Z is for Ziggy Stardust

‘Ziggy Stardust’ was written by English singer-songwriter David Bowie for his 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  David Bowie created different personas for himself over the years and he experimented with pantomime studying with mime artist/dancer/performance artist Lindsay Kemp and he was adept at role-playing.  Bowie felt the need to write a theatrical piece and he was able to achieve this by creating this outlandish character.  Being a great vocal dramatist and having experience with cross dressing and gender bending, Bowie knew just what to do.  Angela Bowie liberated the shy young musician and gave him the push over the top that he needed.  David Bowie announced that he was bisexual, while he was married to his wife Angela and this made him different from the very hetero male rockers of the early seventies.

It didn’t take long before the lines between the real person and his contrived character began to blur.  Davy Jones became David Bowie who became his alter ego Ziggy Stardust.  His character was a composite of a few people and David became obsessed with his creation and eventually Ziggy Stardust had to die, as Bowie admitted to being totally lost in the character, and it took a long time to shake him off.  Ziggy Stardust claims that there are only five years to go before the end of the earth and Bowie’s concept of an alien rock star and him assuming the persona of Ziggy, made Bowie a superstar.

Bowie was interested in people and he appreciated oddballs and Iggy Pop (note the name Iggy is very close to Ziggy) met him in 1971, when Bowie was on tour to promote his previous album The Man Who Sold the World.  Bowie convinced Iggy that he needed to sober up and he tried to help him out with his career and later they enjoyed a working relationship and even toured together.  Some people point to Twiggy (the British model) as being an influence for Ziggy, but they did not meet till a year later when she appeared on the front cover of David Bowie’s Pin Ups album.  Marc Bolan of T Rex who was a pioneer of the glam rock movement thought about calling his group T. Rex by the name Zinc Alloy at one time, and it is not that farfetched to see that Zink plus Iggy make Ziggy.

Gene Vincent a rockabilly star who injured his leg in a 1960 car accident that killed Eddie Cochran gave Bowie the idea that Ziggy Stardust should have a unique stance.  Bowie saw Vincent in concert, when he was wearing a leg brace and had to stand with his injured leg behind him, so Bowie copied this posture appropriating this stance, calling it “position number one for the embryonic Ziggy.”  Even Jimi Hendrix could have been an influence on the character Ziggy Stardust, as “He played it left hand, but made it too far” because Hendrix was left-handed.  There is also a connection to Lou Reed as Bowie’s character was influenced by Doug Yule, bassist for the Velvet Underground.  After attending a VU concert in 1970, Bowie went backstage and began talking to Yule, mistakenly thinking that he was speaking to Lou Reed.  Yule never corrected Bowie and he answered all of his questions as if he were Reed.  Bowie recalled later that he was intrigued by the question of whether Yule was real or fake.

Bowie got part of the name Ziggy Stardust based on the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, a Texas psychobilly pioneer named Norman Odom who was on the same label as Bowie.  He recorded the ’60s single ‘Paralyzed’, which has been described as “the most awful cacophony” ever put on vinyl, but also considered to be a masterpiece by others.  Bowie viewed him as somebody playing music who was probably not working with a full deck, but Bowie fell in love with his music.

The only musician that Bowie admits was a direct influence is Vince Taylor, an English singer who took the “rock star” persona to the extreme, calling himself Mateus and declaring himself the son of God.  Taylor was popular in France in the early ‘60s, and Bowie met him in 1966, after his popularity had faded.  Vince Taylor was the main inspiration and he was known in Britain for his Presley-like performances.  Unfortunately, drug abuse and erratic behavior caused him to fall from grace.  When Bowie first met him in 1966, Taylor had recently appeared on stage in a white sheet and declared that he was the son of God.  He was also fond of pointing out places throughout Europe where UFOs were going to land.  Taylor was indulging in heavy drug use and Taylor was immersed in an alternative reality.

Bowie thought that the world needed a plastic rock and roll character and because he considered himself to be an actor, he made up Ziggy Stardust, an otherworld­ly being who came to Earth to save it.  Ziggy Stardust never saved earth as he found rock & roll and started to sing about change and pain, and he played the music better than anybody.  This made his vanity soar out of range, and he became an ass like so many other rock stars.  That character had made David Bowie famous, and it formed an audience and communi­ty around this made-up personality.  Bowie became a bisexual demigod in red boots, which was the perfect formula for fame and it allowed Bowie to put on extravagant theatrical performances.

Bowie decided to make Ziggy bisexual which displayed an acceptance of all kinds of sexual orientations and this was incredibly controversial back in those days.  Bowie had always been interested in science fiction and space travel, as displayed in earlier songs like ‘Space Oddity’ a track inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, but the combined influence of Vince Taylor, who believed that he was an alien god and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy who used to look at the moon and tell himself that someday he would go there, made Ziggy an alien.

Bowie based the clothes, hair, and makeup of Ziggy Stardust on the Malcom McDowell character in A Clockwork Orange, and on William Burroughs book Wild Boys.  Angie introduced David to many unconventional people and ideas whose style and influence helped shape the various personae he soon adopted.  Angie was the first to outfit David and his band the Spiders From Mars, designing and sewing all the costumes for his shows at the RoundhouseThe album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time and his songs provide a critical note on matters like politics, drugs and sexual orientation.  This flamboyant and tragic Stardust song signaled a new era in rock music.

Oh
Oh, yeah

Ziggy played guitar
Jamming good with Weird and Gilly
And the Spiders from Mars
He played it left hand
But made it too far
Became the special man
Then we were Ziggy’s band

Ziggy really sang
Screwed-up eyes and screwed-down hairdo
Like some cat from Japan
He could lick ‘em by smiling
He could leave ‘em to hang
They came on so loaded, man
Well-hung and snow-white tan

So where were the spiders
While the fly tried to break our bones?
With just the beer light to guide us
So we bitched about his fans
And should we crush his sweet hands?
Oh

Mm-hmm

Ziggy played for time
Jiving us that we were voodoo
The kids were just crass
He was the nazz
With God-given ass
He took it all too far
But, boy, could he play guitar

Making love with his ego
Ziggy sucked up into his mind, ah
Like a leper messiah
When the kids had killed the man
I had to break up the band

Oh, yeah
Ooh
Ziggy played guitar

Y is for You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann, and Phil Spector wrote ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ for The Righteous Brothers who were made up of the duo Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield.  Spector got a songwriting credit on the track, which was customary back in the day, even when he didn’t contribute any more than providing inspiration, but on this one he actually helped with the end of this song.  The Righteous Brothers had a lot of vocal talent and their singing style became dubbed as “blue-eyed soul”.   In September of 1963, Bobby and Bill were part of a rock and roll review show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco that was produced by Phil Spector.  The Righteous Brothers had been cutting their records at Gold Star Studios, which was Spector’s base of operations, and once he caught their act, and heard their voices, he was sold.  Before signing with Spector, the duo had some minor hits on the Moonglow label, including ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’ (#49) and ‘My Babe’ (#75).  Spector made a call to Ray Maxwell who owned Moonglow Records and offered a deal to lease the remainder of the Righteous Brothers contract, which Moonglow accepted.

When Phil Spector signed The Righteous Brothers into his label, Philles Records, he wanted a song that would fit their blue-eyed soul style, so he commissioned the husband-and-wife songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a hit for them.  Spector flew the couple to Los Angeles and checked them into the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood where Barry Mann and Phil Spector sang ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ for them, and this ballad was very different from the other music that were doing at this time.  When the Righteous Brothers first heard the song, they didn’t think it would fit their style.

Barry Mann said that they were inspired to write ‘Lovin’ Feelin’’ from the Four Tops song ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’.  The production of the song went through many hours of experimentation, retakes, and studio time before it was recorded and released.  The song changed dramatically because they were trying to find the right key and this song has a pretty huge range to it.  Mann came up with the opening line, “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips”, which was influenced by the line “I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me” that was in the 1961 song which he co-wrote, ‘I Love How You Love Me’ which became a Top 5 for The Paris Sisters.

