Writers: Peter Criss, Stan Penridge and Bob Ezrin
Producer: Bob Ezrin
Recorded: Winter 1975-76 at the Record Plant in New York City
Released: Spring 1976
|Players:||Peter Criss -- vocals |
Bob Ezrin -- string arrangements
|Album:||Destroyer (Casablanca, 1976))|
A ballad atypical of Kiss' hard-rocking oeuvre, "Beth" was the band's biggest hit ever, peaking at Number Seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
The single, whose B-side was the anthem "Detroit Rock City," was also certified gold.
Drummer Peter Criss, who co-wrote the song, is the only member of Kiss to perform on "Beth." He's accompanied by a string ensemble that was arranged by producer Bob Ezrin.
The song was an open letter to Criss' wife, apologizing for the separations caused by his rock-and-roll lifestyle.
Despite the angelic sweetness of "Beth," Criss -- born Peter Crisscoula in Brooklyn, New York -- was no altar boy. Literally. "They threw me out of the choir because I drank all the wine when I was an altar boy," he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977.
The Destroyer album reached Number 11 on the Billboard 200 and earned Kiss its first platinum album award.
Destroyer was also Kiss' breakthrough in the U.K., hitting Number 22 on its album charts.Continue Reading
Writer: John Lennon
Producer: George Martin
Recorded: November 26, 1962, at EMI Studios in London, England
Released: January 1963
|Players:||John Lennon--vocals, guitar, harmonica |
Paul McCartney--bass, vocals
George Harrison--guitar, vocals
|Album:||Please Please Me (EMI, 1963)|
The Beatles' second single, "Please Please Me," was recorded twice--unsuccessfully on September 11, 1962, and in a speeded-up form on November 26, 1962. The latter was what was chosen for the release.
Producer George Martin almost didn't allow the group a second attempt at the song because the first had gone so poorly. He bribed them by asking them to record a song by an outside writer ("How Do You Do It") before taking another stab at "Please Please Me."
Though John Lennon and Paul McCartney shared songwriting credits, Lennon maintained that "Please Please Me" was "my song completely."
Lennon said that "Please Please Me" was inspired by two other artists--the unlikely pairing of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby: "I wrote it in the bedroom in my house at Menlove Avenue, which was my auntie's place...I remember the day and the pink eyelet on the bed, and I heard Roy Orbison doing 'Only The Lonely' or something. That's where that came from. And also I was always intrigued by the words of 'Please, lend your ears to my pleas'--a Bing Crosby song. I was always intrigued by the double use of the word 'please.' So it was a combination of Bing Crosby and Roy Orbison."
The song was an immediate hit in England, where it spent two weeks at Number One.
It was less successful in America, however. Several U.S. labels--including the Beatles' future home, Capitol--passed on it, and the smaller Vee-Jay label put it out without much success.
After the Beatles began to hit big in the U.S. in 1964, Vee Jay rereleased "Please Please Me." This time it reached Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The Please Please Me album was Number One in England in the spring of 1963. After Capitol passed on the album, Vee-Jay released it in a slightly reconfigured form as Introducing The Beatles. It did not place on the charts upon its initial release but hit Number Two in early 1964.Continue Reading
Writers: Warren Zevon and LeRoy P. Marinell
Producers: Jackson Browne and Waddy Wachtel
Recorded: 1977 at the Sound Factory, Los Angeles
Released: January 24th, 1978
|Players:||Warren Zevon -- vocals, piano |
Waddy Wachtel -- guitar, vocals
Bob Glaub -- bass
Russ Kunkel -- drums
Jim Horn -- saxophone
Linda Ronstadt, Jennifer Warnes & Jackson Browne -- backing vocals
|Album:||Excitable Boy (Asylum)|
The title track of Warren Zevon's second album, "Excitable Boy" became something of an anthem for the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter, who was until then best known for penning the Linda Ronstadt hit "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me."
According to Zevon, however, its inspiration was purely musical: "I was at LeRoy Marinell's house in Venice, California. LeRoy cooked a pot roast. After dinner the subject of my guitar playing came up, and I asked him why no one let me play lead guitar with them. He said, 'You get good ideas, Warren, but then you get too excited.' I said, 'I'm just an excitable boy.'"
