1. Let It Be - The Beatles
Released two months ahead of the album of the same name, this became the Beatle's swan song as it was their last single, having been released after their official split. Dedicated by Paul McCartney (right) to his late mother, it got the 'wall of sound' treatment from producer Phil Spector who nearly ruined it when he added brass and a choir and got the audio mix terribly wrong. The single version is different to the album, the latter featuring some of the sloppiest guitar work ever recorded by John Lennon. The surviving Beatles re-released this song as they originally intended it to have sounded on their Let It Be ... Naked album of 2000.
2. (They Long To Be) Close To You - The Carpenters
This song was originally given to A&M Records for its President Herb Alpert to sing. He turned it down after deciding he could not sing about "angels sprinkling fairy dust". It was then given to newcomers, The Carpenters, who turned it into a No.1 hit, however Alpert contributed the trumpet solo to the track. Written by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, it was originally released as the B-side of 'Blue Guitar' by Richard Chamberlain in 1963. Dusty Springfield recorded a version of this song in 1964, which was originally scheduled for release as a single, and a potential follow-up to her hit "I Just Don't Know What To Do with Myself." However, it wasn't until 3 years later, in 1967, that it finally was released on her album Where Am I Going. This was The Carpenters' second single, their first was a cover of The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride," which reached No.54 in the US but failed to chart elsewhere.
3. In The Summertime - The Mixtures / Mungo Jerry
Ray Dorset (right) had his moment in the spotlight when his band, Mungo Jerry, recorded one of the biggest selling hits of 1970. A skiffle-style blues song, "In The Summertime" sold more than thirty million copies worldwide and became a classic of the 1970 summer season. It topped the charts a second time when a version by Shaggy was featured in the film, Flipper. The song has also been recorded by Elton John and Bob Dylan. Dorset received two Ivor Novello awards as songwriter. Dorset was already a veteran performer when he formed Mungo Jerry in 1969. His first band, the Blue Moon Skiffle Group, which featured Phil Collins on drums, was formed when he was eleven years old. Mungo Jerry was a character from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (which was later adapted and made into the musical, Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber). Being an English band, Mungo Jerry's record received no air play on Australian radio on its release due to a ban on playing British recordings over a copyright payments disagreement. The Aussie group The Mixtures did a cover and the Australians bought their version instead. The unique thing about this song is there are no drums. Instead there's a guy making mouth sounds like those that would be heard 20 years later in the early rap performances.
4. Spirit In The Sky - Norman Greenbaum (right)
Best-known for "Spirit in the Sky", singer/songwriter Norman Greenbaum began his musical career while a student at Boston University, playing coffee houses before relocating to the US West Coast during the mid-1960s and forming a kind of psychedelic jug band dubbed Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. After issuing the 1966 single "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which fell just shy of reaching the top 50, the group disbanded, and Greenbaum subsequently formed a series of short-lived acts before finally returning to his solo career in 1968. A year later he issued his debut LP, Spirit in the Sky, releasing several unsuccessful singles before reaching No.3 with the title track, which sold some two million copies. It would be Greenbaum's only hit, as follow-ups like 1970's "Canned Ham" and the next year's "California Earthquake" bombed; after the release of 1972's Petaluma, he retreated from music to focus on his California dairy farm, but returned to show business during the mid-'80s in a managerial capacity, and promoting a number of concerts.
5. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel
Simon's inspiration for this classic was a christian song called "Jesus Is A Bridge Over Troubled Water". In 1971, "Bridge" won five Grammys: Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. Their album of the same name won Album Of The Year. The production was based on Phil Spector's "Old Man River" by The Righteous Brothers. The sound of the drum that enters in the middle of the song was obtained when engineer Roy Halee put a snare drum at the bottom of an elevator shaft and placed a microphone at the top of the shaft. Within the music industry, this was a much discussed and much admired sound. Larry Knechtel, from the soft-rock group, Bread, played piano. The line, "Sail on, silver girl" is often reputed to refer to a needle (meaning the song is about heroin) but it actually a reference to Simon's girlfriend and later wife, Peggy, who found a few gray hairs and was very upset by it. Simon nicknamed her 'Silver Girl'; the lyric was meant as a joke. Simon has said that the song was orginally intended to be sung in standard S&G 2-part harmony, but when he heard Artie run through the lyrics on his own, he decided it would work better as a predominantly Garfunkel solo. He has often said he regrets not singing lead on this song.
6. Lookin' Out My Back Door - Creedence Clearwater Revival (right)
Much like The Beatles' 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds', many people thought this was about drugs, when it was really an innocent song inspired by a child. According to the drug theory, the "Flying Spoon" was a cocaine spoon, and the crazy animal images were an acid trip. This was even less plausible than the Beatles misinterpretation, since Creedence band members were never into psychedelic drugs. The song was in fact written for lead singer John Fogerty's son Josh who at the time was three. Fogerty says: "I knew he would love it if he heard me on the radio singing - doot doot doo, lookin' out my back door." In the song lyrics there is a reference to a parade passing by which John says was inspired by a Dr. Seuss book that he read as a kid titled To Think (That) I Saw It On Mulberry Street. In it there was a kid is sitting on a porch and watching a parade of amazing things which are described in the song.
7. El Condor Pasa - Simon & Garfunkel (right)
The last single to be released from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album by Simon and Garfunkel before they broke up, the song was created from a traditional Quechua folk song called "Paso Del Condor", from the Peruvian highlands, around 1910 by Daniel A. Robles, a Peruvian musician. Paul Simon became friendly with the group Urubamba, formerly known as Los Incas, through this song, and ended up touring with them and producing their first American album. Simon personalised the song by adding his own English lyrics. Most of the instruments used in the song are Peruvian, like la quena (a type of flute) and el charango, wich is a peculiar little guitar. The original song was instrumental (Andean music) only. The Robles family took Simon & Garfunkiel to court over of copyright, the Robles family won. Since the court case, the song has been credited to Daniel A. Robles.
8. Up Around The Bend - Creedence Clearwater Revival
'Up Around the Bend', the second of three Top 10 singles from CCR's Cosmo's Factory LP, first charted in May 1970, and spent 3 months on the charts. Cosmo's Factory was No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, and it spent a total of 69 weeks on the charts. This and most of the Creedence hits had a mysterious ambience associated with the Bayou swamps of the American south. Occasionally, Fogerty lapsed into awkward phraseology and silly imagery as he did here. "You can ponder perpetual motion, set your mind on a crystal day/Always time for good conversation, there's an ear for what you say" - it is hardly engaging poetry, but the sheer confidence of the performance renders everything else irrelevant. That opening guitar riff screams out of the speakers, demanding your attention and riveting you to your seat. What is just as amazing is that Fogerty's howl is the aural equivalent of his guitar solo.
9. Knock, Knock, Who's There - Liv Maessen
Liv Maessen was a deep-voiced Melbourne-based singer who won 1970 Logie Award for Best New Talent. Recorded on the Fable label, this was the first of a few hits Liv had before disappearing. It was a cover of Welsh singer Mary Hopkin's second hit which was submitted as Britain's Eurovision Song Contest entry. Mary's version was a victim of an Australian radio station ban on British recordings at that time (over royalty payments) which right the door wide open for Liv's version to outsell Mary's by 20 to 1. A similar thing happened with Liv's cover of Anne Murray's 'Snowbird', which was the Australian performer's second and last big hit. The writers of "Knock, Knock", John Carter and Geoff Stephens, were behind many British hit recordings of the late 60s and early 70s.
11. Whole Lotta Love - Led Zeppelin (right)
Featured as the opening track on their second album, Led Zeppelin II, this song was the band's first hit single. In 2004, the song was ranked No.75 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Whole Lotta Love" at No.3 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. It was recorded at various studios in New York and Los Angeles during a 1969 concert tour of the United States and assembled by Jimmy Page at Olympic Studios in London. Already part of their live repertoire, it saw its first official release on Led Zeppelin II in October 1969. The song was essentially a cover of the Willie Dixon song "You Need Love", a favourite of the band, that was performed by the Small Faces as 'You Need Loving' on their debut Decca LP (Steve Marriot's vocal style on the track being not disimilar to Plant's) that had also been released by Muddy Waters in 1962. This (and "Bring It On Home") would lead to a lawsuit settled out of court in the favour of Dixon in 1985 over the similarity of the lyrics. The song also included lyrical nods to Dixon's "Back Door Man" and "Shake for Me". "Whole Lotta Love" begins with a trademark Page riff and moves into the first chorus. Then the song dissolves to a free jazz-like break involving a theremin solo and the moans of Robert Plant (sometimes called the "orgasm section"). As audio engineer Eddie Kramer has explained: "The famous 'Whole Lotta Love' mix, where everything is going bananas, is a combination of Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man."
12. Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) - Edison Lighthouse
Edison Lighthouse was the brainchild of vocalist Tony Burrows. The group's lone hit was one of four simultaneous top 10 records registered by Burrows under different names. The band was the alias of songwriters and producers Barry Mason and Tony McCauley. Following "Love Grows," Burrows departed in search of other opportunities. McCauley owned the copyright to the band's name, and formed another group to record under the alias. The reincarnation of Edison Lighthouse had one more top 40 hit in Britain, then vanished. The formula feel-good music hit sound created with this song proved to be very successful, and the Edison crew recorded other material under different group names to duplicate the sensation of their first hit together. As White Plains, their single, "My Baby Loves Lovin'", was a top ten hit; as The Brotherhood Of Man, their "United We Stand" reached No.1 in 1971.
13. Cottonfields - The Beach Boys
A classic folk song from America's Deep South, it was written by Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, who was one of the most powerful figures in the early years of the American folk music movement. His steel-wire energy as a "cotton-chopper" gave him the nickname he bore most of his life. His recordings were instrumental in the creation of Britain's Skiffle movement, which produced The Beatles and many of the other rhythm and blues artists. 'Cottonfields' was first recorded by Lead Belly in 1941 and has been a standard for just about ever American singing ever since. Dissatisfied with Brian Wilson's original arrangement of Cotton Fields, Al Jardine later led the group to record a more folk-rock style version. The remake was recorded on 15h August 1969 with Orville "Red" Rhodes on steel pedal guitar. This remake, while not a hit in the U.S., was a top ten song around the world in the Spring of 1970. Because of its popularity, it was placed on the foreign release of the group's Sunflower album.
