting through that!), Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life", "Just The Way You Are" by Billy Joel, "Baker Street" from Gerry Rafferty, Queen's "We Are The Champions", "You Make Loving Fun" by Fleetwood Mac, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, "Blue Bayou" by Linda Ronstadt, "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb, Dan Hill's Sometimes When We Touch", "Baby Come Back" by Player, and "Dust In The Wind" from Kansas. 

"Lay Down Sally" went to #3 for two weeks and spent 11 weeks in the Top 10 in the United States; it also reached #3 in Canada.  It sold one million copies and 13.5 million albums, and has been played four million times since 1978.


Black Water
Doobie Brothers

"Such a soulful song ! I'd like to hear some funky Dixieland & dance a honky tonk, Ayyyee lol!"
"This song is one of the greats--the Doobies rock the world!" 
"I can't listen to this without smiling!"  
"This is great traveling music for truckers running hard and strong."

This great San Jose, California group checks in next. They became the house band at the Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz mountains.  After recording a six-track demo at Pacific Recording studios, the Doobie Brothers landed a contract with Warner Brothers Records.
Songwriter Patrick Simmons also sang lead on this song, included on the 1975 album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits.  Simmons came up with the idea for the song when the Doobie Brothers toured the South in the early 70's.  "When I got down there [to New Orleans]," Simmons said, "it was everything I had hoped it would be ... The way of life and vibe really connected with me and the roots of my music."
The song is written specifically about the Mississippi River, and was no doubt influenced by Mark Twain's books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, which described life on "the black water".  The song started out as the "B" side to "Another Park, Another Sunday".  Before long, though, DJ's had flipped the 45 over to discover this hidden gem, and it was "Black Water" that became the big hit.
"Black Water" hit #1, remarkable in itself that a "B" side would overtake the single.  But even more impressive was that the song did it in the face of competition from great songs such as "Philadelphia Freedom" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" by Elton John, "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles", Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow", "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, "Cat's In The Cradle" by Harry Chapin, and "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt.
"Black Water" went Gold and helped the Doobies sell over 12.5 million albums.




If You Leave Me Now 

"Beautiful music never dies.and this immortal music!!!"
"la cancion inmortal de chicago !!♥"
"Senza tempo pezzo stupendo!!!"

Here's one of 12 songs in The Top 500* from 1976. 
What has made Chicago one of the greatest acts in music history?  Woodwind player Walter Parazaider, in an interview with the newspaper The New York Post in 1977, attributed it to togetherness and chemistry:  "We were friends before any of this started happening.  Personally and musically, we're a family."  
The best thing Chicago ever did was hire college friend James William Guercio as their manager and producer.  Guercio had made a name for himself as the producer of Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Buckinghams.  Guercio not only moved the members of the group then known as Chicago Transit Authority to Los Angeles, he paid their rent and found them work. 
Another big moment for the group came when Guercio got them signed as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go, the famous nightclub on the Sunset Strip.  While at the Whisky, Chicago developed a strong following with their innovative fusion of jazz and rock and incredible musicianship.  Chicago had proven what they could do, and it led to a contract with Columbia Records in 1969.

This next all-time classic was written and sung by bassist Peter Cetera.  Chicago recorded the song for their album Chicago X
"If You Leave Me Now" was released as a single on July 31, 1976.  This was at a time when "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" by Elton John & Kiki Dee was wrapping up a four-week run at #1.  Other songs out at the time were "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart, "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" by England Dan & John Ford Coley, "Silly Love Songs" from Paul McCartney & Wings, and "Rock'N Me" by the Steve Miller Band. 
By August, the song had sold 1.4 million copies in the United States alone.  Out of all the great Chicago songs, it is hard to believe that this one became their first #1 song, posting two weeks at the top on the Popular chart (with 12 weeks in the Top 10) and three weeks at #1 on the Adult chart.  It also reached #1 for three weeks in the U.K. and topped the charts in Canada, Australia and Holland, and reached #3 in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and #4 in Norway.
"If You Leave Me Now" won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and  Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s).



Only You (And You Alone)
"The poetry is incredible." 
"Love the platter's Music!!  A joy to hear them sing!!"
"Ein Richtiger   Schmachtfetzen!"
"I heard this for the first time when I was 14 years old.  My heart soared.  HIs voice and this group is angelic."

