Friday, June 12, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #280-271

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* is a composite of the public's tastes over the last 60 years, reflecting the songs the listen to and buy from July 9, 1955 to July 8, 2015.  No one will like all the songs, nor agree with the rankings, but just appreciate what these songs have meant to millions over the years (and hopefully you'll find some you like yourself..):


Wedding Bell Blues 
5th Dimension

"Such intimate music...unforgettable!"
"What a song!  Fantastic group."
"I can't imagine a greater group from the standpoint of vocal precision."
"Love those horns!"
"Sublime vocals. Great melody. Result; class! :-)"

Folk singer Laura Nyro wrote "Wedding Bell Blues", which the 5th Dimension covered.  The supergroup had already scored a big hit with Nyro's "Stoned Soul Picnic" in 1968, and turned to her again for this great song.

While recording songs for their upcoming album The Age of Aquarius, producer Bones Howe suggested to members of the 5th Dimension that they should record "Wedding Bell Blues", which talks about a woman trying to get her boyfriend Bill to commit to marriage.  It so happened that Marilyn McCoo of the group was engaged to another member, Billy Davis, Jr., although the two had not set a wedding date. 

The 5th Dimension released the album in May of 1968, and of course the lead single was "Aquarius".  But when the follow-up, "Workin' On A Groovy Thing" was only a moderate hit, the group looked for something else.  A disc jockey in San Diego, California made it easy for them, playing "Wedding Bell Blues" from the album.  Soul City Records saw the potential, and released it as the next single in September, 1969. 

The song faced killer competition from "Something" and "Come Together" by the Beatles, "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" from B.J. Thomas, Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds", "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, "Someday We'll Be Together" by Diana Ross & the Supremes, "Venus" from the Shocking Blue, "Get Together" by the Youngbloods, Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'" , "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & the Shondells, and CCR's "Down On The Corner".

"Wedding Bell Blues" recorded three weeks at #1 and 8 in the Top 10 in the U.K., and reached the Top 5 in Canada.  Showing its strength, it also reached #2 in the Adult chart for three weeks.  It sold two million singles, helped sell three million albums, and has topped three million in radio airplay. 

Nyro also wrote "And When I Die" by Blood, Sweat & Tears and "Eli's Coming" by Three Dog Night, among many others.


Father Figure 
George Michael

"This is such a sexy song--love it!"
"Masterpiece of music."
"So beautiful."
"What a fantastic song."
"One of the best songs I've ever heard."

The first thing this artist did after the group Wham! split up was to travel to the United States to record a duet with Aretha Franklin.  That's good exposure.  The song "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me" went to #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K.
George Michael then set out to record his first solo album, and did he hit it out of the park.  Michael not only wrote and produced the album; he also arranged it and played most of the instruments.  Faith became one of The Top Albums of the Rock Era*, registering 12 weeks at #1 and 87 in the best-seller lists.  Michael saved the best song on the album for third, releasing "Father Figure" in January after "I Want Your Sex" and the title song.

The top songs out during "Father Figure's" run were "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson, George's own "Faith" and "One More Try", and "Can't Stay Away From You" by Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine.  The weaker competition is the only thing keeping this song from higher heights, as it has everything else going for it.
Taking time out between sold-out shows in Europe, Michael performed at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Party at Wembley Stadium, then, six hours later, played another sold-out show at Earls Court in London.

"Father Figure" went to #1 for 2 weeks on the Popular chart, #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #6 on the R&B chart.  It also landed at  #2 in Canada, Ireland, and the Netherlands, #7 in New Zealand and #10 in Norway.

The song helped sell 12 million albums and Michael won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for Faith.


In The Ghetto
Elvis Presley

"Magnifique. 😍"
"Great hard-hitting song from the legend."
"A fantastic song."
"Always one of my favorites."
"Strikes me to the heart."

Mac Davis had written songs for Elvis Presley for Presley's films, including "A Little Less Conversation" and "Clean Up Your Own Backyard".  As Elvis was attempting a comeback in 1968, he asked Davis if he had anything else he could record.  Davis sent Presley a tape with "In The Ghetto" and "Don't Cry Daddy", and Elvis recorded both of them.

