Monday, June 8, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #320-311

Inside The Rock Era thanks you for supporting The Top 500 Songs*, presented exclusively here for your enjoyment in 2015:


Simon & Garfunkel

"This is just amazing."
"Classic--love it!"
"Love this song."

"Brilliant song!"

"One of my favorites."

The legendary duo of Simon & Garfunkel put out few albums (five studio LP's in their career) compared to many other stars, but those albums were highly successful.  Both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were as master craftsmen, honing and polishing their work before presenting it.  Rarely did the duo release more than one album a year.  Three of the five made the Top 10 on the Album chart, and all five sold at least one million copies.
This next classic was born at a party in the summer of 1969 when Paul's younger brother Eddie began banging on a piano bench.  Paul and Garfunkel began slapping their thighs to the rhythm.  They recorded the sound utilizing reverberation, and a friend grabbed a guitar, punctuating the rhythm with "aahs".  Thus, Simon & Garfunkel had the backing track for Song # 320*--"Cecilia".
Simon really liked the infectious rhythm, and wrote the guitar part while listening to it.  Simon & Garfunkel later recorded vocals and the other parts of the track at Columbia Studios in Hollywood, California on November 2, 1969.  Among the other sounds of the song are purposely dropped drumsticks on the studio parquet floor and random notes on a xylophone, compressed in the final version.
The duo released the single in April, 1970 from their masterpiece album, Bridge over Troubled Water

"Cecilia" peaked at #4 in the United States, going against great songs such as their own "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "Let It Be" and "The Long And Winding Road" by the Beatles, the Carpenters classic "Close To You", "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" by B.J. Thomas, "Make It With You" from Bread, and "ABC" by the Jackson 5.  "Cecilia" also reached #2 in Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands, #3 in Switzerland, and #6 in Australia and Austria.
But it appears that "Cecilia" was vastly underrated.  It not only sold over one million singles, but helped sell 25.5 million albums for Simon & Garfunkel.  The song now has over three million airplays.



Love Child

"Absolute bonafide classic."
"Wonderful music."
"This is probably the most influential song of my life."
"What an incredible message--a world-changing song."

In 1967, the Supremes made several changes, adding Cindy Birdsong in pace of Florence Ballard and changing the name of the group to Diana Ross & the Supremes from simply the Supremes.  The group did score the Top 10 hits "Reflections" and "In And Out Of Love" with this lineup, but then the next two singles did not even crack the Top 20, something unheard of during their glory days.
To be certain, part of the problem for the inconsistency had to do with the fact that the famous songwriting trio of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, who were instrumental in the success of the Supremes, had left the Motown label.
The two consecutive failures by the Supremes prompted Motown boss Berry Gory to call for a special meeting of writers and producers for the label at the Pontchartrain Hotel in Detroit.  Among those in attendance were R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, Deke Richards, and Henry Cosby.  It was their special mission to craft a hit song for the Supremes.  In the song that the group came up with, the woman in the song is pleading for her boyfriend not to pressure her into sleeping with him.  The woman herself is a love child, not feeling loved nor wanted, and doesn't want her child to have that feeling. 
Although the group by this time was called Diana Ross & The Supremes, on record, at least, it was just Diana Ross--the other members of the group (Mary Wilson & Birdsong) do not perform on "Love Child" or most of the other songs in this period.   
Diana Ross recorded this as the title song from the Supremes' 1968 album at the Hitsville U.S.A. Studio in Detroit, Michigan on September 17, 19 & 20.  The Andantes performed all backing vocals.  The Supremes debuted the song on the season premiere of The Ed Sullivan Show on September 29, and then released it as a single the following day.
"Love Child" faced competition from Hey Jude" by the Beatles, "People Got To Be Free" from the Rascals, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, Creedence Clearwater Revival with "Proud Mary", "Everyday People" by Sly & the Family Stone, and "Crimson And Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells.
It did not take long for the song to have an impact,, and "Love Child" knocked the Beatles' "Hey Jude" from the #1 position in the United States.  That alone is an amazing accomplishment.  "Love Child" held on to #1 for another week, and remained lodged in the Top 10 for 11 weeks, including 3 weeks at #2.  It also attained #1 in Canada and #3 in Australia.

"Love Child" has sold over four million singles and helped sell five million albums in the U.S. alone.


Can't Take My Eyes Off You
Frankie Valli

"This may be the most perfect pop song of all time.  The musical arrangements here are simply amazing."

"My favourite song of all-time."

