Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #30-21

Fireworks on the 4th of July may have fizzled out, but the flame of the Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* is still burning strong, as we are now just 30 songs away from The #1 Song for the last 60 years! 



The House Of The Rising Sun 

"Just an incredible song!"

"This song has that classic but spooky feel to it..."

"Eric Burdon's deep, soulful voice penetrates the gut."

"Absolutely iconic."

"Never did an organ sound as cool as it does on 'The House Of The Rising Sun'."

"An amazing song.  A classic that has stood the test of time."

"Wow :*)"

"Perfect.  I love this music!"

"Great song and great message."

As we enter the hallowed Top 30*, we have another of the earliest-written songs in the Top 500*.  "The House Of The Rising Sun" is a traditional folk song dating back perhaps to the 16th century. 

In the Elektra Folk Box anthology issued in 1964, writer Robert Shelton asserted that "The House Of The Rising Sun" has its roots in a 16th century English ballad called "The Unfortunate Rake".  The song traveled to America, where several centuries later it was reworked into the song "The Cowboy's Lament".   Alan Lomax wrote that the song's melody resembles "Lord Barnard And Little Musgrave", also known as "Matty Groves", an English ballad from the 1600s.
According to Ted Anthony, who did extensive research in tracking down the history of the song for his book Chasing the Rising Sun:  The Journey of an American Song, bluesman Texas Alexander recorded the oldest known existing version of the song (entitled "Risin' Sun") in 1928.  Clarence "Tom" Ashley and Gwen Foster then recorded the song on Vocalion Records in 1934.  Ashley said he had learned the song from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley.  Roy Acuff learned the song from Ashley and recorded the song as "Rising Sun", and Woody Guthrie recorded a version of the song in 1941.  Numerous others have recorded the song, including the legendary blues singer Lead Belly (which he called "Way Down In New Orleans"), Glenn Yarbrough, Pete Seeger, Frankie Laine (as "New Orleans"), Nina Simone, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan.
Eric Burdon, lead singer of the Animals, has said that he first heard the song in a club in Newcastle, England, sung by Johnny Handle.  The group was on tour with Chuck Berry, and looking for something unique to perform.  "We were looking for a song that would grab people's attention," Burdon said later.  The song received such a response from the audience that the group was able to convince producer Mickie Most of its potential, and between concerts, the Animals recorded the song in a small studio in London on May 18, 1964.  Hilton Valentine played the famous guitar opening, and Alan Price, who arranged the Animals' version, played the captivating organ part that is another highlight.  Burdon's vocal performance was certainly far beyond his age of 23 at the time.  Drummer John Steel told Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh in the book 1000 U.K. #1 Hits:

We Played Liverpool on May 17, 1964 and then drove to London where Mickie (Most) had booked a studio for ITV's 'Ready Steady Go!'  Because of the reaction we were getting to "Rising Sun", we asked to record it and he said, "Okay we'll do it at the same session."  We set up for balance, played a few bars for the engineer - it was mono with no overdubs - and we only did one take.  We listened to it and Mickie said, "That's it, it's a single."  
 The engineer said it was too long, but instead of chopping out a bit, Mickie had the courage to say, "We're in a microgroove world now, we will release it."  A few weeks later it was #1 all over the world.  When we knocked The Beatles off the top in America, they sent us a telegram which read, "Congratulations from The Beatles (a group)".  The producer Mickie Most recalls, "Everything was in the right place, the planets were in the right place, the stars were in the right place and the wind was blowing in the right direction.  It only took 15 minutes to make so I can't take much credit for the production.  It was just a case of capturing the atmosphere in the studio.

The Animals released the single June 19, 1964 in the U.K. and in August in the United States from their self-titled debut album.  In the U.K., the single ran four-and-a-half minutes, but in the U.S., the original single on MGM was the much-edited 2:58 version, in keeping with the unwritten rule of only releasing singles under three minutes.  The album version kept the music intact, and was featured in the movie Go Go Mania the following year. 
The song began climbing the charts in August, when it faced great songs such as "A Hard Day's Night", "And I Love Her", and "Twist And Shout" by the Beatles,  "Oh Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, "Baby Love" from the Supremes, and "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks.  
"The House Of The Rising Sun" vaulted to #1 for 3 weeks in the U.S., with 8 weeks in the Top 10.  It also peaked at #1 in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Finland, and Sweden, and #10 in Ireland.
The song has been played over six million times in the United States alone.  "The House Of The Rising Sun" is included in The 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In 1999, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


"This is the most touching love song ever." 
"Masterpiece from the Beatles."  
"Amazing ~ Beautiful!"

