A Hell Of A Band

This song ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ was written by Johnny Stevenson and Alan O’day, and first recorded by a group called Sonny Geraci and Climax, but it was made popular by the Righteous Brothers.  Stevenson was the keyboard player in Climax who were best known for their hit ‘Precious And Few’.  Songwriter O’day had a good year in 1974 writing Helen Reddy’s #1 smash ‘Angie Baby’ and ‘Train Of Thought’ for Cher which reached number #27 and later in 1977 he had a number one hit with his song ‘Undercover Angel’.  Other groups that recorded his songs include Paul Anka, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, The Fifth Dimension, Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughn, Dusty Springfield, Three Dog Night, Tony Orlando, Johnny Mathis and the Captain and Tennille.  Johnny Stevenson wrote the title of the song ‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ and Johnny’s publisher Artie Wayne brought Alan O’day in on the song.

‘Rock and Roll Heaven’ charted #3 for the Righteous Brothers appearing on their 1974 album Give It To The People.  This song references rock stars that have died, saying “Jimi gave us rainbows” because of the 1971 Jimi Hendrix album Rainbow Bridge which is a compilation album.  It mentions, “Janis took a piece of our hearts”, because Janis Joplin while she was in Big Brother And The Holding Company made a big hit out of the 1967 song ‘Piece of My Heart’ that was written by Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns and came out on the 1968 Cheap Thrills album.  It says, “Otis took us all to the dock of the bay”, because of the 1967 masterpiece song which topped the charts sung by soul singer Otis Redding ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay’ and co-written by guitarist Steve Cropper.  It says, “Sing a song to light my fire, Remember Jim that way”, because of the Doors song ‘Light My Fire’ that Jim Morrison sang on the 1967 debut album and the single went to #1.  In the second verse this song mentions, “Jimmy touched us with that song”, referencing ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ by Jim Croce that went to #1 in 1973.  It says, “Bobby gave us ‘Mack the Knife’” which was a #1 hit for Bobby Darin in 1959.

The original Climax version of this song did not contain references to Bobby Darin or Jim Croce, because they were still alive when it was released.  The Righteous Brothers producers Brian Potter and Dennis Lambert changed the lyric to include these singers, making the song far more contemporary.  This song makes me think about the all the great rockers that were not included, like Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, Bo Diddley, Cass Elliott, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, George Harrison, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Garcia among many others, but still it must be a hell of a band up there.

If you believe in forever,
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band, band, band.

Jimmy gave us rainbows,
And Janis took a piece of our hearts,
And Otis brought us all to the dock of a bay.
Sing a song to light my fire,
Remember Jim that way,
They’ve all found another place, another place to play.

If you believe in forever,
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band, band, band.

Remember bad bad Leroy Brown,
Hey Jimmy touched us with that song.
Time won’t change a friend we came to know.
And Bobby gave us Mack the Knife,
Well look out, he’s back in town.
They’ll all be there together
When they meet in one big show.

If you believe in forever,
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band, band, band.

There’s a spotlight waiting
No matter who you are
Cause everybody’s got a song to sing,
Everyone’s a star
(Everybody’s got to be a star).

If you believe in forever,
Then life is just a one-night stand.
If there’s a rock and roll heaven,
Well you know they’ve got a hell of a band, band, band.

I am including a bonus slowed down rendition of this song which features some new lyrics and many of the original lyrics have disappeared.  Instead of mentioning Otis Redding, they sing “Keith knew how to laugh the blues away” and I think that this refers to Keith Moon.  They added a whole verse about Elvis and it also contains several lines that reference John Lennon.

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the theme this week is to write about a song that references another group or artist in it.

17 thoughts on “A Hell Of A Band

  1. Fantastic! So many greats were mentioned, and they all left us too soon. Sad to say there could be many more if they updated or added to the song.
    I always liked the song, but didn’t know who sang it.

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