"A flawless song."
This song is so romantic, they don't make 'em like this anymore."
"One of the great songs of all time... awesome bassline, soulful singing and accompaniment. Love this..."

Up next, this incredible song by Frankie Valli.  Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, who had teamed up to write many of the best songs for the 4 Seasons, wrote this one for Valli as well.  Valli recorded it in April of 1967 at A&R Recording Studios in New York City.  Valli of course was the famous falsetto voice heard on the 4 Seasons records, and to make sure listeners didn't forget that important fact, the album was titled The 4 Seasons Present Frankie Valli Solo.
If you are an aspiring songwriter, study this song intently, for it is a classic example of how to build intensity in a song.  It starts off with Valli singing the tender verses, then transcends into an explosive chorus.  To make that transition without a disaster, Gaudio used horns to bridge the gap without losing momentum in the song.  Just perfect songwriting. 

Nearly everyone involved in the recording of this song was highly successful.  And "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" was the kind of song everyone wanted to record--it's a contender for one of the most-covered songs in history.  Artists ranging from Engelbert Humperdinck and Andy Williams to Julio Iglesias, Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Temptations and Gloria Gaynor to Lauryn Hill and the Manic Street Preachers have recorded their version. 

Valli reached #2, and posted 8 weeks in the Top 10 during one of the most competitive times of the Rock Era, the summer of 1967.  To achieve that ranking of #2, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" went against "Light My Fire" by the Doors, "Groovin'" by the Rascals, "Ode To Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry, "Happy Together" by the Turtles, "The Letter" by the Box Tops, "Windy" and "Never My Love" by the Association, "All You Need Is Love" and "A Day In The Life" by the Beatles, Aretha Franklin's "Respect", "Brown-Eyed Girl" from Van Morrison, and "Up, Up And Away" by the 5th Dimension.
A million-seller, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" has now topped the five-million mark in radio airplay, something that less than 100 songs in the Rock Era can claim.


Let's Get It On 
Marvin Gaye

"A phenomenal soul groove from the master himself."
"Passion and love is pure here."
"Love this song!"
"Best song ever."
"It's awesome!"

This superstar was once a member of the Marquees in the '50s, who recorded some songs on Okeh Records.  Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows saw them perform, and, after that group broke up, Fuqua asked them to become the new Moonglows.  While that combination didn't work, Fuqua and Marvin Gaye continued to work together.  When Harvey went to work for Anna Records, a label owned by Anna Gordy, Gaye came to the attention of Motown Records boss Berry Gordy, who signed Marvin to a recording contract.
This next classic was written by Gaye and producer Ed Townsend.  Townsend, who had been released from an alcohol rehabilitation center, originally wrote the song with a religious theme.  Kenneth Stover, a friend of Gaye's, changed the lyrics to make it a political song, and Marvin recorded it.  When Townsend heard it, he was unhappy and wanted the song to be about love and sex.  So he and Marvin rewrote the song and Gaye recorded the version you are familiar with.
Gaye recorded the song on March 22, 1973 at Hitsville West in Los Angeles.  He released the song June 15 as the title song from his album on Tamla Records.  Incidentally, the fourth track on the Let's Get It On album is called "Keep Gettin' It On", which is a sequel to "Let's Get It On".  

Among the other songs current at the time:  "Daniel" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John, "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand, "The Most Beautiful Girl" by Charlie Rich, Jim Croce's "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown", "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "My Love" and "Live And Let Die" from Paul McCartney & Wings, "Midnight Train To Georgia" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, and "Just You 'N Me" by Chicago.

"Let's Get It On" soared to #1 for 2 weeks, and spent an impressive 13 out of its 19 weeks in the Top 10.  It presided at #1 for six weeks on the R&B chart, becoming one of The Top R&B Songs of the 70's*
The song became the biggest-selling Motown release at the time, selling two million copies within six weeks.  "Let's Get It On" finished 1973 as the second-best selling single of the year, beaten out only by Tony Orlando & Dawn's "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree".  
"Let's Get It On" moved past three million in sales by 1975, and it has also exceeded one million in radio airplay.


Brown Sugar
Rolling Stones
"The chorus riff to this song is amazing."
"Great song!"
"What a classic!"
"The sax solo is incredible!"


Prior to the album Sticky Fingers, Andy Warhol designed the now famous logo of the Rolling Stones, a red, open mouth with a tongue sticking out.  The logo not only became the symbol for their own record label, but synonymous with the Stones themselves. 