"This song is so gorgeous." 
"Such a beautiful song ♥"  
"One of the best songs ever."  
"Eternal classic." 
George Harrison wrote this great song while the Beatles were working on The White Album.  Harrison's song evolved after listening to the James Taylor song "Something In The Way She Moves".  Taylor was signed to the Beatles label Apple Records at the time.  The Beatles did not record it in time to be included on the album, so Harrison gave the song to Joe Cocker, but Cocker didn't release it until after the Beatles did. 
The Beatles recorded the song on four different days in May, July and August of 1969 at EMI Studios and Olympic Sound Studios in London.  Keyboardist Billy Preston played Hammond organ on the track.  The group released the single October 6 in the U.K. and October 31 in the United States as a double A-sided single with "Come Together".
In addition to "Come Together", "Something" faced competition from "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones, "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" by B.J. Thomas, "Suspicious Minds" from Elvis Presley, "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, "Someday We'll Be Together" by Diana Ross & the Supremes, "Wedding Bell Blues" by the 5th Dimension, "Everybody's Talkin'" from Nilsson, "Venus" by the Shocking Blue, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" by Steam, "Down On The Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival, and "I Can't Get Next To You" from the Temptations.
 "Something" only reached #3 in the United States, a very peak for this range--more on that later.  It spent 8 weeks in the Top 10 and reached #17 on the Adult Chart.  The song did go to #1 in Canada and Australia for five weeks, and hit #1 in West Germany and New Zealand, #4 in the U.K. and #5 in Sweden. 
Since "Something" had already been released on Abbey Road, an uncommon occurrence for a Beatles single to simultaneously be included on a studio album, sales of the single were not as high as they could have been.  According to Paul Du Noyer, editor of Mojo magazine, "so enormous were sales of Abbey Road that demand for the single was inevitably dampened." 
Du Noyer's comment backs up our contention that we have made throughout The Top 500 Songs* as well as other music specials that Inside The Rock Era has featured.  The trade magazines which come up with the weekly song rankings that are so publicized do not take album sales into account, and the lack of single sales for "Something" resulted in what in retrospect seems to be a low peak of #3 for the song.  Had the trade papers included album sales into their formula, as Inside The Rock Era does for our song rankings, the huge sales of Abbey Road would have pushed "Something" to #1 at the time.    
In 1999, "Something" ranked 17th in airplay in the United States in the 20th century with over 5 million.  It is still yet to get to 6 million.  The song has sold over 4 million singles and helped sell an incredible 48 million albums in the U.S. alone. 
Frank Sinatra called the song "The greatest love song ever written".  Paul Simon described "Something" as "a masterpiece" and Elton John said "'Something' is probably one of the best love songs ever written.  It is what I've been chasing for 35 years."  Elvis Presley, Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Ray Charles, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Eric Clapton are among the artists who have remade the song.  With over 200 cover versions recorded, "Something" is the second-most-covered Beatles song.  Only "Yesterday" has been covered more.

Mack The Knife 
Bobby Darin


"This is one of the greatest songs ever."
"Volume Up, people."

A perfect arrangement."
"Amazing!  What talent!"
"My All Time Favorite Song!  Bobby Darin is so cool and the music is sweet!!!"
"Doesn't get any better than this."
"Classic song."
"Great song and singer."
"Very classy song."

This artist suffered from rheumatic fever attacks as a child.  After high school, he briefly attended Hunter College but left early to pursue a career in music.  Bobby met all the right people.  He became friends with music publisher Don Kirshner, and soon met Connie Francis' manager, George Scheck, which led to a recording contract with Decca Records.
Darin's first four singles flopped and Decca dropped Bobby, but the Kirshner connection helped again.  Don told Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records about Darin, and Bobby signed a new recording contract with Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic.  Three more strikeouts in the next three releases, and it looked again like Darin would be out of a contract.  But "Splish Splash" came to the rescue, reaching #3.
Darin had been performing the song "Mack The Knife" in nightclubs, and decided to include it on the album That's All

The original title of the song was "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertoit Brecht.  The two wrote the song for their musical drama Die Dreigroschenoper, which premiered in Berlin, Germany in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm.  In English, the production is known as The Threepenny Opera.

