Friday, July 3, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #70-61

We hope you have your party hats and fireworks ready to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Rock Era, now less than a week away.  Inside The Rock Era will be providing the musical entertainment for the occasion, as we continue to present The Top 500 Songs*.  We are now up to #70!


 (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
Otis Redding


"One of my go-to it!"

"This song is a masterpiece!"

"Great classic song."

"One of my favourites."

"I have loved this song for over 40 years.  Beautiful and peaceful, it's one of the best ever made."

"If this doesn't touch your soul, nothing will."

"This is one of the greats!"

"This song is awesome!"


After his famous performance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Otis Redding began writing Song #70* while he was sitting on a rented houseboat at Waldo Point in Sausalito, California in August of 1967.  At the time, Redding was on tour with the Bar-Kays.  As Otis continued to tour, he scribbled more lines of the song on napkins and hotel paper.   Steve Cropper, guitarist with Booter T and the M.G.'s and a producer at Stax Records, helped Redding finish the song.  Steve was a big fan of the Association, and wrote the bridge to "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" based on their music.  Cropper had these recollections when interviewed on the NPR program "Fresh Air":
Otis was one of those the kind of guy who had 100 ideas. [...] He had been in San Francisco doing The Fillmore.  And the story that I got he was renting boathouse or stayed at a boathouse or something and that's where he got the idea of the ships coming in the bay there.  And that's about all he had: "I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again."  I just took that... and I finished the lyrics.  If you listen to Otis's songs, many are about him.  He didn't write about himself but I did.  "Dock of the Bay" was exactly that: "I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay" was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform.
Otis recorded the song on November 22 and added overdubs on December 7, 1967 at Stax Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.  He recorded it with Cropper and the other members of Booker T. & the BJ's, the house band for Stax.  Booker T and the group played for all the artists at Stax, including Wilson Pickett  and Sam & Dave. 
Redding died in a plane crash in Lake Monona outside Madison, Wisconsin, three days later after his last session on this song, December 10.  Booker T. & the MG's were on tour when they heard of Redding's death.  When the group returned to Memphis, Cropper mixed the song, adding the sound of seagulls and waves crashing in the background as Redding had requested before his death.  The whistle at the end of the song originally recorded by Redding was re-recorded by bandleader Sam "Bluzman" Taylor".  Cropper says it was the hardest thing he ever did, but did so out of respect for Otis.
The single was released January 8, 1968.  "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" encountered competition from "Mrs. Robinson" and "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Hello Goodbye" and "Lady Madonna" by the Beatles, "To Sir With Love" from Lulu, "Love Is Blue", from Paul Mauriat, "Daydream Believer" by the Monkees, and Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey".   
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" reached #1 for 4 weeks with an impressive 11 weeks in the Top 10, and hit #1 for 3 weeks on the R&B chart.  The song became the first posthumous song to hit #1 in the United States., and peaked at #3 in the U.K.
The song won 1968 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance, and Best Rhythm & Blues Song.
While "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" had low sales compared to most in this range of The Top 500* (1 million singles and 1.5 million albums), it is a radio favorite, having logged over 7 million airplays.
Michael Bolton recorded a remake of the classic in 1987, reaching #11.


Eye Of The Tiger

"One of the classics."
"Legendary song."
"One of my favorite songs ever."
"An eternal classic."
"Classic tune.  Doesn't get much better."
"Love this song."
"One of the best songs ever!"

