Saturday, November 01, 2008

10 Great Songs from One Great Year


This was the year I turned 13 and just a week before my Bar Mitzvah, I broke my arm badly (as if there’s a good way). The very next day, my grandmother passed away. So it was a stressful week, to say the least.

The year started with William Ayers bombing the Pentagon and “Wheel of Fortune” debuted. There must be a connection. Margaret Thatcher takes over Britain and the Watergate conspirators are hauled off to prison. In March, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is released, Bill Gates founds Microsoft and Pol Pot assumes command in Cambodia – again, perhaps there’s a connection?

President Gerald Ford shows he isn’t done forgiving past transgressions and pardons Robert E. Lee (he pardoned former President Nixon a few months earlier) and pays for it with two assassination attempts. Saturday Nights become Live from New York, Manila hosts “the Thrilla” and Rod Serling goes to the great twilight zone in the sky.

After the Thrill Is Gone – The Eagles

Following the success of their previous album, On The Border – which featured the number one hit “Best of my Love,” the Eagles returned to the studio in 1975 to record their follow up, One of These Nights. The three singes taken from this LP – “One of These Nights,””Lyin’ Eyes,” and “Take it to the Limit,” all reached the top 5 on the Hot 100. Although not released as a single, “After the Thrill is Gone” received significant airplay and was included in their second greatest hits package. Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, this track epitomizes the remarkable chemistry the two artists had in collaborating with one another. The song verbalizes the loss of passion in a relationship that has seen its best days past.

Nights on Broadway - Bee Gees

Although a hugely successful group in Britain, the Bee Gees only garnered modest success in the States until their breakout hit, “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” hit number one in 1971. Still, it wasn’t until the released of the album Main Course that the brothers Gibb became a household name. While recording this, the producer Arif Martin asked if one of the Bee Gees could do some screaming during the main chorus to make the song more exciting. In response, Barry Gibb began singing higher and higher, eventually singing it in a falsetto that was unexpectedly powerful. He had never known he had such ability and Barry's falsetto became a trademark of the Bee Gees. The rest, as they say, is history.

Harry TrumanChicago

Written by Robert Lamm for the album Chicago VIII (1975),this song reached #13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Written after the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon, the lyrics are a tribute to a former President that Lamm felt the American people could trust -- straight-talking Harry S. Truman. "America needs you, Harry Truman." Despite its popularity at the time, the Beatlesque "Harry Truman" only appears on two of Chicago's compilation albums Group Portrait (now out of print) and The Box. It is rarely performed in the band's live shows. This song was "performed" by Chicago in late 1974 as part of the 1975 Dick Clark's “New Year's Rockin' Eve” special, in which Chicago guitarist Terry Kath can be seen mocking the band's obvious lip-synching by holding cue cards depicting the song's lyrics.

No No Song - Ringo Starr

This was written by Country music star Hoyt Axton and bass player David Jackson. Axton originally recorded the song, which a humorous look at someone who is constantly offered drugs and keeps turning them down. Axton struggled with drug abuse early in his career. In a 2007 Time magazine interview, Ringo was asked about his most memorable guest artists in the studio. His reply: "Hoyt Axton was one of them on the Ringo album. We were doing "No No Song" with the biggest spliff and a large bottle of Jack Daniel's.”

Magic – Pilot

Pilot was a pop rock group formed in 1973 in Edinburgh, Scotland by former Bay City Rollers members David Paton and Billy Lyall. This was prior to the Bay City Rollers "hitting the big time." This was Pilot's first hit single. It was written by the band's keyboardist Lyall and its guitarist Paton and was produced by Alan Parsons. It was their only Top 40 hit in the US. This song was used in the movies Herbie Fully Loaded (2005), Doogal (2006) and Magicians (2007), and in 2007, this song was used in a Pillsbury commercial. Lyall died of AIDS-related causes in 1989. However, Paton and Ian Bairnson – who joined the band shortly after its inception, Paton and Bairnson reconvened in 2002, to re-record the original Pilot album Two's a Crowd. The subsequent issue was entitled, Blue Yonder.

Daisy JaneAmerica

After the tremendous success of their debut album and its follow up, Homecoming (featuring the top 5 hit “Ventura Highway”), America’s third release failed to gain much attention (aside from the modestly successful “Muskrat Love” – which hit #1 two years later for the Captain & Tenielle). In an effort to help restart their career, the band enlisted the help of famed Beatle’s producer, George Martin, to record their next album, Holiday. The strategy works and from the multi-platinum record, America returned to the charts with two top 5 smashes (“Tinman” and “Lonely People”). Since that combination was successful, Martin returned to produce their next 6 albums. The follow up to Holiday was Hearts, which featured “Daisy Jane” and the band’s second number one hit, “Sister Golden Hair.” “Daisy Jane” is among the most beautiful ballads written by band member Gerry Beckley and is a fan favorite live.

