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Posted by: In: Other 31 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


1000-The First Class-Beach Baby.

1974-Number 13 single.

Best Bit-At 3.23. It’s the best Surf song in the world ever that The Beach Boys didn’t write.

‘Beach Baby’ was co-written by the husband and wife songwriting team of John Carter, and his wife Gillian (Jill) Shakespeare as a tribute to American Pop from the mid 1960’s, it was also written in the style of ‘Bubblegum Pop.’ Bubblegum Pop is Pop music in a catchy and upbeat style that is considered disposable, contrived, or marketed for children and adolescents, A great example of this would be ‘The Archies’ 1969 Number 1 single ‘Sugar Sugar.’ It was the music producers Jerry Kasenetz, and Jeffry Katz (see also best songs 781) who claimed the credit for coining ‘Bubblegum Pop,’ saying that when they discussed their target audience, they decided it was ‘Teenagers, the young kids, and at the time we used to be chewing bubblegum, and my partner and I used to look at it and laugh and say, ‘Ah, this is like bubblegum music’.”

John Carter was born John Nicholas Shakespeare on October 20th, 1940, in Small Heath, Birmingham, England, he is a prolific songwriter, with many hit songs to his name, which he has co-written with others including ‘Let’s Go to San Francisco,’ for ‘The Flower Pot Men,’ (UK 1967, Number 4) ‘Tossing and Turning’ for ‘The Ivy League’ (UK 1965, Number 3) and ‘Knock, Knock, Who’s There’ for Mary Hopkin (UK 1970, Number 2.) Carter was also a member of The Ivy League when they provided backing vocals for ‘The Who’ on their 1965 single ‘I Can’t Explain.’ (UK Number 8.) Carter’s voice can also be heard singing the lead vocal on the ‘New Vaudeville Band’s’ UK 1966 Number 4 hit ‘Winchester Cathedral.’

After Carter and his wife Gillian had written ‘Beach Baby’ they hired the singer Tony Burrows, and the session singer Chas Mills to record the song using the name ‘The First Class,’ Burrows attempted to sing the lead vocal in an American accent to reflect the song’s California setting. When the song became a major hit, reaching Number 4 in America, and Number 1 in Canada, and Number 11 in Australia, Carter hastily put a band together to promote the song as neither he or Burrows wanted to go out on tour at that time. In total ‘The First Class’ would release two studio Albums between 1974-1976, and 12 singles between 1974-1983, with only ‘Beach Boy’ charting for them. None of the five members who made up the touring band played on any of the studio recordings.

Tony Burrows was born on April 14th, 1942, in Exeter, Devon, England, he has appeared as lead singer on five major UK hit singles for different groups, including on the UK Number 1 single ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes’) with ‘Edison Lighthouse,’ ‘My Baby Loves Lovin” with ‘White Plains,’ (UK Number 9) the ‘Pipkins’ with ‘Gimme Dat Ding,’ (UK Number 6) and the ‘Brotherhood of Man’ with ‘United We Stand,’ (UK Number 10) all of these songs were hits between January to April in 1970. Amazingly he appeared on the British television music show ‘Top of the Pops’ four times fronting two different bands on the same programme, between January to February 1970. Tony Burrows who also sang backing vocals on Elton John’s 1971 song ‘Tiny Dancer’ has also released 14 solo singles between 1970-1984, but none of them have reached the top 40.

‘Beach Baby’ may appear to be the most carefree happy go lucky summer song you’re likely ever to hear, but it’s lyrics are sad.The narrator is reminiscing about the time he was in love, and thought that she loved him too, but they drifted apart, and now he is wondering if she even remembers who he is.

‘We couldn’t wait for graduation day, we took my car and drove to San Jose. That’s where you told me that you’d wear my ring, I guess you don’t remember anything.’

Posted by: In: Other 30 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


1-Isaac Hayes-By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

1969-It has never charted in the UK.

Best Bit-At 15.28.
Second Best Bit-At 8.39.
Third Best Bit-At 0.22. I will always remember when I first heard this song, it was back in the very early 1980’s. I was on a short drive, maybe only 10 minutes, and I was flicking through the radio stations, and I came across this song which was playing on Radio 1. Almost instantly I was completely mesmerised, this voice was speaking with such emotion that I had never heard before in a song. My journey came to an end, but I could not leave the car until the song finished. I just sat and listened as on around eight and a half minutes the artist suddenly started singing, taking the song to an even greater level. For the next 11 minutes the music and vocals built to an emotional crescendo that I have never heard before, or since. I knew at that moment that I had just heard ‘THE BEST SONG IN THE WORLD EVER.’ Please take the time to go somewhere quiet where you wont be interrupted and take a listen, it will be well worth it.

‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ was written in 1965 by Jimmy Webb, (see also best songs 846 and 119) the first of countless versions of the song was recorded by the American ‘Rock N’ Roll’ singer Johnny Rivers. The song first came to the attention of the general public when the ‘Country’ singer Glen Campbell (1936-2017) (see also best songs 846 and 197) made it a hit in 1967. In a survey by the ‘Broadcast Music, Inc.’ (BMI) the song was named the third most performed song from 1940-1990. Frank Sinatra called it ‘The greatest ‘torch song’ ever written,’ but I don’t know if he ever even heard the Isaac Hayes version.