They lowered the key and slowed down the song which changed the whole vibe.  The recording took more than 39 takes with Medley and Bobby Hatfield singing each verse over and over again.  Spector used his famous “Wall of Sound” technique and he poured everything that he had into this recording, spending $35,000 on the single, which caused him to lose sleep, get ulcers and stressed him out for a week when that record came out, but the song turned into one of his definitive statements.

Bill Medley spent about eight hours working with Spector on the vocal for this song, which was tedious, since they had to record over previous takes in order to put down a new one.  Spector was also very particular about the performances, being determined to make this his finest production to date, wanting it to be better than anything released by his contemporizes.  He chose the Righteous Brothers for their tremendous vocal talents, and enlisted his old Jazz guitar idol Barney Kessel to play on the song.  Spector used members of the Wrecking Crew and some of the other musicians to play on the track included Los Angeles session pros Carol Kaye (acoustic guitar), Earl Palmer (drums) and Ray Pohlman (bass).  Cher can be heard on background vocals near the end of the song and the Blossoms were also used as backup singers.

Spector recorded and overdubbed all of the backing tracks, spending days on the song in the studio, recording it over and over.  Spector was the first major West Coast producer to make the musicians wear headphones, a new thing at the time, so when they heard the song, they heard it with all the processing he added, which in this case meant a lot of echo.  Spector layered up their performances, again and again, so that they sounded huge, overwhelming.  One day as they were recording this, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and all kinds of other celebrities and record business giants showed up so Phil could show off his studio, but this was a distraction for Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield.  The headphones got the musicians out of their comfort zones, but it made them work together to get a sound that worked.

The title “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ started out as a placeholder, but Spector thought it was great so they went with it.  Mann and Weil completed the song at Spector’s house, where Phil worked with them to compose the famous bridge “Baaaby… I need your love”.  When the duo had a hard time with the bridge and ending, Spector played the riff to ‘Hang On Sloopy’ by the Vibrations and developed it for the bridge.  The bridge, “We had a love!  A love!  A love you don’t find everyday!  So don’t! Don’t!  Don’t!  Don’t let it slip away!” may be about as close to pop-music perfection that you can ever get.  That great opening line, “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips”, but everyone knows that kissing with your eyes open id much more difficult.  This opening line spells trouble for this couple, like an impending storm is coming or some type of doom is encroaching.  Things get worse with the look in her eyes and her criticizing insignificant things, but in the end the guy begs her to bring back that loving feeling.  Bill Medley uses his heavy baritone to beg, plead, groan, and howl, as the music fills up the air around him, till it becomes a symphonic awakening.  This astonishing piece of music, treats lovelorn feelings with all the respect that those feelings demand.

Mann and Weil wrote the chorus but they couldn’t figure out how to end it.  Phil contributed the, “Gone, Gone, Gone, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.”  Mann laughed and Weil replied, “Any song that has Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, can never be a big record!”  Yet, the song turned to be a giant hit.  ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ was a success.  It dominated the US Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, yet some people wondered if they were hearing it on the wrong speed.  Even the Righteous Brothers weren’t quite comfortable with the song and Bobby Hatfield was upset that his voice wasn’t even on the song until the chorus.   Hatfield asked Spector what he was supposed to do when Medley was singing and Spector told him, “You can go directly to the bank.”  This song sweeps you up like a wave with all of that swooshing, crashing reverb in there, it makes the listener feel like they have been set adrift, and are unable to hold off the heartbreak that’s staring right at them.

Producers would eventually figure out cleaner ways to get that sense of orchestral sweep.  According to BMI music publishing, ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’ was the most-played song of the century on American radio and television, getting over eight million spins, but this statistic includes all versions of the song, not just The Righteous Brothers version.  George Martin produced a rival version of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ for the British singer Cilla Black.  In the UK, the Cilla Black version was released just ahead of The Righteous Brothers’ version.  Both songs charted the same week, with Black’s at #2 and The Righteous Brothers song at #3.  The song was the first Righteous Brothers release on Philles, and it shot to #1, giving both the duo and the songwriting team of Mann & Weil their first #1 hit.  It was Spector’s third #1 as a producer: he had previously hit the top spot with ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ by The Teddy Bears and ‘He’s A Rebel’ by The Crystals.  The Righteous Brothers played this to open the ceremonies when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before in your fingertips
You’re trying hard not to show it
But baby, baby I know it

You lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa-oh

Now there’s no welcome look in your eyes when I reach for you
And now you’re starting to criticize little things I do
It makes me just feel like crying
‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dyin’

You lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa-oh

Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you
If you would only love me like you used to do, yeah
We had a love, a love, a love you don’t find everyday
So don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t let it slip away

Baby, baby, baby, baby
I beg you please, please, please, please
I need your love, need your love
I need your love, I need your love
So bring it on back, so bring it on back
Bring it on back, bring it on back

Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, gone
And I can’t go on, whoa-oh

Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, gone

X is for Xanadu

Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra composed the song ‘Xanadu’ for Olivia Newton-John which was title song from the soundtrack to the 1980 film Xanadu.  The film features music by Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra, Cliff Richard, and The Tubes.  The movie was a bomb, so much so that it became driving forces behind the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards, a.k.a., the Razzies which no movie wants to be nominated for.  At the first ever Razzies in 1981, Xanadu was nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Director (which it won), Worst Actor (Michael Beck), Worst Actress (Olivia Newton-John), Worst Screenplay and Worst Original Song for ‘Suspended in Time’, which is literally every award except two.  However, the Xanadu soundtrack became a mega hit and had big commercial success.  It was certified Double Platinum in the US peaking at #4 on the Billboard album chart and it went Gold in the UK.  This song ‘Xanadu’ reached #8 in the US and it is ELO’s first and only #1 hit and Olivia Newton-John’s third #1 hit on the UK charts.

The placer Xanadu received lasting fame in the western world thanks to the Venetian explorer Marco Polo’s description of it in his celebrated book Travels.  The word Xanadu showed up in the poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who said he wrote the strange and hallucinatory poem shortly after waking up from an opium-influenced dream in 1797.  Xanadu is the name of the land where Kublai Khan ordered the majestic pleasure-dome to be built.  The word Xanadu came to mean a paradise.  Xanadu is also known as Shangdu, Shang-tu, and Kaiping, and it was allegedly located in Inner Mongolia, northern China, and it was made first the capital and then the summer capital of the Mongol Empire by Kublai Khan.  Distant and mysteriously lost Xanadu, came to represent a place of mystery, splendid luxury and easy living.  In the Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece Citizen Kane, Xanadu was the name of Charles Foster Kane’s house.  Kane’s Xanadu is a costly nightmare with plenty of ambition and high-concept thinking, but an empty void where the soul and character should be.  Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, is the obvious inspiration for Xanadu, due to the Hearst/Kane comparison that is central to the film.  In 1994, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope identified the Xanadu Region, a highly reflective area on the leading hemisphere of Saturn’s moon Titan.

‘Xanadu’ was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany late in 1979 and/or early in 1980 with both Olivia Newton-John and the Electric Light Orchestra present for the full session.  Olivia sang the lead and harmony vocals, while Jeff Lynne sang all backing and additional harmony vocals.  The song had earlier been recorded as a demo.  This demo was provided to the motion picture’s producers and the dance sequences for the motion picture were filmed to the demo rather than the final song.  Therefore, when it came time to record the final song at the studio in Germany, the band had to match the final song’s beat to the imperfect beat of the demo, so that the final song would work with the parts filmed for the motion picture.  As a result, the beat of the song is slightly off tempo although not noticeably by most people.  Jeff Lynne has stated on multiple occasions that although he considers the song to be a bit soft or light, it’s still one of his most favorite songs that he wrote.  It is also a rare instance of an ELO hit that has no instrumental bridge.

In 2000, for the Electric Light Orchestra Flashback boxed set, ELO recorded a new version of the song with Jeff Lynne singing the lead vocal parts.  On this set the song is subtitled as “New Version” (which seems a bit of a misnomer given that it’s old enough to grow hair now).  The basic structure of the song is the same, however many of the keyboard parts are replaced by guitar and overall, it’s a more guitar-oriented version of the song.