Chevy Van – Sammy Johns

Like a lot of musicians, Johns started young. When he was nine, his father presented him with a guitar. By the time he was a teenager in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, he had established his own band, the Devilles. The group performed in local clubs and cut a few records on the Dixie record label. Shifting to Atlanta, he began to make a name for himself and snagged a recording contract in 1973. General Recording Corporation put out Johns' first solo record, Early Morning Love, that year. Although he wrote a number of hit songs for other artists, Johns is best remembered for the one he recorded himself, "Chevy Van". The single climbed to #5 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. After his eponymous debut album on the GRC record label (General Recording Corporation), which included "Chevy Van," the singer inked a deal in 1976 with Warner-Curb, which resulted in Johns working on the soundtrack to “The Van,” the first film to feature Danny DeVito.

Black Water - Doobie Brothers

Included on the multi-platinum album What Were Once Vices are Now Habits, this song became the Doobie Brothers first number one hit. The inspiration for this single was quite possibly from Mark Twain's books Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, which depicted life on the "Black Water." Following this song, the band continued to have considerable chart success as they morphed from a Dixie-style, southern-rock band – which featured the lead vocals of Patrick Simmons – into a more jazz-oriented ensemble fronted by Michael McDonald. Four years after “Black Water” topped the charts, the Doobies retook the top spot with the McDonald-penned “What a Fool Believes.”

Convoy – C. W. McCall

This is a novelty song inspired by the CB radio craze of the mid-'70s. The story of "Convoy" was told in CB jargon and with a Country and Western (the "C.W.") twang. C.W. McCall is a character created by songwriter Bill Fries. While he displayed musical promise as a child, he was more interested in graphic design. While attending the University of Iowa, Fries studied music and played in the school's concert band, but his major was in fine arts, and after graduation he began handling the art chores at an Omaha, Nebraska television station. After 5 years there, he was hosting his own program, where he drew caricatures of celebrities. Fries signed on as the art director for an Omaha advertising agency in the early '60s, and it was there that he created the character C.W. McCall as a selling tool for an area bakery. A trucker for the fictional Old Home Bread Company who spent much of his time in a diner called The Old Home Filler-Up-an'-Keep-On-a-Truckin' Cafe, the McCall character was a huge hit with viewers, and the radio campaign won Fries the advertising industry's prestigious Clio Award. In 1974, Fries decided to cut a record under the McCall moniker, and the single, a monologue with country backing titled after the aforementioned cafe, became a hit. Sam Peckinpah made a 1978 movie based on the song starring Kris Kristofferson and Ally McGraw. By the time the movie was released, however, McCall's music career was largely over. He released two more albums, but in 1977, McCall turned his back on the music industry to focus on the burgeoning environmental movement and moved to the small town of Ouray, CO. He was elected mayor of the town in 1982. An attempt at a comeback in 1990 proved unsuccessful.

Fallin’ in Love – Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds

This was written by Danny Hamilton and his wife Ann. Ann Hamilton: "In the 1970's, as a youngster, I was privileged to have access to the recording industry. At that time, I was married to Dan Hamilton of Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds. Dan had a huge hit record 'Don't Pull Your Love,' when we met. By the time we married, Dan, Joe Frank, and Allan Dennison were working on a new album of original songs. As fate would have it, Dan had some difficulty coming up with lyrics for 3 songs on the album. I submitted my ideas for 'Fallin' In Love,' 'Winners & Losers,' and 'Love Is.' Danny loved the lyrics and I had my first hit record, 'Fallin' In Love.'" Until the band had a hit with this song, they were considered as one-hit-wonders, as the rest of their other singles that followed their other Top 40 hit, "Don't Pull Your Love (Out)," went nowhere. In 1973, Tommy Reynolds, the band's drummer, quit to join a band called Shango and was replaced by Alan Dennison. In 1974, the band signed with Playboy Records, who insisted that they keep their original name (apparently, Playboy thought it would be foolish to jeopardize the very small impact that they had in music). After the success of this song, they changed their name to Hamilton, Joe Frank & Dennison to reflect the new lineup more accurately. Interestingly enough, while the album cover reflected the old name, inside sleeve listed their new one.


Allison Guerriero said...

OOPS!! I left this comment on the wrong post and I don't know how to delete it there...

When I worked at AT&T I was OBSESSED with the song "Magic" and I was playing it in my office, humming it after meetings...well my director picked up on that and suggested that they use it to the ad agency in a campaign called "Double O Info". And O O It's Magic wound up being the song used for the commercial - all b/c I annoyed my boss with that song. I still love it!

Shayne said...

Cool story!