This rock group paid its dues for several years, but got its big break when Sylvester Stallone needed a song for his movie Rocky III.  Tony Scotti, president of Scotti Brothers Records, played Stallone some tracks from the previous Survivor album, Premonition.  Stallone felt the sound, style and street appeal would fit the new movie perfectly and left messages on the answering machines of Survivor lead singer Jim Peterik and guitarist Frankie Sullivan.  Prior to joining Survivor, Peterik formed the Ides of March, which had the hit "Vehicle".  
Peterik and Sullivan began work immediately on a song.  They obtained a rough cut of the movie, which at the time included the music of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" in the background.  Stallone was unable to secure the rights to that song, hence the need for Survivor to write the theme.  Peterik recounted to Songfacts:
 Frankie and I are watching this, the punches are being thrown, and we're going, "Holy crap, this is working like a charm."  We called Stallone and said, "Why aren't you using that?"  He goes, "Well, we can't get the publishing rights to it."  Frankie and I looked at each other and went, "Man, this is going to be tough to beat."  We had the spirit of, "We've got to try to top this."  I started doing that now-famous dead string guitar riff and started slashing those chords to the punches we saw on the screen, and the whole song took shape in the next three days.
 Peterik also told Songfacts about how the song's title came about:

At first, we wondered if calling it "Eye of the Tiger" was too obvious.  The initial draft of the song, we started with "It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight, rising up to the spirit of our rival, and the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night, and it all comes down to survival."  We were going to call the song "Survival".  In the rhyme scheme, you can tell we had set up "rival" to rhyme with "survival".  At the end of the day, we said, "Are we nuts?"  That hook is so strong, and "rival" doesn't have to be a perfect rhyme with the word "tiger".  We made the right choice and went with "Eye of the Tiger".
The group recorded the song, featuring the guitar riff of Sullivan.  Stallone loved it, and told the group it was exactly what he was looking for.  Sly requested a mix with louder drums and asked if the members could write a third verse to the song rather than repeating the first as they had done.  Survivor complied, and by June of 1982, "Eye Of The Tiger" debuted on the charts.
It faced great songs such as "Maneater" by Hall & Oates, "I Love Rock 'N Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, "Ebony And Ivory" from Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, "Always On My Mind" by Willie Nelson, "Down Under" by Men at Work, Chicago's "Hard To Say I'm Sorry, "Jack & Diane" and Hurts So Good" by John Cougar, "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes, and Lionel Richie's "Truly". 

"Eye Of The Tiger" shuffled to #1 for 6 weeks, with 15 weeks in the Top 10.  It also went to  in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Ireland, and Finland, #2 in Austria and the Netherlands, #3 in France, #4 in New Zealand, #5 in Sweden, #6 in Switzerland, and #8 in Denmark.
The song won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, and it was nominated for Song of the Year.  "Eye Of The Tiger" was also nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. 
The song has sold over five million singles and helped sell over one million albums.


Happy Together

"Great song."





"I love this song!  It's a classic!"
"This is just perfect."
"I love this song."
"One of the greatest songs ever written."

"Great sound!"



Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan sang together a cappella in their high school choir.  Kaylan later played saxophone in a group called the Crossfires.  Volman wanted to join the group, but all he could do at the time was play tambourine.  Eventually, Mark bought an alto sax and learned how to play, and shortly afterwards, he became an official member of the group.  Before long, the group signed a recording contract with White Whale Records.
When the British invasion hit, Volman and Kaylan changed their name to the Tyrtles, but their record company made them change their name to the Turtles.  Over the next six years, the Turtles underwent numerous personnel changes, but Volman and Kaylan remained constant. 

Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon, former members of the band the Magicians, wrote this song.  Gordon had songs recorded by Lovin' Spoonful and Alice Cooper, among others.  He recalled the origins of Song #68*

I had nearly half a song already written, mostly lyric ideas, but couldn't find the right melodic concept.  The Magicians were in the middle of a week-long engagement at the Unicorn Club in Boston, and one early morning I was visiting my divorced father in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts after being up all night.  I had stopped to have breakfast at the Park Street Diner in the town and was miserable with no sleep, the endless dumb gigs we were playing and having a songwriter's block.

