Sunday, May 06, 2012
Ten Great Songs From One Great Week
The songs played on the radio this week in history
May 3-May 9, 1970
Kent State Shootings (May 4th) - Also known as the Kent State Massacre, occurred at Kent State University in the U.S. city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. Some of the students who were shot had been protesting against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Richard Nixon announced in a television address on April 30. Other students who were shot had been walking nearby or observing the protest from a distance. There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.
President Nixon had been elected President in 1968, promising to end the Vietnam War. In November 1969, the My Lai Massacre by American troops of an estimated 504 women and children in a Vietnamese village was exposed, leading to increased public opposition in the United States to the war. In addition, the following month saw the first draft lottery instituted since World War II. The war had appeared to be winding down throughout 1969, so the new invasion of Cambodia angered those who believed it only exacerbated the conflict. Many young people, including college students and teachers, were concerned about being drafted to fight in a war that they strongly opposed. The expansion of that war into another country appeared to them to have increased that risk. Across the country, campuses erupted in protests in what Time Magazine called "a nation-wide student strike", setting the stage for the events of early May 1970.
While protests continued in the aftermath of the shootings, including a 100,000 person march on Washington, DC, the country was torn between blaming the National Guard and the students. After a number of years of seeing college campuses overrun by student protestors, it appeared that Kent State was the end of the violent struggle that plagued the country in the late 60's. America was ready to turn the page as the new decade began.
#1 Single -- "American Woman" by The Guess Who
#1 Album -- "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel
1471 – Wars of the Roses: The Battle of Tewkesbury: Edward IV defeats a Lancastrian Army and kills Edward, Prince of Wales.
1776 – Rhode Island becomes the first American colony to renounce allegiance to King George III.
1863 – American Civil War: The Battle of Chancellorsville ends with a Union retreat.
1871 – The National Association, the first professional baseball league, opens its first season in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
1932 – In Atlanta, Georgia, mobster Al Capone begins serving an eleven-year prison sentence for tax evasion.
1959 – The 1st Grammy Awards are held.
1979 – Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
1989 – Iran-Contra Affair: Former White House aide Oliver North is convicted of three crimes and acquitted of nine other charges. The convictions, however, are later overturned on appeal.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat sign a peace accord regarding Palestinian autonomy granting self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.
1998 – A federal judge in Sacramento, California, gives "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski four life sentences plus 30 years after Kaczynski accepts a plea agreement sparing him from the death penalty.
ABC -- Jackson 5
This song was written and produced by a group of Motown songwriters known as "The Corporation." They were: Freddie Perren, Fonce Mizell, Deke Richards, and Berry Gordy, Jr. Freddie Perren was a former school teacher, which probably influenced the school metaphors in the lyrics. This became the Jackson 5's second #1 hit by knocking out the Beatles' "Let It Be." According to co-writer Freddie Perren, the music of this is the chorus of their previous hit, "I Want You Back."
Let It Be -- The Beatles
Paul McCartney wrote this song that was inspired by his mother, Mary, who died when he was 14. Many people thought "Mother Mary" was a biblical reference when they heard it. Since Let It Be was The Beatles last album, it made an appropriate statement about leaving problems behind and moving on in life. The album was supposed to convey an entirely different message. It was going to be called "Get Back," and they were going to record it in front of an audience on live TV, with another TV special showing them practicing the songs in the studio. It was going to be The Beatles getting back to their roots and playing unadorned live music instead of struggling in the studio like they did for The White Album. When they started putting the album together, it became clear the project wouldn't work and George Harrison left the sessions. When he returned, they abandoned the live idea and decided to use the TV footage as their last movie. While the movie was being edited, The Beatles recorded and released Abbey Road, then broke up. Eventually, Phil Spector was given the tapes and asked to produce the album, which was released months after The Beatles broke up. By then, it was clear "Let It Be" would be a better name than "Get Back."