In addition to co-producer Jackson Browne, "Excitable Boy" features Ronstadt and Jennifer Warnes guesting on backing vocals.
"Excitable Boy" received some radio play in the late '70s thanks to the success of "Werewolves Of London," the top-30 hit from that album.
Excitable Boy was Zevon's most successful album, peaking at Number Eight on the Billboard 200 and earning a gold record.Continue Reading
Writer: Ian Anderson
Producer: Terry Ellis and Jethro Tull
Recorded: 1969 at Vantone Studio, West Orange, New Jersey
|Players:||Ian Anderson--vocals, flute |
|Album:||Living In The Past (Chrysalis, 1972)|
Jethro Tull's breakthrough single, "Living In The Past," hit Number Three in the U.K. in May 1969, where the group performed it on the Top of the Pops TV show.
Nearly three-and-a-half years later, it was a Number 11 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the U.S.
It's one of only two Top 20 hits the group had. The other was "Bungle In The Jungle" in 1974.
Tull leader Ian Anderson says that the song was written in Boston during the group's first U.S. tour in 1969. "Our manager Terry said, 'Look, we're going to be away for three months here trying to make an impact in America, so in order to keep things alive back home in England we should really record a single and put it out.' He said, 'Write a hit single.' I said, 'Sure, I'll hand it in by tomorrow lunch time.'"
Anderson says that as a joke, he tried to make the song deliberately uncommercial. "What's the most uncommercial thing I can do? I thought, 'Let's do a weird time signature for a start, let's do something like 5/4 or 7/8 or something.' So, it became a piece in 5/4. Also, I thought, 'What's the most un-hip title, something that would definitely not be about something contemporary or fashionable?' I thought 'Living In The Past' was a pretty uncommercial title, so I wrote a few very uninspired lyrics, a little flute tune, and we beefed it up a bit with the band, and we recorded it in a studio in New York."
The group was surprised when the song was a hit in England, but even then its U.S. label, Reprise, didn't want to release the song. It was only when the group's new label, Chrysalis, compiled a collection of live tracks and b-sides titled Living In The Past that the song received any sort of promotion in the US.Continue Reading
Writer: David Bowie
Producers: David Bowie and Harry Maslin
Recorded: August 1975 at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, California
|Players:||David Bowie -- vocals, guitar |
Earl Slick -- guitar
Carlos Alomar -- guitar
George Murray -- bass
Roy Bittan --keyboards
Dennis Davis -- drums
|Album:||Station To Station (RCA)|
David Bowie wrote "Golden Years" for Elvis Presley, but Elvis turned it down.
The song was one of Bowie's biggest hits in the U.S., peaking at Number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Bowie recorded the Station To Station album shortly after shooting his first movie, The Man Who Fell To Earth, in the summer of 1975.
The album was originally titled The Return Of The Thin White Duke, a reference to a lyric on the title track and the persona he created for the album.
Bowie wrote most of the tracks on Station To Station in the studio, except for a cover of the Johnny Mathis song "Wild Is The Wind."
Station To Station peaked at Number Three on the Billboard 200 chart in 1976 and was certified gold.
A 1991 reissue of Station To Station featured live versions of "Word On A Wing" and "Stay" from a 1976 concert on Long Island, New York.
The album cover, originally printed in black-and-white, was restored to color for the 1991 Station To Station reissue.Continue Reading
Writers: The Clash
Producers: The Clash
Recorded: Fall 1980 and spring 1982 in London
Released: May 1982
|Players:||Mick Jones--vocals, guitar |
Joe Strummer--guitar, vocals
Nicky "Topper" Headon--drums
|Album:||Combat Rock (Epic)|
The Clash started work on "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" in sessions for the group's 1980 triple album Sandinista!, and then revived it for its successor, Combat Rock.
Singer-guitarist Mick Jones recalled, "It was just a good rockin' song, our attempt at writing a classic...When we were just playing, that was the kind of thing we used to like to play."