"In The Ghetto" was originally titled "The Vicious Circle" for good reason; it is about the cycle of poverty in the inner cities, which seemed to repeat itself generation after generation.  In the song, a boy is born to a mother who already has more children than she can feed in the Chicago, Illinois ghetto.  She is unaware of birth control or the need for it.  The boy grows up hungry, steals and fights, buys a gun and steals a car, and attempts to run, but is shot and killed, just as another child is born, in the ghetto. 

The feeling of the inescapable circle is beautifully created by the structure of the song, with its simple, stark phrasing, by the repetition of the phrase "in the ghetto" and by the repetition of the line "and his mama cries" at the beginning of the song and at the close of the last verse. 

Presley recorded the song at American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee, the first time he had been back to record in Memphis since his days with Sam Phillips in the 1950's.  Presley released the song in 1969, and he did indeed score a big comeback with the song.  Radio stations began playing the song in May, when "In The Ghetto" vied for inclusion amongst giant hits like "Get Back" by the Beatles, "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension, "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, "In The Year 2525" by Zager & Evans, "Time Of The Season" by the Zombies, "The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel, "Get Together" by the Youngbloods, "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe, "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Bad Moon Rising" by CCR, "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder, and "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond.

Elvis achieved his first Top 10 hit in four years with "In The Ghetto" as it reached #1 in Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Norway, #2 in the U.K., and #3 in the U.S.

"In The Ghetto" not only sold two million 45's, but helped sell 16.5 million albums.  The song has topped two million in radio airplay.


Can You Feel The Love Tonight 
Elton John

"This song is so beautiful."
"Tears of joy."

"Seriously love this song."


"This is a perfect love song."

"One of the best songs ever--brilliant!"

He started out as a child prodigy and a respected member of the group Bluesology.  He then auditioned for Liberty Records.  He failed, but Liberty did give him lyrics sent to them by a writer in Lincolnshire, England by the name of Bernie Taupin, whose mother rescued his letter intended for Liberty but thrown away, in a waste-paper basket.  Dwight and Taupin corresponded by mail, not meeting until they had completed 20 songs together. 

The two signed a publishing contract with Dick James Music, but all James wanted them to do was write songs for other artists.  By this time, Dwight had changed his name to Elton John.  Elton wanted to record his own songs!  He finally got that chance in 1969, when he recorded his debut album Empty Sky.  From the moment people started hearing his sound, they had to wonder what Liberty and Dick James could have been thinking.  He took the world by storm, becoming The #1 Artist of the Seventies*, and one of the brightest stars the world has ever known.

Tim Rice wrote the lyrics to this great song, with Elton John providing the music.  "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" was featured in the phenomenal movie The Lion King.  Rick Astley and Kiki Dee are among the backing vocalists on the song; Astley also played bass on the song.  Elton released the single in May.

Other songs out the same time included "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men, "The Sign" and "All That She Wants",  by Ace of Base, "The Power Of Love" by Celine Dion, "I Swear" by All 4 One, "All I Wanna' Do" by Sheryl Crow, and "All For Love" by Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams and Sting. 

"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" reached #4 overall and it was an Adult killer, topping that format for eight weeks.  It spent 12 weeks in the Top 10 in the U.S., and peaked at #1 in France, #2 in Sweden, #4 in Austria, #7 in New Zealand, and #9 in Australia and Ireland.  "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" was the most-played song of 1994.

"Can You Feel The Love Tonight" has topped 1 million single sales, has helped sell 18.5 million albums, and has been played over one million times.  It won Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Musical Album for Children, an Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song--Motion Picture and Elton later won the Legend Award at the World Music Awards.    

The Lion King became a huge Broadway play in 1997, and is still one of the most popular plays on Broadway, 18 years later.   


Me And Bobby McGee 
Janis Joplin

"Beautiful song from an amazing woman."
"Wonderful song, from the soul."
"Passionate song."
"Great song which invariably makes me cry."
"What a soulful voice."

Here is another smash hit changed slightly for recording.  In the original version written by Kris Kristofferson, Bobby is a woman.  Janis Joplin, who was a mentor of Kris and rumored to be a lover briefly as well, changed the sex of Bobby and recorded it herself.