A moritat (meaning deadly deed) is the medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels.  In Die Dreigroschenoper, the moritat singer introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, or Mack the Knife.  The play opens as the singer equates Macheath with a shark, telling tales of his robberies, murders, rapes, and arson.  

The first English-language production of The Threepenny Opera occurred in 1933.  It closed after ten days, but the 1954 version by Marc Blitzstein played Off-Broadway for over six years.  Louis Armstrong recorded the song in 1956, and Bobby Darin recorded it with slightly different lyrics three years later.   

Weill's widow, Lotte Lenya, star of both the original 1928 German production and the 1954 Blitzstein version, was present in the studio when Armstrong recorded "Mack The Knife".  He spontaneously added her name to the lyrics ("Look out, Miss Lotte Lenya"), which already named several of Macheath's female victims.  Darin included Armstrong's ad-lib in his song.

Bobby recorded "Mack The Knife" at Fulton Studios in New York City on December 19, 1958.  One of the trumpet players on this song was Doc Severinsen, who would later lead Johnny Carson's band on The Tonight Show.

"Mack The Knife" debuted on the charts in August of 1959, a time when Rock Era fans could also hear the Top 500 Songs* "Theme From 'A Summer Place'" from Percy Faith and "El Paso" by Marty Robbins.
"Mack The Knife" catapulted to #1 for 9 weeks with 16 weeks in the Top 10 and a ranking of #6 on the R&B chart.  Billboard placed "Mack The Knife" as the #2 song of 1959.  Darin won Grammy Awards For Record Of The Year and Best New Artist Of 1959.

Frank Sinatra, who recorded the song with producer Quincy Jones on his album L.A. Is My Lady, called Darin's the "Definitive" version.
"Mack The Knife" has sold over one million singles and helped sell 2 million albums.  The song has been heard over 4 million times.


"This is fantastic."

"Such a beautiful song."

"The best harmonies!"

"Simply awesome."

"This song is extraordinary.  It flat out amazes me."

"This song is so sweet and tender, like a first kiss."

"Great song...one of the Top 50 of all-time in my opinion."

"One of the greatest songs ever made."

"Classic song from the '60s."

Fate plays an important part of our lives, and it certainly is key to a successful band.  Terry Kirkman began playing with a polka band at the age of 14.  He then played at hip coffee houses in California with Frank Zappa.  Later, Kirkman was selling business forms in Hawai'i when he met Gary Jules Alexander, who was stationed there in the United States Navy.  Alexander played rhythm, bass and lead guitar.  The two agreed to meet after Alexander received his discharge from the Navy.
Kirkman and Alexander hooked up again in 1965 and formed a 13-man group called the Men, which played their debut at the Troubadour.  However, an argument during rehearsal led to the departure of seven members.  The six remaining musicians pondered their future.  They decided to continue as a six piece with Kirkman, Alexander, drummer Ted Bluechel, Jr., bassist Brian Cole, Russ Giguere on percussion and rhythm guitarist Jim Page.  Jim Yester soon replace Page, and the group chose the new name the Association.
Word soon got around about how great this act was, and locals flocked to the Ice House to see them.  The Association sent demo tapes to every major label but were turned down.  What is more amazing is that the demo included this song, The #27 Song of the Rock Era*, which should tell you a lot about the ears of executives at most record companies. 

Finally, the Association inked a recording contract with Valiant Records.  The group scored a major hit from their debut album with "Along Comes Mary", which hit #7.  That set them up for this release, written by Kirkman. 
The Association recorded "Cherish" at a converted garage studio owned by Gary Paxton, who engineered the sessions with Pete Romano.  Doug Rhodes played the Celesta while Ben Benay played guitar.
The group released "Cherish" as a single, which began climbing the charts in August of 1966.  Rock Era fans tuned in to their radios to hear the song, along with other current hits such as "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys, "Paperback Writer" and "Eleanor Rigby" from the Beatles, "Strangers In The Night" by Frank Sinatra, "You Can't Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by the Supremes, Bobby Hebb's "Sunny", "Summer In The City" by Lovin' Spoonful, and "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan.  

