Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #60-51

We would like to again acknowledge the tremendous sources we used in producing The Top 500 Songs*.  Big thanks and kudos to the book The Guinness Book of Rock Stars by Dafydd Rees & Luke Crampton, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits by Fred Bronson, SongfactsThe Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul by Irwin Stambler, The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Michael Heatley, General Editor, and Who's Who in Rock & Roll, edited by John Tobler.

Quotes following the YouTube videos are taken from actual viewer comments.  And now, in the best tradition of the late great Casey Kasem, "On with the countdown!"




Penny Lane

"Oh Wow!  This is one of their best!"
"One of my favourite songs ever!"
"Just the greatest."
"Best song ever."
"Great song!"
"A classic for all-time."
"Awesome of my favorites!"

"Love it!"


Paul McCartney was the chief songwriter of Song #60*, credited to the Lennon-McCartney partnership.  McCartney wrote the song in response to John Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever", and the lyrics refer to an actual street in Liverpool, England, where the two grew up.

McCartney & Lennon often met at the Penny Lane junction to catch a bus into the centre of the city.  McCartney wrote "Penny Lane" while waiting at the station for John one day. 

As you might imagine, Penny Lane is a popular tourist attraction for Beatles fans visiting Liverpool.  The "shelter in the middle of the roundabout" in the song refers to the old bus shelter, later developed into Sergeant Pepper's Bistro with a Beatles theme, but now derelict and abandoned, despite its popularity.  The "barber showing photographs of every head he's had the pleasure to have known" referred to Bioletti's barbership on the corner.  Bioletti used to cut hair for Lennon, McCartney and George Harrison when they were children.  The fireman and fire engine referred to in the song are based on the fire station at Mather Avenue, which is about a half a mile down the road from Penny Lane.  The station is still in operation today.

The Beatles recorded the song from December 29 of 1966 to January 17 of 1967 at the EMI Studios in London.  While "Penny Lane" was in the latter stages of recording, McCartney happened to be watching a group called The New Philharmonia perform on BBC-TV.  McCartney decided to add a trumpet part to "Penny Lane" and asked the group's trumpet player, David Mason, to come to the studio to record a part.  David Mason played piccolo trumpet on "Penny Lane" as well as two other tracks, "All You Need Is Love" and "Magical Mystery Tour".  Incidentally, that trumpet fetched a price of $10,846 at a Sotheby's auction.  The Beatles released the single February 13 in the United States and February 17 in the U.K. as a double A-sided single with "Strawberry Fields Forever". 

The two sides of the single were intended to be included on the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  However, Capitol Records decided to release the two songs a single instead rather than include them on the album, something the Beatles always regretted.  This decision was made partially for the group to regain momentum after Lennon's infamous "We are more popular than Jesus" comment.    

"Penny Lane" reached #1 against the following competition:  their own "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees, "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals, "Happy Together" by the Turtles, "Ruby Tuesday" by the Rolling Stones, and "For What Its Worth" by Buffalo Springfield.  While 1967 was by all measures an outstanding year, "Penny Lane" came at the beginning of a golden period, and its competition was not near as strong as for other songs later in the year.  The song also went to #1 in Canada and #2 in the U.K. and Ireland.

What "Penny Lane" does have going for it is sales, lots of them.  It sold over 1 million singles and helped sell over 44 million albums.  To date, the song has registered 4 million radio airplays.




The Long And Winding Road 

"One of their very best!"
"Love this song."
"Great song."
"Beautiful song, makes me cry."
"Classic by the Beatles."
"Ageless and timeless."
"One of my favs."
"Inspirational and a true classic!"

Paul McCartney wrote this great ballad, which is historic in that it was the last single released by the group while they were together.  Paul wrote the song at his farm in Scotland, inspired by the growing tension among the members of the Beatles.  McCartney later told Mike Merritt of the newspaper The Sunday Herald (included in Merritt's article "Truth about Ballad that Split the Beatles"):
I just sat down at my piano in Scotland, started playing and came up with that song, imagining it was going to be done by someone like Ray Charles.  I have always found inspiration in the calm beauty of Scotland and again it proved the place where I found inspiration.
The Beatles recorded this song January 26, 1969 at Abbey Road Studios in London, which was actually before the album Abbey Road was released.  The Beatles held on to the track, including it on their final studio album, Let It Be, and then releasing the single May 11, 1970.
Prior to release, though, a controversy arose when the other members of the Beatles hired Phil Spector to make several post-production modifications to the album.  This angered McCartney to the point that when he made his case for breaking up the Beatles as a legal entity, he cited the treatment of "The Long And Winding Road" as one of six reasons for doing so.  McCartney felt that Spector had butchered the song, and preferred much simpler instrumentation. 