This classic group formed in Los Angeles in 1953, although all of the original members were from outside California.  The following year, the members of the group were working as parking lot attendants when they met Buck Ram.  They signed a management deal with Ram, who immediately made two important moves.  First, he brought in female vocalist Zola Taylor, then he secured a recording contract for the group with Federal Records, an R&B subsidiary of King Records.  The Platters' debut release "Only You (And You Alone)", however, failed to chart. 

Ram booked the group at some excellent venues, and the Platters received great exposure and financial gain.  This prompted another group from L.A., the Penguins, to also sign with Ram.  When the Penguins scored a huge million-seller with "Earth Angel", Mercury Records wanted to sign them.  Ram agreed, but only on the condition that Mercury signed the Platters as well.
Tony Williams and Jean Bennett of the Platters convinced Ram that "Only You (And You Alone)" had potential, so the group went into the studio to record a new version.  This time it became a big hit, and the Platters, who were just an afterthought by Mercury, went on to become the biggest group of the 50's.  The song earned the Platters a long-term contract with Mercury and enabled the group to perform on television, in rock concerts, and in major nightclubs throughout the world.  The Penguins, Mercury's first choice, never had a hit for Mercury.

Released in the summer of 1955, "Only You" faced competition from two of the Rock Era's early great songs, "Heartbreak Hotel" by Elvis Presley and "Rock Around The Clock" by Bill Haley & the Comets.  "Only You" hit charts in October, 1955 and reached #5 for 3 weeks.  It also led the way on the R&B chart for 7 weeks.

"Only You" has been played six million times.

Ram did another unique thing with the Platters, establishing them as a corporation in 1956.  Each member received a 20% share in the stock, full royalties, and their Social Security tax was paid.  However, as group members left one by one, Ram and his partner, Jean Bennett, bought their stock which they claimed gave them ownership in the Platters.  A court later ruled against Ram and Bennett, saying that the issuance of stock was a sham to obtain ownership in the name "Platters", and therefore was illegal and void because it violated the corporate securities law of the state of California. 



 Let's Go Crazy

At #494*, a song about getting through life and the battle against evil, with Satan being the "de-elevator".  It includes one of the most famous spoken intros in music history, with Prince taking on the persona of a preacher.  Accompanied by a church organ, he speaks of what we have to look forward to in the afterlife, a world of never-ending happiness. 
The Purple One recorded this at The Warehouse in St. Louis Park, and included it on the phenomenally successful "Purple Rain" Soundtrack.  Most of the scenes from the movie were recorded at a nightclub where Prince performed at called First Avenue in Minneapolis.  Prince released the single in July of 1984 on Warner Brothers Records.
Purple Rain is one of The Top 100 Albums of the Rock Era*, and posted 24 weeks at #1 on the Album chart.  "Let's Go Crazy" faced competition from Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It", "Like A Virgin" from Madonna, Prince's own "When Doves Cry", "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder, "Careless Whisper" by Wham, "I Want To Know What Love Is" by Foreigner, "You're The Inspiration" by Chicago, "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, "Stuck On You" by Lionel Richie, and "Missing You" by Jonathan Waite. 
Despite that, the song reached #2 for two weeks overall, and also landed at #4 on the R&B chart.  "Let's Go Crazy" also reached #2 in Canada, #7 in the U.K., and #10 in Australia.
"Let's Go Crazy" not only went Gold, but helped Purple Rain sell over 13 million copies.  The song won Grammy Awards For Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal and Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special.


Stuck On You
Lionel Richie
"An Amazing Song.......Stuck On You.......Lovely!!!"
"Lionel Richie is my favorite singer and I love, love, love this song!!!"
"Love this one from the legend Lionel Richie..."
"Something about midnight trains."