Come And Get It -- Badfinger
Paul McCartney wrote this for the 1969 movie The Magic Christian, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr and was Badfinger's first hit single. They were one of the first groups to sign with Apple Records, which is The Beatles' label. Badfinger had a few other hits in the early '70s, but in 1974 Warner Brothers Records, which signed them when Apple folded, sued the band and kept them from recording. One member of the group killed himself a year later, and another committed suicide in 1983. Paul McCartney recorded the demo of this, and he played all the instruments himself. This was done prior to a Beatles recording session at Abbey Road studios. Paul's demo sounds exactly like Badfinger's recording, which he produced. In The Beatles Anthology book, Paul mentions that Badfinger wanted to do the song more in their own style, but he insisted they do it the same as on his demo. He told them that he knew this would be a hit song as long as they played it just as he had.
Reflections of my life -- Marmalade
This overly-dramatic ballad from the Age of Aquarius finds the singer describing a very bleak outlook on life and the times. The song was sort of a Hippie version of The Blues. Marmalade were a Scottish pop group who enjoyed several hits in the UK between 1968 and 1976. Originally a band called Dean Ford and the The Gaylords, they changed their name to Marmalade in 1967. They are best remembered in Britain for their cover of the Beatles song "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" which topped the UK charts around Christmas 1968. In 1969, they signed to Decca Records, and their contract gave them complete freedom to write and produce their own records. The fruits of this arrangement was the recording of this song with its distinctive backwards guitar break, which was their only American hit. This song was written by vocalist Dean Ford and the band's main songwriter, keyboardist Junior Campbell. Junior Campwell went on to pen the theme from the British TV series Thomas The Tank Engine, which was narrated in its first 2 seasons by Ringo Starr.
Cecilia -- Simon and Garfunkel
This song is about a guy who had a girlfriend, but then she broke up with him. Like it says in one of the verses, "I got up to wash my face, when I come back to bed someone's taken my place." But later on they get back together - "Jubilation, she loves me again." No too much should be read into the lyrics of this song. As Paul Simon explained in an interview with Rolling Stone: "Every day I'd come back from the studio, working on whatever we were working on, and I'd play this pounding thing. So then I said, 'Let's make a record out of that.' So we copied it over and extended it double the amount, so now we have three minutes of track, and the track is great. So now I pick up the guitar and I start to go, 'Well, this will be like the guitar part' - dung chicka dung chicka dung, and lyrics were virtually the first lines I said: 'You're breakin' my heart, I'm down on my knees.' They're not lines at all, but it was right for that song, and I like that. It was like a little piece of magical fluff, but it works."
Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) -- Edison Lighthouse
This was written by British producers Tony McCaulay and Barry Mason, who recorded it using session musicians. When it became a hit, they put together a band from members of the group Greenfield Hammer in order to perform the song live. McCaulay eventually put together another group using the Edison Lighthouse name. A session singer named Tony Burrows sang lead. He was the voice of several studio groups, including White Plains, The Pipkins, and Brotherhood Of Man, First Class ("Beach Baby") and the Flowerpot Men ("Let's Go To San Francisco"). He famously appeared on one UK TV show 3 times in one night when 3 different groups (all fronted by him) were due to perform their current chart hits. He said, "I just kept changing hats."
Come Saturday Morning -- The Sandpipers
The Sandpipers were a quartet from Los Angeles. Three of them, Jim Brady, Mike Piano, and Richard Shoff, became friends while singing in the Mitchell Boys Choir and decided to pursue a career together. They were discovered by Herb Albert, who helped get them their big break. Joined by Pamela Ramcier, they produced a string of significant hits throughout the '60s, including covers of "Guantanamera" and "Louie Louie." This turned out to be their last major hit, and they split up in 1975. This was the theme song to the Liza Minelli movie The Sterile Cuckoo, giving the song a huge boost. It played over the opening credits, which let viewers see the name of the song as it was playing.
I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home) -- Grand Funk Railroad
The song conveys the pleas of a captain on a troubled sea voyage and facing a mutiny from his crew. Its use of an orchestra during the long repeated refrains of the closing movement served to differentiate it from much of Grand Funk's work. Several interpretations of the song have been given; most revolve around the Vietnam War, and "I'm Your Captain" is popular among veterans of that conflict. The record was a modest hit single when first released, but achieved greater airplay on progressive rock radio stations. It has become a classic rock staple and has appeared on several audience-selected lists as one of the best rock songs of all time.