Xanadu carries a message about dreams coming true, but why was it a place where nobody dared to go?  This Xanadu is not in Mongolia, it is a roller-skating rink that Terpsichore one of the nine Muses and goddess of dance and chorus takes an interest in.  Oliva Newton John plays this muse but she calls herself Kira and she tries to convince her two friends to open a disco club, and at this time disco was already going out of style.  Kira delights in dancing and she would like to see the roller-skating rink filled with people again sharing the love that came to be known, or called Xanadu.  This kind of love will light up the pleasure center in your brain and there is a chance that it could take your breath and leave you blind.  Although, if you open your eyes, you will see that what we made is real and we are in Xanadu.  A million lights are dancing, and there you are, a shooting star, which is an everlasting world, and you’re here with me eternally.

A place where nobody dared to go
The love that we came to know
They call it Xanadu
(It takes your breath and it’ll leave you blind)
And now, open your eyes and see
What we have made is real
We are in Xanadu
(A dream of it, we offer you)

A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you’re here with me, eternally

Xanadu, Xanadu
(Now we are here) in Xanadu
Xanadu, Xanadu
(Now we are here) in Xanadu

Xanadu, your neon lights will shine for you, Xanadu

The love, the echoes of long ago
You needed the world to know
They are in Xanadu
(With every breath you drift away)
The dream that came through a million years
That lived on through all the tears
It came to Xanadu
(The dream you dream, well it will happen for you)

A million lights are dancing and there you are, a shooting star
An everlasting world and you’re here with me, eternally

Xanadu, Xanadu
(Now we are here) in Xanadu
Xanadu, Xanadu
(Now we are here) in Xanadu

Now that I’m here
Now that you’re near in Xanadu
Now that I’m here
Now that you’re near in Xanadu, Xanadu

W is for Windy

The Association recorded Ruthann Friedmans song ‘Windy’ in 1967, and it was released on their Insight Out album.  ‘Windy’ peaked at #1 on the Top 40 radio charts in July of that same year and spent four weeks at the top spot.  ‘Windy’ allowed Friedman to become just the third female songwriter to reach the number one position on the charts.  Guitarists Russ Giguere and new member, Larry Ramos who was a member of The New Christy Minstrels, were chosen to share lead vocals on this song.  ‘Windy’ was nominated for a Grammy Award as best contemporary group performance but lost out to The 5th Dimension’s ‘Up, Up and Away’.  Windy is a very special girl that might be peeking out from under a stairway, but that is OK, because her name is lighter than air.  She might be bending down to give you a rainbow and if that happens, you will know it was Windy.  She could be tripping down the streets of the city and smiling at everybody she sees.  She would be the one reaching out to capture a moment.  Windy has stormy eyes that flash at the sound of lies and Windy has wings to fly above the cloud.

Insight Out was the Association’s first album release for the Warner Brothers label and it became one of the top selling LPs of the year in America, peaking at #8 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and being certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.  Ruthann Friedman was living in David Crosby’s basement when she wrote ‘Windy’, and at one point, after Signe Anderson left, Jefferson Airplane, they wanted her to be their lead singer, that is till they found Grace Slick.  Her output consisted of a lone Folk album Constant Companion issued in 1970, and a compilation album Hurried Life: Lost Recordings 1965-1971 which was issued in 2006.   However, in 2013, many of the fascinating recordings that she created with some of the most revered names in West Coast pop which remained locked away in the vaults have been released on Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook, which includes 18 tracks from 1966-1970.  Ruthann also released her second album Chinatown in October, 2013.  She was in the rock band Petrus and she also wrote and sang songs in the 1971 cult flick Peace Killers where a biker gang terrorizes a hippie commune.

Royalty checks from ‘Windy’ allowed Ruthann to finally be able to pay her own rent, but she said that it didn’t change her life.  At this time, she was taking so many psychotropic drugs that she is amazed that she’s still standing upright.  She was just bopping around playing music with her friends, going up to San Francisco where she enjoyed hanging out with Janis, Ken Kesey, and The Dead, and also staying in Los Angeles where she met Steve Mann, Van Dyke Parks and Hoyt Axton.  She described it as kind of a gypsy life that a lot of people led at that time.  She was playing at Hoot nights at the Troubadour when she was sixteen, hanging out with Steve Mann and Hoyt Axton and doing some serious underage drinking and pot smoking.  She just felt this is what was expected to happen, but she never anticipated that it would happen.  She didn’t plan out her next step, figuring that this was where she was supposed to be.  People analyzing this song, said it was about her hippie boyfriend up in San Francisco, but she said that she never had a hippie boyfriend.  Ruthann said that ‘Windy’ was all about her when she was 25 at the time, and her fantasy about what kind of a guy she wanted to be with.  She said that a songwriter was annoying her at this time and she wanted to escape and think about somebody else, so she made up this person Windy.

Van Dyke Parks told her that if she wanted to be a professional all she had to do was make the commitment.  Van Dyke Parks introduced her to the guys in the Association and they were friends for a long time before she ever showed them a song.  The Association let her stay on a couch in their living room of their group house on Melrose Ave for a couple of weeks while she was looking for her own place.  After they had the hit ‘Along Comes Mary’, which was written by her good friend Tandyn Almer, they asked her if she had something for them.  She had just written ‘Windy’, and she told them that this song might be right up their alley, so she played it for them.  They liked it and said, “That’s the song” and they changed the lyrics to make it about a girl.  Most of her other songs in those days were very different from ‘Windy’, either being very folky or very jazzy, avant-garde psychedelic 1960s stuff, nothing remotely popish.  The album’s original producer Jerry Yester couldn’t believe that she wrote ‘Windy’ because all of her other songs were so unlike that.  Within a few weeks, they called her from the studio and said, “We have a hit here.  Come on and sing on the backups.”  So, she went in and she is the voice singing the blues licks.

The real stars of ‘Windy’ (and the album itself) were Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne, the famous session drummer/ bass player team, who create the driving force behind these songs.  Wrecking Crew keyboardist Larry Knechtel, guitarist Al Casey, and guitarist/sitarist Mike Deasy also played on this album.  This song was produced by Bones Howe, who made significant changes to Ruthann Friedman’s demo to give the song more pop appeal.  Bones Howe and Ray Pohlman, bass player of The Wrecking Crew, later ended up co-producing the album with The Association.  The song was written in waltz time, but Howe changed it. He also opened the song with the bassline, added the recorder solo, and had the group sing the “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” backing vocals.

‘Windy’ was one of 22 songs on a demo tape submitted by writer Ruthann Friedman to producer Bones Howe.  ‘Windy’ was written as a waltz in 3/4 time, and Howe loved it, but he couldn’t put out a waltz, so a new arrangement was written to a standard 4/4 beat.  Howe was the engineer on the Mamas and the Papas recordings of ‘Monday Monday’ and he was brought in to produce the Association’s third album after their second LP Renaissaner, failed to sell as many copies as Valiant Records expected it should.  Howe had success producing The Turtles on such songs as P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s ‘You Baby’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘It Ain’t Me, Babe’, but this song became Howe’s first #1 as a producer.  He would top the chart again with two more productions, ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’ and ‘Wedding Bell Blues’, both recorded by The 5th Dimension.