On April 1, 1970, the last Beatles recording session, Spector added orchestral overdubs to "The Long And Winding Road", "Across The Universe" and "I Me Mine".  Drummer Ringo Starr was the only member of the Beatles present at the session.  Already having established an eccentric behavior, Spector was in a peculiar mood that day, as engineer Peter Bown recalled to Craig Cross for his 2005 book Day-by-Day, Song-by-Song, Record-by-Record:
 He wanted tape echo on everything, he had to take a different pill every half hour and had his bodyguard with him constantly.  He was on the point of throwing a wobbly, saying "I want to hear this, I want to hear that.  I must have this, I must have that.  

According to Lewisohn's book, Bown and the members of the orchestra became so annoyed by Spector that the orchestra refused to play any further and Bown went home, forcing Spector to call him and talk him into coming back after Starr had told Spector to calm down.

Spector finally finished with the overdubs for "The Long And Winding Road", which included 18 violins, four violas, four cellos, three trumpets, three trombones, two guitars, and a choir of 14 women. This elaborate orchestra treatment applied by Spector was in direct contrast to the Beatles' stated intentions for a "real" recording when they began work on the song.
On April 14, McCartney mailed a pointed letter to Allen Klein, business manager at Apple Records, demanding that the added instrumentation on the song be reduced.  McCartney's requests were ignored, and the Spector version with the overdubbed orchestration was included on the album.  Nine days after those overdubs, McCartney formally announced the breakup of the Beatles.
All of the principles associated with the Beatles agreed with McCartney.  Producer George Martin called the remixes "so uncharacteristic" of the Beatles.  "It was an insult to Paul," engineer Geoff Emerick said.  "It was his record.  And someone takes it out of the can and starts to overdub things without his permission.

"The Long And Winding Road" was out the same time as their own "Let It Be", "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "Cecelia" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Close To You" by the Carpenters, and "ABC" by the Jackson 5.  Like "Penny Lane" above, "The Long And Winding Road" did not face strong competition.
The controversy aside, "The Long And Winding Road" became the 20th #1 song of the Beatles, a Rock Era record.  Even more amazing is the fact that the group achieved those 20 #1 songs in just 74 months.  That is an average of a #1 song every 3.7 months, another record.

The song remained at #1 for 2 weeks, and also achieved the #2 spot on the Adult chart. 

"The Long And Winding Road" has sold over 2 million singles and helped sell over 44 million albums.  It has registered over 4 million radio airplays. 
Numerous artists have remade "The Long And Winding Road", including Aretha Franklin, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, George Michael, Cher, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Peter Frampton, George Benson, and Judy Collins.


Love Theme From "A Star Is Born" (Evergreen) 
Barbra Streisand

"This song is timeless!"
"So Beautiful!"
"Absolute perfection!"
"..Music meets lyrics and emotions in the most beautiful way there is."

"Timeless 💖💖💖 "

"So romantic and elegant."

"Beautiful song.  She's incredible!"

"A masterpiece."

"I love it!  I love it!  I love it!"

The superstar at #58* got her first big break when she successfully auditioned at the Bon Soir nightclub.  Barbra Streisand signed up for $125 a week opening for comedian Phyllis Diller.  Six months later, patrons were comparing Streisand to famous stars such as Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Fanny Brice. 
While Streisand has always focused on movies, she has somehow found the time to record over 50 studio albums, with most of them going Gold.  In 1973, she scored her biggest hit to that point with the title song to the movie "The Way We Were".  Three years later, Barbra scored with another movie theme.