 About the only melody that was throbbing in my tired, fried brain at that hour was the time-immemorial repeated open string pattern that Allen (Jake) Jacobs, the Magician's lead guitarist, would use as he incessantly tuned and retuned after, before, and frequently during each piece we played. Suddenly, some words began to fit and literally minutes later music and lyrics started to take shape.  I excitedly and in fairness asked Jake to complete the song with me as co-writer, but he refused, saying it was all "too simple" for him to be involved, so my regular partner Gary then helped me with the finishing touches.  When Gary Klein at the Koppleman/Rubin office heard the result, he immediately knew the song would be perfect for the new and upbeat image being created for The Turtles, and it was his continued enthusiasm that convinced the group to record it.

Bonner and Gordon shopped it around, but were rejected a dozen times before they offered it to the Turtles.  At the time, the demo acetate was worn out, but the group could tell it was a winner.  The Turtles recorded "Happy Together" January 2, 1967, and released it February 14.

Rock Era fans at the time were blessed with incredible music, as the following songs were all out at the same time:  "Groovin'", "I'm A Believer" by the Monkees, "Penny Lane" from the Beatles, "Windy" by the Association, "Ruby Tuesday" from the Rolling Stones, "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" by Frankie Valli, Aretha Franklin's "Respect", and "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield. 
"Happy Together" rose to #1 for 3 weeks, with 9 weeks in the Top 10.  It sold over 1 million singles and has now been played over 5 million times on the radio.
Among the other artists to record "Happy Together" are Petula Clark, Tony Orlando & Dawn, the Captain & Tennille, the Vogues, Percy Faith, and the Ventures. 

Bonner and Gordon went on to write "She'd Rather Be With Me" for the Turtles and "Celebrate" by Three Dog Night.



It's Too Late
Carole King

"Great song!"
"Beautiful song."
"Tears, tears..."
"Class from the past will always last."
"Such a classic."
"One of my all-time favourites."
"I love ❤ this song!!"
"Great song and singer!"

"Legendary songwriter with a true classic here."

Some fans of Carole King's music may not know of her tremendous contribution to the beginnings of the Rock Era.  With then-husband Gerry Goffin, King wrote several early standards, Carole began playing piano when she was four, and began writing music when she was in a quartet called the Co-Sines in high school.
In 1958, Carole met Goffin at Queens College.  The two began dating and writing songs together.  King and Goffin obtained a job at Don Kirshner and Al Nevins' Aldon Music.  Over the years, Goffin and King wrote "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" for the Shirelles, "The Loco-Motion" for Little Eva (later remade by Grand Funk and Kylie Minogue), "Take Good Care Of My Baby" for Bobby Vee, "Up On The Roof" for the Drifters, "Go Away Little Girl" for Steve Lawrence, "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" by Aretha Franklin, and "Just Once In My Life" for the Righteous Brothers, among many others.
King recorded some of her own music during that time, but up until 1971, her biggest success as an artist was "It Might As Well Rain Until September", which peaked at #22.
In 1968, King and Goffin divorced, and Carole moved to California.  Soon afterwards, Carole combined with Danny Kortchmar and Charles Larkey in a group known as the City, which recorded an album on Ode Records.   

After that group split up, King teamed with lyricist Toni Stern.  Stern usually had to work to write her lyrics, but the words to "It's Too Late" came quickly to her.  Stern said the collaboration went well:
I'm sure there was a California quality in me that appealed to Carole.  She was moving from a familial, middle class lifestyle to Laurel Canyon, where she started to let her hair down, literally and figuratively.  We worked off our contrasts.

Stern also co-wrote "Where You Lead" with King for Carole's masterpiece, the album Tapestry.  Although the lyrics in "It's Too Late" imply that the singer is fine with the relationship ending, King cleverly placed the song in a minor key to emphasize the sadness.  Rather than combine rhythmic phrases which are simply repeated, King built the melody from syncopated rhythmic motifs, which she modified and combined throughout the song.  Rather than ending "It's Too Late" on the tonic ( or the scale degree of a diatonic scale and the tonal center or final resolution tone), she ended it on the median, which leaves the listener with a sense of inconclusiveness.  Although the singer puts on a brave face, she is tormented inside.    