14. Travellin' Band - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Put very simply, this song recalls the experiences this 'travelling band' encountered during their three years on the road singing their Southern blend of rock music. It was the third of three top ten singles to be lifted off Cosmo's Factory, the band's best selling album.
15. The Wonder Of You - Elvis Presley (right)
Recorded during his days working in Las Vegas, 'The Wonder of You' was a big hit all around the world and is generally considered his last prior to falling into decline. 'You Don't Have To Say You Love Me', also released in 1970, followed by 'Burning Love' were the only singles released afrer this one that made any sort of impact on record charts.
16. Father And Son - Cat Stevens (right)
For many Baby Boomers in the late 1960s/early 1970s, British singer Cat Stevens was their voice of reason; the themes of his musical offerings were humble and spiritually informed, the music an artful messenger. The album, Tea for the Tillerman, is quintessential Cat Stevens, containing such classics as 'Wild World', 'Hard Headed Woman' and 'Father And Son'. The lyrics may be steeped in the ideology of the 1970s, but the music is far too inventive and engaging to ever grow outmoded. Playing guitar and keyboards, Stevens and second guitarist Alun Davies achieve a delicate interplay (augmented by Del Newman's strings) that avoids the pomposity found in the work of Jethro Tull and Genesis. 'Father And Son', the most most played song from the album, articulates the generation gap with pinpoint accuracy, in much the same way Mike + The Mechanics' 'Living Years' did a decade or so later. Interviewed soon after the release of "Father and Son" by Disc Magazine, Stevens was asked if the song was autobiographical. He said, "I’ve never really understood my father, but he always let me do whatever I wanted - he let me go. ‘Father And Son’ is for those people who can’t break loose."
17. A Song of Joy - Miguel Rios (right)
Argentinian born composer, conductor and arranger, Waldo de los Rios (real name Osvaldo Nicolás Ferrara) followed his dream to bring classical music to the masses by turning orchestral music into pop music. In 1970, he had a hit with this re-worked version of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, to which he added words that were sung by a young Spanish singer named Miguel Rios (no relation). A year later, Waldo recorded an album of famous classical pieces but played in a contemporary style, and with a large percussion section. His verson of the 1st movement of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 was released as a single that became a worldwide hit. Waldo produced three similarly styled albums but was widely condemned for tampering with classical music, which is believed to have contributed to his suicide in 1977.
18. Spill The Wine - Eric Burdon and War
Before Eric Burdon (right) joined, the group was known as Nite Shift and was playing backup for Deacon Jones, a former US football player who was trying to become a soul singer. The group was re-named War and played with Burdon on two albums, both credited to "Eric Burdon and War." The group chose the name War because it contrasted with the peace movement that was a big part of music at the time. Burdon says that the song is about the desparation he once felt to write a hit. The band members were drinking wine in a studio and someone spilled a bottle, destroying thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment. They owed the studio a lot of money and knew they needed to record a hit to be able to pay it, so he wrote this song and it worked.
19. Venus - Shocking Blue (right)
The Hague group Shocking Blue were already making records before Mariska Veres became their lead singer in 1968. She was discovered by manager Cees van Leeuwen at the jazz festival in Loosdrecht. Mariska already had some group experience with the Bumble Bees and had released a solo single. Shocking Blue became part of a mini invasion of the pop music world by Dutch groups in 1970. The group had a No. 1 hit with "Venus" and in the same year, fellow Dutch band Tee Set struck gold with "Ma Belle Amie" while the George Baker Selection struck gold with "Little Green Bag". Shortly after Shocking Blue released their solitary international hit, the decay of the group began. Constant changes in the lineup were largely to blame. Shocking Blue broke up in 1974. Their line-up for this single was Robbie van Leeuwen (vocals, guitar), Mariska Veres (vocals), Klaasje van der Wal (bass guitar), and Cornelius van Beek (drums).
20. Old Man Emu - John Williamson
From his youth, New South Wales farmer's son John Williamson sang songs in his area and became a well known entertainer. In 1969 he wrote an infectious novelty song called 'Old Man Emu', and during a visit to Melbourne was encouraged by friends to perform it on TV's New Faces programme. That performance opened the door to a recording contract with Fable. Almost immediately he was transformed into a professional entertainer. For the next few years he lived off 'Old Man Emu's success and appeal but eventually he was able to shake free from it and evolve into a singer / songwriter of renown who became loved and respected for his unique ability to capture the spirit of rural Australia.
5. Smiley - Ronnie Burns (right)
'Smiley' was written and produced by Johnny Young who also wrote Russell Morris's 'The Real Thing' and Ross D. Wylie's 'The Star'. A popular singer in his own right, Young wrote the song with Australian pop star and Vietnam War conscript Normie Rowe in mind: "Before he right, he was really happy-go-lucky, fun-filled young fella. When he came back, he'd changed," recalls Young. 'Smiley' was one of the few Australian hits of the '60s to make a statement on the issue of the Vietnam War. New Zealander Craig Scott also recorded the song.
6. Two Little Boys - Rolf Harris
This song was written by Theodore Morse and Edward Madden in 1902 and originally recorded by British Music Hall star Harry Lauder in 1903. It tells the apparently true story of two brothers who share wooden horses as boys and later share real horses in battle during a war. The exact war was not specified, although it is believed to have been the Boer War. Perth born singer/TV personality/painter Rolf Harris moved to Britain in the late 1950s. Few people know that as a youth, he was an Australian swimming champion. Harris first heard the song in 1969 when, during a tour of Arnhem Land, he briefly stayed with folk musician Ted Egan at Broken Hill. Egan sung him the song, which Harris recorded on tape. When he got back to England he persuaded his television producer into using the song on his BBC variety show. Harris discovered he had lost the tape and rang Egan, twelve thousand miles away in Canberra, and got him to sing the song over the phone. Alan Braden arranged the song for the TV show, and the audience reaction was such that it was recorded by Harris and released as a single. The song reached #1 on the singles chart in December 1969 for six weeks and became the UK's best selling single of 1969. On popular BBC radio show Desert Island Discs, Margaret Thatcher picked it as her favourite song.
7. I Thank You - Lionel Rose (right)
Aussie boxing champion Lionel Rose had always fancied himself as a singer and in late 1969, Johnny Young wrote this pleasant love song for him to record. It shot to No.1 and sold over 50,000 copies. As a result, Rose was presented with a gold record award at the Melbourne Town Hall. He then toured with Ashon's Circus as 'The Singing Boxing Champ" and was backed on guitar by Laurie Allen of Bobbie and Laurie fame. "I Thank You" was writen by Johnny Young. He also wrote "The Real Thing" for Russell Morris, "The Star" for Ross D Wylie, "Smiley" for Ronnie Burns as well hosting the long running TV show Young Talent Time.
8. Yellow River - Middle of the Road, Autumn, Christie, Jigsaw (shared)
Christie was a British pop band formed at the end of the 1960s and fronted by Yorkshire singer-songwriter, Jeff Christie. In 1969, Christie offered his composition "Yellow River" to The Tremeloes. They recorded it for release as a single, but when they changed their minds they allowed Christie to use the backing track themselves. The result was a UK No.1 hit in May 1970. The follow-up single, "San Bernadino" was also a hit, but the trio failed to sustain a lasting career. At last count, 113 cover versions of "Yellow River" from all over the world have been released, with several alternative titles in other languages. One was by the Sydney-based band Jigsaw, that often performed on the ABC-TV pop program, GTK. They had four charting singles, 1970-71, of which their version of "Yellow River" was one. They are not the British band Jigsaw, whose single, "Sky High", was a hit in 1975, and whose releases in Australia were issued under the name British Jigsaw to avoid confusion.
9. Boom Sha-La-La-Lo - Hans Poulsen (right)
Contrary to popular belief, singer / songwriter Hans was not born in Denmark, but in Victoria to Danish migrant parents, in March 1945. He became one of Australia's most successful and prolific Australian singer/songwriters of the late 60's and early 70's with two big hit songs of his own, 'Boom Sha La La Lo' (co-written with The Seekers' Bruce Woodley) and 'Light Across the Valley'. He also wrote 'Jamie' and 'Rose Coloured Glasses' for Johnny Farnham, 'She's So Beautiful' for Cliff Richard and the soundtrack for the Australian movie, Stork. Described as Australia's resident hippie eccentric and homwgrown version of Cat Stevens, Hans relocated to the Findhorn Foundation spiritual community in north east Scotland in 1972, where he recorded three albums. Hans's career was cut short in the late 1970s when he suffered first cancer and then, in October 1992, a catastrophic brain haemorrage in the US which right him totally paralysed and in a coma. Doctors initially gave him only a one percent chance of recovery. Incredibly, Hans' indomitable strength and positive outlook helped him to pull through yet again, and by 1993, although now permanently confined to a wheelchair, Hans had recovered sufficiently to record a new album. After returning to Scotland, he went on to become a very inspirational music therapist. Though his health is still failing, his mind and humour are still extremely quick. At the time of publication, he was living in Box Hill, Victoria, under care.
10. Turn Up Your Radio - Masters Apprentices
This was the big single from the big year in the career of the Adelaide band that was affectionately known as 'The Masters'. Formed midway through 1965, they had a string of hits between 1967 and 1971 during which time they toured extensively and were one of the most popular bands of that time. 'Turn Up Your Radio' was lifted off the Choice Cuts album, which was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London where The Beatles did their recording. After the band broke up, lead singer Jim Keays enjoyed success as a solo artist; Glenn Wheatley went into management (Little River Band, John Farnham).