Paul Williams wrote the lyrics to this classic, with Barbra Streisand writing the music.  Williams had also written "An Old Fashioned Love Song", "Out In The Country", and "The Family Of Man" for Three Dog Night, and "We've Only Just Begun", "Rainy Days And Mondays" and "I Won't Last A Day Without You" for the Carpenters, among many others.  Williams told Songfacts about his collaboration with Barbra:
She sat down and played on a guitar, the melody for "Evergreen" that she'd written.  It was just such a beautiful melody.  I said, "There's your love song.  There's the big love song."  I asked her for the melody.  She put it on tape for me, and I took it home.
Originally, Williams wrote the lines "Love, soft as the morning air, love, soft as an easy chair."  Thinking better of it, Williams called  Streisand as he was getting on a plane to go on a six-week tour with Olivia Newton-John.  He told Barbra to "flip those two first lines, because it sings better."   Streisand needed a theme song for her 1976 movie, a remake of A Star Is Born, and all of the songs on the soundtrack had to be completed before filming began, since Streisand sang them on camera in the movie.   

"Evergreen" debuted on the charts in December of 1976, when it faced great songs such as "Hotel California" and "New Kid In Town" by the Eagles, "Go Your Own Way" and "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac, "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder, "Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart, "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" by Andy Gibb, ABBA's "Dancing Queen", "Lucille" by Kenny Rogers, "When I Need You" by Leo Sayer, and Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights.

"Evergreen" sailed to #1 for 3 weeks, with an impressive 13 weeks inside the Top 10 on the overall chart, and #1 for 6 weeks on the Adult chart.   

When "Evergreen" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, which is presented to the songwriter, Streisand became the first woman to be so honored.  "Evergreen" won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals,and the Golden Globe for Best Original Song--Motion Picture.  "Evergreen" was also nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys. 

The song has sold over 2 million singles and helped sell 12 million albums.  "Evergreen" has now topped 4 million in radio airplay.

I Swear 


"Love this song!"
"This song always gets me so emotional.  So romantic."
"What a classic.  Great song."
"The best song ever."
"It's a beautiful song."

"Great song--very positive message."

"Possibly the greatest record ever."

"Perfect song!"

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

The year 1994 places more songs in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* than any other year in the '90s with 8.  There are 69 songs from artists born in or groups based in California.  The state accounts for more songs in the elite list than every country in the world except the United States and Great Britain.

Gary Baker and Frank Myers wrote this song in 1987 and recorded a demo at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  The two could not find anyone to record the song, but when they recorded a new demo in 1992, John Michael Montgomery was interested, and recorded it in 1993.  It was  just a Country hit for Montgomery; he  was unable to score a Popular hit with the song, stalling at #42.  Then just a few months later, All-4-One covered the song and turned it into a worldwide smash.
Respected producer David Foster worked his magic on this song, which All-4-One recorded on their debut album in 1994.  The song debuted in April of 1994, facing great songs such as "The Sign" and "All That She Wants" by Ace of Base, "I'll Make Love To You" by Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey's "Hero", "The Power Of Love" by Celine Dion, "Breathe Again" by Toni Braxton, "All For Love" by Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams and Sting, "All I Wanna' Do" by Sheryl Crow, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" by Elton John, and "Stay (I Missed You)" by Lisa Loeb.   
The group took "I Swear" to #1 in multiple countries.  In the U.S., this was the biggest hit of 1994, with 11 weeks at #1 and 18 weeks in the Top 10 on the Popular chart.  The song also went to #1 for 6 weeks on the Top 40 chart, #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #13 on the R&B chart, another example of a mass appeal smash.  In the U.K., it was stuck at #2 for seven weeks.  The song also peaked at #1 in Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland, #2 in the U.K., France and Norway, and #6 in Finland. 
This won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.  ASCAP named "I Swear" as one of The Top Love Songs of the 20th Century.

To date, the song has sold over 1 million singles, helped sell over 4.5 million albums, and has been played over 4 million times.




Crazy Little Thing Called Love

"It is fabulous."
"I love this song!"
"Wow, fabulous!  Makes me want to get up and dance!"
"Awesome song."
"Great song."
"One of my favs."
"One of the classics."
"Love it!"

Lead singer Freddie Mercury, Queen's chief songwriter, came up with this gem.  What made it so appealing is that it was such a departure for the group which had to this point made their living on opera rock and hard rock.  Mercury, who wrote the song as a tribute to Elvis Presley, talked about the writing of Song #56* to Melody Maker magazine:
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" took me five or ten minutes.  I did that on the guitar, which I can't play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords.  It's a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework.  I couldn't work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think.