"Cherish" rose to #1 for 3 weeks against that great list of songs.  It also peaked at #1 in Canada.  "Cherish" sold over 1 million singles and 2.5 million albums.  In 1999, Broadcast Music Inc. placed "Cherish" at #22 on their list of the most-played songs on television and radio of the 20th century in America--it has garnered over 5 million airplays on radio and television over the years.



Without You
"What a genius!  Unbelievable!"
"This is forever."
"Great tune!"
"What a classic!"
"I LOVE it!  It's very beautiful!"
"The genius of music.  The best music of the world."
"Beautiful song🎶❤🎶"
"Absolute classic."

After graduating from high school, Harry Nilsson supervised the computer processing department at Security First National Bank in Van Nuys, California at night.  But he longed to record music, so in his free time, he wrote songs, sang demos for music publishers, and sent his songs to record labels, producers and recording studios.
The hard work paid off, and Nilsson signed a recording contract with Mercury Records in the early '60s.  Harry didn't do much at Mercury, so he switched to Capitol Records.  Nilsson released a few singles on Capitol and continued to write songs.  He sold his first song to the New Christy Minstrels for five dollars.  But when vaunted producer Phil Spector bought two of Harry's songs for the Ronettes, people in the music business took notice.
Soon, Nilsson's songs were purchased by artists such as the Turtles, Rick Nelson, Blood, Sweat and Teaers, Lulu, and Mary Hopkin.  In 1967, Nilsson signed a contract with RCA and released his first album.  In 1969, supergroup Three Dog Night recorded Nilsson's "One" and took it to #5. 
Later that year, Harry submitted the song "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City" to producers of the movie Midnight CowboyThe producers instead chose a song written by Fred Neil called "Everybody's Talkin'".  It so happened that Nilsson had recorded the song for his second album, and that was the one the producers wanted for the movie.  It gave Harry his first Top 10 hit, and we have heard it already in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* at #304*.
While going through records with a friend in search of material for his upcoming album Nilsson Schmilsson album in 1972, Nilsson came across a song called "Without You".  "What was that Lennon tune we were listening to last night?" Nilsson asked his friend the next day.  The two went through all the Beatles albums and could not find it. 
Finally, they realized it was a Badfinger song written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans.  Badfinger had recorded the song on their 1970 album No Dice.  Nilsson was interested and asked producer Richard Perry to arrange a deal.    
Ham had written a song called "Is This Love?," but didn't like the chorus.  Meanwhile, Evans had separately written the line "I cant' live if living is without you" for a chorus, but had no verses for it.  So the songwriters put the two songs together as one and "Without You" was the result. 
 Nilsson recorded "Without You" with Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth, who later scored huge hits with "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive", on piano, while Paul Buckmaster arranged the strings on the song.  Perry later reminisced about the song:  "It was a different record for its time.  It was a big ballad with a heavy backbeat, and although many artists have cut songs like it since, no one was doing it then."
"Without You" debuted in December of 1971, but it would have to get by some great songs if it was going to make much noise on the chart.  Consider the competition:  "American Pie" by Don McLean, "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", "A Horse With No Name" by America, Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold", "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers, "Superstar" from the Carpenters, "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" by Cher, "Let's Stay Together" by Al Green, and "Family Affair" from Sly & the Family Stone.  

And yet in the face of those classics, "Without You" vaulted to #1 for 4 weeks and spent 9 weeks in the Top 10 in the United States, and spent 5 weeks at #1 on the Adult chart.  The song went to #1 for five weeks in both the U.K. and Australia, three weeks at #1 in Ireland, and 2 weeks at #1 in New Zealand.  It also reached #1 in Canada and #10 in the Netherlands. 
Nilsson captured the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.  To date, "Without You" has sold over one million singles and chalked up well over five million in radio airplay. 
Nilsson received quite a feather in his cap when Paul McCartney called "Without You" "the killer song of all-time".  Over 180 artists have covered the song, including Mariah Carey, Hall & Oates, Andy Williams, Melissa Manchester, and Shirley Bassey.