Although Kristofferson said he did not write this song about Janis, he did say that the title of the song came from Fred Foster, producer and founder of Monument Records.  Foster gave Kristofferson the title "Me And Bobby McKee", McKee being the name of Boudleaux Bryant's secretary, who was in the same building with Foster.  Kristofferson said he thought he heard "McGee". 

 I thought there was no way I could ever write that, and it took me months hiding from him, because I can't write on assignment.  But it must have stuck in the back of my head. One day I was driving between Morgan City and New Orleans. It was raining and the windshield wipers were going. I took an old experience with another girl in another country.  I had it finished by the time I got to Nashville.

Kristofferson said he used the movie La Strada as inspiration.  At one point, the character played by Anthony Quinn drove off and left the woman played by Giuletta Masina.  That was where Kristofferson got "Somewhere near Salinas, I let her slip away."  Later in the movie, Quinn heard a woman hanging out her clothes.  It wasn't Masina.  When Quinn asked the woman where Masina was, she replied, "Oh, she died."   So Quinn went out, got drunk, got into a fight in the bar, and ended up on the beach.  Kristofferson said that was where he got the line "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose", because he would have traded all his tomorrows for another day with her.

Roger Miller originally performed the song.  Joplin recorded it from September 5 to October 1 of 1970, and it was released January 11, 1971, a little over three months after Janis died from drugs. 
Joplin's death drew a lot of attention to the album Pearl, sending it to #1 on the Album chart.  Meanwhile, "Me And Bobby McGee" topped the Singles chart for two weeks, fighting off competition from "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord", "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, "Your Song" from Elton John, "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere & the Raiders, "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "Rose Garden" from Lynn Anderson, and "Just My Imagination" by the Temptations.  

"Me And Bobby McGee" became the second posthumous #1 in the United States after Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay".  Joplin's song helped sell 11.5 million albums and has been played over two million times. 


Take It To The Limit

"One of the best classic rock love songs. the beginning is just so classic 70's."

"One of the greatest songs ever written and ever sung."

"Sublime, and beyond perfection in every way.  In particular, I don't know of any other comparably brilliant combination of lead and backing vocal."

"This track makes me cry every time I hear it. So much emotion in the lyrics.  A great song by one of 4 or 5 best bands of all-time."

"My first exposure to the Eagles was as a young boy.  My dad listened to them all the time.  Now I'm 25, and I'm grateful to my father for showing me what real music sounds like."

"Beautiful lyrics."

In 1974, the Eagles had released just two albums when they played the California Jam rock festival before 200,000 screaming fans.  That was our first hint at just how loved they had already become.  The following year, the group opened for Elton John at London's Wembley Stadium before an audience of 100,000.  
Meanwhile, they were working on an LP that would prove to be their breakout, and one of The Top Albums of the Rock Era*.  That album was One Of These Nights, and both the title song and the superb "Lyin' Eyes" captivated Rock Era fans around the globe.  All the Eagles did after those two was release another classic.

Song #275* is one of the greatest contributions from Randy Meisner before he left the group.  Meisner originally wrote it as a solo song, but since it was unfinished when it came time for One of These Nights to be recorded, Don Henley and Glenn Frey helped Meisner complete the song.  Meisner explained the title of the song:

The line "Take it to the limit" was to keep trying.  You reach a point in your life where you feel you've done everything and seen everything - it's part of getting old.  And just to take it to the limit one more time, like every day just keep punching away at it.  That was the line, and from there the song took a different course."

Meisner sang lead on the song, the only Eagles single that featured his lead vocal.  "Take It To The Limit" is also the last Eagles single to feature co-founder Bernie Leadon.  Bernie was replaced the following year by elite guitarist Joe Walsh.  Meisner too left the group after their Hotel California tour in 1977.  The high notes at the end of the song were not easy for Randy to hit, and he would get nervous singing the song live.  At one point, he asked to take "Take It To The Limit" out of the set, which became a point of contention within the group, and a factor in Meisner leaving the group. 