Shortly after finishing the song, Mercury took it to the other members of Queen and the group recorded the song at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany.  For the first time, Mercury played guitar on a Queen album in addition to singing.   
Queen released the song from their album The Game, produced by the German producer known as Mack.  The song almost didn't become a hit in the U.S.  It seems Elektra, Queen's record company in the States, didn't have ears on this one and did not want to release it as a single.  But radio station personnel felt the vibe and played imported copies instead.  Finally, Elektra was forced to release it, and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", of course, became a big hit.
It debuted on the charts in December of 1979, when Rock Era fans heard "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" along with great songs such as "Another Brick In The Wall, Part II" by Pink Floyd, "The Rose" by Bette Midler, "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" by Billy Joel, Michael Jackson's "Rock With You", Blondie's "Call Me", "Heartache Tonight" and "I Can't Tell You Why" by the Eagles, "Coward Of The County" and "You Decorated My Life" from Kenny Rogers, "Lost In Love" by Air Supply, "Babe" by Styx, Olivia Newton-John's "Magic", "Still" by the Commodores, and "Longer" from Dan Fogelberg.
"Crazy Little Thing Called Love" raced to #1 for 4 weeks and spent 12 weeks in the Top 10.  The song also sped to #1 in Australia for 7 weeks.  It was also #1 in Canada and the Netherlands, #2 in the U.K., Ireland, and New Zealand, #5 in Switzerland, #8 in Norway, and #9 in Austria.
The song has sold over one million singles and helped sell over 17 million albums in the United States alone.  To date, "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" has registered over five million radio airplays.




(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
Elvis Presley

"Love this song!"
"Best song ever."
"One of my favorites."
"Absolutely love this song!"
"Wonderful song!"
"Sheer perfection."
"Love this song SO much!"
"Great song by a legend."
"A classic..."


The year 1957 was the strongest of the first decade of the Rock Era, as nine songs from that year make The Top 500*, including this one.  Elvis Presley, the first superstar of the Rock Era, and one of its biggest, places 16 songs in the special, with several of those ranking very high.

Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe wrote this next classic at #54*.  Mann and Lowe took of advantage of Elvis's new-found reputation as a teddy-bear lover.  Actually, it was a false rumor, but after hearing it, Presley's fans sent him hordes of the stuffed animals.  Presley donated the collection of thousands of the teddy bears to the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis.  The name "Teddy" came from U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt, one of America's greatest presidents. 
Elvis recorded the song January 22, 1957 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, California for his second movie Loving You.  Presley released the single June 11.
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" faced other Elvis classics such as "Jailhouse Rock" and "All Shook Up", as well as Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and "Wake Up Little Susie" and "Bye Bye Love" by the Everly Brothers.
"(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" roared to #1 for 7 weeks and spent 13 weeks in the Top 10.  It also topped the R&B chart and reached #7 among adults. 
The song has gone Platinum and helped sell over 35 million albums.  To date, however, it has not yet topped one million in radio airplay, which places a limit on how high it can rank.
Loving You was Elvis's first movie filmed in color, and in the last concert scene, you can spot two of Presley's biggest fans as extras:  his mother, Gladys, and his father Vernon.


Stayin' Alive 
Bee Gees

"This is the smoothest jam ever!"

"My goodness!  Has to be the best Disco song ever!"

"A true classic that has stood the test of time."

"Pure gold."

"The music is amazing."

"Awesome song!"

"One of the classics of the '70s."