Lyrically, Jones said the acerbic song "wasn't about anybody specific, and it wasn't pre-empting my leaving the Clash."
" Should I Stay Or Should I Go" was one of the Clash's most successful singles, hitting Number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number 17 on the U.K. pop chart.
The group performed the song on Saturday Night Live on October 9, 1982, while in the midst of supporting the Who on that band's first farewell tour.
The working title for the Combat Rock album was Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg.
The album was produced by the band but mixed by Glyn Johns.
Combat Rock is the Clash's most successful album in the U.S., hitting Number Seven on the Billboard 200 and selling more than two million copies.
Combat Rock debuted at Number Two on the U.K. album chart.Continue Reading
Writers: Angus Young, Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson
Producer: Robert John "Mutt" Lange
Recorded: April-May 1980 at Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
Released: July 21, 1980
|Players:||Brian Johnson—vocals |
|Album:||Back In Black (Atco, 1980)|
"Hell's Bells" is the opening track of Back In Black, the Australian hard rock outfit's best-selling release from 1980. Like many of the songs on Back In Black, "Hell's Bells" pays tribute to Bon Scott, AC/DC's celebrated frontman until February 19, 1980, when he died after passing out and choking on his own vomit in London. Though the band's future suddenly seemed uncertain, AC/DC quickly rallied and hired Brian Johnson from the band Geordie just two months after Scott's death. Although there were misgivings about how Johnson would be received, Back In Black peaked at Number Four on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Johnson's high-end sandpaper shrieking, plus the band's newfound ability to stock an album full of tightly constructed rockers (and as many fist-wavers), helped push AC/DC to even greater levels of popularity. AC/DC capitalized on Back In Black's success by re-releasing some earlier albums, including the popular Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, which hit Number Three on the Billboard 200 in 1981--one notch higher than Back In Black. Back In Black also opened many international doors for AC/DC, allowing them to make their first tour of Japan, among other locales. During live performances of "Hell's Bells," a giant bell bearing AC/DC's logo is lowered from the ceiling, and Johnson traditionally swings from the rope hanging down from the clapper.Continue Reading
Writers: Berry Gordy Jr., Brenda Holloway, Patrice Holloway, and Frank Wilson
Producer: James William Guercio
Recorded: October 1968 at Columbia Studios, New York City
Released: February 1969
|Players:||David Clayton-Thomas—vocals |
Dick Halligan--keyboards, flute
|Album:||Blood, Sweat & Tears (Columbia, 1968)|
Originally composed by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., singer Brenda Holloway, and others, "You've Made Me So Very Happy" was a hit for Holloway, reaching Number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.
As the first single from Blood, Sweat & Tears's second album, it reached Number Two on the same chart and earned a gold record.
The song's commercial success was a relief for the band, which had suffered an acrimonious schism during the summer of 1968 that led to the departure of frontman Al Kooper and two other founding members.
Drummer Bobby Colomby remembered that the one-two punch of "You've Made Me So Very Happy" and its successor, "Spinning Wheel," meant that "all of a sudden we were the band du jour, as big as any band could be."
BS&T's first choice to replace Kooper was singer-songwriter Laura Nyro, girlfriend of bassist Jim Fielder. She auditioned with the group but opted against joining at the advice of her manager, David Geffen. The band also reached out to Stevie Wonder and Stephen Stills before hiring David Clayton-Thomas, a Canadian singer and songwriter who guitarist Steve Katz had met at Steve Paul's Scene in New York City.
Of Clayton-Thomas, Colomby remembers, "Steve and I were at this club. We weren't paying attention to the stage, but we were sitting right under this large speaker. We heard this unbelievable voice coming out of it, like Ray Charles or Bobby "Blue" Bland. When I looked at the stage, it seemed as if the singer was lip-synching, because he did not look like what I was hearing."
BS&T started making its second album with producer James William Guercio, but while those sessions yielded "Spinning Wheel" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy," Guercio wasn't around when the album wrapped. "He left before the thing was really done," says Colomby. "He lost interest. He hated David. He hated Steve. It was like, 'These guys are prima donnas. I can't stand it. I gotta get outta here." The group finished the album on its own.