Arkansas Grass - Axiom
Released around Christmas 1969 by Australia's first super-group, Axiom, this unashamedly American-themed song was written by band members Don Mudie and Brian Cadd (right) and sung by Glenn Shorrock. 'Arkansas Grass' was released as a single and was one of a number of fine songs on the band's album, Fool's Gold, which rock historian Glenn A Baker has accurately described as "the first truly important and accomplished rock album". It has all the feel of the period it portrays as well as being one of many protest song about war, that were popular anthems of the peace movement of that time. View the video online
The Only Living Boy In New York - Simon & Garfunkel
Simon & Garfunkel long-delayed final album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, contains many songs that allude to the imminent breakup of the duo, including this one. In "The Only Living Boy In New York", Paul refers to Artie as Tom (a reference to the duo´s early incarnation as Tom and Jerry). The song mentions his departure to Mexico for filming of the movie, Catch 22, and expresses the hope that his 'part will go fine'. But despite this hope, Paul feels abandoned and the song expresses his unhappiness at the way that he and Artie are drifting apart. In "So Long Frank Lloyd Wright", on the same album, Artie - an architecture major - is blurred with the character of the famous American architect and is clearly the person with whom the singer recalls spending many nights harmonising till dawn. Art has said how hurt he was when he discovered that the song was actually saying 'so long' to him. "Why Don´t You Write Me" is another expression of Paul Simon's feelings over his singing partner's long absence in Mexico. Maybe even "Bye Bye Love" is intended as a sly reference to the breakup of the duo. Hear the song online
Who'll Stop The Rain? - Creedence Clearwater Revival
If, as many contend, Creedence Clearwater Revival was the foremost singles rock band of its time, Cosmo's Factory was the ultimate end-of-the 1960s singles album. John Fogerty wrote some of his best songs for it and it became a best seller that produced no fewer than six top-5 hit singles, this being among them. A wonderfully uncomplicated folk-rock song with thoughtful lyrics and a great melody, 'Who'll Stop The Rain' became almost transcendental as 1970 saw one of the most terrible and traumatic periods of the Vietnam War. The song, inspired by the assassinations of Senetor Robert Kennedy and Martin Lutherr King Jnr, makes a thought-provoking political statement that can still send shivers down the spine. Hear the song online
If You Could Read My Mind - Gordon Lightfoot (right)
Canadian singer / songwriter Gordon Lightfoot first gained international attention as the writer of the Peter Paul & Mary hits, "That's What You Get For Loving Me" and "Early Morning Rain". "If You Could Read My Mind" was the song which introduced him as a recording artist to audiences outside of Canada and the US. Written in 1969, it has been recorded by more than 100 artists, first by Lightfoot himself for the album, Sit Down Young Stranger. The album was initially not a commercial success, but after the song reached No.5 on the US singles chart in 1971, it was renamed after the song and re-released, then reaching No.12. This song was used in the Canadian feature film, Paperback Hero, in 1975. View the video online
Ride Captain Ride - Blues Image
Known mainly for this song, Blues Image were a quintet from Tampa, Florida. Formed in the mid-60s, the group began as a trio featuring Mike Pinera, Joe Lala and Manuel Bertematti. In 1966 bass player Malcolm Jones joined the group and they adopted the name Blues Image. Frank "Skip" Konte, originally from Canyon City, California, was enlisted in 1968, at which time the group relocated to New York City. They opened their own club, The Image, where besides booking some of the top acts of the day, they were able to provide themselves with a ready-made venue for their songs.
Many believe the lyrics to be drug-related but Mike Pinera tells a different story: The producer came in and said, 'Do you have any more songs, because if you don't, this is your last day in the studio, I've got Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night out there waiting for studio time" Pinera says. "So I said, 'Oh, I have a song,' which I didn't have exactly. So I went into the bathroom, and I shut the door, and I just meditated. I calmed my mind, and I started hearing music. I went out and sat at the piano, which was a Rhodes Model No. 73, which had 73 keys. So I say, 'Okay, I need a first word.' And what came into my head was 73. I liked the rhythm, and I went, '73 men sailed in, from the San Francisco Bay. . . . The song sort of just wrote itself from there." The keyboard player Frank Konte clinked out a melody for the chorus, and Pinera added the lyrics to "Ride, captain, ride, upon your mystery ship. . . ." and the rest, as they say, is rock history. View the video online
Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) - Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers
The title song from Melanie Safka's biggest selling album, it recalls how Melanie Safka performed in the rain at the Woodstock Music Festival after she became a household name with "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma." When the rain stopped, members of the crowd lit candles to let other people know that everything was ok. Melanie, a child of the Love Generation and the most well known of the late 1960s hippy Flower Children, was so moved by the sight that she wrote this song to commemorate it, then asked the Edwin Hawkins Singers (they had a No.2 hit with "Oh Happy Day") to provide the vocal backing. Melanie's follow-up single was "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)". View the video online | hear the now rare full version online
Gimme Dat Ding - Maple Lace Albert Hammond (right) and Mike Hazlewood wrote this for the children's television show 'Oliver And The Overlord'. Later, it became the original background tune used on The Benny Hill Show. It was first recorded by The Pipkins who were not a real group - The Pipkins were in fact producer Roger Greenaway and session singer Tony Burrows. He was also the voice of other studio groups such as Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and First Class.
For live appearances, The Pipkins were Davey Sands and Len Marshall. Hammond and Hazlewood wrote many hit songs including 'Little Arrows', 'The Air That I Breathe' and 'Free Electric Band'. Hammond had hits of his own with 'It Never Rains In Southern California' and 'Down By The River'. An obscure composition of his, 'That's A Hoe Down', was a minor hit in Australia for Lynne Randell in 1967. The epitome of a nonsense song, 'Gimme Dat Ding' was covered by Australians Frankie Davidson and Maple Lace, who were a Sydney band. View The Pipkins video online
Lola - The Kinks
Ray Davies wrote this song's lyrics about a transvestite after The Kinks' manager had been drinking at a club and had started dancing with what he thought was a woman. Toward the end of the night, his stubble started showing. The line "You drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola" was first recorded as "it tastes just like Coca-Cola." The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) refused to play it because of the commercial reference, so Davies flew from New York to London to change the lyric and get it on the air. The song revived the career of The Kinks who had not had a hit for many years, even though many of their fans were oblivious to what the song was about. It opened the door for artists like Lou Reed and David Bowie to explore homosexuality in songs that straight people liked too. View the video online
Ma Belle Ami - Tee Set
This love song from Dutch pop artists, Tee Set, made the top 20, but its lyrics puzzled many. One line in the chorus says: " Let the bells ring, Let the birds sing, Let's all give my substitute a big cheer, Let the bells ring, Let the birds sing, For the man after him waits here". One explanation is that the whole song got a bit mixed up in the translation from Dutch to English. According to the source that suggests this, the line "You were the answer of all my questions, Before we're through" is really saying, "Before we broke up (were through), you were the answer to all my questions". "That you amaze me by leaving me now, And start anew" is saying "I am shocked that you right me to start a new relationship with someone else". If that is the case, then the lines "Let's all give my substitute a big cheer ... for the man after him waits here" might well be a bit of sarcasm, meaning, "Let's give the man who is replacing me a big cheer because he is ready and waiting for me to bow out". The group's Hans Van Eijck and Peter Tetteroo established a songwriting partnership that was to cultivate some of Tee Set's most successful work. This was their first collaboration, it became a world-wide hit and sold more than six million copies. Rumour has it that Paul McCartney sang the harmony, but this seems highly unlikely as he was touring with his band Wings at the time this song was recorded. View the video online
ABC - The Jackson 5 (right)
The release of this single heralded the arrival onto the international entertainment scene of the most successful musical family ever - The Jacksons. Perhaps the most famous of the Jackson 5's songs, 'ABC' features Michael and Jermaine Jackson breaking down the game of love so that it's as easy as learning the alphabet ("A-B-C/it's easy as 1-2-3/ah, simple as do-re-mi/A-B-C/1-2-3/that's how easy love can be"). 'ABC' was written to the same design as the group's first US hit, 'I Want You Back'. The song knocked The Beatles' song 'Let It Be' out of the No.1 spot that same year. Like most of the other early Jackson 5 hits, 'ABC' was written and produced by The Corporation, a team comprised of Motown chief Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards and recorded in Los Angeles, California, away from the old Motown studio at Hitsville USA in Detroit, Michigan. View the video online
All Right Now - Free
'All Right Now' was a No.1 hit in over 20 countries and was recognised by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) in 1990 for garnering 1,000,000 plus radio plays in the US by late 1989. In 2000 an Award was given to Paul Rodgers by the British Music Industry when 'All Right Now' passed 2,000,000 plus radio plays in the UK. One of the engineers during the recording was Roy Thomas Baker, who would later become Queen's producer (he mixed 'Killer Queen', 'Bohemian Rhapsody' and 'Don't Stop Me Now', among others). View the video online
And When I Die - Blood Sweat and Tears
Blood, Sweat & Tears, formed in 1967 in New York City, fused rock, blues, pop music, horn arrangements and jazz improvisation into a hybrid that came to be known as "jazz-rock". Unlike "jazz fusion" or simply "fusion", which tended toward virtuostic displays of instrumental facility and some experimentation with electric instruments, Blood, Sweat & Tears' sound merged the varied stylings of rock, pop and R&B/soul music with big band coupled with "combo" (small ensemble) jazz. The group's self-titled second album was released in 1969. It was much more pop-oriented than previous recordings, featuring decidedly fewer compositions from within the band. It quickly hit the top of the charts and won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. The album spawned three major hit singles: a cover of Brenda Holloway's 'You've Made Me So Very Happy', Clayton-Thomas' 'Spinning Wheel', and a version of Laura Nyro's 'And When I Die'. View the video online
Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell (right)
The song's message - about the possibility of losing the things that are near and dear to us if we fail to take care of them - stuck a chord with Baby Boomers and turned this song into one of the most memorable hits of its time. Mitchell recalls: "I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart ... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song." DDT is a pesticide that was used to control mosquitoes in US swamps and coastlines from after the WWII to the 1960s. It became a popular pesticide in agriculture, and the damage it caused led to it being banned in 1972. Songs such as 'Big Yellow Taxi' increased public awareness of the dangers of DDT and turned public opinion against its use. The song has been covered by many artists, including The Neighborhood, Percy Faith, Bob Dylan, Amy Grant, Vanessa Carlton and Counting Crows. Janet Jackson sampled it in 1997 for her hit 'Got Til It's Gone'. View the video online
Black Magic Woman - Santana
Though it was a huge hit for Santana, few people know that this song is actually a cover of a 1968 Fleetwood Mac song that hit No.37 in the UK. Peter Green, who was a founding member of Fleetwood Mac, wrote the lyrics. Mick Fleetwood has called the original version, which appeared on Fleetwood Mac's first UK album, I Loved Another Woman, "Three minutes of sustain/reverb guitar with two exquisite solos from Peter." It is rumoured that the song was written by Green about a black BMW that caught his eyes. Known for his strong feelings against materialistic things, this desire might have been a problem for Green. After the Fleetwood Mac version was released, Green befriended some people who were into black magic.