Who’s peekin’ out from under a stairway
Calling a name that’s lighter than air
Who’s bending down to give me a rainbow
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)

And Windy has stormy eyes
That flash at the sound of lies
And Windy has wings to fly
Above the clouds (above the clouds)
Above the clouds (above the clouds)

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it’s Windy

Who’s tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin’ at everybody she sees
Who’s reachin’ out to capture a moment

V is for Valerie

‘Valerie’ is a song written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings and originally recorded by Winwood for his third solo album, Talking Back to the Night, in 1982.  The song deals with a man reminiscing about a lost love he hopes to find again someday.  Will Jennings reportedly wrote the lyrics while thinking about singer Valerie Carter, who was a backup vocalist for Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and others, before she launched her own solo career.  Her career was on the decline, in part, because of drug use at the time.  Jackson Browne also recorded a song ‘That Girl Could Sing’, which was also supposedly about Valerie Carter.  On its original release, the single reached #51 on the UK Singles Chart and #70 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.  In 1987, a remix by Tom Lord-Alge that was included as a single from Winwood’s compilation album Chronicles.  The remixed version of ‘Valerie’ climbed to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late December 1987, and it also reached #19 on the UK Singles Chart.  Both versions also reached #13 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

In the ‘60s, multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood was in the Spencer Davis Group while he was still a teenager and he joined Traffic, then Blind Faith, then Traffic again before starting his solo career in 1974.  In the late ‘70s era of punk and New Wave music, Winwood almost decided on giving up on his career of music, but he was ready to do whatever was necessary, even if that meant changing his style.  Island suggested that he team up with Will Jennings for his second solo album Arc of a Diver, who was a former English professor that had started writing songs.  At the pair’s first writing session, Winwood played Jennings the keyboard-driven demo for ‘While You See a Chance’ and this became a winning combination.  The 1980s became a period of resurgence for Winwood when he embraced electronic dance music (EDM), also known as dance music, club music, house music, or simply dance, which was a new craze at the time.  This music is characterized by a repetitive four-on-the-floor beat and DJs welcomed this when disco was fading.  The appeal didn’t last and hip-hop finally won out as the mainstream music of choice, but you have to go where the money is and at this time people were buying electronic dance music, so Winwood got a new manager, Ron Weisner, and he moved to New York City and recorded a synth-driven ’80s love song.

‘Valerie’ is a song that takes the perspective of a man who is yearning for an ex-lover, but there’s a little more to it than that.  This girl is very special a woman, she is described as being like “Jazz on a summer’s day”, which was a concert film made about the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, which captured the fabled performances by an array of musical legends including Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Chuck Berry, Dinah Washington and Mahalia Jackson.  It has been a lone time since this guy last saw Valerie and although he can recall some of her features, over time her face has been lost from his memory.  He says that she just blew away, but she can’t be that warm with the wind on her arms, which probably means that she suddenly disappeared from his life, but also that he wanted to comfort her and keep her warm.

He asks Valerie to call on him and come to see him, as I guess he doesn’t have any way of contacting her.  He has grown up since the last time that he was with Valerie and he tells her that he is the same boy that he used to be, and he wonders why they are not together.  He hears love songs that fill the night, but they don’t have the whole story, as they don’t tell how lovers cry out.  He is suffering as he still hears her cries for help, but he figures that if some good wind came by, that it might blow her back to him.  His hopes are that someday he will hear her like she used to be.

‘Higher Love’ which appeared on Winwood’s next album was also a collaboration with Will Jennings.  Wilbur H. “Will” Jennings is probably best known for writing the lyrics for the songs ‘Tears in Heaven’ for Eric Clapton and for the song recorded by Canadian singer Celine Dion ‘My Heart Will Go On’.  He has been inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and he has won several awards including three Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Academy Awards.

So wild, standing there
With her hands in her hair
I can’t help remember
Just where she touched me

There’s still no face
Here in her place
So cool, she was like
Jazz on a Summer’s day
Music, high and sweet
Then she just blew away

Now she can’t be that warm
With the wind in her arms

Valerie, call on me
Call on me, Valerie
Come and see me
I’m the same boy I used to be

Love songs fill the night
But they don’t tell it all
Not how lovers cry out
Just like they’re dying

Her cries hang there
In time, somewhere

Someday, some good wind
May blow her back to me
Some night I may hear
Her like she used to be

No it can’t be that warm
With the wind in her arms

Valerie, call on me
Call on me, Valerie
Come and see me
I’m the same boy I used to be

So cool, she was like
Jazz on a Summer’s day
Music, high and sweet
Then she just blew away

Now she can’t be that warm
With the wind in your arms

Valerie, call on me
Call on me, Valerie
Come and see me
I’m the same boy I used to be
I’m the same boy I used to be

U is For Upside Down

‘Upside Down’ was written and produced by RNB/Funk band Chic members Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.  Some people have referred to this NYC group as disco’s greatest band and Diana Ross approached them after seeing them in Manhattan at the disco club Studio 54.  Ross told them that her kids were all talking about Chic and she told them this is the sound that she wanted for her next record.  Nile Rodgers played guitar and Bernard Edwards played bass on this.  Diana Ross recorded this single through the Motown label in 1980, and it became the lead single from her self-titled tenth studio album, Diana.  This album is the best-selling studio album of Ross’s career and every song was written by Rodgers and Edwards.  ‘Upside Down’ hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on September 6, 1980.  It also hit #1 on the Billboard Disco and Soul charts.  The single was released a full four weeks after the album was released, which was unheard of for Motown to release an album without a lead single.

Prior to their meeting with Ross who was one of Motown’s most successful artists, Nile and Bernard met with the then president of Motown Records, Suzanne De Passe to discuss working with the superstar.  The other big hit on this album was ‘I’m Coming Out’ and at this time Ross was recording her last album for Motown and “coming out” from under the shadow of its owner, Berry Gordy and this song was released as the second single from this albumWhen the project was completed, the album was submitted to Motown for release, however, Berry Gordy was expecting something different and he was not pleased with the progressive and unique sound of the end product.

This was a new sound for Diana and Motown demanded all the tapes from the sessions and then they instituted a cease contact with Nile and Bernard, as would Ross and De Passe, and soon after, they were fired from the project.  Rodgers noted his rightful frustration at the outcome of their hard work that was seemingly being brushed aside by closed-minded executives at Motown.  So this controversy between Ross, Motown, and Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards is what held up the release of the lead single, but since the album was climbing up the charts, ‘Upside Down’ was finally picked and Ross chalked up her fifth #1 single.

The lyrical inspiration for ‘Upside Down’ came from a conversation between Ross, Rodgers and Edwards.  Ross said that Nile Rodgers came to her and asked, “What do you want to sing about right now?” and she said, “I don’t know.  I’m just coming out and everything’s upside down.”  Nile probed her for more information asking her to tell them about herself, wondering what was on her mind and what kind of things would she like to do, trying to understand what makes Diana Ross tick.  Diana opened up saying “This is a time of major change in my life, and everything is going to be 180 degrees different from now on.”  “What exactly do you mean by that?” Nile asked.  Diana responded that she was going to live here on the East Coast, she had a feeling that her life would be more exciting here, and she was actually looking forward to turning her world around.  Based on that conversation and, some blow that Nile and Bernard snorted, the result was the song ‘Upside Down’.  Because ‘Upside Down’ was so different from any song they had ever written before, and it was unlike any song Diana Ross had ever recorded, they had to put their efforts into trying to convince Diana.

Diana told Rodgers and Edwards that she was looking for her new life to be fun and adventurous, and she wanted to do exciting new things.  They were just getting to know her, but they noticed that there was a definite story line developing.  She seemed to be upbeat, but it became apparent to them that Diana Ross was leaving something painful behindThe lyrical content for ‘Upside Down’ evolved and the song became about the discovery that a lover was unfaithful, but she was still attracted to him, because no one made her feel the way that he did.  She sticks with this cheating lover because he keeps their romance exciting, turning her emotions upside down and inside out.

Several members of Chic contributed to the track, with Edwards on bass, Rodgers on guitar, Tony Thompson on drums, Raymond Jones and Andy Schwartz on keyboards, and Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin on backing vocals. The song also featured the signature Chic Strings from Karen Milne, Valerie Heywood, and Cheryl Hong. The album spent 17 weeks at the top of Billboard’s R&B/Dance chart.  It reached #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and it was #1 on the Billboard Soul Albums Chart for 8 consecutive weeks.  The LP became a platinum-selling #1 that spent a year on the American chart.  Ross left Motown soon afterwards for RCA.  The single held down the #1 spot for four weeks.  The single earned Ross her ninth career Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

I said upside down
You’re turning me
You’re giving love instinctively
Around and round you’re turning me
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Instinctively you give to me
The love that I need
I cherish the moments with you
Respectfully I say to thee
I’m aware that you’re cheatin’
When no one makes me feel like you do
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
I know you got charm and appeal
You always play the field
I’m crazy to think you’re all mine
As long as the sun continues to shine
There’s a place in my heart for you
That’s the bottomline
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out And round and round
Instinctively you give to me
The love that I need
I cherish the moment with you
Respectfully I say to thee
I’m aware that you’re cheatin’
But no one makes me feel like you do
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round, round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round and round
Upside down
Boy, you turn me
Inside out
And round, round
Upside down you’re turning me
You’re giving love instinctively
Around and round you’re turning me
I say to thee respectfully
Upside down you’re turning me
You’re giving love instinctively
Around and round you’re turning me
I say to thee respectfully
I said a upside down you’re turning me
You’re giving love instinctively
Around and round you’re turning me
I say to thee respectfully
Upside down you’re turning me

T is for To Know Him Is to Love Him

‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ was written by Phil Spector, inspired by an epitaph written on his father’s tombstone, “To Know Him Was to Love Him”.  It was first recorded by the only vocal group of which he was a member, the Teddy Bears.  Their recording spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1958, and it reached #2 on the UK’s New Musical Express chart.  Marshall Leib and Annette Kleinbard were in the Teddy Bears when this was recorded, and the other Fairfax classmate Harvey Goldstein left the group early on.

