Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #310-301

What we hear over and over again is how much people love being able to hear the great songs of the '50s alongside the more recent smashes.  It's a great way to celebrate rock & roll's 60th birthday!


Let Your Love Flow
 Bellamy Brothers

"This song is one of my all-time favorites."
"Great song!"
"Love this song!"
"What a happy song!"

Here we have the story of a song that refused to be buried in a pile.  David Bellamy moved to California after Jim Stafford recorded one of his songs, "Spiders And Snakes".  Stafford's manager, Phil Gernhard, wanted to develop Bellamy into a singer.  Gernhard had a song in mind for David to record called "Let Your Love Flow", written by Larry Williams, a road musician with Neil Diamond.  But the recording didn't go well, and the tape was stored on a shelf at the studio.
Gernhard flew to Florida a few months later to help Stafford tape a television special.  As there was a storm approaching, Gernhard told one of the roadies to check the equipment so they could tape the show before the storm hit.  Gernhard recalled the night:
We were standing there talking, and this voice drifted across from the other side of the lake where they were set up to shoot, and before I put two and two together, I said "that's the voice for 'Let Your Love Flow'".   I turned around and it was Howard Bellamy, David's brother.
After Stafford's tour was over, Gernhard arranged for Howard to fly to California.  He went into the studio with no recording experience whatsoever.  It took him a couple of sessions, but finally the song was completed.

Warner Brothers rush-released the single as the title song from their album.  In January of 1976, "Let Your Love Flow" had company from  "Island Girl" by Elton John, "Silly Love Songs" from Wings, "Take It To The Limit" by the Eagles, Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs", "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Theme From 'Mahogany" by Diana Ross, and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody".
"Let Your Love Flow" flew to #1 on the Popular chart, #2 on the Adult chart, and also received play on the Country chart.    This huge hit has been played over four million times.




The Lion Sleeps Tonight

"Very beautiful song."




"Awesome performance."
"This sounds great."
"One of the classics."

This incredible song first went by the name of "Mbube", which means "lion".  It was a hunting song originally sung in Zulu in what is now Swaziland.  South African singer Solomon Linda recorded the song in 1939 with his group, the Evening Birds.
In 1948 or so, the South African record company mailed a copy to Decca Records, hoping they would get Decca to distribute the song.  Folk legend Pete Seeger heard it and began working on an English version.  In the 1950s, Miriam Makeba recorded the original song with Zulu lyrics, and Seeger recorded it with his band, the Weavers.  The Weavers recorded just the chorus with no verses, calling the song "Wimoweh", and reached #15 in 1952.
Seeger thought Linda and his group were saying "Wimoweh", and that is what he wrote down in English.  Actually, the group were saying "Uyimbube", which means "You're a Lion". 
Fast forward to 1961.  The Tokens had enjoyed a Top 15 hit with "Tonight I Fell In Love" in 1960, but the following year, they didn't have a record label.  The group auditioned for producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore by singing "Wimoweh".  The producers liked the performance, but felt the song needed new lyrics.
With the help of George Weiss, Hugo and Luigi rewrote the song, giving it its title of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight".  The Tokens released the song as the flip to the single "Tina".  But once a disc jockey in New England began playing the B-side, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" began attracting attention.
Beginning in November of 1961, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" competed against great songs such as "The Twist", "Hey! Baby" by Bruce Channel, "Big Bad John" from Jimmy Dean, and "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Elvis Presley.

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight" roard to #1 for 3 weeks overall, and reached #7 on the R&B chart.  The song has sold over one million singles in the U.S. alone. 
This huge hit didn't secure a long-term recording contract, but it did give the members of the group a producing contract, and they took full advantage of that.  Members of the Tokens produced songs such as "He's So Fine", "One Fine Day" and "Sweet Talkin' Guy" for the Chiffons and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" and "Knock Three Times" for Tony Orlando & Dawn. 
The Tokens also sang backing vocals for a Robert John remake of the song in 1972, which reached #3.
Meanwhile, the story of Solomon Linda was a travesty that finally ended good.  Abilene Music, which owned the publishing rights, never paid Linda a penny out of the huge sales that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" scored.  Linda died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53.  At a time when apartheid laws in South Africa robbed blacks of negotiating rights, Linda sold the rights to the song to Gallo Records of South Africa for 10 shillings (about $1.70).  In the 1970s, Linda's widow signed over the rights to Abilene.
The three surviving daughters of Linda sued for royalty rights in 1999 (remember that the African record company only mailed Linda's song to Decca hoping they would distribute it; they never gave them permission to use the song.)  Thankfully, Abilene settled with the three daughters, agreeing to give them 25% of past and future royalties from the song.   