Buoyed by its hit singles, Blood, Sweat & Tears spent seven weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200 and was certified triple platinum.
Blood, Sweat & Tears was also the first album ever to house three gold singles--"Spinning Wheel," "You've Made Me So Very Happy," and Billie Holiday's "And When I Die."
BS&T celebrated the album's success by appearing at the first Woodstock festival in 1969.Continue Reading
Writers: Deep Purple
Producers: Deep Purple
Recorded: Early December 1971 at the Pavilion Theater and the Grand Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland
Released: March 1972
|Players:||Ian Gillan – vocals |
Roger Glover -- bass
Jon Lord -- organ
Ian Paice -- drums
|Album:||Machine Head (Warner Bros., 1972)|
Legend has it that Deep Purple wrote "Highway Star" during a bus ride from London to Portsmouth, England to begin its fall 1971 tour of the U.K. The group actually performed it at that show, leading some to believe it had actually been worked on earlier.
Former guitarist Ritchie Blackmore has always cited this as one of his favorite Purple tracks and was particularly happy with his solo. "I worked out the solo before I recorded it. That run in thirds is an old run I used to play years earlier. Johnny Burnette taught me that run, and I hadn't used it in years. It isn't original, but it is exciting. I like classical chord progressions, like in the solo -- that's a Bach progression."
An edited version of "Highway Star" was released in September 1972 as the second single from the Machine Head album. It didn't chart, and most rock stations stayed faithful to the full-length version of the song.
"Highway Star" was Deep Purple's usual concert opener during the mid-‘70s and again during the reunions of the "Mach II" lineup that featured singerIan Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. It was also one of the only songs from that lineup that was played by subsequent editions of the band.
Machine Head was one of the most dramatic albums in Deep Purple's history. The group was slated to record the album, using the Rolling StonesMobile Studio, in December 1971 at the Casino in Montreux, Switzerland. The group had been advised to record the album away from its native Britain in order to be spared taxes.
The night before Purple was to begin recording the album, Frank Zappa & the Mothers Of Invention played a concert at the Casino. During the show, an audience member fired a flare gun into the roof, setting the building on fire. It burned to the ground, taking no lives but destroying all the Mothers equipment and leaving Purple without a place to record. The image of watching the Casino burn from the hotel bar stuck with the band, inspiring it to write Machine Head's biggest hit, "Smoke On The Water."
The Machine Head album peaked at Number Seven on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than two million copies.
However, tensions within the band were increasing -- particularly over artistic direction and songwriting credits. At the time, Blackmore predicted "I suppose we'll see the year out if we're lucky.Continue Reading
Writers: Steve Miller/Ertegun/Curtis
Producer: Steve Miller
Recorded: 1973, Capitol Records, Hollywood
Released: October 1973
|Players:||Steve Miller - vocals, guitars, harmonica |
Dickie Thompson - organ and clavinet
Gerald Johnson - bass
John King - drums
|Album:||The Joker (Capital, 1973)|
Steve Miller taught Boz Scaggs to play guitar during their high school days in Dallas, Texas. They played together in a band called the Marksmen. They also played together during college in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Fabulous Night Trains, with jazz pianist Ben Sidran.
Miller moved to Chicago in the early '60s and played with legendary bluesmen Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Paul Butterfield. He formed the Steve Miller Blues Band after moving to San Francisco in 1966, and Scaggs joined in 1967.
Miller's sixth single, "The Joker," was his first to make the Billboard Top 40. It went all the way to Number One and stayed in the Top 40 for 16 weeks. The Joker album was carried to Number Two on the chart by the success of the title track.
Miller wrote the song in 1972, when a broken neck and hepatitis forced him to take time off from his heavy touring schedule. In his boxed set liner notes, Miller writes, "This was made up one night out underneath the stars at a party. I was stretched out on the hood of an old car playing guitar, looking for shooting stars and it wrote itself. The slide guitar part is a Fender Stratocaster plugged into (a) fuzztone box, run through a Hammond organ Leslie speaker set on chorus."
A single from his 1983 concert album featured a live version of "The Joker" on the B-side but didn't chart.