In an interview with Cameron Crowe of Rolling Stone magazine, Christine McVie said these were the people who turned him on to acid, which led to Green leaving Fleetwood Mac. Carlos Santana has used many different vocalist on his albums; Greg Rolie (who later went on to form Journey) is believed to be the vocalist and keyboard player on Santana's Black Magic Woman. The 1:49 instrumental at the end is called "Gypsy Queen," and was written by Hungarian Jazz guitarist Gabor Szabo. It was omitted from the 1974 Greatest Hits album, even though radio stations usually play "Black Magic Woman" and "Gypsy Queen" as one song. View the video online
Black Night - Deep Purple (right)
In 1967, former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis and London businessman Tony Edwards set about building up a group, to be known as Roundabout. After their first few gigs on a brief tour of Denmark in the spring of 1968, the band agreed on a new name, taken from a song composed by Peter De Rose - Deep Purple, which was his grandmother's favourite song. In October 1968, the group had tremendous success in the US (but nowhere else) with a cover of Joe South's "Hush," taken from their debut album, Shades of Deep Purple. The band's second album, The Book of Taliesyn, was followed by the release of their third album, Deep Purple, a year later. Their first studio album of this period, released in mid-1970, was Deep Purple in Rock and contained the then concert staples 'Speed King', 'Into The Fire', and 'Child in Time'. The band also issued the UK Top Ten single 'Black Night'. Former session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's and Hammond organ player Jon Lord's guitar-keyboard interplay coupled with Ian Gillan's howling vocals and the solid rhythm section of Glover and Paice, now started to take on a unique identity and become instantly recognisable to rock fans throughout Europe. View the video online
Come And Get It - Badfinger (right)
"Come And Get It" was composed by Beatle Paul McCartney for the film The Magic Christian, which starrred Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. McCartney recorded a demo of the song on 24th July 1969 when he arrived early for an Abbey Road session. He sang the double-tracked lead vocal and played all the instruments; it took less than an hour to complete. He presented the demo to Badfinger (then called The Iveys) telling them, "OK, it's got to be exactly like this demo." They followed his instructions, and the single was their first hit. Although the original demo has appeared earlier on bootlegs, it wasn't until 1996 that it officially appeared on The Beatles Anthology 3-CD. It is credited as a Beatles song since it was issued under The Beatles' name. The most striking differences between the two versions is the slower tempo of McCartney's original, and Badfinger's use of three-part harmonies. View the video online
Cracklin' Rosie - Neil Diamond (right)
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Diamond was one of the more successful pop music performers, scoring a string of hits. As critic William Ruhlmann writes, "as of 2001, he claimed worldwide record sales of 115 million copies, and as of 2002 he was ranked third, behind only Elton John and Barbra Streisand, on the list of the most successful adult contemporary artists in the history of the Billboard chart." As of May 2005 he had sold 120 million records worldwide. Of this song, Diamond recalls: "The story of an Indian reservation in Canada inspired this song. On this reservation there were more men than women. On Saturday night those men right alone would buy a bottle of Crackling Rose wine, and that bottle became their woman for the night. The story struck a chord with me and resulted in one of the biggest hits of my career". The single was recorded after Diamond moved from New York to Los Angeles, where he re-launched his somewhat stalled career with "Cracklin' Rosie", "Song Sung Blue" and "Sweet Caroline". View the video online
Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is - Chicago
The band Chicago was formed when a group of DePaul University music students began playing a series of late-night jams at clubs on and off campus. They added more members, eventually growing to seven players, and went professional as a cover band called The Big Thing. The band featured an unusual and unusually versatile line-up of instrumentalists, including saxophonist Walter Parazaider, trombonist James Pankow, and trumpet player Lee Loughnane, along with more traditional rock instruments - guitarist Terry Kath, keyboardist Robert Lamm, drummer Danny Seraphine, and bassist Peter Cetera (who was the last to join the original group). While gaining some success as a cover band, the group worked on original songs and, in 1968, moved to Los Angeles under the guidance of their friend and manager James William Guercio, and signed with Columbia Records.
Upon release of their first record in early 1969, the band took a new name, Chicago Transit Authority. The band's first album, the eponymous The Chicago Transit Authority, was an audacious debut: a sprawling double album (unheard of for a rookie band) that included jazzy instrumentals, extended jams featuring Latin percussion, and experimental, feedback-laden guitar abstraction. The album received heavy airplay on the newly popular FM radio band; it included a number of pop-rock gems 'Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?', 'Beginnings', and 'Questions 67 and 68', which would later be edited to a radio-friendly length, released as singles, and eventually become rock radio staples. Soon after the album's release, the band's name was shortened to simply Chicago, when the actual Chicago Transit Authority threatened legal action. View the video online
Down on the Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival (right)
"Down on the Corner", the band's 8th single, was first released by Creedence Clearwater Revival on their 1969 album, Willy and the Poor Boys (the group's fourth album). The song chronicles the tale of the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys and how they play on street corners to cheer people up and ask for nickels. The song's writer, lead singer John Fogerty, says it is not autobiographical. The song has a washboard on it ("Rooster hits the washboard, and people just gotta smile") and it also has a gut bass ("Blinky thumbs the gut bass and he solos for a while"). In a 1969 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the band performed the song as "Willy and the Poor Boys" - Stu Cook played a gut washtub bass and Doug Clifford strummed a washboard, just as the band appears on the album cover. View the video online
Everything is Beautiful - Ray Stevens
Ray Stevens (born Harold Ray Ragsdale) is an American country music and pop singer-songwriter best known for his novelty songs. His recording career began in the mid-1950s with two singles released. Stevens often employed canned laugh tracks in his comedic novelty songs, such as 'The Streak', 'Harry the Hairy Ape', 'It's Me Again, Margaret' and others, which no doubt contributed to his success in the 60s and 70s (during a time when canned laughter was widely used to "beat up" otherwise mediocre TV sitcoms). Starting in the 1970s, Stevens became a producer and well-known studio musician on the Nashville scene. Stevens' biggest hit was his gospel-inflected single 'Everything Is Beautiful', a plea for love and tolerance during turbulent times in the US. The single won a Grammy and was the theme song for his summer 1970 TV show.
The song opens with a children's chorus singing the first two lines of a popular bible school hymn, 'Jesus Loves The Little Children'. The chorus features his two daughters and a second-grade class from Oak Hill Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee. An Ohio DJ at the time of the song's release recalls: "This was on an album with Mr Stevens' other more amusing works. These were strictly forbidden by radio station WTSO, which before the days of political talk radio, was perhaps the most middle-of-the-road radio station ever conceived. But 'Everything is Beautiful' was an ideal selection for them, and we played it incessantly. Union rules dictated that an engineer had to be present at remote broadcasts, and to play the records that were played. On one of these excursions, I, the young engineer, managed to set the needle down on the wrong track of the album, thus presenting the premiere performance of 'Guitarzan' on the biggest, straightest station in town. It boomed all over the shopping mall we were at. Nobody commented or complained. Let's hear it for the monkey!" View the video online
Fire and Rain - James Taylor (right)
James Taylor's career began in the mid-1960s, but he found his audience in the early 1970s, singing sensitive and gentle acoustic songs. He was part of a wave of singer-songwriters of the time that also included Joni Mitchell, Tom Rush, Cat Stevens, Carole King, John Denver, Elton John, Jackson Browne as well as Carly Simon, whom Taylor later married. While living in New York City as a struggling musician, Taylor became addicted to heroin. One night, after receiving a desperate phone call, his father drove to New York and "rescued" him. In 1968, Taylor moved to London. He was signed to Apple Records after sending a demo tape to Peter Asher (of Peter & Gordon) and released his debut album, James Taylor. Despite The Beatles' connection, and the presence of Paul McCartney and George Harrison on one track, the album did not sell very well, and Taylor's addiction worsened.
Moving back to the United States, Taylor checked into a hospital to treat his drug problem. By 1969 he was well enough to perform live, and had a six-night stand in Los Angeles before performing at the Newport Folk Festival. Shortly thereafter he broke both hands in a motorcycle accident on Martha's Vineyard and was forced to stop playing for several months. Once recovered, Taylor changed record labels and moved to California, keeping Peter Asher as his manager and record producer. His second album, Sweet Baby James, was a massive success, buoyed by the single 'Fire and Rain', a song about his experience in an asylum and the suicide of his friend, Suzanne Schnerr. The success of this single and the album piqued interest in Taylor's first album, James Taylor, bringing the album and the single from it, 'Carolina In My Mind', back into the charts. View the video online
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - Neil Diamond / The Hollies (right)
The title and theme for this song is derived from the motto for Boys Town, a community formed in 1917 by a Catholic priest named Father Edward Flanagan. Located in Omaha, Nebraska, it was a place where troubled or homeless boys could come for help. In 1921, there was a resident at Boys Town who had difficulty walking. He wore leg braces and the other boys would often take turns giving him a ride on their backs. There is a famous photograph of this boy and one of the other youth giving him a ride. Now there are several statues of the Two Brothers on the Home Campus in Omaha; one is the sandstone of the two brothers from the illustration, another is a bronze version by an Italian artist that was commissioned in 1977.