That's What Friends Are For
Dionne and Friends
"What a wonderful song."
"Beautiful and touching song."
"I love this song.  Keep smiling."
"Awesome song."
"Super song!"

Prominent songwriters Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager wrote this classic, originally recorded by Rod Stewart for the great movie Night Shift in 1982.
In 1985, Dionne Warwick organized a collaboration with Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight to benefit AIDS Research in the United States.  Elton played piano and Wonder played harmonica on the track.
Dionne, in an interview with the newspaper The Washington Post said,
So working against AIDS, especially after years of raising money for work on many blood-related diseases such as sickle-cell anemia, seemed the right thing to do.  You have to be granite not to want to help people with AIDS, because the devastation that it causes is so painful to see.  I was so hurt to see my friend die with such agony.  I am tired of hurting and it does hurt.

The song was released as a single from Warwick's album Friends, and by November of 1985, was played alongside great songs such as "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits, "How Will I Know" and "Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston, and "Take On Me" from A-ha. 
"That's What Friends Are For" accumulated 4 weeks at #1 and 10 in the Top 10 overall, and it made it up to #1 for 2 weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart.  It was the final #1 song in the careers of Wonder, Warwick & Knight--Elton would go on to score #1's with "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from The Lion King and his tribute to Princess Diana ("Candle In The Wind '97").
"That's What Friends Are For" won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals.
The song went Gold and has been played on the radio over two million times thus far.  "That's What Friends Are For" raised $3 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research.




Stand By Me 
Ben E. King

"This song is legendary."
"Great song."
"Fabulous song!"
"Music at its finest."
Ben E. King was the lead singer for the Drifters for many years, but recorded this song in a solo session.  King wrote it with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, inspired by the spiritual "Lord Stand By Me", with a passage from the Book of Psalms (46:2-3) in the Bible.  At first, he had no intention of recording the song by himself.  He wrote it for the Drifters, but they passed on recording the song.  So after he recorded "Spanish Harlem" and had some studio time left, he recorded "Stand By Me" also.  Stoller said how the song took shape:
Ben E. had the beginnings of a song—both words and music. He worked on the lyrics together with Jerry, and I added elements to the music, particularly the bass line.  To some degree, it's based on a gospel song called "Lord Stand By Me".  I have a feeling that Jerry and Ben E. were inspired by it.  Ben, of course, had a strong background in church music. He's a 50% writer on the song, and Jerry and I are 25% each....  When I walked in, Jerry and Ben E. were working on the lyrics to a song.  They were at an old oak desk we had in the office.  Jerry was sitting behind it, and Benny was sitting on the top.  They looked up and said they were writing a song.  I said, "Let me hear it."...  Ben began to sing the song a Capella.  I went over to the upright piano and found the chord changes behind the melody he was singing.  It was in the key of A.  Then I created a bass line.  Jerry said, "Man that's it!"  We used my bass pattern for a starting point and, later, we used it as the basis for the string arrangement created by Stanley Applebaum.

"Stand By Me" was released as a single, and kicked off its chart run in May, 1961, with "Runaway" by Del Shannon and "Tossin' And Turnin'" from Bobby Lewis also out at the time. 

"Stand By Me" reached #4 for two weeks on the Popular chart, #1 on the Adult chart, and #1 for four weeks on the R&B chart, a classic definition of mass appeal.  Obviously, if you want your song to make The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*, your best chance is to reach as many listeners as possible, and Ben E. did it with this song.

In 1986, the movie Stand By Me was released, and the song was heard by a new generation of Rock Era fans that took it up to #9.  In the U.K., the song was used in a commercial for Levi Jeans, and repeated the magic there as well when it rose to #1 upon its re-release.
 "Stand By Me" has not been certified as having sold one million singles or albums, but it is a radio favorite, having been played seven million times.  In 2012, King received the Towering Song award at from Broadcast Music International.  In 2015, "Stand By Me" was inducted into the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, just under five weeks before King's death.

There are now over 400 covers of King's standard.



Love Me Do 

"The harmonica is what takes this song over the top.  Respect!"
"Awesome!  Just one of the many unbeatable songs from this legendary group."
"Amazing song!"
"Timeless music."