The Eagles released the single November 15, 1975.  their own "Lyin' Eyes", "Island Girl" by Elton John, "Let Your Love Flow" from the Bellamy Brothers, "I Write The Songs" by Barry Manilow, "Free Bird" from Lynyrd Skynyrd, "The Theme From 'Mahogany'" by Diana Ross, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", and "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney & Wings. 
"Take It To The Limit" raced to #4 for 2 weeks overall, and showed its mass appeal by also reaching #4 on the Adult chart.  But the song wasn't through once it wasn't a current hit anymore. 

The song has now helped sell over 39 million albums in the U.S. alone, and has topped one million in radio airplay.


You're The One That I Want
Olivia Newton-John & John Travolta

"Great classic song."
"Amazing bass line."
"Fun boogying to a classic."



In 1978, Olivia Newton-John was a highly successful star with little acting experience.  John Travolta was about the hottest thing going since being nominated for Best Actor for his role in the blockbuster hit Saturday Night Fever, but had little singing experience.

John Farrar, who had written and produced Olivia in the years leading up to the movie, provided her with a familiar face, writing and producing this song as well.

The two made for a great pair in the movie Grease, and this song not only wrapped up the film, but showed Olivia that she could be successful outside of the limitations of Country music. 

"You're The One That I Want' debuted on the charts in April, 1978.  The duo contended with great songs such as "How Deep Is Your Love", "Stayin' Alive", and "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees, "Three Times A Lady" from the Commodores, Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street", "Just The Way You Are" from Billy Joel, Queen's "We Are The Champions", "Hopelessly Devoted To You" by Olivia, "Baby Come Back" by Player, "Lay Down Sally" from Eric Clapton, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, Andy Gibb's "Shadow Dancing", "Kiss You All Over" by Exile, and "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill.

"You're The One That I Want" raced to #1 with 9 weeks in the Top 10 in the U.S., but it was an even bigger hit in the U.K.  In fact, the song accumulated nine weeks at #1 before the movie was released in Great Britain, and went on to become the sixth-biggest-selling single of all-time.  It also reached #1 in Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
"You're The One That I Want" sold two million singles and helped sell 10 million albums in the U.S. alone.  Worldwide, it has gone over six million singles sold in the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France.  The song has been played over one million times.


Hard To Say I'm Sorry
"The best song ever from Chicago."

"Love this song..."

"Beautiful song."

"Awesome song!"

"The best music!"

"Amazing vocal performance--great song."

We hope you are enjoying The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, a special presentation in 2015 that will mark the 60th birthday of the Rock Era on July 9, when we conclude the special with The Top 10 Songs of the Rock Era*.
This supergroup has already placed "If You Leave Me Now" at #496, "Just You 'N Me" at #487, "Saturday In The Park" at #466, and "You're The Inspiration" at #349.  And here's another winner from Chicago, one of 14 songs from the year 1982.

Despite being one of The Top 25 Artists of the Rock Era*, this group was dropped from their label, Columbia Records.  Full Moon Records was happy to sign them to a recording contract, and the move paid big dividends when Chicago came up with this song.

Lead singer Peter Cetera co-wrote this classic with producer David Foster, who also played piano on the song.  Steve Lukather (lead guitar), David Paich and Steve Porcaro (both synthesizers) of the group Toto also played on "Hard To Say I'm Sorry".

Chicago released the single May 17, 1982 from the album  Chicago 16.  At the time, Rock Era fans could hear great songs such as "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor, "I Love Rock & Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Ebony And Ivory" from Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, "Down Under" by Men At Work, "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, "Maneater" from Hall & Oates, "Jack & Diane" and "Hurts So Good" by John Cougar, "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, Toto's "Rosanna", and "Truly" from Lionel Richie. 

"Hard To Say I'm Sorry" went to #1 for 2 weeks in the U.S. with 12 weeks in the Top 10.  It also presided at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks.   The song  became Chicago's first Top 50 hit since "No Tell Lover" in 1978.  "Hard To Say I'm Sorry" also landed at #1 in Canada and Switzerland, #4 in the U.K. and Australia, #5 in Austria, and #6 in Germany.