"It's Too Late" featured Kortchmar on guitar, King on piano, and Curtis Amy on saxophone.  Amy also played sax on "Touch Me" by the Doors.  King originally released the song as the B-side to "I Feel The Earth Move".  Within a few weeks, disc jockeys turned the 45 over and gave "It's Too Late" the same amount of airplay.  Before long, everyone preferred "It's Too Late". 
Beginning in May of 1971, Rock Era fans could hear "It's Too Late" along with other classics such as "Joy To The World" by Three Dog Night, Rod Stewart's "Maggie May", "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" by the Bee Gees, "Brown Sugar" from the Rolling Stones, James Taylor's "You've Got A Friend", "Just My Imagination" by the Temptations, "Superstar" and "Rainy Days And Mondays" by the Carpenters, "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" by Cher, "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere & the Raiders, "Spanish Harlem" by Aretha Franklin, and "Uncle Albert/Admiral Haley" by Paul & Linda McCartney. 

"It's Too Late" rushed to #1 for 5 weeks with 10 weeks lodged inside the Top 10.  It also topped the Adult chart for 5 weeks.  "It's Too Late" peaked at #5 Canada, #6 in the U.K., and #8 in Ireland.

 King won Grammy Awards For Record Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female and Album Of The Year.
The song has sold over 1 million singles and helped sell over 10.5 million albums.  In 2015, "It's Too Late" has logged over 4 million radio airplays.




Your Song
Elton John

"My favorite song...just beautiful!"
"This is a classic!!"
"So beautiful!"
"One of my favorite songs of the '70s."
"Simply B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L."
"This is one of the greatest songs ever written."
"Genius.  This is the real deal!"
"One of my all-time favorites."
"Touching, pure, perfect song."

The first big hit for Elton John also started out as a B-side.  John and lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote "Your Song" for Elton's self-titled album in 1970.  Bernie wrote the lyrics over breakfast while at Elton's parents house, and EJ wrote the music in about 20 minutes, something that was very common in his early years. 
 Prior to striking it out on his own, Elton worked as a songwriter and studio musician, and opened for Three Dog Night.  The group recorded Elton's "Lady Samantha", and included "Your Song" on their album It Ain't Easy.  When Elton's version looked like it was going to be successful, Three Dog Night decided not to release their version.  Taupin talked to Music Connection about why he thinks the song struck a chord with people:
It's like the perennial ballad "Your Song", which has got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music, but I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time.  That was exactly what I was feeling.  I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve.

Now I could never write that song again or emulate it because the songs I write now that talk about love coming from people my age usually deal with broken marriages and where the children go.  You have to write from where you are at a particular point in time, and "Your Song" is exactly where I was coming from back then.
Elton recorded "Your Song" in January, 1970 at Trident Studios in London.  Paul Buckmaster arranged the strings on the track.  Elton released the single October 26, 1970 as the B-side to "Take Me To The Pilot" to help promote a tour.  Elton also performed the song on The Andy Williams Show.  In contrast to later years, John appeared on the show dressed plainly and seeming shy.  It wouldn't be long before John became know for his outrageous costumes, outlandish eyeglasses and flamboyant personality. 
"Your Song" was released the same time as classics such as "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison, "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, "Fire And Rain" by James Taylor, "We've Only Just Begun" and "For All We Know" from the Carpenters, "Just My Imagination" by the Temptations, "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5, "Me And Bobby McGee" from Janis Joplin, "Knock Three Times" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "Rose Garden" from Lynn Anderson, and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Diana Ross.  