In 1953, Phil moved from the Bronx to Los Angeles and he began attending Fairfax High School and soon after he joined a group of would-be-musicians hanging around the studios, so he could learn as much as possible and that is where he met Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two songwriters that were beginning to have some success producing singles for the Robins on the Spark label.  Stoller had also been a student at Fairfax High and Leiber worked as a packing clerk at Norty’s Record Shop on Fairfax Avenue, in the heart of L.A.’s Jewish district, just down the street from the high school campus.  Phil took a trip back to the Bronx, while he was still in High School to visit his father’s grave and then he returned to Los Angeles taking the lyrics for the song that he wrote back with him.

Phil played acoustic guitar with Marshall Leib, drummer Sandy Nelson, future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston and Kim Fowley in a group called The Sleepwalkers.  Marshall and Phil formed a band with a piano player, Michael Spencer, that didn’t get very far and never even had a name.  Later, Spencer became a sessions pianist as well as music contractor for Spector.  Phil and Marshall Leib found themselves on the right track when they became two-thirds of a vocal group; fellow Fairfax student Annette Kleinbard possessed the soprano voice that took them to the top.

After graduating from Fairfax High school in the spring of 1958, Spector hoped to break into the music business, so he booked a session at the Gold Star Studios.  Studio time cost $15.00 an hour plus an additional $6.00 for a reel of blank tape.  His first obstacle to becoming a record producer was raising the $40,00.  The first ten came from his mother Bertha, who was an ardent supporter of her son’s endeavors.  Next Spector turned to Marshall Leib, a friend from Burroughs Junior High, a nineteen-year-old student at Los Angeles City College, majoring in business and law.  They both shared the love of rock and roll music, and Leib had some experience in the music business, having formed the Moondogs in 1958 with classmates Jett Power, guitarists Derry Weaver and Elliot Ingber, and bass player Larry Taylor.

Marshall put in the second ten dollars.  Another student at Los Angeles City College, Harvey Goldstein, contributed ten dollars after being promised he could sing bass.  Annette Kleinbard, a sixteen-year-old student at Fairfax High, gave the final ten dollars, which she got from her parents.  A native of New Brunswick, New Jersey, Kleinbard had a strong emotional soprano of the glee club variety.  She quickly agreed to help pay for the session if she could be included in the group.  Spector and friends signed a four-record deal that offered royalties of a cent and one-half per sold copy.  In the office they came up with the name the Teddy Bears, after the hit song by Elvis Presley.  The group practiced and hung out in Annette Merar’s garage who was Spector’s girlfriend.  The first two-hour session was devoted to Spector’s recording of ‘Don’t You Worry My Little Pet’.  Spector played all the instruments on the single and the 18-year-old acted as his own producer.  The remaining minutes of the 2-hour session was used to produce something called ‘Wonderful Loveable You’.

During the last half hour of their third recording session, they cut ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ and Goldstein was absent so he could attend to his Army Reserve duty when this song was recorded, so Sandy Nelson became the replacement drummer.  With Kleinbard singing lead, Spector playing guitar and along with Leib singing the backing, Sandy Nelson played all but inaudible drums, and Spector layered the voices over each other, the group recorded this at Gold Star Studios in 1958.  The group received $75 for the record.  Lew Bedell founded Era Records with Herb Newsome and in 1958, Bedell started a subsidiary label named after his new son, Doré.  Doré mailed 500 copies of the single to radio stations in early August 1958.  Bedell released a demo, and every day after school, Spector would drop in to ask, “How are we doing today, Mr. Bedell?”  Bedell would invariably reply, “No word.”  Receiving no initial reaction from the song, Goldstein and Leib returned to college.

In September, a DJ in Fargo, ND, flipped the single over and played ‘To Know Him Is to Love Him’ and soon an order came into Dore offices from a distributor in Minneapolis requesting 18,000 copies.  Within a week, the song was on the national music charts.  They appeared on The Perry Como Show on January 3, 1959 and The Teddy Bears were invited to appear on American Bandstand on October 29.  There was a slight problem as there was no invitation for Harvey Goldstein, who had been dropped from the group at Spector’s insistence because he couldn’t sing the song’s bass part.  Later Goldstein sued Dore and the Teddy Bears, eventually settling out-of-court for a share of the royalties the group would earn over the next ten years.

The Teddy Bears success didn’t last long, but ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ reached #1 and stayed on the Billboard Hot 100 for 23 weeks.  The song was so popular that Elvis Presley also became smitten with Kleinbard’s voice, so he asked to meet her, and Elvis and Annette ended up dating for nine months.  The Teddy Bears enjoyed a brief period in the spotlight, but they were tempted away to sign a new deal with the bigger Imperial Records, where they managed only one minor hit.  None of the Teddy Bears’ other releases had much success and Spector disbanded the group only a year after ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ debuted.

In 1960, Phil Spector co-founded Philles Records, and at the age of 21 became the youngest ever U.S. label owner to that point.  Throughout the 1960s, he wrote, co-wrote, or produced records for acts such as the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Ike & Tina Turner.  He typically collaborated with arranger Jack Nitzsche, engineer Larry Levine, and a de facto house band that later became known as the Wrecking Crew.  Spector initially retired from the music industry in 1966.  Phil Spector created The Wall of Sound (also called the Spector Sound) which is a music production formula that he developed at Gold Star Studios, in the 1960s, with assistance from engineer Larry Levine and the conglomerate of session musicians later known as the Wrecking Crew.

In early September 1959, Annette lost control of her MG convertible, tumbled down a mountainside and into a ditch.  She was pulled from the wreckage.  Her face was ravaged, her nose was almost completely sheared off in this accident that nearly killed her.  She spent months in the hospital and required numerous plastic surgeries to reconstruct her features.  After recovering, singer Annette Kleinbard left the music business and enrolled in UCLA to study anthropology.  While attending UCLA, she decided that she wanted to return to music and started writing songs and she changed her name to Carol Connors and went on to write and/or co-write a number of hit songs and also film music hot rod songs, some of which were used in beach movies.

She met automotive designer Carroll Shelby, who designed the AC Cobra sports car.  Shelby told her that if she wrote a song about the car and it went to #1, he would give her a car.  So, Connors wrote the song ‘Hey, Little Cobra’ by the Rip Chords that went to #1 in 1964 and she became the proud owner of an AC Cobra.  She wrote “Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams,” sung by Dionne Warwick for the show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.  She dated many celebrities, including actor Robert Culp, whom she describes as “one of the loves of my life,” as well as David Janssen.  It was her love for Culp that inspired Connors to write her hit song ‘With You I’m Born Again’, sung by Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright.  The song has sold millions and has been covered by many artists, including Mariah Carey and John Legend, and has gone on to become a staple at weddings.

Connors co-wrote ‘Gonna Fly Now’, the theme song for the first Rocky film, which sold many millions, and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and has become an American classic.  Connors is one of the woman pioneers of music for film and TV in an industry dominated by men.  She has been nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as nominated for five Emmys, one Grammy and two Golden Globes.

After the Teddy Bears broke up, Marshall Leib later became a touring member playing piano with The Hollywood Argyles who had the hit single Alley Oop in the summer of 1960.  Marshall Leib was also a musician and producer of other artists, including the Everly Brothers.  He also supervised music for films.  Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2003 for shooting of the nightclub hostess, unsuccessful actor, and sometime blackface Little Richard impersonator Lana Clarkson at his mansion in Alhambra, California.  He as locked up in 2009, and he was serving a 19 year to life prison sentence.  Spector died in prison of natural causes on January 16, 2021.