Band of Gold -- Freda Payne
There is some mystery to this song. Some people think it is about an impotent man, while others think it is about a frigid woman. Because of the subject matter, Payne did not want to record it at first. She thought the song was about a woman who was a virgin or sexually naïve, and felt it was more suitable for a teenager. This song was released on Invictus Records, which Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland formed after they left Motown in 1968. Holland-Dozier-Holland produced the track and wrote it with their collaborator Ron Dunbar, but because of their dispute with Motown, the H-D-H trio couldn't put their names on the label and credited themselves as "Edythe Wayne." Members of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers played on the track. When Payne objected to this song, Ron Dunbar (co-writer of the song) said to her, "Don't worry. You don't have to like them! Just sing it," and she did. Little did she know that this song would become her biggest hit and would give her her first record of gold.
Ride Captain Ride -- Blues Image
Blues Image lead singer Mike Pinera wrote this with their keyboard player Skip Konte. Mike's wife Valerie told us: "Ride Captain is a story from his imagination. I know when he was in the studio recording that album, they needed another song and he wrote it on the spot. He came up with 73 from the keyboard having 73 keys. A lot of people say it relates to a few different stories." A plausible, but false interpretation of the song is that it is about Sir Francis Drake's voyage on the west coast of America. Drake did sail once with 73 sailors, and he sailed in the vicinity of San Francisco. Drake's ship was considered "mysterious" because of its opulence, funded by seizures from Spanish ships. This was the only hit for Blues Image, and it came on their second album. The group dissolved soon after, with Pinera joining Iron Butterfly and Skip Konte going to Three Dog Night.
Love Is All Around (Mary Tyler Moore Show Theme) -- Sonny Curtis
The opening sequence of the hugely popular Mary Tyler Moore Show was created by Reza Badiyi who also did the opening sequence for Hawaii Five-O. Badiyi came up with the idea for the final shot, which Entertainment Weekly ranked as the second greatest moment in 1970's television. An older woman can be seen in the background, obviously puzzled by the sight of a young woman tossing her hat in the air. This unwitting "extra" was Hazel Frederick, a lifelong Minnesota resident who happened to be out shopping the day the sequence was shot. Mrs. Frederick finally met Moore in 1994 when she was on a book tour for her autobiography, After All. Moore introduced Frederick as "my co-star". The theme song, "Love Is All Around", was written and performed by Sonny Curtis (often mistakenly attributed to Paul Williams; Pat Williams wrote the show's music). The first season's lyrics are words of encouragement directed to the character, referring to the end of a previous relationship and making a fresh start, beginning with "How will you make it on your own?" and concluding with "You might just make it after all." The more familiar version of the song used in seasons 2-7 changed the lyrics to affirm her optimistic character, beginning with "Who can turn the world on with her smile?" and concluding with a more definitive "You're gonna make it after all." An instrumental version of the tune was used for the show's closing credits.
Ohio -- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
I'd be remiss if I didn't include this song.
Released just 10 days after the shootings, Neil Young wrote the lyrics to "Ohio" after seeing the photos of the incident in Life Magazine. On the evening that CSNY entered Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles, the song had already been rehearsed, and the quartet with their regular rhythm section recorded it live in just a few takes. During the same session they recorded the single's equally direct B-side, Stephen Stills's ode to the war's dead, "Find the Cost of Freedom." The Kent State shootings had a profound effect on some of the students who later became prominent musicians. Chrissie Hynde was a student at the time, and eventually formed The Pretenders. Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale were also on campus, and after the shootings, they developed the band Devo based on the concept of "De-Evolution," meaning the human race was regressing. Said Casale, "It refocused me entirely. I don't think I would have done Devo without it. It was the deciding factor that made me live and breathe this idea and make it happen. In Chrissie Hynde's case, I'm sure it was a very powerful single event that was traumatic enough to form her sensibility and account for a lot of her anger." Mothersbaugh added, "It was the first time I'd heard a song about something I'd been a participant in. It effected us. It was part of our life."