This is one of the earliest compositions from the songwriting team of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, written mostly by McCartney in the late 1950's.  Paul remembered the sequence of events:

"Love Me Do' was completely co-written.  It might have been my original idea but some of them really were 50-50s, and I think that one was.  It was just Lennon and McCartney sitting down without either of us having a particularly original idea. We loved doing it, it was a very interesting thing to try and learn to do, to become songwriters.  I think why we eventually got so strong was we wrote so much through our formative period.  "Love Me Do" was our first hit, which ironically is one of the two songs that we control, because when we first signed to EMI they had a publishing company called Ardmore and Beechwood which took the two songs, "Love Me Do" and "P.S. I Love You", and in doing a deal somewhere along the way we were able to get them back.

As was the pair's custom, the lyrics were written in a school notebook, always including the words "Another Lennon-McCartney Original" at the top of the page. 
Manager Brian Epstein flew the group from Liverpool to London, where he put them up at the Chelsea hotel.   "Love Me Do" was one of six songs the group rehearsed that afternoon, and Martin said that, "in the apparent absence of any stronger original material", "How Do You Do It?" would be the group's first single.  Lennon and McCartney were naturally anxious to release one of their songs, and after some persuading, Martin finally relented.
Three different versions exist with three different drummers from three separate recording sessions at EMI Studios in London.  On June 6, 1962 Pete West was behind the kit, while Ringo Starr was the drummer on the September 4 session of "Love Me Do" and Andy White played drums on September 11. 
The Best version was later included on the compilation Anthology 1.  In August, Best was replaced by Starr, and the Beatles recorded "Love Me Do" in 15 takes.  However, producer George Martin wasn't sure if Starr was ready to play on a recording, so the group returned to the studio the following week with White on drums.  Starr played tambourine on the track, which, as tambourine was not included on September 4, it is the easiest way to distinguish between the Starr and White recordings.  The White version was included on the Beatles first U.K. album Please Please Me.
Ringo, the easy-going fellow that he was, was nonetheless pretty disappointed:

On my first visit in September we just ran through some tracks for George Martin.  We even did "Please Please Me".  I remember that, because while we were recording it I was playing the bass drum with a maraca in one hand and a tambourine in the other. I think it's because of that that George Martin used Andy White, the 'professional', when we went down a week later to record Love Me Do.  The guy was previously booked, anyway, because of Pete Best.  George didn't want to take any more chances and I was caught in the middle.  I was devastated that George Martin had his doubts about me.  I came down ready to roll and heard, "We've got a professional drummer."  He has apologised several times since, has old George, but it was devastating—I hated the bugger for years; I still don't let him off the hook!

Lennon played a chromatic harmonica, believed to have been recorded at the June 6 session.  The first singles were pressed with Starr playing drums, so clearly the September 11 session wasn't deemed to be a significant improvement. 
"Love Me Do" became a big hit in the U.K. far before it did in the United States.  After Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic with the group's performance on The Ed Sullivan Show and the success of "I Want To Hold Your Hand", Vee-Jay Records released "Love Me Do" on its Tollie label with White on drums.
"Love Me Do" stalled at #4 in the U.K., but it became the fourth of six #1's in 1964 in the U.S, an all-time Rock Era Record.  The song also peaked at #8 in Canada. 



Baby Love


"The ultimate feel good song."

"It's wonderful."

"MY JAM !!!!!!!!!!!  ONE OF MY FAV 'S."

"Endless music."


One of the famous trios in music history actually started out as a quartet, and the group did not initially include the singer who became the pivotal figure in the group.  When Betty Travis left to focus on school work, Diana Ross was brought in as a replacement.  The group, then known as the Primettes, won a talent contest, which eventually led to a recording contract with Motown Records.  Label boss Berry Gordy wanted a name change for the group, and Florence Ballard suggested the Supremes.  Barbara Martin left in late 1961 to get married, and thus the Supremes (Ballard, Ross and Mary Wilson) became a trio.
This great song was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, one of 14 hits the trio wrote for the Supremes.    Dozier said that often he collaborated with Eddie Holland on lyrics and Brian on Melodies.  Brian and Dozier produced the songs, while Eddie helped teach the artists the songs.  The Supremes recorded "Baby Love" at Hitsville U.S.A. Studio on August 14, 1964 for their  second album Where Did Our Love Go.  But when the song was completed, Motown boss Berry Gordy did not feel it was catchy enough.  So the Supremes went back into the studio, and it was then that they came up with the "Ooooh" at the beginning of the song.  They released the single on Motown Records on September 17.