Similar to "It's Too Late" above, disc jockeys flipped over the single and played "Your Song".  The move gave one of the biggest stars the world has ever known his first Top 10 hit.  "Your Song" reached #8 for 4 weeks, and achieved a peak of #9 on the Adult chart.  It also went to #4 in the Netherlands and #7 in the U.K.
In 1998, "Your Song" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The song has helped sell over 26 million albums in the United States alone.  It has now been played over seven million times.
Elton and Taupin later wrote "We All Fall In Love Sometimes" about the writing of "Your Song" for the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.



I Feel Fine

"Love this song!"
"Super is an understatement."
"Great song!"
"My favorite song!"
"One of the most exciting songs I've ever heard."
"Another classic from that magic year of 1964."
"Man, that's harmony!"
"My feel-good song!"

John Lennon wrote the guitar riff while the group was in the studio recording "Eight Days A Week".  Lennon said in the book The Beatles Anthology

 I told them I'd write a song specially for the riff.  So they said, "Yes. You go away and do that", knowing that we'd almost finished the album Beatles for Sale.  Anyway, going into the studio one morning, I said to Ringo [Starr], "I've written this song but it's lousy".  But we tried it, complete with riff, and it sounded like an A-side, so we decided to release it just like that.

The Beatles recorded the song October 18, 1964 at EMI Studios in London.  By this time, the Beatles had mastered the basics of the recording studio, and were seeking to explore new sources of inspiration.  Noises previously erased as mistakes (twisted tapes, electronic goofs, etc.) were now actively pursued.  Although groups such as the Who and the Kinks had used feedback in live performances, "I Feel Fine" is one of the first uses of guitar feedback in popular music.
The song opens with a single, percussive feedback note, which was produced by plucking the "A" string on Lennon's Gibson acoustic-electric guitar.  Paul McCartney remembers the moment:
John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar.  It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified.... We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp.  I can still see him doing went, "Nnnnnnwahhhhh!" And we went, "What's that? Voodoo!"  "No, it's feedback."  "Wow, it's a great sound!"  George Martin was there so we said, "Can we have that on the record?"  "Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front."  It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.
"I Feel Fine" was released November 23 in the United States and four days later in the U.K.  It could be heard the same time as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers, "Baby Love" and "Stop!  In The Name Of Love" by the Supremes, their own "Eight Days A Week", Petula Clark's "Downtown", "My Girl" by the Temptations, and "You Really Got Me" by the Kinks.  While each of those songs is great, they are the only ones faced by "I Feel Fine" that are featured in The Top 500 Songs*

"I Feel Fine" jumped to #1 for 3 weeks in the United States and #1 for 5 weeks in the U.K., and it also reached #1 in Canada  The song was the sixth Beatles song to reach #1 within one calendar year's time, still a Rock Era record.  It was also the first of six #1 singles in a row, but that streak of #1 songs was broken by B-sides that also charted; for example, the B-side to "I Feel Fine" was "She's A Woman", which peaked at #4.  People who say the Beatles had six #1 songs in a row are mistaken because those B-sides also charted.  The correct way to say it is that the Beatles had six consecutive #1 singles.
The Beatles won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.  "I Feel Fine" went Gold and helped sell over 37 million albums in the U.S. alone.  It has chalked up over 3 million radio airplays.


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Elton John

"Beautiful music."
"Every time I listen to this song, it gets better and better."
"A wonderfully penned tune and Elton's performance makes it a perfect song."
"This song is awesome!"
"A true classic by Elton John."
"Simply fantastic."
"My favorite song!"
"That voice, that glorious voice."

In a year in which Elton became Vice President of Watford Football Club (soccer), he also found the time to record a double album for his seventh studio release. 