John Lennon

"My all-time favourite."

"The most beautiful song in the world."

"One of the best songs of all-time."

"Great song, with a great message...from a great man!!!"

"Beautiful and very meaningful."

"This song is so powerful!"

"Best song ever."

"John Lennon is challenging you to become something more than yourself. He is telling you his personal dream for humanity, a place where we all just live happily in the idea of humanity and brotherhood/sisterhood."

"The greatest song ever written."


One of the top songs John Lennon ever wrote encourages the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers of borders or the divisiveness of relgions and nationalities, and consider that the focus of humanity should be living a life without such high regard for material possessions.

Lennon was inspired to write "Imagine" after reading several poems from wife Yoko Ono's book Grapefruit.  John later explained the meaning of his song to author David Sheff for his book All We Are Saying

The concept of positive prayer ... If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion—not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing—then it can be true ... the World Church called me once and asked, "Can we use the lyrics to 'Imagine' and just change it to 'Imagine one religion'?"  That showed [me] they didn't understand it at all.  It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea.

Lennon recorded "Imagine" in May and June of 1971 at his home studio (Ascot Sound Studios) and the Record Plant East in New York City.  Ringo Starr played drums on the track.  Lennon released the single October 11.

"Imagine" had to negotiate past classics such as "American Pie" by Don McLean, Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven", "Without You", the song we just heard by Nilsson, "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart, "Superstar" from the Carpenters, "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" by Cher, "Family Affair" by Sly & the Family Stone, "Let's Stay Together" from Al Green,  and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" by Paul and Linda McCartney. 

"Imagine" went to #3 for 2 weeks against that heavy competition, and appealed to adults as well, reaching #7 on that chart.  It is one of the highest-placing songs in The Top 500* not to reach #1.  There is one non-number one song ahead of it. 

Although the initial release of "Imagine" did not initially include the United Kingdom, Lennon released the single in 1975 to promote his compilation album and it hit #6 at that time.  When Lennon was murdered on December 8, 1980, "Imagine" gained newfound popularity and went to #1 in the U.K.  "Imagine" was released again in the U.K. in 1988, when it peaked at #14, and again in 1999, when it reached #3.  The song also reached #1 in Canada and Australia, #5 in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and #6 in Norway.

At the time, the song did not achieve the great chart numbers, but time has been kind to "Imagine".  In the years since, it has accumulated nearly two million in single sales (1.6 million in the U.K. alone) and five million in album sales.  "Imagine" is now one of the most-played songs in history, going over seven million airplays to rank in The Top 20 in that department.  Balance the airplay with the sales, the chart success, the competition, and the other factors, and "Imagine" comes in at #25* 
"Imagine" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Over 160 artists have remade "Imagine", including
Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Joan Baez, the Dave Mattthews Band, Seal, Pink, Jeff Beck, and Blues Traveler. 

U.S. President Jimmy Carter said: "In many countries around the world—my wife and I have visited about 125 countries—you hear John Lennon's song 'Imagine' used almost equally with national anthems."




Mariah Carey

"Beautiful lyrics and performance."
"Too beautiful."
"I absolutely love this song."
"Omg im bursting in tears right now!!!"
"Brilliant.  One of the best songs ever recorded."
"Beautiful song.  Well done, Mariah."
"A perfect song.  So beautiful and touching."
"Very inspirational!"
"An incredible song."
Mariah Carey wrote this with Walter Afanasieff, intended initially for Gloria Estefan, as the title song for the movie Hero.  After completing the demo, Tommy Mottola, CEO of Sony Music Entertainment and fiancé of Carey's, walked into the studio.  Mottola asked what project the song belonged to.  Carey explained how the song would be used for the film Hero.  According to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, Tommy responded,
 "Are you kidding me?  You can't give this song to this movie.  This is too good.  Mariah, you have to take this song.  You have to do it."