"Baby Love" faced off against songs such as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers, "Oh, Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, "The House Of The Rising Sun" by the Animals, "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles, "Downtown" by Petula Clark, "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks, and the Supremes' own "Come See About Me".
"Baby Love" was the second of five consecutive #1 songs, pulling off the impressive feat of topping the U.S. charts in both R&B and Popular for four weeks in 1964.  It also reached #1 for two weeks in the U.K., #5 in Norway, and #7 in the Netherlands.  Incredibly, it was the only Supremes song to reach #1 in the U.K.  
"Baby Love" sold over one million singles and helped sell 11.5 million albums.  It was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording.



Everybody's Talkin'

"One of my favorites."
"Beautiful song."
"Great song!"
"One of the most beautiful songs ever written."

Folk Rock singer Fred Neil wrote and originally recorded this song in 1966.  Meanwhile, Nilsson had been looking for a song when Rick Jarrard played Neil's song for him.  Nilsson recorded "Everybody's Talkin'" for his 1968 album Aerial Ballet at Phil Ramone's studio in New York City.
Ramone, who would later become famous in producing Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Dionne Warwick and others, had just purchased the 7th Avenue studio from Columbia Records.  "Everybody's Talkin'" was one of the first songs that Ramone engineered there. 
 When John Schlesinger, director of the movie Midnight Cowboy, came to Nilsson for a song, Nilsson suggested "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City".  But Schlesinger preferred "Everybody's Talkin'", and included it in the movie and the soundtrack album.  William J. Mann, in his biography of Schlesinger, said that "one cannot imagine Midnight Cowboy now without 'Everybody's Talkin'."

The song hit the airwaves in August of 1969, being played alongside great songs such as "Something" and "Come Together" by the Beatles, "Honky Tonk Women" from the Rolling Stones, "In The Year 2525" by Zager & Evans, Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds", "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, "Wedding Bell Blues" by the 5th Dimension, "Get Together" by the Youngbloods, "Bad Moon Rising" and "Down On The Corner" from CCR, "(Na Na Hey Hey) Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & the Shondells, and "My Cherie Amour" from Stevie Wonder.
"Everybody's Talkin'" stopped at #6 in the U.S., though it did reach #2 for 2 weeks among Adults.  It went to #1 in Canada and #9 in Sweden.  Nilsson won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male.
The song remains immensely popular today; in 2006, Broadcast Music Incorporated reported that "Everybody's Talkin" had been aired 6.7 million times.




 I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) 
Hall & Oates


"Great song from Hall & Oates."
"This is the jam."
"Could this be any smoother?"

The title of this great song was a phrase that Daryl Hall used when he felt pressured to go along with the crowd against his own intuition.  One night after a recording session for their Private Eyes album at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Hall, John Oates, and engineer Neil Kernon came up with the song.  Hall used a Roland CompuRhythm box, sat down at a Korg organ, and began playing a bass line that was in his head.  Kernon, being the trusty engineer that he was, turned on the tape recorder to capture what Hall was doing.  Hall then thought up the guitar line, which he had Oates play, and the basic structure for the song came together in about 10 minutes.  The next day, Hall and Sara Allen came up with the lyrics to the song.
Oates has said that although many listeners assume the song is about a relationship, it is, in fact "about the music business".  Oates says that "I Can't Go For That" is about "not being pushed around by big labels, managers, and agents, and being true to yourself creatively".
Charles DeChant played the saxello (which is a B-flat saxophone with its own unique design).  In November of 1981, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" began climbing the charts, facing competition from great songs such as "Endless Love" by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, "I Love Rock 'N Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Waiting For A Girl Like You" by Foreigner, Olivia Newton-John's "Physical", "Always On My Mind" from Willie Nelson, "Who's Crying Now" and "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, "Arthur's Theme" from Christopher Cross, and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by the Police.
Hall & Oates achieved their fourth career #1 with "I Can't Go For That", it being the song that finally knocked Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" from the top after 10 weeks.  "I Can't Go For That" also spent 12 weeks inside the Top 10.  Impressively, Hall & Oates also went to #1 on the R&B chart, and received enough airplay with the song on Adult Contemporary stations to reach #12.  The song also peaked at #2 in Canada, #5 in New Zealand, and #8 in the U.K.     
"I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" is one of 14 Hall and Oates songs that have been played on the radio over one million times, according to Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI).



Papa Don't Preach

"Classic song!"
"Incredible message and melody."

"I love this song!"