In 1973, Elton John was coming off the most successful album of his career, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, and he and lyricist Bernie Taupin began work on a follow-up.   The two were going to record the album in Jamaica, but when that didn't work out, they ended up at the site of each of their two previous albums (Honky Château and Don't Shoot Me...), Château d'Hérouville near Paris, France.  It is unknown whether the two songwriters planned it this way, but their next project was an ambitious one that turned into a double album.  Song #64 is the title song from that great release. 
The Yellow Brick Road, of course, is featured in the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz, reportedly the first movie that Taupin saw.  Taupin wrote about giving up a life of luxury for simplicity in a rural area.  Taupin told Songfacts about what was going through his mind at the time:

There was a period when I was going through that whole "got to get back to my roots" thing, which spawned a lot of like minded songs in the early days, this being one of them.  I don't believe I was ever turning my back on success or saying I didn't want it.  I just I don't believe I was ever that naïve.  I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting.  My only naiveté, I guess, was believing I could do it so early on.  I had to travel a long road and visit the school of hard knocks before I could come even close to achieving that goal.  So, thank God I can say quite categorically that I am home.

 Elton released the single October 15, 1973 from his double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.  Along the way, the song "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" faced competition from great songs such as "Sunshine On My Shoulders" by John Denver, "The Most Beautiful Girl" by Charlie Rich, "The Way We Were" from Barbra Streisand, "Live And Let Die" by Paul McCartney & Wings, "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye, "Seasons In The Sun" by Terry Jacks, "Midnight Train To Georgia" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jim Croce's "Time In A Bottle", "The Joker" by the Steve Miller Band, and Chicago's "Just You 'N Me".

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" was impressive, rising to #2 for 3 weeks and #7 on the Adult chart.  It also reached #1 in Canada, #4 in Ireland, #6 in the U.K. and #9 in Norway.
The song has sold over 2 million singles and 30.5 million albums.  To date, it has been heard over 5 million times on the radio to rank in The Top 100 all-time in radio airplay.




Ode To Billie Joe
Bobbie Gentry
"Perfect song."
"One of my all-time favorites!"
"Mesmerizing. Perfect. Timeless. Classic."
"A hauntingly beautiful song."
"Such a daunting, yet beautiful, soul filled, deep song. Bobbie had such a brassy, heavy, yet feminine, beautiful, sultry voice."


"A legendary song."

"All-time great."

"One of the best songs ever recorded."


We're up to Song #63*, one of the great story songs of the Rock Era.
Roberta Streeter grew up in Chickasaw County, Mississippi in a home without electricity.  She learned to sing in church choir and her family soon got her a piano.  At age 13, Roberta moved with her mother to Palm Springs, California.  There, she performed under the stage name of Bobbie Gentry, which she chose after seeing the 1952 movie Ruby Gentry.

After graduating from high school, Bobbie studied at UCLA.  During this time, she wrote a song called "Ode To Billie Joe", and recorded a demo tape of her voice and an acoustic guitar.  Executives at Capitol Records were so impressed that they signed her to a recording contract.

"Ode To Billie Joe" is the fictional story of Billie Joe McAllister, who killed himself by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Money, Mississippi.  The bridge in fact exists, even though the rest of the story is made up.  Being from Mississippi, Gentry was familiar with the bridge, and built her story around it.  Throughout the song, the tragedies on Tallahatchie Bridge were woven into everyday routine and normal conversation.  Being from the area, Gentry was familiar with the bridge in Money, Mississippi.

Gentry recorded the song July 10, 1967 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, California, which is essentially a re-creation of her demo.  "Ode To Billie Joe" was originally supposed to be the B-side of the song "Mississippi Delta".  Gentry's original recording, made only with her voice and an acoustic guitar, featured eleven verses lasting seven minutes, which told more of the story.  When executives at Capitol realized "Ode To Billie Joe" was the better song, they cut the length by nearly half and re-recorded it with an orchestra backing Gentry.  This left more of the story of the song up to the listener's imagination, which is part of its magic.
Immediately, the song had listeners everywhere asking questions.  What exactly did Billie Joe and his girlfriend throw off of Tallahatchie Bridge, and why did Billie Joe commit suicide?  Speculation ran rampant, which is part of the brilliance of the song.  Gentry said in an interview with the Oxnard Press-Courier in November of 1967 that those were the questions most asked of her by everyone she met.  She named flowers, an engagement ring, a draft card, a bottle of LSD pills, and an aborted (or stillborn) baby as the most often-guessed items.
Similar to Carly Simon and her song "You're So Vain", Gentry knew what the item was, but would not reveal it.  She said only:


Suppose it was a wedding ring.  It's in there for two reasons.  First, it locks up a definite relationship between Billie Joe and the girl telling the story, the girl at the table. Second, the fact that Billie Joe was seen throwing something off the bridge – no matter what it was – provides a possible motivation as to why he jumped off the bridge the next day.