Though it didn't chart in England in 1973, "The Joker" hit Number One there in 1990, after it was used in a Levi's jeans TV commercial.Continue Reading
Writer: Robert Lamm
Producer: James William Guercio
Recorded: January 1969 at CBS Studios in New York City
Released: Spring 1969
|Players:||Mark Farner--vocals, guitar |
Don Brewer--drums, vocals
|Album:||Second Helping (MCA, 1974)|
Chicago formed in 1967, originally calling itself The Big Thing, then Chicago Transit Authority. It dropped "Transit Authority" after its first album in 1969.
One of the first rock bands to incorporate brass, Chicago carried on a friendly rivalry with colleagues in bands such as Blood, Sweat & Tears. Though Blood, Sweat & Tears' members claimed they came first, Chicago was actually formed at least five months earlier.
A light social commentary about the value of time, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" was Chicago's first Top 10 hit, peaking at Number Seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
Chicago Transit Authority was recorded over 11 days at the beginning of 1969 in New York City.
Thanks to a plethora of material the group had amassed since forming in 1967 in Chicago, the debut was a two-record set featuring 12 lengthy tracks.
Chicago Transit Authority peaked at Number 17 on the Billboard 200 in the summer of 1969 and spent three years on the chart.
Writer: Willie Dixon
Producer: Mickie Most
Recorded: Spring 1968 at EMI Studios, London
Released: Late summer 1968
|Players:||Jeff Beck -- guitar |
Rod Stewart -- vocals
Ron Wood -- bass
Mick Waller -- drums
After leaving the Yardbirds in November 1966, Jeff Beck recorded the song "Beck's Bolero" with Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones -- who would later form Led Zeppelin -- and the Who's Keith Moon. He then went on to form the first edition of the Jeff Beck Group, with himself on vocals.
The most famous lineup of the Jeff Beck Group came together in early 1968, when he recruited singer Rod Stewart from Steampacket and bassist Ron Wood from an assortment of club bands.
Beck approached Stewart to join his band after finding the singer in a bar "plowing into some food and getting drunk on his own...He was really drunk. So I asked him whether he was still playing with Steampacket -- I'd seen him with them, and he was outrageous. He said, 'No, I'm not gonna stay with them.' So I said, 'If you ever want to put a band together...' He said, 'You're joking.' I said, 'No.' He said, 'You ring me tomorrow. I'll leave Steampacket.' So I rang him, and that was it."
Wood recalled that he made the first move to get into the group: "I knew Jeff from meeting him at various clubs, so I rang him when he left the Yardbirds." Wood joined the band as a second guitar player, but when Beck fired original bassist Dave Ambrose, Wood said, "He asked me, 'Would you mind switching to bass?' I'd seen the Yardbirds a lot at the Crawdaddy in Richmond, so I picked up a lot about bass from watching Paul Samwell-Smith. But I also learned from sticking with Jeff's licks."
Beck says the group's cover of Willie Dixon's "I Ain't Superstitious" was intended as "an early wah-wah novelty. I liked the Crybaby pedal but it was bloody irritating after a while. (Eric) Clapton and (Jimi) Hendrix were using it differently -- I wanted it more like a war club, so I found the holes for it. I put slap echo on it to accentuate the edge in it."
The Truth album has come to be seen as a landmark, but Stewart said, "We didn't know at the time how important this album would become, creating a little bit of rock-and-roll history, influencing musicians and singers. Truly great stuff."
Truth reached Number 15 on the Billboard 200, but it didn't chart in the band's native England.Continue Reading
Writer: Pete Townshend
Producer: Shel Talmy
Recorded: November 16th, 1966, at IBC Studios in London
Released: December 25th, 1965
|Players:||Roger Daltrey -- vocals |
Pete Townshend -- guitar, vocals
John Entwistle -- bass, vocals
Keith Moon -- drums
|Album:||My Generation (Brunswick)|
"The Kids Are Alright" was one of Who singer-guitarist Pete Townshend's "state of the youth" anthems. It was a favorite of the Mod crowd in the U.K.
