Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Song facts (The Beatles)

‘Cry baby cry’
The lyrics were inspired by nursery rhymes and the songs Donovan was writing: Donovan's songs were "fairy tale" like. Donovan states, "I think the eventual imagery was suggested by my own songs of fairy tales. We had become very close in exchanging musical vibes." The song was based in part by two nursery rhymes, "Sing A Song Of Sixpence" and "Cry, baby, cry...stick a finger in your eye...etc."

John Lennon said he got the title for the song from an advertisement. The original line from that advertisement was, "Cry, baby cry. Make your mother buy." John told Hunter Davies (the Beatles official biographer) "I've got another (song) here, a few words, I think I got them from an advert - 'Cry baby cry, Make your mother buy.' I've been playing it over on the piano. I've let it go now. It'll come back if I really want it."

At the very end of the song, there is a conversation between George Martin and Alistair Taylor. Here is what's said:
Alistair Taylor: "bottle of claret for you if I'd realized. I'd forgotten all about it George, I'm sorry..."
George Martin: "Well, do next time"
Alistair: "Will you forgive me"?
George: "Mmmm...yes..."
Alistair: "cheeky bitch."

This is one of the songs begun in Rishikesh, India when the Beatles were staying with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

In the song, John mentions the "Duchess of Kircaldy." Kircaldy is in Fife, Scotland and when he was young, Kircaldy was a stop that John always made when in route to visit his relations in Durness. The Beatles also performed in Kircaldy in their early years.

‘Because’
John Lennon got the idea for this song when he heard Yoko to playing Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. He asked her to play it backwards, and came up with "Because" based on what he heard. John said, "I was lying on the sofa in our house, listening to Yoko play Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on the piano. Suddenly, I said 'Can you play those chords backward?' She did, and I wrote 'Because' around them. The song sounds like 'Moonlight Sonata,' too. The lyrics are clear, no bulls--t, no imagery, no obscure references."

The vocals are a 3-part harmony by Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison that was overdubbed twice, creating a 9-part harmony. This is the only Beatles song with three singers throughout.

Lennon said the arrangement was terrible, but McCartney and Harrison felt this was the best track on Abbey Road.

This was the first use of a Moog synthesizer on any recording. Harrison had the instrument specially made, and did his best to figure it out.
The 2006 Love album, which is a soundtrack to the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show of the same name, features an a capella version of this song. The album contains 26 tracks which are made up of 130 separate recordings - some are just a chord or two, and some tracks are superimposed on other tracks.

‘For no one’
Paul McCartney wrote this song sitting in a chalet while on holiday with his girlfriend Jane Asher in Klosters, Switzerland, March of 1966. The working title was "Why Did It Die," and there is speculation that McCartney wrote the song about Asher, who was a successful London actress.

The theory is that Paul wanted her to cater to his schedule, tour with him, and be the "perfect Beatle wife," but Jane had a life and career of her own, hence the "She doesn't need you" lyrics. Paul has never said it was about Jane specifically, however he did say, "I guess there had been an argument. I never have easy relationships with women." He knew what he was getting into when he got involved with Jane, and being that the song was written in 1966 and they didn't break up until 1968, it's likely that if the song was about Jane, it wasn't a serious argument.

When he heard the title, Alan Civil, who played the French Horn on this track, thought it was an orchestral piece called "For No. One"

This was recorded on May 9, 16 and 19, 1966 by only two Beatles - Paul singing and playing the keyboard and bass, and Ringo on percussion.

Maureen McGovern recorded this and "Things We Said Today" as a 2-song medley for her 1992 album Baby I'm Yours.

McCartney used this in his 1984 movie Give My Regards to Broad Street.

Revolver was the last Beatles album to have different US and UK versions. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers voted it the greatest album of all time. The album cover was created by artist Klaus Voormann, who became friends with the band when they were playing clubs in Hamburg, Germany in the early '60s.