"Ode To Billie Joe" debuted on the charts in July of 1967.  It was one of the most glorious and competitive times of the Rock Era.  If you were fortunate, you were among Rock Era fans that could hear Gentry's classic along with other great songs such as "Light My Fire" by the Doors, "Daydream Believer" from the Monkees, "To Sir With Love" by Lulu, "The Letter" by the Box Tops, "Never My Love" and "Windy" by the Association, the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" and "A Day In The Life", "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli, and "Up, Up And Away" by the 5th Dimension. 

Before long, officials in the area saw an increase in people wanting to jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge.  This, after all, was America!  Since the height of the bridge is only 20 feet (6 meters), it was unlikely that jumpers would die or be hurt, but to curb the trend, the Leflore County Board in Mississippi enacted a law fining jumpers $100. 

"Ode To Billie Joe" landed at #1 for 4 weeks and spent 9 weeks in the Top 10 in the highly competitive field shown above.  Showing the universal appeal of the song, it also peaked at #7 on the Adult chart, #8 on the R&B chart, and #17 on the Country chart.  Few songs in history can show those chart numbers on the four major music audiences.
"Ode To Billie Joe" not only knocked off the hottest act on the planet (the Beatles) from #1 with their song "All You Need Is Love", Gentry also displaced the group at the top after Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band spent 15 weeks at #1 on the Album chart.  This should give you some idea of the impact the song had on people at the time. 

"Ode To Billie Joe" received eight Grammy nominations.  Gentry won statues for Best New Artist, Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Contemporary Female Solo Vocal Performance.   Arranger Jimmie Haskell also won a Grammy for his work on the song.


The Tallahatchie Bridge (Gentry is seen above walking on the bridge in an article published by Time magazine) collapsed in June of 1972.  It has since been replaced.  Nine years later, author Herman Raucher met Gentry to prepare for a novel and screenplay based on the song.  Today, Gentry brushes aside specific questions about why Billie Joe killed himself, saying the real theme of the song is indifference:

Young Rascals


"One of the best for eternity."
"Timeless classic."
"Love this!"
"What a masterpiece of beauty."
"Great music!"
"Love this, absolutely beautiful."
"The perfect blend of Soul, Rock & Pop..."

Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati wrote this song after they realized that because of their work schedule, they could only see their girlfriends on Sunday afternoon.  Cavaliere told Seth Swirsky, who was filming the documentary Beatles Stories:

I met this young girl and I just fell head over heels in love. I was so gone that this joyous, wonderful emotion came into the music.  "Groovin'" was part of that experience.  If you look at the story line, it's very simple: we're groovin' on a Sunday afternoon because Friday and Saturdays are when musicians work.  The simplicity of it is that Sundays you could be with your loved one.  And the beauty of is this joyous bliss that at that time I equated with a person, but that's the beauty of music - when it's an example of what you do it lasts forever. You're in love forever because of that moment in time that you captured, and that's what was happening with "Groovin'".