The song originally featured a slashing guitar solo by Townshend that was edited out for the original versions of the My Generation albums. The solo was restored for the 1994 box set Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B and on the Deluxe Edition of the My Generation album.
The single version of "The Kids Are Alright" was also edited for radio play in August 1966, without the Who's consent.
The song didn't chart on the Billboard Hot 100, but it did reach Number 41 on the U.K. pop chart.
The My Generation album -- which was titled The Who Sings My Generation in the U.S. -- also did not reach the Billboard chart. In the U.K., My Generation reached Number Five.
Writer: John Lodge
Producer: Tony Clarke
Recorded: Early 1968 in England
Released: Summer 1968
|Players:||Justin Hayward -- guitar, vocals |
John Lodge -- bass, vocals
Mike Pinder -- keyboards, vocals
Ray Thomas -- percussion, vocals
Graeme Edge -- drums
|Album:||In Search Of The Lost Chord (Deram, 1968)|
The Moody Blues formed in 1964 in England, with Mike Pinder, Ray Thomas, Graeme Edge, Clint Warwick, and future Wings member Denny Laine.
Warwick left in 1966 and was replaced by Rod Clarke.
In October 1966, the group split up, but Pinder, Thomas, and Edge quickly decided to continue on, and they brought in Justin Hayward and John Lodge.
Hayward remembered "Ride My See-Saw" coming out of a studio jam while the band was recording the In Search Of A Lost Chord album: "My memory of it was like a jam session in the studio. We kinda got stuck with it, but it was a great. We had Graeme doing that di-da-da, di-da-da on the snare drum -- that's how it started --and the guitar riff. But we had no song, and then John came back with some lyrics and the bones of the song. We recorded that sometime after we'd recorded the backing track."
"Ride My See-Saw" peaked at Number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at Number 42 in the U.K.
The B-side of the U.K. version of the single was called "A Simple Game," which became a Number Three hit there for the Four Tops in a version also produced by Moodys producer Tony Clarke.
Ironically, the song faced competition as a single from "Tuesday Afternoon," a Top 30 hit that was released in the summer of 1968 from the Moodys' previous album, Days Of Future Passed.
Hayward said incessant FM rock radio play for "See-Saw" was crucial to the band. "It was a song that carried us along in America. Together with 'Voices In The Sky,' we started having real radio hits."
In Search Of The Lost Chord peaked at Number 23 on the Billboard 200 chart and at Number Five in the U.K.Continue Reading
Writer: Mark Knopfler
Producer: Muff Winwood
Recorded: February and March 1978 at Basing Street Studios, London
Released: June 1978
|Players:||Mark Knopfler -- vocals, guitar |
David Knopfler -- guitar
John Illsley -- bass
Pick Withers -- drums
|Album:||Dire Straits (Warner Bros)|
Dire Straits formed in 1977 in Deptford, England. Frontman and chief songwriter Mark Knopfler was a former schoolteacher and journalist with the Yorkshire Evening Post, his brother David was a social worker, bassist John Illsley was a bank manager's son, and drummer Pick Withers came on the recommendation of a friend.
The group's big break came after BBC Radio 1 DJ Charlie Gilett started playing their demo tape, which led to a record deal with England's Vertigo label.
The group's first tour came in early 1978, when they opened for Talking Heads.
"Sultans Of Swing" is a sly and detailed observation of the London pub scene that established Knopfler as a witty, cinematic songwriter, as well as one of rock's new guitar heroes.
Knopfler said the story is true and that the pub was actually located in Deptford: "It's one of those songs -- you are somewhere, you're in a place, and it just seems as though the conditions are right. There's a convergence of conditions...The pub was really quiet except for some kids playing pool in one corner. They were really playing to an audience of about two or three, anyway."
Released in the U.K. in the summer of 1978, the Dire Straits album hit Number 38 on the chart there and attracted the attention of Warner Bros. Records in the U.S., which signed the band and putDire Straits out in October 1978.
"Sultans Of Swing" hit Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and Number Eight in the U.K.
The Dire Straits album reached Number Two on the Billboard 200, while it peaked at Number Five in the U.K.