The son of a retired army captain and a teacher, this artist first found fame with the Commodores, which posted a string of hits in the 70's, including "Three Times A Lady", "Sail On", "Still" and "Sweet Love".  Richie had become the principal songwriter and singer with the group, and began a solo career in 1982.
Richie's freshman effort was widely successful, but his 1984 album Can't Slow Down established him as a solo superstar, and featured four Top 5 hits.  "Stuck On You" may have been the fourth release from the album, but it is one of his biggest career hits.  
Competing against "What's Love Got To Do With It" from Tina Turner, Lionel's own classic "Hello", "Against All Odds" from Phil Collins, "Time After Time" from Cyndi Lauper, "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins, "Let's Go Crazy" from Prince, "Dancing In The Dark" by Bruce Springsteen, "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, and Jonathan Waite's "Missing You".  beginning in June, "Stuck On You" held its own.
Overall, the song peaked at #3 for 2 weeks, but it is the song's universal appeal that lands it a spot in The Top 500*.  "Stuck On You" topped the Adult Contemporary chart for five weeks to become one of The Top AC Songs of the 80's*.  It also reached #8 on the R&B chart and incredibly earned #24 on the Country chart.  It is nearly unheard of for a song to reach the Top 25 on all four major charts.  In addition, "Stuck On You" peaked at #2 in Ireland and #3 in Canada.



Twilight Time

"They don't make music like this anymore."
"What a beautiful song!"
"Love this song... So beautiful with its imagery... "

This group was an amazing success story, partly because they achieved fame in the Rock Era even though their sound was more characteristic of the Tin Pan Alley days.  The Platters did this because, in addition to their tremendous talent, they added arrangements updated to provide the rhythmic backing that had become popular.  In retrospect, it is fascinating that both the Platters and the Rock Era moved into the forefront at the same time.  While Bill Haley & the Comets, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley were shaking and shimmering, the Platters did it their way, with mind-blowing, crooning vocals and harmonies, successfully swimming against the tide.

At #492*, this classic co-written by manager Buck Ram and the Three Suns (Morty Nevins, Al Nevis and Artie Dunn).  It reached #1 in the U.S. and #3 in the U.K.  "Twilight Time" vied for attention along with songs such as "Jailhouse Rock" and "Hard Headed Woman" by Elvis Presley, "All I Have To Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers, "At The Hop" by Danny & the Juniors and "Tequila" by the Champs.
The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year, 1998.


Three Dog Night

"It's a perfect song."
"Amazing song!  One of my favs!"
"This is Classic rock ... so sweet..."
"Love it!"

In 1973, Daniel Moore wrote this classic, and quickly two artists recorded it.  B.W. Stevenson, who had a big hit with Moore's "My Maria", would not enjoy similar success with "Shambala", only climbing as high as #66.  What a different story it was for Three Dog Night.  Stevenson's version sold 125,000 copies; TDN's version sold over 1,250,000.  TDN included it on the album Cyan.

The word "Shambala" has a spiritual meaning (mentioned in ancient texts such as the Kalachakra Tantra) that some Tibetan Buddhists believe is a mystical land somewhere in the Himalaya mountains.  In 1972, Moore was talking to his brother Matthew, who had called to tell him to tell him of a reply he got after sending a letter to a woman in Massachusetts.  The woman recounted several people Matthew had been in his past lives, and ended the letter with,
 "My messenger tells me to tell you," "Let your light shine in the halls of Shambala."

Matthew had no idea what Shambala was, but Daniel researched the word, and found dozens of references to it.  His favorite was found in Alice Bailey's Treatise On White Magic, which said that there was a huge cavern under the Gobi Desert that had replicas of every evolving human being.  When the replica begins to light up (meaning you are raising your consciousness to a higher level), there is a point where your replica gets bright enough to warrant a spiritual teacher sent your way.

The world first heard "Shambala" in May of 1973, and it faced some of the toughest competition of the Rock Era.  "Daniel" by Elton John, Vicki Lawrence's "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia", "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" by Jim Croce, "Live And Let Die" and "My Love" by Paul McCartney and Wings, "Love Train" from the O'Jays, Stevie Wonder's "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life", "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon, "We're An American Band" by Grand Funk, "Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers Band, "Frankenstein" by the Edgar Winter Group, and "Touch Me In The Morning" by Diana Ross were all out during the chart run of "Shambala".

Three Dog Night emerged with a #3 smash overall--"Shambala" also landed at #3 for two weeks on the Adult chart.  It has sold over one million copies, and has been played on the radio over one million times. 

There you have the first 10 elite members of The Top 500*.  We're just getting started, and you won't want to miss a day.  Join Inside The Rock Era tomorrow for #490-481*! 

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