Isaac Lee Hayes Jr. (see also best songs 530 and 398) was born on August 20th, 1942, in Covington, Tennessee, United States, in January 2006 he suffered a minor stroke, and then on August 10th, 2008, he suffered a further stroke, which medical examiners later said was the cause of death, he was 65 years old. Even without this song, or it’s parent Album ‘Hot Buttered Soul,’ Isaac Hayes’ place as a Pop Music legend was already assured. He was one of the main driving forces behind the ‘Stax’ record label in the 1960’s, and 1970’s, working as a producer, and prolific songwriter for artists such as ‘Sam and Dave,’ and Johnny Taylor, in fact it was Hayes who coined the phrase ‘Soul Music’ (see best songs 530.)

The discography of Isaac Hayes includes 20 studio Albums released between 1968-1995, and 31 singles issued between 1965-1998, he has also written three soundtrack Albums, which were released between 1971-1974. In America on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, eight of his singles made the top 40, with ‘Theme from Shaft’ reaching Number 1 in 1971. While in the UK, he charted on three occasions within the top 40, with his final single release ‘Chocolate Salty Balls,’ whom he performed as the animated character ‘Chef’ from the comedy series ‘South Park,’ making Number 1 in 1998.

‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ was written a 21 year old Jimmy Webb, and was recorded by Isaac Hayes for his second studio Album ‘Hot Buttered Soul,’ from June 1969, the song and it’s parent Album were produced by Al Bell, Marvell Thomas, (1941-2017) and Allen Jones (1940-1987.) Along with Isaac Hayes, who provided the vocals and keyboards, the three other musicians who played on the track were Willie Hall, (drums) James Alexander, (bass) and Michael Toles, (guitar) who were all members of the Soul/Funk group ‘The Bar-Kays’ (see also best songs 831.)

The inspiration for ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ originated from the breakup of Jimmy Webb’s relationship with his girlfriend Susan Horton, Horton was also the inspiration for ‘MacArthur Park’ (see also best songs 119.) Isaac Hayes had heard the Glen Campbell version in a club, and had been struck by the songs poignant lyrics, so he decided to completely rework it. Hayes has said,’The rap came out of the necessity to communicate. There’s a local club in Memphis, primarily black, called ‘The Tiki Club.’ One day there I heard this song by Glen Campbell, ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix.’ I thought, ‘Wow, this song is great, this man must really love this woman.’ I ran down to the studio and told them about the song, and they said ‘yeah, yeah.’ They didn’t feel what I felt, I thought maybe they weren’t getting it. The Bar-Kays were playing the ‘Tiki Club’ a few days later, so I told them to learn the song and that I would sit in. I told them to keep cycling the first chord, and I started talking, just telling the story about what could have happened to cause this man to leave. Halfway through the song, conversations started to subside, and by the time I finished the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.’ When asked what he thought of the Isaac Hayes take on the song, Jimmy Webb said,’When it came out, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s unusual!’ It took up virtually the whole side of an album, but I really liked it. We later became friends, and I thanked him for doing a song, I told him it was a blessing for me.

With sales in excess of one million copies ‘Hot Buttered Soul’ is now considered a groundbreaking Album. Isaac Hayes showed what could be done with his experimentation with R&B music, laying the foundations for many to receive inspiration from in the 1970’s and onwards, also the spoken intro pre dated ‘Rap’ by nearly 10 years.

‘He could hardly see the road for tears in his eyes, that’s right he was crying, they were meeting on his chin.’

Posted by: In: Other 29 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


2-Cockney Rebel-Death Trip.

1973-It has never been released as a single in the UK.

Best Bit-At 3.18. You’re probably wondering how a song that less than 1% of the Human Race has even heard of can possibly be better than ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ American Pie.’ or ‘Life on Mars.’ Well it is up to us the lucky 1% who are fortunate to know about this masterpiece to spread the word. I sincerely hope that after listening, you too will see what I mean.

Steve Harley (see also best songs 410) was born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice, on February 27th, 1951, in Deptford, London, England, and at the time of writing he still tours constantly throughout Europe. Prior to forming the first incarnation of ‘Cockney Rebel’ in 1972, Harley began his music career playing mainly at Folk Music venues on open-mike nights, he also began busking around London, which included playing some of the earliest songs he had written.

Steve Harley put together ‘Cockney Rebel,’ who after sending demo tapes to record companies, were signed by ‘EMI’ for a three Album deal. The five band members who played on ‘Death Trip,’ and it’s parent Album ‘The Human Menagerie’ were, Steve Harley, (vocals) Jean Paul Crocker, (electric violin, mandolin, and guitar) Milton Reame James, (keyboards) Paul Jeffreys, (1952-1988) (bass) and Stuart Elliott, (drums) for the discography of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel see best songs 410. Due to musical differences following the release of the bands second studio Album ‘The Psychomodo’ in 1974, three of the group left, leaving only Harley, and Elliott to continue. For the recording of the third studio Album ‘The Best Years of Our Lives,’ Harley brought in three new musicians to fill their places. Harley’s most successful song ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me’) is his feelings about that split.