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
And I do

I’ll be good to him, I’ll bring love to him
Everyone says there’ll come a day
When I’ll walk alongside of him

Yes, just to know him
Is to love, love, love him
And I do

Why can’t he see?
How blind can he be?
Someday he’ll see
That he was meant for me

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
And I do

Why can’t he see?
How blind can he be?
Someday he’ll see
That he was meant for me

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
And I do

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
Just to see him smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him
Is to love, love, love him
And I do

S is for Suspicious Minds

‘Suspicious Minds’ is a 1968 song that was written and first recorded by American songwriter Mark James and produced by Chips Moman at American Studios, but it failed to become a hit.  ‘Suspicious Minds’ was a serious pop song about deep love, suspicion and hurt and with a dramatic operatic power and it became one of the highest high points of the Memphis sessions.  Chips Moman brought this song to the table and one that would almost immediately become the center of a depressingly familiar business dispute.  Chips refused to give up any of the publishing on the song, as was customary for music that Elvis recorded.  Back in 1956, while “Elvis-mania” was raging around the world, Freddy Bienstock joined the New York division of Hill & Range, Elvis’ publishing company, as a song plugger.  Freddy and Tom Diskin who worked as the assistant and right-hand man for money grabbing Colonel Tom Parker, were both known for driving hard bargains with all who wanted the King of Rock n Roll to record any song.  They declared that in that case the song would not be recorded, which made Chips Moman was quite angry.  Freddy and Tom both wanted to maximize income for the Colonel, and they would pressure songwriters to forfeit a large portion of their royalties to achieve this.

George Klein an American DJ and television host who met Elvis Presley in the eighth grade and remained friends with him for his entire life urged Chips to talk it over with Elvis before Diskin got Colonel Parker involved.  Elvis didn’t often interfere with his manager’s business arrangements, but he did this time, declaring that he wouldn’t let a publishing dispute stop him from recording and releasing a song he liked.  Elvis sided with the songwriter, and his road manager and friend Joe Esposito talked him into recording it.  Ultimately Chips kept the publishing, and the Colonel didn’t get his usual cut of the royalties, but this led to Elvis cutting a number which featured adult appeal and showcased his vocal mastery, that would in a large measure, define the last phase of his career.  ‘Suspicious Minds’ was his eighteenth and last #1 single in the United States.  Rolling Stone ranked it #91 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  ‘Suspicious Minds’ was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

After all the financial arguments were over, after various political and aesthetic disagreements between Chips and RCA A&R man Felton Jarvis who was responsible for most recordings of Elvis Presley in the years 1966–1977 had been effectively resolved.  Marty Lacker was one of Elvis’ trusted friends, and he was instrumental in arranging Elvis’ seminal recording sessions at American Sound Studios with producer Chips Moman.  When Chips cut ‘Suspicious Minds’ and mixed it, the fade and bump at the end was not there.  This is the part where the song fades out and then it bumps up again. the part where Elvis is just repeating and repeating the last chorus.  Marty said that the genesis behind the song’s fake ending was a result of tampering by Elvis’ longtime record producer Felton Jarvis.  Felton recorded a horn overdub in Las Vegas, where Elvis had opened in July in his first regular return to live performing in twelve years.  Felton Jarvis witnessed Elvis amazing performances and realized that the original Master would be even more remarkable if he could only replicate Elvis’ dramatic fade & return ending for the single release.  The concept of the overdub was to follow the dramatic architecture of Elvis’ live performance in which the singer and the band both faded out, and then they both came roaring back to great audience reaction.  In a Las Vegas studio the song was faded, looped, and brought up again, with the addition of a crudely recorded horn section.  To Chips and the American studio musicians this was something like the desecration of a masterpiece, but to the public, it added a mysterious, unquantifiable element that led this song to becoming Elvis’ first #1 hit in the past seven years.

Elvis recorded “Suspicious Minds” in the early morning hours of January 23, 1969.  It was the last of 20 songs Elvis recorded in those January sessions at American Studios in Memphis.  The musicians already knew the arrangement from having recorded it with Mark James.  Elvis spent some time working over the lyrics, and then, after three or four takes, nobody could think of any way the track might be improved.  Chips played it back over the loudspeakers, and the studio just went nuts.  It was a great song, where Elvis gave an awesome performance, and everything just went right.  However, ‘Suspicious Minds’ would not be released until seven months later.  In the interim, Elvis’s recording underwent some significant and controversial changes.  Marty Lacker saw a huge difference in the way they were cutting at American and the way that Elvis had been recording for the last 10 years prior to that.  The difference was that Elvis would get in a room with all of the musicians out in the open and that’s the way they’d cut.  They wouldn’t record his vocal as an overdub.  He’d cut a live vocal with the band.  Usually, a singer would do a rough vocal while the rhythm section was laying down the tracks.  With Elvis, he’d get out in the middle of the studio with them and lay down a live vocal.  The musicians that Elvis had on his sessions played the same old licks for years.  Marty Lacker felt that this led to a lack of creativity.  However, Chips Moman cut over 150 chart records in that studio with the same six musicians.  He had hits with Neil Diamond on ‘Sweet Caroline’, and ‘Holly Holy’, he produced music icons such as Petula Clark and Dionne Warwick.  He is associated with the Box Tops ‘The Letter’, Dusty Springfield ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, B.J. Thomas ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ and Willie Nelson’s ‘Always on My Mind’.

When ‘Suspicious Minds’ came out in September, it had a surprise on it, because after Chips turned over the master tapes to RCA, somebody took ‘Suspicious Minds’ back to Nashville or to California and remixed it.  They put all these other voices on it and went back to that Nashville crap.  And then they stuck a phony fade-and-bump ending on it, where it drops down and then pops back up.  Not only was the false-ending not the record that Chips Moman had produced, but it proved to be a problem that radio jocks would have to deal with.  This had a potential to reduce the all-important radio plays.  At a full four and a half minutes, the final version of ‘Suspicious Minds’ was also nearly twice as long many of Elvis previous top ten hits.

Bill Gavin had a big industry newsletter the Gavin Report, he was a highly respected radio and records publisher and they were giving Chips an award for producer of the year.  At the end of the ceremony, Bill asked Chips, why in the world did he put that fade and bump on the end of ‘Suspicious Minds, because a lot of program directors and disc jockeys almost didn’t play that record as it messed up their timing.  Chips didn’t like that it was put on there without his knowledge.  He never would have done it himself.  Marty Lacker felt that fade and bump was not meant for a record, it’s meant for stage and it almost killed that record.

It didn’t though, as ‘Suspicious Minds’ entered Billboard’s “Hot 100” at #77 on September 13, 1969 and 5 weeks later, it was in the top 10, and on November 11 it pushed aside The Temptation’s ‘I Can’t Get Next to You’ taking over the top spot on the chart.  It was only at #1 for one week, but it completed Elvis’s return to relevance in pop music that had begun with his TV “Comeback Special” almost a year before.  The song is about a dysfunctional relationship, and various feelings of mistrust within it, and how the couple need to move on in order to survive.  When Mark James wrote this song, he was married to his first wife, but at this time he still had feelings for his childhood sweetheart, who was also married.  James’s wife became suspicious of his feelings to the other woman, and James felt it was a tricky time as all three of them were caught in this trap and since he loved his wife, he could not just walk out on her.  Her suspicious mind was telling her not to believe her husband because she is jealous, when his old friend stopped by to see him.  He breaks down crying and feels like their relationship can’t go on and they will never be able to build their dreams together.  He asks her to let their love survive and not let a good thing die.  He offers to dry the tears from her eyes and assures her that he has never lied to her.  In the original version, James sang the lead vocals, with backing by the Holladay Sisters.