In 1977, Robert Stigwood, manager of the Bee Gees, called the group and asked them to write a few songs for a soundtrack to a film he was planning.  At that point, the film was in the early stages of development and did not have a title; all Stigwood could tell them was that it was a film about discomania.  So Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb spent the next few days writing "Stayin' Alive" at the Château d'Hérouville recording studio in Paris, France.  Melinda Bilyeu Hector Cook, and Andrew Hughes interviewed Robin for the book The Ultimate Biography of the Bee Gees:  Tales of the Brothers Gibb:  "The subject matter of 'Stayin' Alive' is actually quite a serious one; it's about survival in the streets of New York City, and the lyrics actually say that," said Robin.  Barry also told the authors: 
 People crying out for help.  Desperate songs.  Those are the ones that become giants.  The minute you capture that on record, it's gold.  "Stayin' Alive" is the epitome of that. Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the crapand things that can drag you down.  And it really is a victory just to survive.  But when you climb back on top and win bigger than ever before, well that's something everybody reacts to.
 "Stayin' Alive" will forever be linked to the opening of the movie, in which John Travolta is seen walking down the sidewalk, his shoes hitting the concrete to the beat of the song. 
The Bee Gees recorded the song at Château d'Hérouville, and released the single December 13, 1977.  Engineer Karl Richardson copied a choice few seconds of drumming from another song the group had recorded for the soundtrack, "Night Fever".  Richardson cut out the piece of tape and glued the ends together, then fed it back into a recorder to create a new drum track.  "Stayin' Alive" was then finished at Criteria Studios in Miami, Florida.   
Originally, "Stayin' Alive" was not planned as a single release, with "How Deep Is Your Love" getting that honor.  But when thousands of fans called in requesting "Stayin' Alive" after seeing the movie trailer showing the aforementioned introductory scene, RSO Records obliged and released it as well about a month later.

"Stayin' Alive" encountered competition from their own "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Night Fever", Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life", "Three Times A Lady" by the Commodores, Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are", "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty, "Lay Down Sally" from Eric Clapton, Queen's "We Are The Champions", "You Make Loving Fun" by Fleetwood Mac, "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman, Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou", "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill, "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb, "Nobody Does It Better" by Carly Silmon, and "Baby Come Back" by Player.  "Stayin' Alive" ranks 15th among The Top 500 Songs* for the toughest competition.

This durable song not only posted 4 weeks at #1 but another 6 weeks at #2--that's 10 weeks at either of the top two positions.  It also peaked at #4 on the R&B chart and received Adult Contemporary airplay as well. 
The Bee Gees became one of just 16 acts in the Rock Era to own the #1 and #2 songs simultaneously when "Stayin' Alive" slipped to #2 and "Night Fever" took over at #1.  Further, as "Love Is Thicker Than Water" by brother Andy and Yvonne Elliman's "If I Can't Have You" also hit #1 during that streak, Barry became the only person in the Rock Era to write four songs that consecutively went to #1. 
"Stayin' Alive" also went to #1 in Canada and Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands, #2 in Germany, France, Austria, Finland, and Switzerland, #3 in Sweden and the Netherlands, and #4 in the U.K., Ireland, and Norway.

"Stayin' Alive" sold over 2 singles, helped sell 19.5 million albums, and has exceeded 3 million in radio airplay.
In 1995, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Stayin' Alive" in its 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll exhibit.  In 2004, the American Film Institute placed it at #9 on their 100 Years...100 Songs survey of the top songs in American cinematic history. 


Elton John
"Still gives me goosebumps, after all these years."
"So great..."
"Amazing talent."

"What a beautiful song!" 

"Great song from a legend."

"One of my favorite songs."

"Love it."

"A classic through the years."

Lyricist Bernie Taupin was inspired by the events of the Vietnam War to write this song at #53*.  Taupin wrote the song from the point of view of a man that missed his brother who had gone to fight the war, then was blinded in action and fled to Spain to escape those around him back home.  Taupin later explained his intentions with the song:   
The story was about a guy that went back to a small town in Texas, returning from the Vietnam War.  They'd lauded him when he came home and treated him like a hero.  But, he just wanted to go home, go back to the farm, and try to get back to the life that he'd led before.  I wanted to write something that was sympathetic to the people that came home.

Taupin also talked about the song on his website:
I'd seen this article in 'Time' magazine on the Tet Offensive. And there was a sidebar next to it with a story about how many of the soldiers that were coming back from 'Nam were these simple sort of down home country guys who were generally embarrassed by both the adulation and, depending on what part of the country you came from, the animosity that they were greeted by.  For the most part, they just wanted to get back to a normal life, but found it hard, what with all the looky loos and the monkeys of war that they carried on their backs.
This is how genius works.  Taupin wrote the lyrics to "Daniel" one morning while at the recording studio and brought them downstairs to Elton.  EJ put music to the words and then recorded the song with the band that day.