Lead singer Mick Jagger began writing this classic while he was in the Australian outback filming the movie Ned Kelly.  The Rolling Stones recorded it December 2-4, 1969 at the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama.  However, because of royalty disputes with former manager Allen Klein, the group did not release the single until April 27, 1971. 

Jagger put all kinds of topics into the mix, including sexist and racist comments and the raping of a slave girl.  By the time Rock Era fans heard the middle eight ("I bet your mama was a tent show queen,", etc.) they were hooked--as an already infectious song explodes into a joyous crescendo. 

Bobby Keys, a favorite of the Stones, played the incredible saxophone solo on the song.  He later played on "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" by John Lennon and on the albums All Things Must Pass by George Harrison and Let's Get It On by Marvin Gaye. 

Jimmy Johnson, a guitarist with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, engineered the sessions for the group.  Johnson worked with artists such as Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bobby Womack and Johnnie Taylor. 

The Rolling Stones performed "Brown Sugar" for the first time at the infamous Altamount concert in which fans were stabbed by a group of Hell's Angels that the group had hired for "security". 

Competition for the song included "It's Too Late" by Carole King, "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" by the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin's "Spanish Harlem", "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor, "Just My Imagination" from the Temptations, "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere & the Raiders, "What's Going On" by Marvin Gaye, and "Rainy Days And Mondays" by the Carpenters. 

"Brown Sugar" went to #1 for two weeks and posted eight weeks in the Top 10.  It failed to sell one million singles, but did help sell nine million albums.  It has proven an ability to stand the test of time--to date, "Brown Sugar" has been played four million times.





If I Ever Fall In Love 

"Love it!"
"One of my favorite songs."
"OMG, I love this song!"
"This song is AMAZING."
Up next, one of three acts from Washington, D.C. (Marvin Gaye and Peaches & Herb are the others) that places a total of five songs in The Top 500*.  Shai, a four-man vocal group from DC, owns one of eight songs from the year 1992 to make the list.
Shai formed when four singers from Howard University got together; three of the four were members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Carl Martin wrote this song, which Shai recorded on September 10, 1992.  Production went fast, since the song featured no backing instruments, and Shai released the single on September 28 from their album B'Day.  The group owns the great distinction of having the only A cappella song in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.

In October of 1992, the song encountered competition from "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, "End Of The Road" by Boyz II Men, and "A Whole New World" from Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle.  If you're keeping track, you will notice that most of the songs in this range have 10-15 high-quality songs that provided competition, while Shai faced just three.  Had it been released at a tougher time, the great chart statistics (see below) the group achieved would have meant more, and "If I Ever Fall In Love" would have placed much higher.  But it has neither the tough competition, nor the airplay or sales to place it higher. 

The song rose to #2 for 8 weeks, with another 5 weeks at #3.  At the time, Shai tied with "Waiting For A Girl Like You" by Foreigner for the second-most weeks at #2.  They currently are tied for ninth place in the Rock Era in that statistic.  All told, the song piled up an impressive 15 weeks in the Top 10.  It was also a bridesmaid on the R&B scene, with nine weeks in the #2 slot.   "If I Ever Fall In Love" also attained a ranking of #4 in Australia and #5 in New Zealand.  

The song did sell one million singles, but the album has not yet been certified Gold.  Shai learned quickly the pressures and pitfalls of the music business, as Van Rensalier of the group said in an interview with Creative Loafing, a website dedicated to entertainment and dining:
It's kind of funny.  I just knew I liked ["If I Ever Fall in Love"], so I thought it would be a hit.  I knew if we put it on the radio, people would respond.  Within a few weeks it got to No. 1 in rotation in D.C., so I assumed the same thing would happen again.  Then, I learned all it took to make a hit. None of us were students of the business.  The whole thing happened faster than we were able to get a team together.  We kind of self-imploded.



Rolling in the Deep

"Amazing song from Adele."
"A uniquely extraordinary voice makes this an everlasting masterpiece."
"Awesome song!"
"Goes straight to the heart and the soul."
"Just an incredible song."

After an impressive debut with the album 19, Adele began working with Paul Epworth for her second album 21.  She was initially apprehensive because the two had such different musical styles, but now describes their collaboration as “a match made in heaven”.  She also says Epworth brought out her vocal abilities:

He brought a lot out of me.  He brought my voice out as well—there's notes that I hit in that song ("Rolling In The Deep") that I never even knew I could hit.