‘Suspicious Minds’ was recorded on January 22, 1969 at American Sound Studio, in Memphis.  Elvis Presley sang lead vocals and played guitar and piano.  Tommy Cogbill on bass, Mike Leech was also on bass, John Hughey played pedal steel guitar, Reggie Young was on guitar, Bobby Emmons played organ, Ronnie Milsap played piano, Bobby Wood played piano, Ed Hollis was on harmonica, and Gene Chrisman was on drums.  The musical duo of saxophonist Andrew Love and trumpeter Wayne Jackson known as The Memphis Horns also played om this song.  Background vocals were done by Mildred Kirkham, Sonja Montgomery and Hurshel Wiginton along with a group of girls who called themselves Southern Comfort.  Southern Comfort consisted of group founder and leader Jeanie Green, along with the sisters Mary and Ginger Holladay, Donna Jean Thatcher Godchaux McKay, and Susan Coleman Pilkington.  The group broke and when their separate ways somewhere around 1974.  The Holiday sisters stayed on and continued to record with Elvis up until his death in 1977.  Donna went on to marry Keith Godchaux in 1970 and she became a member of The Grateful Dead from 1972 to 1979.

Elvis rose from being a regional performer and he reached international stardom becoming the greatest selling recording artist of all time.  Elvis went on to sell over a billion records worldwide, and his career literally changed the course of music and pop culture around the world.  In terms of numbers, The Beatles have sold 42.5 million more albums in the U.S. than Elvis, yet Elvis sold 25.5 million more singles than The Beatles.  Elvis recorded more than 600 songs in his music career, but he did not write a single song (although this is impossible to confirm, because he was given co-writing credit on many songs which his label demanded, so songwriters had to give up 50% of the credit before Presley would record it).  This actually hurt Elvis, as if writers weren’t forced to give up their royalties, Elvis would have had more quality music to record.  He won three Grammy Awards, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds (suspicious minds)
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

So if an old friend I know
Stops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?

Here we go again
Asking where I’ve been
You can’t see the tears are real, I’m crying
(Yes I’m crying)

We can’t go on together
With suspicious minds (suspicious minds)
And we can’t build our dreams
On suspicious minds

Oh, let our love survive
I’ll dry the tears from your eyes
Let’s don’t let a good thing die
When honey, you know I’ve never lied to you
Mmm, yeah, yeah

We’re caught in a trap
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Why can’t you see
What you’re doing to me
When you don’t believe a word I say?

Well, don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Well, don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Well don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Well don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Well don’t you know I’m caught in a trap?
I can’t walk out
Because I love you too much, baby

Well don’t you know I’m caught in a trap

R is for Respect

How do I write about the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and do justice about her first #1 song, one that went on to be one of her signature tunes?  This song became one of the most important recordings of the 20th century.  ‘Respect’ was in the first class of songs to make it into the of the National Recording Registry in 2002.  First off, Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ is one of the greatest Soul tracks of all time, OK that was a pretty good start, but let’s not make this post about me as that would not be showing Aretha Lady Soul the respect that she deserves.  This song was written by Otis Redding and he recorded a slightly different version and he released this song first.  Franklin put her graceful touch on this one, making it her own and taking it away from Otis Redding.  Or maybe it is like she says, that it was just the right song recorded at the right time.

I tried to find out if Aretha Franklin paid any royalty money to Otis for using what should be his song, although it was more superior now, but I didn’t find anything.  I did stumble across this article about 2014 bill to change the odd restriction where music recorded before 1972 was not eligible for royalty money and this bill was named the Respect Act in honor of the song.  A lobbying campaign was titled “It’s a Matter of R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” which is supported by both Pandora and SiriusXM and also had Ms. Franklin’s approval.  And a current bill in Congress, the Music Modernization Act, would force digital radio services to pay royalties for songs recorded before 1972.  Aretha knew that removing the copywrite protection from all pre-1972 sound recordings was not fair.  It seems that Aretha Franklin was fighting so that others could get the respect that they deserved.

Aretha Franklin underwent a long period of “apprenticeship” before she achieved her breakthrough as a pop star in 1967.  After a less than stellar career at Columbia Records, from 1960 to 1966, she went over to Atlantic Records, where Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler encouraged her to record strong material well suited to her spectacular voice and engaged stellar and empathetic musicians to back her up.  Aretha switched to Atlantic because she was seeking to upgrade and restructure her voice by returning to her gospel roots.  ‘Respect’ won Aretha her first two Grammys, launched her most resonant period as an artist and showcased Aretha’s genius at musical arrangement, by modernizing and keeping it classic at the same time.  Her sister Carolyn Franklin did the vocal arrangements.  Aretha used her incisive knack for tapping into the current of popular culture at any given time.  Some people consider this song as being off one of the most important pop music reinventions in American history, as it allows society as a whole to understand what respect truly means.  Aretha flipped the message, by embellishing on Otis Redding’s song, which was about a man that came home for dinner and demanded respect from his wife, because he was supporting them.  She reversed all the pronouns and made this song about a woman who deserved to be treated with respect.

This was the second single from Aretha’s eleventh studio album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.  In 2002, the Library of Congress added the song it to the National Recording Registry.  In 2003, this album was placed at the 83rd position on the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.  Aretha’s version of this song went on to become one of the most successful tracks of her career.  In 2004, the song ‘Respect’ was ranked at the #5 position on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The track won Aretha her first Grammy winning for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1942, Aretha Franklin was largely self-taught, and a gifted singer and pianist.  She got her start singing in front of her father’s congregation, a Baptist preacher Reverend Clarence La Vaughan.  They traveled in a revival show, and she made friends with gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke and Clara Ward.  She became a mother for the first time at the age of 12, having a son named Clarence.  Two years later Aretha had another child, her second son Edward.  Franklin would later have two more sons, Ted White, Jr. and Kecalf Cunningham.  In 1960, she went to New York, where she signed with Columbia Records and she released the album Aretha in 1961.  In 1966, she signed to Atlantic deciding to be in a move, where producer Jerry Wexler encouraged her to embrace her classic soul-and-gospel sound.  Wexler shuttled Franklin to the Florence Alabama Musical Emporium (FAME) recording studios.

Aretha recorded this in New York City with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a group of four studio musicians who also played sessions in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama before starting their own Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.  Jerry Wexler produced this, Tommy Cogbill played bass on this and keyboardist Spooner Oldham played organ on the track and besides singing Aretha accompanied herself on piano.  King Curtis and Charles Chalmers both played the sax and Aretha was backed up by her sisters Erma and Carolyn Franklin or The Sweet Inspirations.  Arif Mardin was a young engineer assisting Jerry Wexler when she recorded ‘Respect’ and he said this was like making a soup.  Where the guitar player would play a lick and they would say “Keep that, but do this.”  Aretha would go next door and rehearse the background parts with her sisters, while Arif would write down chord changes and be the liaison between the control room and the musicians.

In Franklin’s version of ‘Respect’, a young, confident, independent woman tells her man that she does everything he wants from her and doesn’t see any reason why he keeps disrespecting her.  She starts off asking for a little bit of respect from him when he comes home.  She knows that when he is out, he is fooling around and she tells him that she is not just laying around all day at home and by the end of this song she is demanding nothing short of respect.  Aretha made this song a person-to-person conversation about being willing to give someone respect, but saying that at the same time that she would like to have that respect given back to her.  Aretha’s version went on to become one of the most famous female empowerment anthems of all time.  In her 1998 autobiography titled Aretha: From These Roots, the ‘Queen of Soul’ said the lyrics speak to anyone who feels unappreciated.  In addition to being a strong symbol of female empowerment, ‘Respect’ became a powerful anthem for African Americans and other people all over the world who were being treated as if they were insignificant.  This song went on to become a battle cry of the civil rights movement in the United States.

‘Respect’ made two phrases very popular in the United States and abroad.  The line “Take care, TCB” from the song popularized the slang phrase “take/taking care of business” in the late 1960s in America.  To take care of business basically means doing what needs to be done.  The repeated line, “Sock it to me” basically means “give it me”.  Aretha Franklin used this “sock it to me” phrase, because she wanted her man to give her respect.  The massive success of ‘Respect’ contributed in making this phrase a household name in America during the late 1960s.  In 1968, Richard Nixon used this phrase when he appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, as an effort to reach out to younger voters.  They tried to get Nixon to say, “you bet your sweet bippy”, but he didn’t go for that, so they settled on “sock it to me”.