After taking ownership of the song, Afanasieff acknowledged that Carey made it a very personal song, altering the lyrics, key and instrumentation. Walter told Bronson:
There was a simpler performance on tape and a more difficult one, with Mariah singing out more, with more licks.  But we chose a happy medium.  The song really calls for not anything really fancy.  But she's always fighting the forces inside of her because she's her own devil's advocate.  She wants to do something that's so over the top and use her talents and the voice she has.  But she also knows she has to restrain herself and do what the music really calls for.
Carey released the single October 19, 1993 from her album Music Box.  Competition included Mariah's "Dreamlover", "All That She Wants" and "The Sign" by Ace of Base, "I Swear" from All-4-One, "That's The Way Love Goes" and "Again" by Janet Jackson, Celine Dion's "The Power Of Love",  "Breathe Again" by Toni Braxton, "I'd Do Anything For Love" by Meat Loaf, and "All For Love" by Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams & Sting.  
"Hero" spent 4 weeks at #1, another 3 at #2, and a total of 16 in the Top 10.  It showed tremendous across-the-board strength, hitting #2 for 5 weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, #1 on the Top 40 chart, and #5 on the R&B chart.  The song also charted at #2 in New Zealand and Norway, #3 in Canada, #5 in France and Ireland, #7 in the U.K. and Australia, and #10 in the Netherlands.

Carey won an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, a World Music Diamond Award and a Special Achievement Award, and a Soul Train Award for Career Achievement.  "Hero" was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

"Hero" is nearing 2 million in single sales and has helped sell 16 million albums.  It is one of a handful of songs since 1994 that has achieved 2 million in radio airplay.

On her DVD The Adventures of Mimi Tour, Carey described the song's importance to her and her fans:
I wrote a song a while back even before "One Sweet Day" and it was not my favorite song in the world, but I wrote it.  Someone asked me to write a song and they told me the story, and you know it was kind of a moving concept or whatever.  And I did it, and I was like you know it’s not necessarily what I like per se, but after doing the song over and over again and having people coming up to and saying, thank you for writing "Hero" because it saved my life or it saved my father’s life or my brothers or sisters life, or something of that nature, I said I always have to sing that song when I’m performing because if I don’t, you never know who I’m leaving out and you know what, in times of my life I’ve had to turn to that song lyrically and flip it onto my own life and sing it to myself.  So its from the 'Music Box’ album, and it’s called "Hero", this is for you.



"That riff is so awesome!"
"This is my favorite song."
"Love this song!"
"So sophisticated!"
"This song will always be a classic."
"This is the song of my dreams. That voice and that guitar line my life with gold."
"Great song!"
"Cry, guitar, cry..."
"One of the great songs of all-time."
The genius of Clive Davis came through again in 1999.  Santana had not enjoyed a hit since "Hold On" in 1982, and was planning a comeback.  For Santana's new album, Davis brilliantly teamed them up with contemporary artists such as Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Everlast.  The concept resulted in a new generation of Santana fans, and made one of the stars of Woodstock relevant today.

In another of the great collaborations of the Rock Era, Carlos Santana combined with Rob Thomas, lead singer of Matchbox Twenty, to write "Smooth" for Santana's album Supernatural.
The song was originally called "Room 17" by Itaal Shur.  The lyrics of the song were then given to Thomas, who teamed with Shur to rewrite them and come up with a melody.  Shur talked about the writing of "Smooth" with Songfacts:
I was already active in the music business.  I had some hit records with Maxwell and I was already touring the world with Groove Collective, so people knew me more in the underground scene, but I wasn't as big as Rob Thomas, of course.  My manager at the time told me that Pete Ganbarg, who was working at the time at Arista, he was looking for music for the new Santana record.  I had my own band and was performing a lot around the city.  I jumped at it because I grew up with an older brother who hipped me up to Classic Rock and I always loved Santana. 
 I went up to the office and I wanted to hear what they had first to see what kind of direction they were going for, and when I went up there I heard the Wyclef track, I heard the Dave Matthews track, I heard a couple of other tracks, and I realized there wasn't the kind of track that was, in my opinion, a standard Santana groove like "Black Magic Woman", "Oye Como Va", "Evil Ways".  
So I went home and wrote this track on guitar with all the arrangements called "Room One Seven".  It was about this couple that meet after a long time and have a little tryst in the hotel room. I brought it to Arista and they loved the instrumental and they liked parts of the melodies, but they didn't like the lyrics - they thought it was a little too sexual for Santana - so they asked me if I wanted to work with Rob Thomas.  
He happened to live at the time in Soho very close to me.  He came over and he had already written the verses to the instrumental that Arista gave him.  I had a chorus that had the same melody: "Room One Seven".   He didn't have a chorus, so before he came, I changed the words around to, "Give me the ocean, give me the moon, give me something hot to make my body move," and this turned into the chorus that we all know.