Father Flanagan thought the image and phrase captured the spirit of Boys Town, so he got permission and commissioned a statue of the drawing with the inscription, "He ain't heavy Father, he's my brother." The statue and phrase became the logo for Boys Town. In 1938, Spencer Tracey portrayed Father Flanagan in the movie, Boys Town, which starred Mickey Rooney. In 1941, they made a sequel called Men Of Boys Town, where the phrase "He ain't heavy, Father, he's my brother" is heard for the first time in a movie. This song was the only songwriting collaboration between veteran songwriters Bobby Scott ('A Taste of Honey') and Bobby Russell ('Little Green Apples').
Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks has said of the song: "In the 1960s when we were short of songs I used to root around publishers in Denmark Street. One afternoon, I'd been there ages and wanted to get going but this bloke said: 'Well there's one more song. It's probably not for you.' He played me the demo by the writers. It sounded like a 45rpm record played at 33rpm, the singer was slurring, like he was drunk. But it had something about it. There were frowns when I took it to the band but we speeded it up and added an orchestra. The only things right recognizable were the lyrics. Bob Russell had been dying of cancer while writing. We never got, or asked for, royalties. Elton John - who was still called Reg - played piano on it and got paid 12 pounds.
It was a worldwide hit twice." This was the second single The Hollies released after Graham Nash right the group to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash; the first was 'Sorry Suzanne'. In 1988, the song was re-released in the UK after it was also used in a Miller Beer commercial. This time, it hit No.1 in Britain. The song has been covered by many artists. It was also a hit for Neil Diamond later in 1970, and also for Olivia Newton-John in 1976. A version by Bill Medley (one of The Righteous Brothers) was used in the 1988 Sylvester Stallone movie, Rambo 3. The Osmonds recorded this and used it as the B-side of their first hit, "One Bad Apple". View the video online
Hey There Lonely Girl - Eddie Holman (right)
This song was originally written as 'Hey There Lonely Boy' and released as such by Ruby and the Romantics in 1963. While still in college, Homlan recorded his first US hit record, 'This Can't Be True' (1965). Other hits began to follow: 'Am I A Loser From The Start' (1966), 'I Love You' (1969), 'Don't Stop Now' (1970), and 'Cathy Called' (1970). After singing with such legendary Philadelphia groups as The Delfonics and The Stylistics, Holman finally struck personal gold in 1970 with this timeless love song, that would inspire Smokey Robinson to dub Holman, "The Man With The Voice Of An Angel." Holman didn't want to record the song, but did so after being pressured by his wife, who was also his producer. This was Holman's only Top 10 hit in Australia. He switched styles and moved to his own Gospel label as this was climbing the charts. Hear the song online
Hitchin' a Ride - Vanity Fare
In the summer of 1968 - approximately one hundred years after the publication of William Makepeace Thackeray's famous literary classic, Vanity Fair - the band Vanity Fare after which it was named was born. With their harmony vocals, melodic songs and a slightly different spelling to their name, they achieved great popularity when their updated version of an old Sunrays number 'I Live For The Sun' hit the charts. Flying in the face of the incoming heavier trend of the late 1960s was deemed professionally dangerous at the time, as The Beach Boys found out, but the public embraced their vocal harmony style, and a string of hits followed, giving Vanity Fare a unique place in late 60's and early 70's music history. With both 'Early in the Morning' and 'Hitchin' a Ride' achieving gold disc status, the group became established worldwide. Because of the bands association with the Hitch Hike dance craze, 'Hitchin' a Ride' achieved cult status with many US West Coast hippies fuelled by the enthusiasm of the radio DJs of the time. The band is still together and regularly performs their popular standards from the early 1970s. View the video online
Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin (right)
It was this song that rocketed Led Zeppelin to the forefront in Heavy Metal music and won them a myriad fans. The lyric, about Iceland and the heroes of Norse Mythology, has become part of Led Zeppelin lore. The line, "The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands" got many of their fans referring to Zeppelin's sound as the "Hammer of the gods." The phrase was used by author Stephen Davis as the title of a book about the band. To get permission to use this song in the movie School Of Rock, the star of the movie, Jack Black, videotaped himself singing in front of a huge crowd of people, begging for Led Zeppelin to let them use the song in the movie. They succeeded. Led Zeppelin opened their live shows with this song from 1970-1972. Moviemaker John Carpenter based his soundtrack to Assault On Precinct 13 on the bassline to this song. Led Zeppelin claim they meant for this song to be somewhat humorous, but not being known for their humour, a lot of their fans took it quite seriously. The band was very much into double-meanings, and were intentionally vague in their lyrics and artwork (the meaning of the cover of Zeppelin IV is still unclear).
Zeppelin roadie Billy Orth wrote in his book on the band that the "Land Of Ice And Snow" was Canada. He says that 'Midnight Sun' and 'Hot Springs' were two rowdy bars in Ontario (also a land of ice and snow) that John Bonham and Robert Plant were very fond of visiting. He also says the line, 'fight the hordes, sing and cry' refers to a fight John Bonham had with a bunch of Canadian Mounties, after which he and Robert Plant got up and did a bit of karaoke. Knowing the kind of person he is, it would not be beyond Page to picture the event as something more mystical by giving the lyrics a Viking theme. If that is so, that would explain why the band saw it as humorous - they are probably still laughing about it! Rumours abound that the song is about Led Zeppelin's travels and tours, comparing them to Viking warriors conquering new lands. The Viking imagery is probably because while Vikings started in Scandinavia and invaded Europe (and a couple of them went to America before Columbus did) Zep's first tour was in Scandinavia and they caught on in America before they did in Europe. According to Orth, Jimmy Page didn't play guitar on the song as he was too hung over to play properly; a local kid known only as Johnny O. was brought to play the rythm part, and that's why there's no lead guitar of any kind on the song. The awesome wail at the beginning appears to have been "borrowed" from "Bali Hai", a number from Rodgers & Hammerstein's musical, South Pacific. View the video online
Instant Karma (We All Shine On) - John Lennon (right)
Karma is the belief that your actions effect your future lives. Good deeds will have a positive effect while bad deeds bring negative consequences. The concept of Karma is popular in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, and was also part of Jesus Christ's teachings, though it was not known by that name. Lennon's idea of "Instant Karma" refers to a more immediate concept of accountability for your actions. This song, said to be directed at Paul McCartney, started the verbal war between Lennon and McCartney in the early 1970s. In this song, John says that Karma will get Paul for breaking up The Beatles, but adds that even though they will not be together they will still "all shine on" in their solo careers - 'who do you think you are? a superstar? well right you are!' This song was recorded at a time when The Beatles were about to break up and Lennon wanted Phil Spector to re-mix the Get Back/Let It Be session tracks that had been shelved since early 1969.
Lennon told Spector he would employ him to work on the album if he liked what Spector did with this song; he liked it and Spector was brought in to finish Let It Be, much to McCartney's annoyance. 'Instant Karma' was written and recorded in one day and released six days later. George Harrison played guitar, Billy Preston is on piano, John played electric piano, Klaus Voorman played bass, and Jim Keltner the drums. It is widely believed that the title of the Stephen King novel, The Shining (1977), came from the line 'We all shine on' in this song. King wanted to call the book The Shine but changed it when he realized that 'shine' was a derogatory name for black people." Stephen King is a huge music fan and makes heavy use of song lyrics in all his books. In the movie Riding the Bullet, adapted from the Stephen King short story, this song is used as a reference to an event in the movie. (Alan misses a John Lennon concert to be with his mother). View the video online
It Don't Matter to Me - Bread (right)
David Gates, Jimmy Griffin and Robb Royer formed the group Bread in 1968 and signed with Elektra Records. Bread's first single, 'Dismal Day', was released in June 1969 but did not chart. Their debut album Bread, was released in September 1969; songwriting on the album, was split evenly between Gates and the team of Griffin-Royer. Bread became a quartet with their second album, On The Waters, introducing Mike Botts as drummer. This time their efforts quickly established Bread as a major act, hitting the mainstream with the No.1 hit 'Make It With You' in 1970. For their next single, they released a re-recorded version of 'It Don't Matter to Me', a Gates song from their first album. This single was a hit as well, reaching No.10. By 1973, fatigue from constant recording and touring had set in and personal relationships began to show strain. There was also some dissatisfaction with the songs planned for a sixth album. In view of this, Bread decided to disband. Gates and Griffin then began solo careers, with mixed results. View the video online
Jam Up and Jelly Tight - Tommy Roe
Tommy Roe's first hit in the US and Australia was the self-penned song, "Sheila" in 1962. During the 1960s, he had several more top forty hits. In 1969, his song "Dizzy" went to No.1. His final Top 40 single was the Bubblegum Music hit, "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" in 1970. Although his style of music declined in popularity in the 1970s, Tommy Roe maintained a following and continued to perform at a variety of concert venues, sometimes with sixties nostalgia rock and rollers such as Freddy Cannon and Bobby Vee. Hear the song online
Joanne - Michael Nesmith & The First National Band
Michael Nesmith (right) had become a somewhat prolific writer in his teeenage years before joining The Monkees. Nesmith's 'Mary, Mary' was recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, while 'Different Drum' was recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. 'Pretty Little Princess', written in 1965, was recorded by Frankie Laine and released as a single in 1968 on ABC Records. Later, 'Some Of Shelly's Blues' and 'Propinquity (I've Just Begun To Care)' were made popular by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their album, Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy, in 1970. Many of the songs Nesmith wrote for The Monkees, such as 'The Girl I Knew Somewhere', "'Mary, Mary', and 'Listen to the Band' were hits for the band.