Among the fans of the album was Bob Dylan, who recruited Knopfler and Withers to play on his 1979 album Slow Train Coming.Continue Reading
Writers: Jon Anderson and Steve Howe
Producers: Eddie Offord and Yes
Recorded: Early summer 1972 at Advision Studio, London
Released: September 1972
|Players:||Jon Anderson -- vocals |
Steve Howe -- guitar, vocals
Chris Squire -- bass, vocals
Rick Wakeman -- keyboards
Bill Bruford -- drums
|Album:||Close To The Edge (Atlantic)|
The 18-minute, side-long title track from Yes's fifth album, "Close To The Edge" was conceived by vocalist Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe while the band was touring to promote their Fragile album. Anderson and Howe pieced it together from individual bits of music each was working on.
Yes rehearsed "Close To The Edge" at a dance studio in London's Shepherd's Bush section, learning it piece-by-piece but ultimately being able to play it all the way through.
In the studio, however, the group and producer Eddie Offord recorded "Close To The Edge" in piecemeal fashion, using heavy editing and tape loops to achieve the finished version. Keyboardist Rick Wakeman recalls one effects tape that was 40 feet long and looped into various sections of the song.
At one point, a studio cleaning lady accidentally discarded some of the tape that was needed for the song, resulting in a frantic search before they finally recovered the sections.
Tempers occasionally flared up during the recording, particularly between bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford as they tried to lock in their parts. Bruford, in fact, left the band after the album was recorded and was replaced by Alan White.
The effort proved worth it, however -- Close To The Edge became Yes's highest-charting album ever, hitting Number Three on the Billboard 200 and Number Four in the U.K.
Although "Close To The Edge" itself was too long to release as a single, another track from the album, "And You And I," peaked at Number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Writer: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Producer: George Martin
Recorded: July 1969 at EMI Studios, London
|Players:||John Lennon--vocals, guitar |
Paul McCartney--vocals, bass, piano
|Album:||Abbey Road ( (Apple, 1974)|
"Come Together" began as a theme song for Timothy Leary's campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan in 1969. Lennon started working on the song after Leary and his wife, Rosemary, visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their 1969 "bed-in" in Montreal, where the Learys added their voices to the chorus of "Give Peace A Chance." Lennon liked what he had come up with so much he fleshed out the song and recorded it with the Beatles.
The phrase "come together" is from the Chinese book of changes, the I Ching.
"Come Together" was released as the B-side of "Something," the first single from Abbey Road. It hit Number One on the pop chart.
The reference to "old flat top" comes from the Chuck Berry song "You Can't Catch Me." Berry sued for plagiarism, and it was settled out of court when Lennon agreed to record three songs for the publisher of "You Can't Catch Me."
Lennon performed the song at the One To One benefit concert on August 30, 1972, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Aerosmith recorded "Come Together" for the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which starred Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees. The Aerosmith version, performed as the Future Villain Band, hit Number 23 on the pop chart.
A cover version of the song has been featured prominently in an ad campaign for Nortel Networks.Continue Reading
Writers: Don Henley
Producers: Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: March-October, 1976
Released: May 3, 1977
|Players:||Don Henley--vocals, drums |
Glenn Frey--guitar, piano, vocals
Joe Walsh--guitar, vocals
Randy Meisner--bass, vocals
Don Felder--guitar, vocals
|Album:||Hotel California (Elektra, 1976)|
Along with Warren Zevon's self-titled sophomore effort, Hotel California became a symbol of the seedier side of the Los Angeles nightlife. Both albums depicted depravity, drugs, and spiritual emptiness that jarred with the overriding touchy-feely music that emanated from the West Coast.
Regardless of the group's sweet country harmonies and melodic song structure, much of the Eagles' output was jaded and cynical, if not downright mean-spirited. "Life In The Fast Lane" stands as the most obvious example; with "Hotel California," "Lyin' Eyes," "Desperado," and "Witchy Woman" following close behind.
Hotel California marked the group's third consecutive Number One album, and it was certified platinum in January 1977.
In order to toughen up its laid-back West Coast sound, the Eagles brought guitarist Joe Walsh aboard prior to recording Hotel California.