Thomas said in interviews that the line "My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa" was inspired by the great 1972 song by Elton John "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters", which itself contains references to the Ben E. King song "Spanish Harlem".  Thomas recorded the song as a demo for Santana, and Carlos was so impressed that he invited Rob to sing the lead vocal on the song. 
"Smooth" hit the airwaves in July of 1999 and it wouldn't leave the best-seller lists until 58 weeks later.  Among the top songs out at the time were "Breathe" by Faith Hill, "Torn" from Natalie Imbruglia, "I Knew I Loved You" by Savage Garden, and Santana's follow-up, "Maria Maria". 

"Smooth" dominated the Popular chart for 12 weeks and stayed in the Top 10 for 30 weeks, a record beaten only by LeAnn Rimes's "How Do I Live" and "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars; the latter achieved the feat just this week with its 31st week in the Top 10.  "Smooth" also went to #1 for 9 weeks on the Top 40 chart and #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #10 on the Mainstream Rock chart.
Santana owns the Rock Era record for the longest wait between their first hit and their first #1 song, going from 1969, when "Tango" reached #56, and "Smooth" in 1999. 
The song also reached #1 in Canada, #3 in the U.K. and Ireland, #4 in Australia and #9 in Austria.  The rest of the world largely missed the boat on The #24 Song of the Rock Era*.



Can't Buy Me Love

"OMG this song is great!"
"Greatttttttttt ! Forever tops!"
"This song is amazing."
"Great song!"
"That's awesome right there."


"One of the all-time classics."


"Timeless song."


Paul McCartney wrote this song while the Beatles stayed at the fabulous George V hotel in Paris, France.  The Beatles were in the midst of an 18-day stay at the Olympia Theatre, and had a piano moved into one of their suites so they could do some songwriting.  Producer George Martin changed the song as such:

I thought that we really needed a tag for the song’s ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro.  So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said "Let's just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly."  And they said, "That's not a bad idea, we’ll do it that way." 

Since Odeon, EMI Records' branch in West Germany, insisted that the Beatles would not do well in that country unless they sang their songs in German, the group agreed to re-record the vocals for "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" before they were released in West Germany (the communists would not allow the greatest band the world has ever known to release their songs in East Germany.)

Martin brought a newly mastered rhythm track for "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand" ("I Want To Hold Your Hand").  The Beatles had to record a new rhythm track for "Sie Liebt Dich", the German version of "She Loves You", however, because the original had been scrapped.  EMI flew a translator to be there for the recording session.

The two songs were recorded well within the studio time allotted to them, so the Beatles also recorded the backing track to McCartney's "Can't Buy Me Love".  At this stage, the song included backing vocals but after listening to the take, the band felt the song did not need them.  McCartney's final vocal was overdubbed at EMI Studios in London on February 25, when George Harrison also re-recorded his guitar solo.  Harrison's original solo can still barely be heard in the background of the song.  George explained why this happened:       

What happened was, we recorded first in Paris and re-recorded in England.  Obviously they'd tried to overdub it, but in those days they only had two tracks, so you can hear the version we put on in London, and in the background you can hear a quieter one.

Thus, "Can't Buy Me Love" came to be the only English-language song the Beatles recorded in a studio outside of the United Kingdom.  The instrumental portion of the song "The Inner Light" was recorded by Indian session musicians in India, but the Beatles themselves never recorded anywhere else but the U.K.

The Beatles recorded "Can't Buy Me Love" over three sessions:  January 29, 1964 at the Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris and February 25 and March 10 of 1964 at EMI Studios in London. 
They released the single March 16 in the United States and March 20 in the U.K.  "Can't Buy Me Love" faced competition from the Beatles' own "I Want To Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", "Love Me Do", "Twist And Shout", and "Please Please Me", "I Get Around" by the Beach Boys, and "My Guy" by Mary Wells.