In November of 1970, "Your Song" gave Elton his first big worldwide hit.  Along the way, it encountered competition from "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison, "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, "We've Only Just Begun" and "For All We Know" by the Carpenters, James Taylor's "Fire And Rain", "Just My Imagination" from the Temptations, "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5, "Me And Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin, "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "Rose Garden" by Lynn Anderson, and"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross.

"Your Song" peaked at #8 for 4 weeks on the Popular chart and #9 on the Adult chart, one of few songs ranked in The Top 100* that did not reach #1 in the U.S.  The song did hit #1 in Canada, and #2 in New Zealand, #4 in the U.K. and Ireland, #5 in Switzerland, and #8 in Norway.

"Your Song" has now helped sell 26 million albums in the United States alone.  With 9 million radio airplays, it ranks in The Top 10 of all-time in that department.



Honky Tonk Women 
Rolling Stones

"Great song!'
"Love that tune." 

"My favorite!"

"One of the best openings ever!"

"Beyond classic!"

"What an amazingly great song!"

"One of the best rock and roll songs of all-time."

"Best song ever!"


Lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards wrote this great song while they were vacationing in Brazil.  The pair wrote two versions, the first being  a honky-tonk version called "Country Honk".  The Rolling Stones recorded this version in what was the last recording session for guitarist Brian Jones in early March of 1969. 
The Stones then changed the song into the electric, riff-based song later in the Spring.  Richards gave his recollections on the transformation of "Honky Tonk Women":
"Honky Tonk Women" started in Brazil at the Mato Grasso Ranch.  It's all cowboys.  It's all horses and spurs.  And Mick and I were sitting on the porch of this ranch house and I started to play, basically fooling around with an old Hank Williams idea.  'Cause we really thought we were like real cowboys.  Honky tonk women.  It started out a real country honk put on, a hokey thing.  And then couple of months later we were writing songs and recording.  And somehow by some metamorphosis it suddenly went into this little swampy, black thing.


The Stones recorded one of their biggest classics at Olympic Studios in London during June of 1969.  The band had to be on their best behavior, which in and of itself is a joke, as the cameras were rolling.  As part of the documentary Sympathy for the Devil (originally called One Plus One), Luc Goddard shot footage of the Rolling Stones recording "Honky Tonk Women".  Doris Troy sang backing vocals, and producer Jimmy Miller played the cowbell which opens the song.

The Rolling Stones released the single July 4 in the U.K., the day after Jones was found dead in a swimming pool.  The single was released July 11 in the United States from the album Let It Bleed.

The Stones supported the song with their first tour of the United States.  The group was anxious to show off their new rhythm guitarist, Mick Taylor.  But the elaborate show came with a heavy price--a cost of $4.50 to $7.50 per ticket, the highest concert prices ever charged.  Fans and critics were outraged at the high prices.  "Can the Rolling Stones really need all that money?" Ralph Gleason of The San Francisco Chronicle asked.  It is a criticism leveled at the group to this day--it takes a lot of money to support the Stones' drug habits and alimony payments.  When you support an artist, it also means supporting their lifestyle, and in the case of the Rolling Stones, it reeks of excess.

But to combat Gleason's criticism, Mick Jagger came up with the brilliant idea of scheduling a free concert in Gleason's neck of the woods--the Bay Area.  Just 24 hours before the show was to take place, the Rolling Stones selected Altamont Raceway.  The Stones also came up with another great idea--they hired members of Hell's Angels to provide security.  The wisdom of the move will be forever questioned, as at Altamont, fans of the group continually clashed with the Hell's Angels, and one African-American fan was stabbed by the "Angels".

Altamont was a public relations nightmare for the Stones, and their single success and album sales dropped significantly throughout the next decade.  In fact, only one song from the Rolling Stones released after Altamont ("Brown Sugar") is in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*

Beginning in July of 1969, "Honky Tonk Women" faced competition from "Something", "Come Together" and "Get Back" by the Beatles, "Aquarius" by the 5th Dimension, Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" and "In The Ghetto", "In The Year 2525" by Zager & Evans, "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies, "Everybody's Talkin'" by Nilsson, "Get Together" from the Youngbloods, "Bad Moon Rising" and "Down On The Corner" by CCR, "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by Tommy James & the Shondells, and "My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder.  