Adele recorded the song at Eastcote Studios in London.  She released it on November 29, 2010 as the first single from her album.  It soared to #1 in 11 countries, and reached the Top 5 in most.  “Rolling In The Deep” reached #1 for 5 weeks in the United States, and added 4 weeks at #2 and another 3 at #3.  All told, the song piled up 20 weeks in the Top 10.  “Rolling In The Deep” topped “Macarena” by Los Del Rio for the longest chart run for a #1 song in its 61st week.  It went on to rack up 65 weeks on the U.S. chart, which at the time was tied with Jewel’s double-sided single “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant For Me” for fourth in the Rock Era. LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” eventually set the record with 68 weeks.

Adele’s smash helped the album 21 set a record for most weeks at #1 on the Album chart for a female with 24, eclipsing Whitney Houston’s “Bodyguard” Soundtrack.   The album was the biggest-seller in the U.S. in both 2011 and 2012 with sales of 5.8 and 4.4 million, respectively.  It was the first time that an album topped the sales chart for two years in a row since Nielsen Soundscan began tracking album sales in the United States in 1991.  “Rolling In The Deep” also topped the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks, although that chart isn't near as popular as it once was since it now caters to 20-year olds. 

“Rolling In The Deep” also went to #1 in Germany, Canada,, Brazil, Finland, Italy, and the Netherlands and Switzerland,  #2 in the U.K.,  Ireland and Scotland, #3 in France, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and #8 in Norway. 

“Rolling In The Deep” garnered Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video.  It thus joined select company, joining “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, and “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes as the only songs in history to finish the year as the #1-ranked song and win both Record of the Year and Song of the Year.  The Grammys usually do not recognize songs the public likes.  “Rolling In The Deep” was nominated for seven MTV Video Music Awards, and wound up the year as #1 on the Billboard Year-End chart.

In all, Adele captured six Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance) for her work on 21, becoming just the second female artist after Beyonce to win six.  She also won American Music Awards for Artist of the Year, Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, Favorite Pop/Rock Album, and Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist, and Billboard Music Awards for Top Artist, Billboard 200 Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, Pop Artist of the Year, Pop Album of the Year, Top Digital Media Artist, Top Digital Songs Artist, and Top Radio Songs Artist. 

By 2012, “Rolling In The Deep” topped seven million in sales in the U.S. alone, the highest-selling digital song in history by a female artist, and the second best-selling digital song overall. It also helped 21 sell 11 million albums in the United States.  Worldwide sales of the song are well over 14 million.

This is the second-highest ranking song of the 21st century, one of nine songs to make The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* since 2000.



You've Got A Friend 
James Taylor

"M A G I C !"
"Such a beautiful song."
"Timeless masterpiece."
"One of the most beautiful songs ever written."
"One of the classics."

Here's one of 28 songs from the year 1971 to grace the all-time Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*--that makes it one of the best years in the last 60.  This artist overcame heroin addiction and depression to become one of the most beloved stars of the Rock Era.
Carole King originally wrote and recorded this song for her masterpiece album Tapestry.  She recorded her album alongside James Taylor's Mud Slide Slim, and King, Joni Mitchell, and Danny Kortchmar performed on both.  Taylor heard King's "You've Got A Friend" and wanted to record it as well.  The song had special meaning to James, who had just recovered from depression before hearing it.  
Taylor released it as a single in 1971 on Warner Brothers Records.  "You've Got A Friend" reached the charts in June, being played alongside great songs like "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, "It's Too Late" from King, "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart, "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" by the Bee Gees, "Brown Sugar" from the Rolling Stones, "Superstar" and "Rainy Days And Mondays" by the Carpenters, Cher's "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves", "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" by Paul and Linda McCartney, Aretha Franklin's "Spanish Harlem", and "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere & the Raiders.

"You've Got A Friend" went to #1 and spent eight weeks in the Top 10 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K.  It sold one million singles, and helped sell 14 million albums.    
"You've Got A Friend" received the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, and won a Grammy for Taylor for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.  Many artists have since recorded the classic, including Michael Jackson and Dusty Springfield.



This Guy's In Love With You 
Herb Alpert

"I LOVE this song."
"One of the most romantic songs of all-time."
"Timeless classic."
"What a beautiful song."


Trumpet player Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss started a record label in 1962 that would go on to become one of the top record companies of the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s.  They named it A&M Records after their last names.

Alpert and his group, the Tijuana Brass, was one of the most successful acts of the 1960's, as their albums gave the Beatles their toughest competition of the decade.  As difficult as it is to believe, up until this song, not only had Herb Alpert never scored a #1 song, but no one at his label had either.  Of course, Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had many songs that should have been #1 had Billboard and other trade magazines known the proper way to rank songs.  The group consistently had huge-selling albums, but those album sales were never factored into Singles charts.  Alpert & the Brass, were second only to the Beatles in album sales in the '60s.