Nesmith left The Monkees in 1969, feeling stiffled artistically, and formed a the new band, Michael Nesmith and the First National Band; they went on to record three albums for RCA Records in 1970. Nesmith has been considered one of the pioneers of country-rock (along with Gram Parsons) and had moderate commercial success with the First National Band. Their second single, 'Joanne', and the follow-up, 'Silver Moon', were both hits. Nesmith followed up the First National Band with the Second National Band, a band that consisted largely of members of Elvis Presley's band, as well as Jose Feliciano. The album was a commercial and critical disaster, and Nesmith got more heavily involved in producing. 'Joanne' is believed to be about a cow. Hear the song online | alternate version online
Julie, Do Ya Love Me - Bobby Sherman (right)
Bobby Sherman (born Robert Cabot Sherman, Jr., 22nd July 1943, Santa Monica, California) became a very popular teen idol in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He first became famous as a house singer on the US television series Shindig! from 1964 to 1966. For several years, he tried to record singles and break into the music industry, but he did not have much luck until he earned a role as a bashful, stammering logger on the television series, Here Come the Brides. In 1969, the single, 'Little Woman' was a hit in the US and cemented his status as a performer popular with teenage girls. His other hits were 'Julie (Do Ya Love Me)', 'Easy Come, Easy Go', 'Jennifer', 'La La La' and 'The Drum' (written by Alan O'Day). In 1974, Sherman focused more on his personal life, eventually leaving the public spotlight. He is today a full-fledged San Bernardino County sheriff. Sherman built a one-fifth scale model of Disneyland's Main Street, made entirely by hand in his yard at home. View the video online
Leaving on a Jet Plane - Peter, Paul & Mary (right)
This was written by a very young John Denver, who was then a member of the Chad Mitchell Trio before beginning his solo career in the 1970s. Denver wrote it in 1967 during a lay-over at Washington airport, "Not so much from feeling that way for someone, but from the longing of having someone to love". The Chad Mitchell Trio recorded it that year, as did Spanky & Our Gang. It only became a hit when PP&M covered the song again two years later. It became their biggest hit, and also their last as the group members had gone their separate ways by the end of the year. View the video online
Let's Work Together - Canned Heat
Canned Heat was a blues-rock/boogie band that formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The importance of the group lies not only with their blues-based music, but with their efforts to reintroduce and revive the careers of some of the great old bluesmen, and their improvisational abilities. Canned Heat took their name from Tommy Johnson's 1928 'Canned Heat Blues', a song about an alcoholic who has desperately turned to drinking Sterno, which is generically called canned heat. Their biggest hit, 'Goin' Up the Country', is a song built around Henry 'Ragtime Texas' Thomas' reed fife riff from the late 1920s recording, 'Bull Doze Blues' (often mis-cited as 'Bulldozer Blues'). They sang the song at the Woodstock Music Festival.
The band brought in John Lee Hooker to record the double album, Hooker 'N' Heat, in May 1970. This was to be the first album of Hooker's career to make the charts. Unfortunately, group leader Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson (guitar, harmonica, vocals) died of a drug overdose in an apparent suicide, in September 1970 prior to the album's release. Autopsy results were inconclusive and as he right no suicide note, controversy remains over his death. The group's only other hit was this cover of Wilbert Harrison's 'Let's Work Together', lifted from the Hooker 'N' Heat album. This was a slightly modified re-cut of Harrison's 1962 single 'Let's Stick Together'. This, in turn, was later a hit for Bryan Ferry. View the video online
Little Green Bag - George Baker Selection
In 1967, George Baker joined the Dutch band, Soul Invention. Later, this band changed its name to George Baker Selection. Their debut single 'Little Green Bag' was lifted from their first album, Little Green Bag. By 1972 the band had sold over 5 million records. Their fifth album, Paloma Blanca, was released in 1975, and the single 'Una Paloma Blanca' reached No.1 position in the charts in several countries. In 1978 the George Baker Selection split up because "the pressure had become too high". The band has sold over 20 million records worldwide. George Baker formed a new George Baker Selection in 1985, which stayed together until 1989. View the video online
Lonely Days - The Bee Gees (right)
In 1967, the single 'Massachusetts' had launched the trio into stardom, followed shortly by 'Words'. 1968 saw the release of two albums, Horizontal and Idea. The latter contained two more hits, 'I've Gotta Get a Message to You' and 'I Started a Joke'. The Bee Gees' next release was Odessa, a dense and complex album with orchestral accompaniment. By this time, Barry and Robin were increasingly at odds about the creative direction of the group. Once Robert Stigwood made clear that he preferred to promote Barry as the act's leader, Robin right.
He and Maurice would not even speak to each other for a year. Barry and Maurice released an LP as a duo, Cucumber Castle (the soundtrack to a television special), which contained the hit 'Don't Forget to Remember'. Meanwhile, Robin released a solo album, Robin's Reign, which included his No.2 hit, 'Saved by the Bell'. The three brothers reunited in 1970, their feelings about the split perhaps reflected in many songs about heartache and loneliness. Although they had lost traction on the British charts, 'Lonely Days' (from the reunion LP 2 Years On), 'Run to Me' (from the LP To Whom It May Concern) and their first U.S. No. 1 hit, 'How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?', kept them in the Australian singles charts. View the video online
Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma - The New Seekers (right)
The New Seekers were a British/German pop group, formed in 1969 by Keith Potger after the break-up of his group, The Seekers. The idea was that the New Seekers would appeal to the same market as the original Seekers, but their music had rock as well as folk influences. The most familiar line-up included Eve Graham, Lyn Paul, Marty Kristian, Peter Doyle and Paul Layton. In addition to having several big hits, the group represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest 1972. The group's hit singles 'Beautiful People' and 'The Nickel Song', like their second single, 'Look What They've Done To My Song, Ma', were written by Melanie Safka. View the video online
Mama Told Me (Not to Come) - Three Dog Night (right)
This song was written by Randy Newman, the son of Academy Award-winning composer Lionel Newman. It is about the bad karma / paranoia that can arise from attending the wrong parties with the wrong people while on the wrong substances. It ostensibly warned against drug use but whose appeal ironically stemmed largely from exploiting the intrigue and curiousity surrounding drugs in the young audience of the day. The song has the distinction of being the very first No.1 hit on the syndicated radio program, American Top 40. The show, hosted by Casey Kasem, became popular on AM radio throughout the world until its decline in the mid-1990s. This song deprived The Beatles' 'The Long and Winding Road' and Elvis Presley's 'The Wonder of You' of top of the charts honours in early August, 1970. Donna Summer sang backing vocals. Tom Jones and Stereophonics' version of the song revived Jones' career in 1999 when it went to No.4. View the video online
Mississippi - John Phillips
This song was written and performed by the man popularly known as Papa John, a member and leader of the singing group The Mamas & the Papas. He is the father of Wilson Phillips' singer, Chynna Phillips. The song, about chatting up a pretty girl in New Orleans, was released after the group's break-up and was Phillips' first and only successful single as a solo artist. The single was lifted from his first solo album, Wolking of L.A.. The album was not commercially successful, and Phillips began to withdraw from the limelight as his use of narcotics increased and creativity as a songwriter decreased. His only other creative success was 'Kokomo' (a term used euphemistically for cocaine in the 1960s), which he co-wrote a song for The Beach Boys, and which became a No.1 hit in 1988. In the 1990s, his years of addiction took hold; he received a liver transplant in 1992, but that did not stop his drug and acohol abuse. He died on 18th March 2001, aged 65, in Los Angeles of heart failure. Hear the song online
Mr. Bojangles - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (right)
Written by Jerry Jeff Walker and covered since by many other artists, 'Mr. Bojangles' is about an obscure alcoholic but talented tap dancing drifter (not the famous stage and movie dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, as is sometimes assumed). Bojangles is thought to have been a folk character who entertained informally in the south of the US and California, and some say he might have been one of the most gifted natural dancers ever. His actual name is not recorded. Authentic reports of him exist from the 1920s through about 1965. Artists as diverse as Dave Jarvis, Chet Atkins, Frank Sinatra, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Arlo Guthrie, Nina Simone, John Denver, David Bromberg, Neil Diamond, Sammy Davis, Jr., Tom T. Hall, John Holt, Robbie Williams, David Campbell, Coulson Smith, Josh MacAulay, Jamie Cullum, Ray Quinn and Edwyn Collins have all covered the song. Further, the character is mentioned in Philip Glass's opera, Einstein on the Beach.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is an American country-folk-rock band that has existed in various forms since its founding in California in 1966. The group's membership has had at least a dozen iterations over the years, including a period between Dirt, Silver & Gold (1976) and Let's Go (1983) when the band performed and recorded as The Dirt Band. Prior to major success, the band made a cameo appearance in the 1969 film Paint Your Wagon, leading a lively bluegrass-like song titled, "Hand Me Down That Can of Beans". By 1980, the band (during the period when they were known simply as The Dirt Band) had two hit singles: "An American Dream" (with Linda Ronstadt) and "Make a Little Magic" (with Nicolette Larson). View the video online
My Baby Loves Lovin' - White Plains
White Plains was a manufactured one-hit-wonder British pop music group that existed from 1969 to 1976. The band's songs were mainly produced and written by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook. 'My Baby Loves Lovin'', which was recorded on 26th October 1969, and released in January 1970, was followed a year later by 'When You Are A King' (No. 13 in the UK). The group, formed out of the late 1960s pop/psychedelic band The Flower Pot Men, kept changing their line-up during its relatively short existence. Tony Burrows, who sang on most of the group's charting hits, was the band's original lead singer. View the video online
Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye - Steam
An unlikely number one song for a single that was intended to be a B-side. It was composed by a team of 12 studio musicians who worked for Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Fruesco as staff songwriters of Buddah records in the late 70's. Written in one session with the intent of being as bad a song as possible; they "drummed" on the table and pots and pans rather than use a drum kit for the recording. The song evolved one afternoon when they had got together to record a B-side for De Carlo's "better songs." With no idea as to what that song might be, they used part of an old song Frashuer and Leka had written eight years previously called 'Kiss Him Goodbye' and slapped on a chorus without words, just "Na na" with an occasional "Hey, hey". There was no band, just the three of them with a spliced up drum track.