The Young Rascals recorded the song March 27, 1967.  Session musician Chuck Rainey played guitar and Michael Weinstein played harmonica.  The sound of the record was different from what the group had recorded to that point, and had no drums on it.  Jerry Wexler, head of Atlantic Records, was against releasing "Groovin'" as a single.  But famous disc jockey Murray the K dropped by the studio and heard the song.  Immediately, the great ears of Murray told him the song would be a big hit.  Cavaliere remembered the moment in an interview with Elliot Stephen Cohen for Goldmine magazine: 

We had just cut it, and he [Murray the K] came in the studio to say hello.  After he heard the song, he said, "Man, this is a smash."  So, when he later heard that Atlantic didn’t want to put it out, he went to see Jerry Wexler and said, "Are you crazy?  This is a No. 1 record."  He was right, because it eventually became No. 1 for four straight weeks.
Murray the K, program manager and top disc jockey on WOR-FM in New York City, had an uncanny ability to recognize which songs would become hits.  After that important visit, Wexler relented, and the Young Rascals released "Groovin'" as a single April 10, 1967. 
The song faced competition from the Beatles' "Penny Lane" and "A Day In The Life", "Light My Fire" by the Doors, "Happy Together" from the Turtles, "Windy" by the Association, "Respect" by Aretha Franklin, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli, "Up, Up And Away" from the 5th Dimension, and "For What Its Worth" by Buffalo Springfield.  
"Groovin'" glided to #1 for 4 weeks with 9 weeks in the Top 10, and also peaked at #3 on the R&B chart.  Amazingly, "Groovin'" was the only hit the Rascals had in the U.K., and the classic only reached #8 there.
The song was later included as the title to the album Groovin', with Gene Cornish playing harmonica on the album version. 
The song sold over one million singles and albums, similar to "Ode To Billie Joe" above.  It has logged over five million radio airplays in the years since 1967.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named "Groovin'" as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.


End Of The Road 
Boyz II Men

"Such harmonizing and incredible harmonizing."
"OMG, so beautiful and sad."
"Amazing music."
"Still love it!"
"Classic by an awesome group!"
"Beautiful song." "One of my top favorites of all-time."

From the beginning, this amazing group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania featured all four members on lead vocals.  The multiple-lead arrangement became a Boyz II Men trademark, as they recorded four of the biggest hits of the Rock Era.  We have already heard "On Bended Knee" at #173*

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons wrote and produced this great song at #61* for the movie Boomerang.  Babyface was going to record the song himself, but the three songwriters decided Boyz II Men would be a better fit, so Edmonds, Reid and Simmons flew to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to meet the group.  Boyz II Men had to be back on tour the following day, and they laid down the vocal track in three hours. 

The success of "End Of The Road" prompted Motown Records to reissue the Boyz II Men debut album Cooleyhighharmony in 1993 to include the song.

In July of 1992, "End Of The Road" began receiving airplay, a time when Rock Era fans could also hear "I Will Always Love You" and "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston, "If I Ever Fall In Love" by Shai, "Save The Best For Last" by Vanessa Williams, and "A Whole New World" by Peabo Bryson & Regina Belle. 

"End Of The Road" spent a then record-breaking 13 weeks at #1 in the U.S., topping the mark set at 11 weeks by Elvis Presley for his double-sided "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel".  Later in the year, Whitney Houston broke that record by spending 14 weeks at #1 with "I Will Always Love You".  Not to be dismayed, Boyz II Men later matched Houston's record with "I'll Make Love To You" and then combined with Mariah Carey in 1996 to set the current mark of 16 weeks with "One Sweet Day". 

"End Of The Road" also topped the R&B chart for 4 weeks in the U.S., and hit #1 in the U.K., Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, #2 in Sweden, #3 in Canada and Norway, and #7 in France, Austria, and Switzerland.

Boyz II Men Won Grammies for Best R & B Song, Best R & B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal and Producer of the Year, American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Song and Favorite R & B Song and a World Music Award for Best Group.

To date, "End Of The Road" has gone over one million in single sales and helped sell over five million albums.  It has topped one million in radio airplay.

We have noticed that hundreds of people have just discovered The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  You can hear all the previous segments of the special by finding one of our handy Checklists*.  And be sure to join us tomorrow as the songs continue to get better and better. 

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