‘Death Trip’ is the last of the 10 tracks released on Cockney Rebel’s debut studio Album ‘The Human Menagerie’ from November 1973. It was written by Steve Harley, with the songs production by Neil Harrison. It was at Harrison’s suggestion that two of the Albums tracks ‘Sebastian,’ and ‘Death Trip,’ should feature a large symphony orchestra. ‘EMI’ showed great faith in Harley’s songs by spending big money on a 50 piece orchestra, and also bringing in the legendary Geoff Emerick (1945-2018) as the engineer, Emerick had previously worked with the Beatles on three of their studio Albums in the 1960’s. Also brought on board was Andrew Powell, (see also best songs 866-130 and 81) to compose and take charge of the orchestral arrangements, something which was almost unheard of for a debut Album by an unknown act.

In 2004 Steve Harley reminisced about that time.’Neil Harrison and I were sharing a pot of coffee when he told me he would like to record an orchestra and choir onto ‘Sebastian’ and ‘Death Trip’. We were about three-parts through (the album) so Neil, my producer, must have known his announcement that afternoon would bowl the young Steve over, and it did. But seeing them in there, 50-plus classical musicians, mostly old enough to be my dad, was a real shocker. We were young and full of dangerous ideas and adventure, ready to experiment without consideration for the consequences or cost. And Joop Wisser, ‘EMI”’s head of A&R and the man who discovered us, was a consistently kind ally to Neil and myself, otherwise there would have been no orchestra or choir!’ In 2013 Steve Harley said,’Those first two Albums were heavily orchestrated. I was 22 years old at ‘Abbey Road’ with a full orchestra and a choir for songs like ‘Sebastian.’ I’d busked with those songs for a year before Cockney Rebel signed to ‘EMI,’ so to get all that was just, oh it was magnificent for a young man.’

Steve Harley was inspired to write ‘Death Trip’ after he had attended the inquest of a friend who had died of a Heroin overdose. On ‘The Human Menagerie’ Album, the preceding track is ‘Chameleon,’ and was written about the same person. That song runs for only 49 seconds, and was initially going to be the intro to ‘Death Trip.’ The lyrics to ‘Chameleon’ which may shed some light as to the meaning behind ‘Death Trip’ are,’And Louise cowering into nowhere. Speaking in terms of a foreign land where winter lies easy, and she will surmise the guise of chateau eyes and rise.’ Recalling those first two Albums, ‘The Human Menagerie,’ and ‘The Psychomodo,’ Steve Harley has said,’I remember where the songs came from. They came from a young man’s dream, where the blending of musical literature and mad, formless imaginings, could hang out together at the same folk club, and present him with an entire raison d’etre.’

‘Someone’s trying to fool us, maybe it’s your daughters, can you hear the walrus offering a sad solution, he’s calling out for teenage revolution, and can you think of one good reason to remain? To remain? To remain? To remain?’

Posted by: In: Other 27 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


3-Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody.

1975-Number 1 single. When it was re-issued in 1991, it once again made Number 1.

Best Bit-At 3.03. Can you imagine what it must be like to be born into a family, and a religion, that consider that being gay is a terrible sin, with the punishment being that you will go to hell for eternity. That is what this song is about.

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5th, 1946, in Stone Town, Sultanate of Zanzibar, he died on November 24th, 1991, of Bronchopneumonia, as a complication of AIDS, at the age of 45. Both of his parents were deeply involved in ‘Zoroastrianism,’ which is an ancient Persian religion believed to have originated around 4,000 years ago. Mercury had been diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, but he didn’t make it publicly known until the day before his death.

The discography of Queen (see also best songs 918-615-208-126 and 47) includes 15 studio Albums released between 1973-1995, and 73 singles issued between 1973-2022. In the UK, 54 of those singles made the top 40, with six of them making Number 1, if you include the 1991 re-issue of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ In America on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart they have had 12 top 40 hits, with two of those making Number 1, although ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ only reached a peak of Number 2 on it’s re-issue. For the solo discography of Freddie Mercury see best songs 918.

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was written by Freddie Mercury, with the production being by Roy Thomas Baker, and Queen. The song was the first of two singles released from Queen’s fourth studio Album ‘A Night at the Opera’ from November 1975. Roy Thomas Baker was a long term producer for Queen, and worked on five of their studio Albums, he also worked with many other world famous artists between 1970-2014.

It is true that the lyrics of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ (bohemian meaning, ‘socially unconventional’) and (rhapsody meaning, ‘an enthusiastic expression of feeling’, or (in ancient Greek) ‘an epic poem’) can be interpreted in many ways, with all the remaining members of Queen respecting Freddie Mercury’s wishes in not revealing (if they know themselves) what the song is really about, but on reading many articles about the song, I am convinced that the evidence is overwhelming. According to Lesley-Ann Jones, the author of the biography ‘Mercury,’ she thinks that the song is about Freddie Mercury coming out as gay. After his death she spoke with Mercury’s partner Jim Hutton (1949-2010) who told her that the song was in fact Mercury’s confession that he was gay. Mercury’s good friend Tim Rice backs this up and he also offered some lyrical analysis. He said, the line,’Mama I just killed a man,’- means, he’s killed the old Freddie he was trying to be,’ and the line,’Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he’s dead,’-means, he’s dead, the straight person he was originally, he’s destroyed the man he was trying to be, and now this is him, trying to live with the new Freddie.’