"Can't Buy Me Love" ruled the roost for five weeks in the United States, and also jumped to #1 in the U.K., the Netherlands and #3 in Norway.
"Can't Buy Me Love" set several Rock Era records:  
 "Can't Buy Me Love" set a mark for the biggest jump to #1, going from #27 to #1.   

On April 4, the Beatles owned the entire Top 5 with "Can't Buy Me Love", "Twist And Shout", "She Loves You", "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "Please Please Me".  No other act has ever come close.
It also helped the Beatles set a record with three consecutive #1 songs ("I Want To Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", and "Can't Buy Me Love") that spent a combined 14 consecutive weeks at #1.  It marked the only time in the Rock Era that an artist had replaced themselves twice consecutively at #1.  Elvis Presley had replaced himself at #1 in 1956 with "Love Me Tender" replaced "Don't Be Cruel".  While the feat is rare, it has been matched several times, but no one else has ever had three songs reach the #1 spot one after the other.

"Can't Buy Me Love" was the third of seven songs by the Beatles to reach #1 within a one-year period.  And during the second week of #1 for the song, the Beatles had 14 songs on the Hot 100 at the same time.  Drake tied that 51-year old record on March 7, 2015.

The Beatles captured the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.  "Can't Buy Me Love" sold over one million singles and helped sell a phenomenal 46 million albums.  To date, the song has logged over 3 million airplays.




It's Now Or Never 
Elvis Presley

"Beautiful melody!"
"Love the dynamics. Gentle, cajoling verses with assertive operatic chorus leading to the powerful crescendo-Dramatic!"
"Absolutely amazing song."
"That ending is soooo superb!!"
"What A Beautiful Song ♡♥ From Elvis !!"
"One of the best songs ever!"
"Five stars."
"It is magical."
"One of the great classics..."

While stationed in Germany with the United States Army, Elvis Presley heard the song "There's No Tomorrow" by Tony Martin.  The melody of the song was based on the Italian standard, "O Sole mio", first recorded by Giuseppe Anselmi in 1907.  Mario Lanza made the song popular, and Martin recorded the first English translation in 1949.  According to the book Behind The Hits, Presley told his music publisher Freddy Bienstock about the song.  Bienstock instructed Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold, two of his songwriters, to come up with lyrics for the song, and they did so in about half an hour.
Elvis recorded the song April 3, 1960 at RCA Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.  Engineer Bill Porter recalled the session:
Elvis was having trouble with "It's Now or Never" because he basically sang in the baritone range, and the end was in the tenor range.  We recorded this song for at least seven or eight takes.  At one point, I finally pushed the talkback button and said, "EP, we can just do the ending.  I can splice it on without doing the song all the way through again."  He answered me with, "Bill, I'm gonna' do it all the way through, or I'm not gonna'at all!"  So, we did it again.  And, of course, he got it the way he wanted it.
Presley released the single July 5, when it encountered competition from Elvis's "Are You Lonesome To-night?" and "Stuck On You", "Cathy's Clown" by the Everly Brothers, "Georgia On My Mind" from Ray Charles, and "Save The Last Dance For Me" by the Drifters.

"It's Now Or Never" went straight to #1 everywhere in the World except Germany, where it was #2.  In the U.S., it stayed at the top for 5 weeks, with 10 weeks in the Top 10, and also peaked at #7 on the R&B chart and #8 on the Adult chart.  The song also topped the U.K. chart for eight weeks in 1960, and spent another week at #1 when the song was re-released in 2005. 
"It's Now Or Never" has sold over 2 million singles in the United States and 25 million copies worldwide, and helped sell over 30.5 million albums.  So far, the song has chalked up over 4 million airplays. 
Porter recorded many songs for Elvis, as well as the Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison.  In one week in 1960, Porter had engineered 15 of the songs in the Billboard Top 100.
Schroeder also wrote "Stuck On You", "A Big Hunk O' Love" and many others for Elvis.  Schroeder also wrote the theme song for the television series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!  Aaron also discovered and managed the career of Gene Pitney and guided the careers of Jimi Hendrix and Barry White.
White heard this song in 1960 when he was in jail for stealing tires.  Presley's song had such an impact on White that he pursued a career in music.
And with that, we are even closer to The #1 Song of the Rock Era*.  And if you are the brilliant students of the Rock Era that I suspect you, you should be able to name The Top 20* without waiting for it.

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