"Honky Tonk Women" went to #1 for 4 weeks, with 11 weeks in the Top 10.  It has sold over 1 million singles and helped sell over 17 million albums, and has chalked up 6 million in radio airplay.   


You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' 
Righteous Brothers

"One of my all-time favorites!"
"Amazing voices, real music from inside."
"Love this song!"
"Great song."
"May be one of the best songs ever sung. Unbelievable."
"An undisputed classic."
"Blue-eyed soul at its very best."
"Perfect, amazing song."



At Song #51* is this classic, written by the great songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, along with producer Phil Spector.  Spector turned to Mann & Weil after signing a new act to Phillies Records, the Righteous Brothers.

Spector bought out the remaining two-and-a-half years of the duo's existing contract with Moonglow Records.  While with Moonglow, the Righteous Brothers scored some minor hits with "Little Latin Lupe Lu" and "My Babe".  Mann and Weil listened to these songs to be able to write a song that fit their style. 
Weil recalled that, "After Phil, Barry and I finished [writing it], we took it over to the Righteous Brothers.  Bill Medley, who has the low voice, seemed to like the song." In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Medley said he still wasn't sure if the song was going to be a hit:  "It was too slow, too long, and right in the middle of The Beatles and the British Invasion."  Medley and Bobby Hatfield thought it was more in the vocal range of the Everly Brothers.  In a separate interview with Songfacts, Medley said:
They were singing it a lot higher than we did, so they kept lowering it and lowering it and lowering it, and Phil slowed it down to that great beat that it was.  I remember being in the studio with Phil and we weren't used to working that hard on songs [laughs].  But we were smart enough to know every time he asked us to do it again, that it was getting better."
The song ran for nearly four minutes when released.  AM radio stations, by far the popular ones of the day, had a general standard of three minutes, but Spector refused to cut it shorter.  On the label where the time is indicated, he had "3:05" printed, instead of the track's actual running time of 3:45.  Spector also added a false ending which made the recording more dramatic and would also trick radio deejays into thinking it was a shorter song.  Upon being played the finished record over the phone, co-writer Mann reacted to Medley's deep baritone by telling Spector, "Phil, you have it on the wrong speed!"
The Righteous Brothers recorded the song between August and November of 1964 at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, California.  Bill Medley sang lead, with strings arranged by Gene Page.  A young Cher also sang backing vocals on the track.  Medley says he spent about eight hours working on the vocal with Spector.
There was considerable competition among the top producers at the time, and Spector was adamant about making "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" the best production to date.  Spector brought in great session musicians such as Carole Kaye on acoustic guitar, drummer Earl Palmer and bassist Ray Pohlman, and spent about $35,000 in the production.  The Righteous Brothers finished work on the song and released it in December.

Andrew Loog Oldham, manager of the Rolling Stones, took out ads in British trade papers saying that he thought the new Righteous Brothers song was the greatest record ever made. 

"You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" faced competition form "I Feel Fine" and "Eight Days A Week" by the Beatles, "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", and "Stop!  In The Name Of Love" from the Supremes, "Downtown" by Petula Clark, nad "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks.  Although there are some great songs in there, the competition for "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" is not as strong as for the songs ranked ahead of it. 

"You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" reached #1 for 2 weeks and spent 9 weeks in the Top 10 overall; it also peaked at #3 on the R&B chart.  The song reached #1 for 2 weeks in the U.K., then hit #10 when it was re-released in 1969 and #3 when re-released after the success of the movie Ghost in 1990.  "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"  is the only song in the history of Great Britain that has reached the Top 10 3 times.

The single has yet to go over the one-million mark in sales certified by the RIAA.  It did help sell over 4 million albums.    In 1999, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" owned the distinction of being the most-played song of all-time, according to data from the performing rights organization Broadcast Music, Inc.  Radio airplay for the song has now gone over eight million, but it no longer holds the distinction of the most-played song in history.  In 2015, the U.S. Library of Congress chose the song for its National Recording Registry.
Hall & Oates scored a great remake of the song in 1980.

You have shown great judgement and taste in listening to The Top 500*, and we invite you back tomorrow as we dive into The Top 50*! 

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