Freddie Mercury had began writing some of the songs lyrics as far back as the late 1960’s, notably ‘Mama…just killed a man, Mercury called this early song ‘The Cowboy Song.’ In fact when Queen went in to the studio in 1975, it was ideas from three different songs that Mercury had been working on that became ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ The songs co-producer Roy Thomas Baker has said,’Bohemian Rhapsody’ was totally insane, but we enjoyed every minute of it. It was basically a joke, but a successful joke. (laughs) We had to record it in three separate units. We did the whole beginning bit, then the whole middle bit, and then the whole end. It was complete madness. The middle part (the Operatic part) started off being just a couple of seconds, but Freddie kept coming in with more ‘Galileos’ and we kept on adding to the opera section, and it just got bigger and bigger. We never stopped laughing. It started off as a ballad, but the end was heavy.’

‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ parodies elements of opera, which Mercury called a ‘mock opera.’ ‘Scaramouche’ relates to a cowardly boastful character from 16th Century Italian comedy. ‘Fandango’ is a dance that originated in Spain and Portugal, ‘Galileo’ (1564-1642) was an Italian astronomer who had been condemned by the Catholic Church for his astronomical findings, while ‘Figaro’ is a French play. ‘Beelzebub’ is one of many names given to the Devil, and ‘Bismillah’ when translated from the Arabic literally means ‘In the name of Allah’ (God.)

On a lighter note ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has spent a total of 14 weeks at Number 1 in the UK. It spent nine weeks at Number 1 in 1975, and a further five weeks in 1991 following the death of Freddie Mercury, on both occasions it was that years Christmas Number 1 single. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ is the third best selling single of all time in the UK, and it can also boast sales in excess of six million copies worldwide. In 1976 the group which finally toppled ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from the Number 1 spot was ABBA, and coincidentally because of that we can say, ‘Mama Mia, Mama Mia.’

‘Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.’

Posted by: In: Other 25 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


4-Don McLean-American Pie.

1971-Number 2 single. When it was re-issued in 1991 it reached Number 12.

Best Bit-At 4.01. When asked for the 1000th time what does American Pie really mean? McLean replied, ‘It means I don’t have to work anymore.’

In 2000 Madonna (see also best songs 774 and 587) committed one of Pop Music’s greatest crimes when she murdered the song with a sub standard karaoke version that was rightly slammed by many music critics. Surprisingly Don McLean gave her version his blessing, what he was thinking I do not know, but I can refer you to that earlier quote of his.

Donald McLean was born on October 2nd, 1945, in New Rochelle, New York, United States, although he will always be best remembered for ‘American Pie,’ there are also other songs that he wrote which have also been critically acclaimed. Don McLean can be filed under the Folk/Rock genre, having been influenced as a teenager by the American Folk quartet the ‘Weavers,’ 1955 recording ‘At Carnegie Hall.’ In later years McLean would befriend, and work very closely with the American Folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger, (1919-2014) (see also best songs 159.) who it is speculated is one of the artists (the king) that McLean is singing about in ‘American Pie’

The discography of Don McLean includes 21 studio Albums released between 1970-2020, and 16 singles issued between 1971-2012. In America on the Billboard Hot 100, six of those singles have reached the top 40, with ‘American Pie’ making the Number 1 spot for four weeks, and at that time at 8.42, it became the longest Billboard Number 1 song ever, until in 2021 when the Canadian singer Taylor Swift (see also best songs 847) topped that chart with ‘All Too Well,’ which clocks in at 10.13. In the UK Don McLean has had five top 40 hits with ‘Vincent’ in 1972, and ‘Crying’ in 1980, both reaching the Number 1 spot.

‘American Pie’ must be the most written about, and speculated upon song ever, with thousands of people giving their opinion about what the songs real meaning is, and who are the characters McLean is really singing about. Don McLean began writing ‘American Pie’ in 1969, and on completion it first appeared on his second studio Album of the same name when released on October 24th, 1971. The song was later issued as a single in November 1971, with the production being by Ed Freeman, who would go on to produce over 20 more Albums, as well as conducting orchestral arrangements for Cher and Carly Simon.

Don McLean was 14 years old and working as a delivery newspaper boy when he read the headline of February 3rd, 1959, that three of the era’s most prominent ‘Rock N’ Roll’ stars, Buddy Holly, (see also best songs 898 and 264) Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper (see also best songs 1017) had been killed in a plane crash after a concert. This event left a lasting impression on the young McLean who approximately 10 years later put pen to paper and wrote about the musical and political events in America during the 1960’s decade. ‘The day the music died’ is a reference to that plane crash, bringing to an end the more carefree and innocent 1950’s, and entering a new decade of turmoil and conflict, which was the 1960’s.