In addition to Walsh, much of the darkness on Hotel California can be attributed to the large amount of substances the band itself was consuming. Singer-guitarist Glenn Frey recalls: "Led Zeppelin might argue with us, but I think we had the greatest traveling party of the '70s...I seem to remember the wine was the best, the drugs were good, and the women were beautiful."Continue Reading
Writer: Kevin Cronin
Producers: Kevin Cronin, Gary Richrath, and Kevin Beamish
Recorded: Spring and summer 1980
Released: Fall 1980
|Players:||Kevin Cronin--vocals, guitar |
Bruce Hall--bass, vocals
|Album:||Hi-Infidelity (Epic, 1980)|
Coming nearly 14 years into REO Speedwagon's career, "Keep On Loving You" was not only the band's first Number One on the Billboard Hot 100, but also its first top-40 hit, period. The band's previous best showing was 1978's "Time For Me To Fly," which peaked at Number 56.
It also sold a million copies as a single.
REO frontman Kevin Cronin wrote "Keep On Loving You" as a valentine for his wife, in response to her dedication while he and the band kept up its heavy touring schedule.
"Keep On Loving You" was in many ways the perfection of the power-ballad style Cronin had been working on throughout his tenure in REO. "I realized that you can take a ballad and put the energy there. It doesn't have to be fast and loud; it can still be powerful."
REO's Hi-Infidelity album was also the group's most successful release, spending 16 weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200 and selling more than 10 million copies.
Cronin said at the time that Hi-Infidelity represented a very deliberate effort to improve upon REO's previous releases, "We were never represented right on record. That's one of the things that was different this time. We've gotten better in the studio and we've improved as writers. If we had gone to Number One with a crummy record, I'd be feeling pretty strange inside. But I love the album. It's what was in the back of my mind all those years. It's what kept us going."
After such a long wait, Cronin said, "The most gratifying thing for me is the peer recognition. I always had the feeling that no other band or performer in the world knew who we were. If they did know about us, I figured they probably didn't like us."Continue Reading
Writers: Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Producer: Gus Dudgeon
Recorded: June 1972 at Strawberry Studios, France
Released: January 12, 1973
|Players:||Elton John--vocals, piano, mellotron |
Davey Johnstone--acoustic guitar, banjo
|Album:||Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player (MCA, 1973)|
The second single from Elton John's Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player album (following "Crocodile Rock"), "Daniel" hit Number Two in the U.S. and Number Four in the U.K.
Don't Shoot Me... was John's first Number One album in the U.K. and his second chart-topper in the U.S.
Don't Shoot Me... marks guitarist Davey Johnstone's arrival as a full-time member of John's band.
According to lyricist Bernie Taupin, "Daniel" was inspired by an article he read in Newsweek magazine about Vietnam veterans: "I wanted to write something that was sympathetic to the people that came home...It was about this guy who'd been wounded in the Vietnam War and had gone back to his hometown, just wanting to forget it all and get on with his life. But the people there wanted him to be a hero, and wouldn't leave him alone. In the end, this guy had become so disillusioned, he'd decided the only way out was to leave America altogether."
The song was intended to be a narrative about a veteran fleeing America (for Spain) following the war, but much of the song's detail was contained in a final verse that John decided to cut out while they were writing the song.
Taupin also calls it "the most misinterpreted song we've ever written. It's been interpreted as a gay anthem, a family-feud song--there's no end to it."
The song was done very quickly, Taupin added: "I got out of bed one morning at the chateau and wrote this thing, called 'Daniel,' in about half an hour, and took it down to Elton. Elton got up from the breakfast table, went over to the piano, and finished it in about 15 or 20 minutes, then said to the band, 'Hey, guys, let's cut this.' We'd done the track by the end of the day."
John's publisher and record company did not want to release "Daniel" as a single, which led to a public dispute between the companies and John. John even began playing the song to friends in the music press, openly campaigning for its release. When the song was released, the publisher refused to pay to have it promoted.
John performed the song on Michael Parkinson's BBC1 talk show a few days after its release. For the occasion he wore a one-piece silver outfit and shoes with stilt-height heels.Continue Reading