The legendary songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote this winner.  Alpert made it a practice of asking the artists in his label's stable if they had any songs they hadn't recorded, in the hopes that a gem might be discovered.  Bacharach and David found the lyrics and score, and gave Herb "This Guy's In Love With You".  Bacharach gave his recollections:

Herb was very hot and his band, The Tijuana Brass was very hot.  I was signed to A&M as an artist.  There were great guys running the record company, Herb and Jerry (Moss). They asked me to do it, to write a song with Hal David, come in and write the arrangement and conduct the orchestra. I did it as a favor.

 Alpert debuted the song on the television special "The Beat of the Brass" in 1968.  Television response was so overwhelming that Alpert released it as a single. 

"This Guy's In Love With You" debuted on the charts in May, being played alongside great songs like "Mrs. Robinson"  and "Scarborough Fair" by Simon & Garfunkel, "Love Is Blue" by Paul Mauriat, "People Got To Be Free" from the Rascals, "Jumping Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones, Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey", "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles, and "Hello, I Love You" by the Doors.

"This Guy's In Love With You" went straight to #1 for four weeks overall, and thoroughly dominated the Adult chart for 10 solid weeks at the top to become one of The Top Adult Songs of the Rock Era*.  It sold over one million singles and helped sell over one million albums.  When Alpert later scored a #1 with "Rise" in 1979, he became the first artist of the Rock Era to enjoy both a vocal and an instrumental #1.

All I Wanna Do 
Sheryl Crow

"One of the best songs ever."
"Assured to put one in a good mood."
"Great song!  Great job by Sheryl!"
"This song is awesome!"
"It takes an enormous amount of talent to put together a song like this.  The bass work, guitars drums and lyrics are amazing!!"

Sheryl Crow recorded an album prior to the album Tuesday Night Music Club, but she was unhappy with the result.  Sheryl convinced her record company to scrap the album and let her try again.  This classic came about as a result.  Crow talked about Song #311* in an interview with Blender magazine: 

We were jamming in the studio, and I picked up this poem (titled Fun) in a book - the first line was "All I wanna do is have some fun."  It encapsulated what was going on in L.A., a real extreme feeling of apathy and defeat.  It's masked in this light Pop ditty, but it's about somebody down and out, sitting in a bar watching their life go by.  I contacted the poet, Wyn Cooper, and he was really pleased.  And the song was easy for me to sell because it was a character I could easily slip into.  There was a lot of drinking going on in my life then, a lot of late-night bars.  The song was a throwaway - it wasn't even going to be on the album.  My little brother kept saying, "This is a big hit."  And there really is a bar on Formosa across from a car wash.  But I haven't ever spent a morning in a bar having a beer.

Crow recorded the song at Toad Hall in Pasadena, California.   Crow had released three singles prior to "All I Wanna' Do"--"Run, Baby, Run", "What I Can Do For You", and "Leaving Las Vegas".  None did well at the time, but have since been discovered by Crow fans searching her back catalog.  The song at #311*, in fact, was released  over a year after the album came out.  "All I Wanna' Do" received a great response at Sheryl's concerts, and the record company finally released it as a single.
Crow landed a break when the Eagles chose her to open for them on their famous reunion tour in 1994.  "All I Wanna' Do" became an instant hit; in fact, one of the strongest #2 songs in the Rock Era.  It spent six weeks at #2 behind the smash "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men.  Crow's hit piled up 14 weeks in the Top 10, and its true value was confirmed by adults, which took the song to #1 for 8 weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, and it also was #1 on the Top 40 chart for 7 weeks.  "All I Wanna' Do" also hit  #1 in Canada, Australia and Ireland, #4 in the U.K. and New Zealand, #5 in France and Austria, and #10 in Germany and the Netherlands.
In Addition to "I'll Make Love To You", Crow contended with "The Sign" by Ace of Base, "I Swear" from All-4-One, another Boyz II Men smash, "On Bended Knee", "Take A Bow" by Madonna, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" by Elton John, TLC's "Creep", and "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb.
"All I Wanna' Do" sold half a million singles and helped sell 10 million albums for Crow.  It also in no small part contributed to Sheryl winning Best New Artist honors at the Grammy Awards.
So there you have the newest 10 entries into The Top 500* for 60 years.  And you got to find out before a lot of your friends did!

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