‘American Pie’ is a ‘disguised’ commentary of political and civil upheaval during the decade of the 1960’s, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, and the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ a year earlier, McLean also addresses the Civil Right Movement, as well as the rise in drug use. The song also describes the death of Meredith Hunter, (1951-1969) which occurred at the ‘Altamont Free Festival.’ in December 1969, who was killed while ‘The Rolling Stones’ (see also best songs 933-662-452-160 and 77) were on stage performing, some have criticised the Stones for refusing to quit playing, while in his defence Jagger has said it would have been far worse to stop playing, as in his opinion it would have led to a riot.

‘American Pie’ itself is a reference to ‘apple pie,’ which is an unofficial symbol of the United States and one of its signature comfort foods, as seen in the popular expression ‘As American as apple pie.’ McLean who was influenced by the Pete Seeger song ‘Bye, Bye, My Roseanna’ has said that he had originally intended to use ‘Miss American apple pie,’ but ‘apple’ was dropped. ‘American Pie’ is a commentary on the political and musical changes that occurred during the decade of the 1960’s.

‘So bye, bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry, and them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye singin’ this’ll be the day that I die, this’ll be the day that I die.’

Posted by: In: Other 24 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


5-David Bowie-Life on Mars.

1971-It wasn’t released as a single until 1973 when it reached Number 3.

Best Bit-At 2.57. Bowie had struggled for many years to make the big breakthrough, but success finally came in 1969 with ‘Space Oddity,’ so it is no big surprise that many of his songs have celestial themed titles, such as ‘Starman,’ ‘Blackstar,’ and ‘Lady Stardust.’ ‘Life on Mars’ is very well named, because it is truly ‘out of this world.’

David Bowie (see also best songs 807-440-334-302-209-186-118-47 and 31) (see also his production work 701-131 and 58) was born David Robert Jones on January 8th, 1947, in London, England, he died of liver cancer two days after his 69th birthday, on January 10th, 2016.

The discography of David Bowie includes 26 studio Albums released between 1967-2021, and 128 singles issued between 1964-2021, there are also 46 compilation Albums, and 24 live Albums available. Bowie also released two studio Albums in 1989 and 1991 as a member of the much underrated British/American Rock group ‘Tin Machine.’ In the UK, including teaming up with other artists he has achieved 60 top 40 singles, with five of those tracks reaching the Number 1 spot, while in America on the Billboard Hot 100 top 40 singles chart he has had 13 hits, with ‘Fame’ from 1975, and ‘Let’s Dance’ from 1983, both making the top spot. David Bowie is one of the worlds best selling artists of all time, with sales in excess of 100 million records sold.

‘Life on Mars’ was written by David Bowie, and produced by Bowie and Ken Scott, who worked with Bowie in the 1960’s and 1970’s on five of his studio Albums. ‘Life on Mars’ was the second of two singles released from his fourth studio Album ‘Hunky Dory’ from December 1971, although ‘Life on Mars’ wasn’t issued as a single until after the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ Album had propelled Bowie to the next level in 1973.

In 1968 Bowie had been asked to write English lyrics to the French melody ‘Comme d’habitude,’ which on completion was rejected. The Canadian singer/songwriter Paul Anka stepped in with his own lyrics, and the song was made world famous when sung by Frank Sinatra, (1915-1998) and called ‘My Way’ (see also best songs 120.) This annoyed and fired up Bowie who in a 2002 interview said,’That really made me angry for so long, for about a year, eventually I thought, ‘I can write something as big as that, and I’ll write one that sounds a bit like it.'” On the liner notes on the sleeve of the ‘Hunky Dory’ Album it states that the song was ‘Inspired by Frankie.’

David Bowie has stated that he found writing ‘Life on Mars’ easy,’Being young was easy, a really beautiful day in the park. I took a walk to Beckenham High Street to catch a bus but couldn’t get the riff out of my head. I started working it out on the piano, and had the whole lyric and melody finished by late afternoon. Rick Wakeman (see also best songs 386 and 203) came over a couple of weeks later and embellished the piano part, and Mick Ronson (see also best songs 661-405-131 and 58) created one of his first and best string parts.’ Rick Wakeman has said,’I remember leaving (the studio) and saying to a couple of friends that I met that evening in a local pub that I’d just played on the best song that I’d ever had the privilege to work on.’

Since first hearing ‘Life on Mars’ many years ago I have spent many hours trying to decipher the enigmatic lyrics, but thankfully in different interviews Bowie has shed light. He has said that it’s about,’A sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media. I think she finds herself disappointed with reality, that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.’ In my opinion the opening verse tells of a young girl wanting to escape her everyday mundane existence, so for escapism she regularly visits the cinema, but soon realises that she has done this before, and the film is only reflecting what she already knows about her own reality. The second verse expands the situation, dealing with people as a whole, and how we get sucked in by commercialism, and into thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side. When Bowie sings ‘Is there life on Mars,’ he is saying, is there a better life I can make for myself.

‘It’s a God-awful small affair to the girl with the mousy hair, but her mummy is yelling no, and her daddy has told her to go. But her friend is nowhere to be seen, now she walks through her sunken dream, to the seat with the clearest view, and she’s hooked to the silver screen.’

Posted by: In: Other 23 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


6-Beatles-Hey Jude.

1968-Number 1 single.

Best Bit-At 3.09. The ‘outro’ that stays longer than the mother-in-law.