Brian Elliot wrote the body of the song, with additional lyrics provided by Madonna.  Elliot wrote the song based on gossip he heard outside his studio, located next to North Hollywood High School in Los Angeles.  High school girls would often come near the studio window to talk.  Elliot wrote the song for Christina Dent, who happened to be on the same label as Madonna.
Michael Ostin of Warner Brothers Records heard about the song and convinced Elliot to give it to an established star.  "Papa Don't Preach" was the only song on her album True Blue in which she didn't write a good portion of, although she did make some minor revisions to the lyrics. 

Madonna released the song as a single June 11, 1986.  Be wary of the song on the compilation album The Immaculate Collection--it is not the hit version.

The song caused heated debate about teenage pregnancy, so Madonna achieved more with "Papa Don't Preach" than just being a song on an album.  She talked about the controversy in an interview with The New York Times
Papa Don't Preach" is a message song that everyone is going to take the wrong way.  Immediately they're going to say I am advising every young girl to go out and get pregnant.  When I first heard the song, I thought it was silly. But then I thought, wait a minute, this song is really about a girl who is making a decision in her life.  She has a very close relationship with her father and wants to maintain that closeness.  To me it's a celebration of life.  It says, 'I love you, father, and I love this man and this child that is growing inside me'.  Of course, who knows how it will end?  But at least it starts off positive.
But Alfred Moran, executive director of Planned Parenthood of New York City, who remembers how his agency was filled with girls wearing clothes imitating Madonna's style, said the song's message was:
"that getting pregnant is cool and having the baby is the right thing and a good thing and don't listen to your parents, the school, anybody who tells you otherwise—don't preach to me, Papa.  The reality is that what Madonna is suggesting to teenagers is a path to permanent poverty.

In June of 1986, "Papa Don't Preach began charting, and could be heard with other current songs at the time that included "Greatest Love Of All" by Whitney Houston and "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne & Friends.

"Papa Don't Preach" gave Madonna her fourth career #1 song.  It sold over one million singles and helped sell 17 million albums.  The song helped win and American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Video Artist and Billboard Awards for Top Pop Singles Artist, Top Pop Singles Artist--Female and Top Dance Sales Artist.



 Hall & Oates
"Love this song!"
"One of my favs of all-time."
"Epic tune, the instrumental is heaven."
"Love that bass!"

"Another classic."

This famous duo met in a most unusual way.  Both Daryl Hall and John Oates were students at Temple University in Philadelphia, but they played in different bands.  One night, at a gig at the Adelphi Ballroom that included both bands, things got out of control when a gang started a fight at the venue.  Both musicians did the smart thing and ran for the freight elevator to get the heck out of there.  And it was there in that freight elevator that Hall met Oates.

This song was born in the 12th floor apartment in New York City belonging to John Oates.  Oates wrote a chorus, but hadn't completed the song.  Hall sat down at the piano and tried his hand at it.

Hall explained the songwriting process in an interview with American Songwriter:

John had written a prototype of "Maneater"; he was banging it around with Edgar Winter.  It was like a reggae song. I said, "Well, the chords are interesting, but I think we should change the groove." I changed it to that Motown kind of groove. So we did that, and I played it for Sara [Allen] and sang it for her…[Sings] "Oh here she comes / Watch out boy she’ll chew you up / Oh here she comes / She’s a maneater… and a…" I forget what the last line was. She said, "drop that shit at the end and go, 'She’s a maneater,' and stop! And I said, 'No, you’re crazy, that’s messed up.'" Then I thought about it, and I realized she was right. And it made all the difference in the song.

Oates said that while most people would probably think the song is about a woman, the song was actually about New York City in the '80s.  According to Oates, it's about greed, avarice, and spoiled riches.

Hall & Oates recorded it for their album H20 and released it as a single.  By October of 1982, "Maneater" was being played alongside smashes such as "Eye Of The Tiger" by Survivor, "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" by Michael Jackson, Men At Work's "Down Under", "Hurts So Good" and "Jack & Diane" by John Cougar Mellencamp, Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry", "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, Lionel Richie's "Truly", and "Baby, Come To Me" by James Ingram & Patti Austin.

"Maneater" gobbled up the competition.  It climbed to #1 for four weeks in the U.S. and racked up 13 weeks inside the Top 10.  "Maneater" also rose to #2 in Switzerland, #4 in Canada and Australia, and New Zealand, #5 in Sweden, #6 in the U.K. and Norway, and #8 in Ireland. 
"Maneater" went Gold, helped sell one million albums, and has now has topped two million airplays.
And with that, you are caught up in The Top 500 Songs*.  Stay here as Inside The Rock Era continues the countdown all the way to #1 on July 9.

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