When Mercury Records wanted to release the song as an A-side, De Carlo, Leka and Frashuer didn't want their names associated with it. Leka remembered that they had seen steam rising out of a manhole cover after emerging from the recording session, and decided to use the incident as though it were the artist's name. When it topped the charts, Leka put together a band called Steam and sent them out on tour in support of the song. After the tour the band disbanded. Ironically, De Carlo's other songs released under his own name flopped while this song went to No.1. He was so dismayed that he refused to record anymore Steam records. Leka was never a member of any bands during that period, but as part of Buddah Records, was directly responsible for the Bubble Gum sounds with such bands as the Lemon Pipers ('Green Tamourine'), The Archies (who was actually Rupert Holmes of 'Pina Colada Song' fame), and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Paul was also later directly responsible for the legendary Harry Chapin. View the video online
No Matter What - Badfinger (right)
Recorded by Badfinger for their album, No Dice (1970), this song was written by lead singer Peter Ham and produced by Geoff Emerick. It was the first self-penned hit single by Badfinger, one of the early signings of The Beatles' Apple recording label, but under the name, The Iveys. The song is notable for being one of the first successful records associated with what was known as the Power Pop sound, utilising all of the elements attributed to the genre. A subsequent single released by Badfinger, 'Baby Blue', along with several album tracks in a similar vein, succeeded in categorizing the band themselves as "Power Pop".
As a demo, 'No Matter What' was originally recorded by Ham on acoustic guitar and performed with a mambo beat. A rough rockier version of the song was recorded by Badfinger in March 1970 and produced by Mal Evans. The song was recorded again by the band in April 1970 at Abbey Road Studios and it was this version that would appear on the album and single. Although the song and recording was a favourite of Badfinger's shortly after it was recorded, the hierarchy at Apple reportedly was not inclined to release it in any format. It wasn't until Al Steckler, the American director of Apple in New York, heard the tape in the summer of 1970 and considered it had sales potential, that it was slotted for the upcoming LP and as a single release. View the video online
Our House - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Graham Nash wrote this sentimental tune about his cohabitation with Joni Mitchell in a cottage in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon around 1969. Mitchell and Nash were a romantic couple during the period in which Joni wrote the songs for her Ladies Of The Canyon album which, like Deja Vu, was released in 1970. The song creates images of a utopian fantasy - a loving relationship, a nice home, and overall stability. This sets it apart from other CSNY songs, which are often about the hippie era, counter-culture, and searching for oneself. View the video online
Paranoid - Black Sabbath (right)
The first Black Sabbath single, it was released six months after their first album. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler recalls: "A lot of the Paranoid album was written around the time of our first album. We recorded the whole thing in about 2 or 3 days, live in the studio. The Song 'Paranoid' was written as an afterthought. We basically needed a 3 minute filler for the album, and Tony came up with the riff. I quickly did the lyrics, and Ozzy (Osbourne) was reading them as he was singing." This song, about a man who is paranoid, became the title track to the second Sabbath album.
Geezer claims that, when writing this song, he did not even no what paranoid meant. He said people were always calling him paranoid so he took a wild guess. The word "Paranoid" is never mentioned in the lyrics. The main Riff is said to be lifted from the beginning of Led Zeppelin's 'Dazed and Confused'; Black Sabbath we're greatly Influenced by Zeppelin. Black Sabbath waited two years before releasing another single, "Iron Man" as they did not want to become a singles band, with fans coming to their shows just to hear their hits. This also ensured that fans would buy the albums. View the video online
Rubber Duckie - Ernie (Jim Henson)
Ernie, the puppet performer of this novelty song and surprise hit of 1970, is a fictional character on PBS' long-running children's television show, Sesame Street. He and Bert form a comic duo that is one of the program's centerpieces, with Ernie acting the role of the naïve trouble-maker and Bert the world-weary foil. Ernie is well known for his fondness for baths with his rubber duck and for trying to learn to play the saxophone because he would not "put down the duckie." The Rubber Duckie song came from a segment on the show that was requested for replay so often, the show's producers decided to release the song as a single. Ernie was originally performed by Jim Henson. Vocally, Ernie strongly resembles one of Henson's other character creations, Kermit the Frog. Since Henson's untimely death in 1990, Ernie has been performed by Muppeteer Steve Whitmire. View the video online
Groupie (Superstar) - Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett
Accounts of the origin of Groupie (Superstar) vary somewhat, but the song grew out of the late 1969/early 1970 nexus of English and American musicians known as Delaney, Bonnie, & Friends that involved Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Rita Coolidge, and various others. Husband-and-wife duo Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (nee Sheridan) were among the foremost proponents of blue-eyed soul in the 1960s and '70s. They're famous for luring Eric Clapton into their midst and influencing the direction of his solo work, but their own legacy stands up well beyond that. They operated at a time when the boundaries of music were bursting open, and their sound is an organic mix of rock, blues, soul, gospel, and country which made for timeless songs and memorable performances.
The song's working title during portions of its development was "Groupie Song". In its first recorded incarnation, the song was called "Groupie (Superstar)", and was recorded and released as the B-Side to the Delaney & Bonnie single "Comin' Home". The full performance credit on the single was to Delaney & Bonnie and Friends Featuring Eric Clapton, Leon Ruseell wrote it. Sung by Bonnie, the arrangement featured slow guitar and bass parts building up to an almost gospelish chorus using horns. The song featured Leon Russell on keyboards, Eric Clapton on guitar and Rita Coolidge doing background vocals.
Some accounts have Coolidge suggesting or inspiring the song's creation in the first place, and working with Bonnie Bramlett on her portion of the writing. Coolidge would later go on to sing the song in Joe Cocker's live concert shows and would record it for Cocker's live Mad Dogs and Englishmen album. The song was about, as the title suggests, a groupie who holds a strong love for a rock star after a short sexual involvement. He has moved on to the next town, and despite his promises to see her again she can now only hear him on the radio. It was a point of conjecture for many years who the rock star the "groupie" is longing for; it was in fact Eric Clapton. Delaney & Bonnie were not yet well known at the time outside of their native America, and the single gave them much needed exposure. Many artists have recorded the song with varying success, the version by The Carpenters is perhaps the most well known. It was never released as a single but it got a lot of airplay, because it was the title track of their 1972 album. View the video online
Shilo - Neil Diamond
Neil Leslie Diamond was born and reared in New York City, growing up in the borough of Brooklyn, New York in the US. Inspired by folk artist Pete Seeger, he learned to play guitar after receiving one as a gift on his 16th birthday. Diamond was awarded a fencing scholarship to New York University, and was a pre-med student, interested in biology, but dropped out with less than a year right, both due to his dislike of organic chemistry and to pursue a career in music. Diamond's first recording contract was in 1960 with the Duel Records label, as "Neil and Jack," an Everly Brothers type duo, with a high school friend, Jack Packer. Their recordings did not sell, so Diamond went back to writing songs on an upright piano.
At some point during this time, Neil considered changing his name to Noah Kaminsky. This song, written by Diamond as a teen, was recorded in 1967 but stayed unreleased for three years. It is still one of the artist's most requested songs at his concerts. It is commonly believed to be about his childhood companion, a dog, but an interview with the singer indicates it is perhaps about an imaginary friend during years of loneliness as a child: "This song was my first attempt at creating a fantasy life in a song, that is. "Shilo" is a feast for psychological interpretation and also the song that ended my relationship with Bang Records, who did not see this as in the Neil Diamond hit mode (whatever that might be). Shilo wasn't a huge hit but has lasted as one of my audience's favourite for almost thirty years. Maybe the audience senses that it really is me talking". View the video online
Solitary Man - Neil Diamond (right)
Neil Diamond spent his early career as a writer in the Brill Building, and had an early success writing the songs "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," which were recorded by the Monkees. There is a popular misconception that Diamond wrote and composed these songs specifically for the "Pre-Fab Four." In reality, Diamond had written, composed, and recorded these songs for release himself, but the cover versions were released before his own. The unintended, but happy, consequence of this was that Diamond began to gain fame not only as a singer and performer, but also as a songwriter. Diamond then signed a deal as a solo artist in 1966. "Solitary Man" was his first hit on the music charts, and Diamond followed it with "Kentucky Woman," "Cherry Cherry" and other hits.