The Beatles (see also best songs 599-456-319-238-218-141-80-51 and 10) were formed in Liverpool, England, in 1960, and remained active until 1970, with record sales in excess of 600 million they are the best selling music act of all time. Between 1960-1962 there were five others who were early members, but the classic line up from 1962 comprised of John Lennon, (1940-1980) (see also best songs 927-473-456-168 and 20) Paul McCartney, (see also best songs 646 and 107) George Harrison, (1943-2001) (see also best songs 737 and 726) and Ringo Starr.

On July 6th, 1957, McCartney first met Lennon, joining him as the rhythm guitarist in the Liverpool based Skiffle/Rock and Roll’ band the ‘Quarrymen,’ then in February 1958 McCartney introduced his friend George Harrison to Lennon, who a month later also became a member of the ‘Quarrymen.’Lennon’s school friend Stuart Sutcliffe (1940-1962) who played bass with the group between 1960-1962 suggested changing the band’s name to ‘Beatals,’ as a tribute to ‘Buddy Holly and the Crickets.’ (see also best songs 898 and 264) They used that name until May 1960, when they became the ‘Silver Beetles,’ and by August 1960 they were simply the ‘Beatles.’ The classic line up was complete when Richard Starkey (Ringo Starr) became the bands fourth and final drummer in August 1962, after the band fired Pete Best, whom they had become dissatisfied with.

The discography of the Beatles includes 12 studio Albums released in the UK, and 17 made up of varying tracks issued in the United States, between 1963-1970. There are also 54 official compilation Albums available, and there have been 63 singles released worldwide between 1962-1996. In the UK, 30 of those singles have reached the top 40, with 17 of them making the Number 1 spot, while in America on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, they have achieved 50 top 40 hits, with 20 of those songs reaching the top spot.

The songwriting for ‘Hey Jude’ as was contractually obliged was credited to Lennon/McCartney, with the production handled by George Martin, (1926-2016) the song was released as a stand alone single, and it’s first appearance on an Album was as the title track to ‘Capitol Records’ North American compilation ‘Hey Jude’ in February 1970. The song was also the first Beatles song issued on the Beatles own newly launched record label ‘Apple.’

By 1968 tensions were rising high in the Beatles camp, with all four band members in confrontation with each other. To add to the tension John Lennon had just split with his wife Cynthia (1939-2015) who was a close friend of McCartney’s, and Lennon’s new partner Yoko Ono appeared in the eyes of McCartney to be taking his place in the creative department. McCartney didn’t think it was right to cut ties with Cynthia as she had been a part of the team for many years, so he decided to visit her, and her five year old son Julian at their family home. Cynthia recalled McCartney’s surprise visit,’I was touched by his obvious concern for our welfare, on the way down he composed ‘Hey Jude’ in the car.’

The songs original title was ‘Hey Jules’ and it was intended to comfort Julian from the stress of his parents separation, McCartney changed the title to ‘Hey Jude’ as it fit the song better. In all probability the song did start out being about Julian, but it has also been said that McCartney was himself going through a turbulent time with personal relationships, as he had recently parted with Jane Asher, and had just become involved with Linda Eastman (1941-1998.) John Lennon thought that the song was about him, speaking in 1980 he said,’If you think about it, Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying. “Hey, Jude, Hey, John.” I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me. The words “Go out and get her,”Subconsciously he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead.’

Two other UK Number 1 singles with long ‘outro’s’ were inspired by ‘Hey Jude. In 1971 the T.Rex song ‘Hot Love’ (see also best songs 790) can boast a near three minute fade out, and in 1980 ‘Heart Of Glass’ by Blondie, (see also best songs 402) has around a 90 seconds outro.

‘Hey Jude, don’t make it bad take a sad song and make it better, remember to let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better.’

Posted by: In: Other 22 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


7-Bob Dylan-Like a Rolling Stone.

1965-Number 4 single.

Best Bit-At 4.26. Back in the 1960’s for radio DJ’s on a long shift this song was a God send. Back then it was unheard of for a track of more than three minutes to be played on air, until this came along.It meant that presenters had time to go and powder their nose, without having to rush back.

Bob Dylan (see also best songs 792-621-358-103 and 36) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman on May 24th, 1941, in Duluth, Minnesota, United States, on August 2nd, 1962, he legally changed his name to Robert Dylan. In his memoir Dylan wrote that he considered adopting the surname ‘Dillon’ before unexpectedly seeing poems by Dylan Thomas, (1914-1953) and deciding upon that less common variant. Dylan has also said,’You’re born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of the free.’

Initially as a teenager at high school Dylan performed covers by ‘Rock N’ Roll’ artists such as Elvis Presley and Little Richard, bit after enrolling at the ‘University of Minnesota’ in 1959 he became interested in American Folk Music. Dylan has said,’I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.’ The other big leap that Dylan took in his musical career was his first recordings with electric instruments on his fifth studio Album ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ in 1965, under the guidance of the music producer Tom Wilson (1931-1938) (see also best songs 358.)