"Hard To Say I'm Sorry" sold one million copies, helped sell 3.5 million albums, and has now topped three million in radio airplay.
The song was featured in the movie Summer Lovers.  The group AZ Yet recorded a new version of this song in 1997, in which Cetera sang vocals and Foster produced.


 Peaches & Herb

"Great song--love it!"

"It really is a beautiful song."

"One of my all-time favorites."

"Magical song... vocals - production - lyric.... in my top 20 of love song duets..."


What a beautiful and romantic song."

Up next, one of 14 songs from the year 1979 to make The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  That is well above the median of 5 for the years that make up the Rock Era; in other words, approximately half of the 60 years have contributed less than 5 songs to the elite list, and half have contributed more than 5.

In 1967, the duo Peaches and Herb connected with the Top 10 song "Close Your Eyes".  Herb was Herbert Feemster, while Peaches was Francine Barker, nicknamed "Peaches" because she had a prim demeanor as a child.  When Barker was married in 1970, Feemster left the music business to join the police.
In 1975, Feemster wanted to get back into music, and hooked up with Linda Greene, who was recommended to him by Van Mc Coy (of "The Hustle" fame).  As a new version of Peaches & Herb, the two scored a big hit with "Shake Your Groove Thing".  But it was the follow-up that gave Peaches & Herb their biggest career hit on both sides of the Atlantic. 
Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris wrote Song #272*.  Perren and Fekaris both worked at Motown Records, where Perren co-wrote several hits for the Jackson 5.  After they left Motown, Perren and Fekaris formed their own production company.  The lyrics to "Reunited" touched Greene so much that she wept when she heard it for the first time.  Perren also produced the song at his Los Angeles studio he called Mom & Pop's Company Store. 
Peaches & Herb recorded "Reunited" for their album 2 (sic) Hot.  By March of 1979, Peaches & Herb had another huge hit on their hands.  "Reunited" was being played right alongside smashes such as "My Sharona" by the Knack, "Too Much Heaven" and "Tragedy" by the Bee Gees, "My Life" from Billy Joel, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor, Chic's "Le Freak",  "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" by Rod Stewart, "She Believes In Me" from Kenny Rogers, "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band, "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" from Michael Jackson, and "What A Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers.

"Reunited" landed at #1 for 4 weeks, with 10 weeks lodged inside the Top 10.  It also ruled on the R&B chart for 4 weeks.  "Reunited" sold over two million singles in the U.S. alone.
Perren and Fekaris also teamed up to write "I Will Survive" for Gloria Gaynor in 1979.
Since 1986, Herb has been a court security officer.  Although he makes a tidy sum through royalties for "Reunited", Feemster says, "I want to work till I die.  I don't believe in retirement."

You're My) Soul And Inspiration 
Righteous Brothers

"Great song!"
"Blue-eyed soul that is beyond super duper killer!"
"This is such a beautiful song."
"Music that has stood the test of time.  A classic feel to it."
"Great sound."
"Great music lasts forever."

After the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil gave the Righteous Brothers their smash hit "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", the Righteous Brothers asked them to write another song, and Song #271* is the one they came up with.
Mann and Weil wrote something, but believed it was too much like their last one, so they scrapped it.  The Righteous Brothers, however, had just signed a $1 million deal with MGM Records and their new corporate bosses were clamoring for a big hit.
So Bill Medley of the group asked Mann and Weil to retrieve the song they had put on the shelf.  Medley produced the single himself, as the Righteous Brothers had left producer Phil Spector.  The song was released as a single as the title song from their album. 
In March of 1966, "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" debuted on the charts, going against competition such as "When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy Sledge, "Monday, Monday" by the Mamas and the Papas, "Strangers In The Night" by Frank Sinatra, "Homeward Bound" and "I Am A Rock" by Simon & Garfunkel, "Good Lovin'" by the Young Rascals, the Beatles' "Nowhere Man", and "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones.  
"(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" rose to #1 for 3 weeks with 8 weeks inside the Top 10.  It also landed at #13 on the R&B chart.  The song has sold over one million singles, helped sell four million albums, and has chalked up over three million radio airplays. 

 As we hone it on the halfway point, we hope you're here tomorrow for the next 10 classics of the Rock Era!

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