Diamond's Bang recordings were produced by legendary Brill Building songwriters Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, both of whom can be heard singing backgrounds on many of the tracks. Of the song, Diamond recalls: "Solitary man was written in my house in Massapequa, Long Island and was inspired by the minor-key of The Beatles' song 'Michelle', which I loved. 'Solitary Man' convinced me I'd always been this quiet introverted kid. Then one of my fellow 6th grade graduates came backstage recently and showed me our 6th grade graduation book. I was shocked to be reminded that I had been voted Most Cheerful. That totally shook my whole concept of what I was like as a child. I thought I was a loner and it turns out I was probably a cheerleader. On the other hand, 'Cheerful Man' wouldn't have sounded as good." The single was first recorded and released in 1966 but received little airplay and sold few copies. It was rerecorded in 1970 during a high point in Diamond's early career and became a No.1 hit second time around. View the video online
Take a Letter Maria - R.B. Greaves
R.B. Greaves (born Ronald Bertram Aloysius Greaves III, in November 1944 in Georgetown, Guyana) is a nephew of Sam Cooke, who grew up on an Indian reservation, but moved to England in 1963. Greaves had built a career both in the Caribbean and in Great Britain, where he performed under the name Sonny Childs with his group The TNTs. His biggest hit, "Take a Letter Maria", had been recorded by both Tom Jones and Stevie Wonder before the author recorded it himself at the insistence of Atlantic Records president Ahmet Ertegün, who produced it. Greaves recorded a series of cover records as follow-ups, including Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me", James Taylor's "Fire And Rain" and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale". All charted in the US and Europe, as did his self-titled 1970 album. View the video online
Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (right)
Graham Nash wrote this CSNY classic in which he expresses his thoughts on the often difficult relationship he had with his father, who spent time in prison. Jerry Garcia performs the memorable pedal steel guitar part of this track. He had been playing steel guitar for only a short period of time. Garcia played on this album in exchange for harmony lessons for the Grateful Dead, who were at the time recording their acoustic albums Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. This song appeared on the first album the band recorded with Neil Young, Deja Vu, however Young did not play or sing on this song as it had already been recorded when he joined them. It was just climbing the charts when the Kent State shootings occurred in May 1971. The band apparently withdrew it in order to rush release Neil Young's scathing "Ohio" about the incident, thus depriving "Teach Your Children" its natural chart ascendancy in the US. View the video online
Temma Harbour - Mary Hopkin (right)
Released as the follow-up to "Goodbye", "Temma Harbour" became Hopkin's third top 10 hit. Strangely enough, this catchy and sunny flavoured song was released in Holland in March, a month when the warmth of summer was not a hot item. Due to this early release of the song, it did not appeal to many record buyers and as a result the record did not do well there despite its massive airplay; Mary never liked it either. The B-side of the single featured a different side to Mary Hopkin. The song - "Lontano d'agli Occhi" - was recorded in Italian and not Welsh as many believe. Its South European atmosphere was well caught in this beautiful ballad. Hopkin participated with this song at the San Remo Festival in 1969. It was released as Mary's immediate follow-up to "Those Were The Days" in Brazil and parts of Europe. "Prince En Avignon", sung in French and only put out in France, appeared around the same time, and both singles share the same B-side, George Martin's "The Game". Temma Harbour is an isolated bay on the west coast of Tasmania. Why the song was named after the bay is not known. Hear the song online
Tennessee Bird Walk - Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan
Born in Buffalo, New York, Misty Morgan was a piano prodigy who entered professional music in pop combos in the 1960s. In 1967 she married Jack, an off-center songwriter, and they teamed up in Florida to perform jazz, rock, Dixieland, or anything else it took to put bread on the table. Misty hooked up all kinds of electronic devices to her piano, so the two never really needed more band members. Jack and Misty developed a quirky "stoned" sound, once described as "something like Sonny and Cher lost in a poppy field in South Carolina". When the wacky "Tennessee Birdwalk" topped the country charts in 1970, Misty became the first woman in country music to have co-produced a No.1 hit. The twosome followed this with the equally kooky "Humphrey The Camel," "Fire Hydrant No.79," and "The Legendary Chicken Fairy". View the video online
The Long and Winding Road - The Beatles (right)
One of the last Beatles songs to chart and one of only two (the other was 'Let It Be') to contain female voices (courtesy of producer Phil Spector), who seems to have forgotten he was producing The Beatles and not The Ronnettes here. The Beatles had recorded this song in January 1969 as part of what would eventually be their final album, Let It Be. By 1970, the band was breaking up and and Spector was brought in on John Lennon's invitation to go through the tapes and produce an album. Known for his "Wall Of Sound" recording technique, Spector added many instruments to the recordings The Beatles had put down, layered the tracks to create a fuller sound, and took out most of The Beatles instruments, added a string section and choir.
The result was very different from what the group originally had in mind. Even though he wrote this song, Paul McCartney didn't attend the sessions in which Spector produced it. When he heard the results, McCartney made it clear that he hated what Spector had done to his song, and tried unsuccessfully to get the original version, which was mixed by engineer Glyn Johns, onto the album. His efforts caused further turmoil within the group; Paul never changed his stance over the years, and still believes Spector butchered the song, as many Beatles fans do, myself included. In 2003, Apple Records released a new version of the album called Let It Be ... Naked, with Spector's production removed. For this, the previously unreleased take by The Beatles was used. This was the only Beatles song where John Lennon played bass.
He was ordinarily their rhythm guitarist. Harrison and Ringo had their parts removed by Phil Spector, so they don't appear on the original version at all. In 1968, this song had been offered to Tom Jones on the condition it be his next single. He already had "Delilah" set for release so he turned down the offer, something he would later regret. Paul McCartney used this song to write about the tensions within the band prior to its brerak-up. The road McCartney is talking about is the B842 which runs down the east coast of Kintyre and on into Campbeltown near his Scottish farmhouse.
Recalls McCartney: "I just sat down at my piano in Scotland, started playing and came up with that song, imagining it was going to be done by someone like Ray Charles. I have always found inspiration in the calm beauty of Scotland and again it proved the place where I found inspiration." 'The Long and Winding Road' is one of only a handful of Beatles songs to feature lead vocals that are not "spot on", however many fans believe it is Paul's off key vocal that makes this one of the most powerful of all Beatles songs, showing true emotion. It has been said that, after Paul wrote the song, he played a demo for John. The demo caused John to sink into a state of depression because he felt it was the perfect song, better than anything he was capable of writing. He feared that this would be the song people remember when they thought of The Beatles years later, which was obviously very difficult for him to accept. View the video online
The Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
When "Tracks of My Tears" was a hit for Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in the UK, management looked for a song with a similar theme for a follow-up. Since no new Miracles' product was scheduled to arrive from the USA, they opted for "Tears of a Clown", which became the group's only No.1 hit. Stevie Wonder came up with the idea for the song. He gave Robinson a demo of it at the 1967 Motown Christmas party. Robinson thought it sounded like a circus, and came up with the lyrics based on the clown. A variety of instruments, including a bassoon, were used to create the circus sound. Smokey Robinson based the song's theme on the Italian opera, Pagliacci, which is about a clown who must make the audience laugh while he weeps behind his makeup because his wife betrayed him. In the last verse, Robinson sings: "Just like Pagliacci did, I try to keep my surface hid." It was the group's only No.1 hit. These lyrics are also in the 1964 song called "My Smile Is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down)" written partly by Smokey Robinson, sung by Motown Artist Carolyn Crawford. That song has similar meaning. View the video online
United We Stand - Brotherhood of Man (right)
Impressed by the success of the US based The 5th Dimension in the late 1960s, British songwriter Tony Hiller rounded up a batch of renowned session musicians and four compatible singers, including the ubiquitous Tony Burrows, abd established an act capable of delivering goods of similar quality; many of their songs would come from his own pen. The artists were listed as Brotherhood Of Man, and from the end of August 1969 the songs they had recorded were progressively released.
After two releases were hits, they recorded four further songs, the biggest of which was "United We Stand". Two more hits followed, but as changing public tastes saw The 5th Dimension's popularity on the decline by 1973, so the Brotherhood of Man seemed to be heading into oblivion. The Swedish quartet ABBA's win in the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with "Waterloo" set Hiller's ever-active mind to ponder a change of direction for his brainchild. The Brotherhood Of Man switched their emphasis towards pure pop, ultimately settling on a regular line-up of Sandra and Nicky Stevens, Martin Lee and former Deram solo artist Lee Sheriden. On 3rd April 1976 they romped away with an Eurovision win themselves, representing the United Kingdom with "Save Your Kisses For Me". It went on to sell millions worldwide and paved the way for numerous further triumphs in their home country. View the video online
We've Only Just Begun - The Carpenters (right)
This huge - and first - hit for the brother and sister duo, The Carpenters, started out as a bank commercial. Paul Williams was commissioned by an advertising agency to write it in 1968 for Crocker Bank, which was trying to attract young people and newlyweds to their institution. Williams retained the rights to the song, so after it was used in the commercial, he sold it to the Carpenters' record company. After this, Williams wrote some other very popular songs, including "Rainy Days and Mondays", "Let Me Be the One" and "I Won't Last A Day Without You" for The Carpenters, "Just An Old Fashioned Love Song" for Three Dog Night, "You And Me Against The World" for Helen Reddy, "Evergreen" (Barbra Streisand) for the movie A Star Is Born, and "Rainbow Connection" for The Muppet Movie. View the video online
Woodstock - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Joni Mitchell wrote this song is about the famous music festival in 1969 after hearing the group talk about their experience there. Mitchell did not attend the festival (she was scheduled to perform, but couldn't make it), but Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young did, playing an acoustic set followed by an electric set. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's performance at Woodstock was only their third gig together. Before forming the band, Crosby had been a member of The Byrds, Nash was with The Hollies, Stills and Young were members of Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young played with the group for only part of the set. CSN is one of the only groups to play the original Woodstock and return to play Woodstock '94. According to two biographies, the reason Joni Mitchell had "transportation problems" keeping her from Max Yasgur's farm was that James Taylor was supposed to give her a lift. Taylor was in a bad motorcycle accident on Martha's Vineyard, breaking both arms and keeping him out from behind the wheel and away from the guitar for months. Joni Mitchell released her version of the song as the B-side to "Big Yellow Taxi." View the video online
Your Song - Elton John (right)
Though not his first single, this was Elton's first single to chart. It was on his second album, but the single did not come out until 7 months later, when it was released to promote his tour. Elton released his third album, Tumbleweed Connection, before the single came out. This was one of the first songs John wrote with Bernie Taupin. They met after a record company gave John some of Taupin's lyrics to work with. Eventually, they both moved into John's parents' house, where they started working together. The words was written in 1967 when Taupin was 17. He wrote them over breakfast; Elton wrote the music in about 20 minutes, as he often did with Taupin's lyrics in their early days.
This song helped alter the music landscape in the early '70s. Elton appeared on US TV for the first time performing this on The Andy Williams Show. He was shy and dressed very plain, which changed a few years later when he became known for his outrageous costumes and flamboyant personality. Elton's song "We All Fall In Love Sometimes" is about the writing of this song. After hearing "Your Song", John Lennon said Elton was "The first new thing that's happened since we (The Beatles) happened." They ended up becoming good friends. Of the song, Elton says: "I don't think I've written a love song as good since." It was originally released as the B-side of "Take Me To The Pilot". In an interview, Elton has said he is still embarassed by his lame piano playing on the studio version of this song, describing it as "pedestrian". View the video online