The extensive discography of Bob Dylan includes 39 studio Albums released between 1962-2020, and 95 singles issued in the same time period, his record sales are in excess of 125 million sold worldwide. In America on Billboard, five of his Albums have made the Number 1 position, while in the UK he has topped the Album chart on nine occasions. In America on the Billboard hot 100 singles chart, 12 of his singles have reached the top 40, with ‘Like a Rolling Stone,'(1965) and ‘Rainy Day Women,’ (1966) both peaking at Number 2. While in the UK he has charted with 16 of his singles, with ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ charting the highest at Number 4. Dylan has also achieved great success commercially with other artists covering his songs, including Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, (see also best songs 621) and Peter, Paul and Mary, and taking them into the higher reaches of the charts.

‘Like a Rolling Stone’ was written by Bob Dylan, and produced by Tom Wilson, and was the first of four singles released from Bob Dylan’s sixth studio Album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ from August 1965. The lyrics for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ were not initially written as a song, but as 20 pages of verse. In May 1965 Dylan had returned from his tour of England feeling exhausted and dissatisfied with his material. He has said,’I was going to quit singing. I was very drained. It’s very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you, if you yourself don’t dig you.’ Dylan has described the 20 pages of verse as a ‘Long piece of vomit,’ which he reduced to four verses and a chorus. He has said that writing and recording ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ washed away his dissatisfaction, and restored his enthusiasm for creating music. There has always been much speculation as to whom the song was written about, but in all probability Dylan wrote the song about quite a few characters and acquaintances that he knew, or knew of.

The songs title is taken from the proverb ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss. Dylan got the idea from the 1949 song ‘Lost Highway,’ by Hank Williams, (1923-1953) (see also best songs 555) which contains the line ‘I’m a rolling stone, all alone and lost.’ Paul McCartney remembered going around to John Lennon’s house to hear the song,’It seemed to go on forever and ever. It was beautiful, he showed all of us that it was possible to go a little further.’The influential music magazine ‘Rolling Stone’ is said to have taken it’s name from this song, as well as the 1950 Muddy Waters ‘Blues’ song ‘Rollin’ Stone,’ On June 24th, 2014, the original hand written lyrics of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ were sold at auction by ‘Sotheby’s’ in New York for $2 million, which is the record for a popular music manuscript.

‘You’ve gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely but you know you only used to get juiced in it. Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street, and now you’re gonna have to get used to it. You say you never compromise with the mystery tramp, but now you realise he’s not selling any alibis.’

Posted by: In: Other 21 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


8-Guns N’ Roses-Paradise City.

1987-It was not released as a single in the UK until 1989, when it reached Number 6,

Best Bit-At 4.47.’Take me down to the Paradise City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty.’ Most heterosexual males couldn’t care less if the grass was purple with pink polka dots, as long as the girls are pretty.

‘Guns N’ Roses’ (see also best songs 463) were formed in 1985, in Los Angeles, California, United States, and at the time of writing they remain active, with Axl Rose being the bands one constant. The five members who signed with ‘Geffen Records’ in 1986, and who are considered the classic line up, and were also the musicians who played on ‘Paradise City’ were, Axle Rose, (vocals) Slash, (lead guitar) Izzy Stradlin, (rhythm guitar) Duff McKagan, (bass) and Steven Adler (drums.) ‘Guns N’ Roses’ took their name from two Los Angeles based ‘Glam/Metal’ bands,’Hollywood Rose,’ and ‘LA. Guns.’ Izzy Stradlin was a close acquaintance of ‘LA Guns’ member Tracii Guns, and Axl Rose had been the lead singer of ‘Hollywood Rose.’ In total there have been 20 different members of ‘Guns N’ Roses’ come and go, with some having left at one point, and then returning.

The discography of ‘Guns N’ Roses’ includes six studio Albums released between 1987-2008, and 20 singles issued between 1987-2021. In America on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart they have achieved nine top 40 entries with ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ making Number 1 in 1988, while in the UK, 16 of their singles have made the top 40, with their cover version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ charting the highest at Number 2 in 1992. ‘Guns N’ Roses are one of the worlds best selling groups having sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide to date.

‘Paradise City’ was the fourth of five singles released from ‘Guns N’ Roses’ debut studio Album ‘Appetite for Destruction’ from July 1987. On release the Album garnered very little mainstream attention, and it wasn’t until the following year after the band had began to make a name for themselves through touring that it finally became a commercial success. The Album eventually reached Number 1 on Billboard, and with currently over 30 million copies sold is the best selling debut Album of all time, and currently the 11th best selling Album of all time in America.

‘Paradise City’ credits all five band members at that time with the songwriting, with the songs production being by Mike Clink, who would also go on to produce the bands next four Albums, as well as produce, and engineer for several other artists. Slash has stated that ‘Paradise City’ was written in the back of a rental van as the band were travelling back from a gig in San Francisco, he has also stated that it is his favourite ‘Guns N’ Roses’ song. Axl Rose who wrote many of the songs lyrics has never made any secret in citing the Finnish Rock band ‘Hanoi Rocks’ as his major influence in the development of ‘Paradise City,’ with that bands 1981 track ‘Lost in the City’ being the inspiration. In that songs chorus you can hear some of the same lyrics that would later make up ‘Paradise City,’ and ‘Lost in the City’s’ melody from that chorus is slowed down significantly and used in ‘Paradise City’ as well. Incidentally the rhythm guitarist of ‘Hanoi Rocks,’ who goes by the name of ‘Nasty Suicide,’ makes an appearance in the ‘Paradise City’ video. Another prominent ‘sample’ is the ‘guitar riff,’ (and is well worth a listen) which was ‘influenced’ by the Black Sabbath (see also best songs 814) song ‘Zero the Hero,’ from their 1983 Album ‘Born Again.’