In 1987, Aretha became the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  In December of 1994, Franklin, at age 52, becomes the youngest person ever chosen for the Kennedy Center Honors.  In September 1999, she receives the National Medal of Arts and Humanities Award from President Bill Clinton.  In November 2005, President George Bush presented her with the 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award.  In 2008 she won her 18th Grammy Award, making her one of the most honored artists in Grammy history.  In October 2014, Franklin’s cover of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ reached #47 on Billboard’s R&B chart, becoming her 100th charting single, and she’s the first woman to reach this Billboard chart hit milestone.  Franklin released numerous singles, of which many are considered classics.  Franklin passed away in 2018 due to complications from pancreatic cancer, but her music lives on.

Hey, what you want
(Oo) Baby, I got
(Oo) What you need
(Oo) Do you know I got it?
(Oo) All I’m askin’
(Oo) Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(Just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)

I ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ‘cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’ (oo)
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)

I’m about to give you all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey
Is to give me my profits

When you get home (just a, just a, just a, just a)
Yeah baby (just a, just a, just a, just a)
When you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit) Do it for me now, just a little bit

Ooo, your kisses (oo)
Sweeter than honey (oo)
And guess what? (oo)
So is my money (oo)
All I want you to do (oo) for me
Is give it to me when you get home (re, re, re, re)
Yeah baby (re, re, re, re)
Whip it to me (respect, just a little bit)
When you get home, now (just a little bit)

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Find out what it means to me
R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Take care, TCB
Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little respect (sock it to me, sock it to me
Sock it to me, sock it to me)
Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)

‘spect
When you come home (re, re, re, re)
Or you might walk in (respect, just a little bit)
And find out I’m gone (just a little bit)
I got to have (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)

Q is for Quarter To Three

Gary U.S. Bonds had a #1 single in 1961 with ‘Quarter to Three’, which took much of the same riffs and melody from the previously recorded instrumental ‘A Night with Daddy “G”’ by the Church Street Five, and by adding some party lyrics and also using a different arrangement, this hit song was born.  This song is an adaptation, which is a musical work which uses most of the music or lyrics of another musical work.  ‘Quarter to Three’ was recorded on the Dance ‘Til Quarter to Three with U.S. Bonds album, and the single also went to #3 on the R&B chart and it got to #7 in the UK.

When Gary Anderson was a teen, he lived in Norfolk, Virginia and he sang street corner Doo Wop with his friends.  One night in 1957, on the corner of Granville Avenue and Park in the Brambleton section of Norfolk, the local record store owner of Frankie’s Birdland on Church Street, Frank Guida stopped by to listen and he liked their singing.  Frank told them that he was thinking about opening up a studio and a record company and he wondered if they would be interested in recording.  It took two years for Guida to open up his recording studio where he was the head of Legrand Records, and by that time the other members of street corner singers had joined the service and Anderson was the only one left.

Guida had achieved initial success in 1959 with ‘High School U.S.A.’, a novelty record sung by Tommy Facenda who just left Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps to go solo.  Guida took Gary down to his studio and he gave him the song ‘New Orleans’, which was a country and western song written by Joe Royster, a guy who worked in the shoe department in one of the major department stores in Norfolk.  In the fall of 1960, ‘New Orleans’ reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Guida came up with a gimmick to attract the attention of disc jockeys, by crediting the vocal to Gary “U.S.” Bonds and he inscribed the message, “Buy U.S. Bonds” on the sleeves of promotional copies that were sent to the radio stations.
Gary Anderson became Gary “U.S.” Bonds at the age of 19 and many DJs, got the gimmick wrong and thought it was the name of a group.  His next record called ‘Not Me’, which radio stations refused to play, because of lyrics about having fun with a married lady were regarded as lewd.

In 1963, a quartet of female singers the Orlons from Philadelphia recorded ‘Not Me’, and it reached #12 in the US.  Bonds worked magic for his second hit, turning a prosaic instrumental into one of the most rollicking party records of the rock ‘n’ roll era.  In 1961, Guida employed a studio band called Daddy G and the Church Street Five, which recorded an instrumental called ‘A Night With Daddy G’.  Either Guida or Gene Barge the saxophone player known as Daddy G asked Gary to come up with some lyrics for this instrumental which didn’t crack the Hot 100, although it did receive regional air play and made several local charts.  Gary came back in about 15 or 20 minutes with a song and they recorded it.  The song became Gary’s strongest record, a #1 hit that remained on the charts throughout the summer of ’61.  ‘Quarter To Three’ was initially issued as U.S. Bonds but soon changed to Gary U.S. Bonds, along with his subsequent releases.

Joe Royster was Guida’s engineer and songwriting partner and he co-wrote ‘High School U.S.A.’ with Frank Guida and ‘A Night With Daddy G’ along with Gene Barge, and Frank Guida he was also a co-writer on the song ‘Quarter to Three’ with Bonds, Gene Barge, and Frank Guida.  Frank Guida assembled a group of local musicians to form a house band for Legrand’s recording sessions.  Barge and drummer Emmett “Nabs” Shields, pianist Willie Burnell, trombonist Leonard Barks, bass player Ron “Junior” Fairley, made up The Church Street Five.  The band got its name from the church where Shields played in a band, Bishop Grace House of Prayer.  Between 1960 and 1964, the Church Street Five had nine instrumental singles released on Legrand.  The Legrand sound was readily identifiable, the result of multiple overdubs and a live ambience created in the studio by producer Frank Guida.

Following the success of ‘New Orleans’ and ‘Quarter to Three’, Gary joined the premier summer stage show, the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars.  While he was on tour, Gary’s single ‘School Is Out’ climbed to fifth position on the charts and by October 23, and the follow-up ‘School Is In’ reached 28.  In the song ‘Quarter to Three’, The Church Street Five is mentioned, along with Daddy G.  About three months later, the Dovells recorded ‘The Bristol Stomp’, where they sing, “we rocked with Daddy G” and that song went to #2 in October 1961.  Gene Barge would always be better known as Daddy G after this, and he was no longer able to remain virtually unknown because of having his name mentioned repeatedly in song and on the radio.  In June 1961, ‘Quarter to Three’ went to #1, and it stayed there for two weeks.  In this song, Gary U.S. Bonds sings about staying up till quarter to three in the morning, dancing to the swinging sax of Daddy G.  This song has a party vibe, with the sounds of revelry and a rough-hewn production making use of echo and phase shifting.  This gave the song a lot of energy and bucked the trend of the time, which was very smooth recordings.  The joyous horns and vocal chants by The Church Street Five sounded like a rocked-up revival meeting.

Throughout the late 1970s, it was not unusual for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to end one of their marathon three-hour-plus performances with a blistering encore of the 1960 Gary U.S. Bonds hit ‘Quarter To Three’.  Bruce brought Bonds up on stage to perform the song at a time when Bonds had long fallen off the charts. In 1981, when Springsteen was working on material for his follow up to The River, with some mutual friends, guitarist Stevie Van Zandt (Little Steven) and Gary U.S. Bonds together they wrote a comeback collaboration album called Dedication for the celebrated R&B vocalist.  In 1982, Springsteen and his band worked on another album for Bonds titled On the Line.  In 1962, Bonds sued Chubby Checker claiming he stole ‘Quarter To Three’ for his song ‘Dancin’ Party’, and the case was settled out of court.

Don’t you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three
With the help, last night, of Daddy G.
He was swingin on the sax like a nobody could
And I was dancin’ all over the room.
Oh, don’t you know the people were dancin’ like they were mad,
it was the swingin’est band they had, ever had.
It was the swingin’est song that could ever be,
It was a night with Daddy G.
Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.
Oh don’t you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
Everybody was as happy as they could be
And they were swingin with Daddy G.
Blow Daddy!
Let me tell you now,
I never had it so good
Yeah and I know you never could
Until you get hip with that jive
And take a band like the Church Street Five.
Oh don’t you know that I danced,
I danced till a quarter to three
With the help last night of Daddy G.
He was swingin on the sax like a nobody could,
and I was dancin all over the room
Oh don’t you know the
Dance, do bee wa dah
Dance, do bee wah dah
You can dance, do bee wah dah,
You can dance, dance, dance