‘Paradise City’ is partly Axl Rose talking about the situation he was in at that point in his life. He was born and raised in Indiana, United States, and moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, where he remembers being stopped on the street by a stranger who said to him,’You know where you are? You’re in the jungle baby. You’re gonna die.’ The ‘green grass,’ and the ‘pretty girls’ are happy reminders of home for Axl Rose, and basically ‘Paradise City’ is anywhere in the world where a better life can be found.

‘Just a urchin livin’ under the street, I’m a hard case that’s tough to beat. I’m your charity case so buy me something to eat. I’ll pay you at another time, take it to the end of the line.’

Posted by: In: Other 20 Dec 2022 Comments: 0


9-Nirvana-Smells Like Teen Spirit.

1991-Number 7 single.

Best Bit-At 0.07. It may look like teenage revolution, it may sound like teenage revolution, and it may smell like teenage revolution, but it’s not.

Nirvana (see also best songs 788) were formed in Aberdeen, Washington, United States, by lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain, (1967-1994) and bassist Krist Novoselic, prior to Dave Grohl (see also best songs 999 and 292) joining in 1990, the band had already used seven other different drummers. Grohl had been a member of the American Hardcore Punk band ‘Scream’ who has just broken up, and auditioned for Cobain and Novoselic just days later. Novoselic said,’We knew in two minutes that he was the right drummer.’ David Grohl has also recollected on that time,’I remember being in the same room with them and thinking, ‘What? That’s Nirvana? Are you kidding?’ Because on their record cover they looked like psycho lumberjacks… I was like, ‘What, that little dude and that big motherf..ker? You’re kidding me.’ Nirvana remained active until Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994 at the age of 27.

There is also a British Rock band called ‘Nirvana’ who formed in 1965, and remained active until 1971. In 1985 they reformed and later sued the American ‘Nirvana’ over the usage of the name, and reached an out of court settlement. There was also a third band called ‘Nirvana’ who were a Progressive Rock band formed in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, who recorded, and toured through until the late 1970’s. Kurt Cobain has said he chose the name ‘Nirvana’ as he ‘Wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy Punk name like the Angry Samoans.

Although only recording three studio Albums between 1989-1993, Nirvana have sold in excess of 75 million records worldwide. There have also been 21 singles issued between 1988-2002, of which two of those reached the Billboard Hot 100 top 40 in America, with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ making Number 6. In the UK six of their singles have reached the top 40, with ‘Heart Shaped Box’ charting the highest in 1993, when reaching Number 5.

‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ was the first of four singles released from Nirvana’s second studio Album ‘Nevermind’ from September 1991, the Albums title is taken from a lyric in ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ The song was co-written by Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and David Grohl, with the songs production being by Butch Vig, (see also best songs 421) and Craig Montgomery. The success of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is seen as the point when the genre of ‘Grunge’ music first entered the mainstream.

It is said that Kurt Cobain grew to hate ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and did not wish to play it live.The song is seen as a teenage song of rebellion, but Cobain always stated that he was no voice of the people. The truth is that Kathleen Hanna who was the lead singer of the American Punk Rock band ‘Bikini Kill’ spray painted ‘Kurt smells like Teen Spirit’ on Cobain’s bedroom wall after they had both been out drinking.’Teen Spirit’ was a deodorant often worn by Cobain’s then girlfriend, Tobi Vail, who was also a member of member of ‘Bikini Kill,’ Cobain thought that those words would make for a great song title, he also thought that Hanna was complimenting him on his leadership qualities, and he didn’t find out until a lot later that ‘Teen Spirit’ was actually a deodorant.

Kurt Cobain readily admitted lifting the guitar riff to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ from the American Rock band Boston, with their song ‘More Than a Feeling’ from 1976 (see also best songs 956.) On first hearing the ‘riff’ Novoselic dismissed it as ‘Ridiculous,’ but Cobain made the band play it for an hour and a half. Eventually Novoselic began playing it more slowly, inspiring drummer Dave Grohl to create the drum beat, and that is the reason why all three band members received the writing credits, and it is the only song on ‘Nevermind’ where all three do.

The songs lyrics were not printed when ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ first appeared on ‘Nevermind,’ and because of the difficulty of trying to make out what Cobain was singing, this only added to the speculation of what the song is actually about. David Grohl has stated that he does not believe that the song has any message,’Just seeing Kurt write the lyrics to a song five minutes before he first sings them, you just kind of find it a little bit hard to believe that the song has a lot to say about something. You need syllables to fill up this space, or you need something that rhymes.’

‘With the lights out, it’s less dangerous, here we are now, entertain us. I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now, entertain us. A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido. A denial, a denial.’