‘Good day sunshine’
Paul McCartney wrote this on a sunny day at John Lennon's house. It was influenced by the Lovin' Spoonful, who had a happy hit with "Do You Believe In Magic?"

The actual Lovin' Spoonful hit which inspired this song was "Daydream," a famously carefree, upbeat tune. McCartney confided in interviews that it was intended to evoke "the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel" and that "Good Day Sunshine" was Paul's effort to write something in the same spirit.

The song was recorded over two days, with the first day being the bass, piano, and drums picked best out of three takes, then the lead vocals (Paul, George, and John) dubbed over that. On day two, Ringo added more drums, producer George Martin added the piano solo on a tape recorder running a step slower so it would sound sped-up, and more harmonies and hand claps were added.

An early use of stereo, the chorus bounces between the left and right channels at the fade.

Covers for this song include Claudine Longet, who charted with it in 1967 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and the Scottish singer Lulu on her 1970 album Melody Fair. McCartney himself also rerecorded it for his 1984 film Give My Regards to Broad Street.

Rolling Stone ranks Revolver at #3 on its 2003 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time," second only to the Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. "Good Day Sunshine" received a lot of praise individually from critics, even out of all that.

This song is a popular pick for the wake-up music on space station missions. In November 2005, McCartney himself played it live to the crew of the ISS. Guess you might as well have a sunny, happy number to start your day when you're crammed into living space the size of a bus surrounded by infinite vacuum.

Ringo can be heard to mutter something here on the final verse, right after Paul's "she feels good" line.

‘Why don’t we do it in the road?’
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr recorded this without the other Beatles. It was one of the first Beatles songs recorded without the whole group present, something they would do more often as their relationships deteriorated.

John Lennon said this was one of Paul's best songs. He may have been joking.

This contains only 2 lines of lyrics, and they are probably about sexual tension.

Apparently, McCartney got the idea for this while he was watching a pair of monkeys conducting business: "I was up on a flat roof meditating and I'd see a troupe of monkeys walking along and the male just hopped onto her back and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again, and looked around as if to say, 'it wasn't me,' and she looked around as if there had been some kind of mild disturbance but thought, huh, I must have imagined it. And I thought, bloody hell, that puts it all into a cocked hat, that's how simple the act of procreation is, this bloody monkey just hopping on and off. There is an urge, they do it, and it's done with. It's that simple." McCartney was in India at the time.

This was a very John Lennon kind of song, John was very upset Paul did not include him in the recording of this.

‘It’s only love’
John Lennon once said this was the only song he wrote that he truly hated. Lennon told British journalist Ray Connolly: "It's the most embarrassing song I ever wrote. Everything rhymed. Disgusting lyrics. Even then I was so ashamed of the lyrics, I could hardly sing them. That was one song I really wished I'd never written."

An instrumental version was recorded by George Martin and his orchestra. Martin was The Beatles producer.

The original title was "That's a Nice Hat (Cap)."

George Harrison used a tone pedal on this track to produce an unusual guitar sound.

‘Julia’
John Lennon dedicated this song to Yoko and to his mother Julia, who was struck and killed by a car driven by an off-duty police officer on July 15, 1958, when John was 17. Lennon was raised mostly by Julia's sister Mimi, but starting to see more of his mother at the time of her death.

One of five daughters, nicknamed Judy by the family, Julia met Alf Lennon at the age of 14 while she was working as a cinema usher. Ten years later they married. Julia gave birth to John after 30 hours of labor, and Alf went AWOL when he jumped ship - neither the Navy nor Julia knew of his whereabouts. He later returned but Julia refused to reconcile. She was involved in a couple other relationships; John went to live with his aunt Mimi because Julia could not provide a sound home for the boy.

When John was in is early teens he visited Julia often, and she taught him to play the banjo. John would frequently stay over at Julia's house, and in 1958 Julia was hit and killed by the off duty police officer as she walked home from Mimi's house. John named his first son Julian after her.

Lennon recorded this by himself. He did it completely live with an acoustic guitar and occasional overdubs on the vocals. It is the only song he did completely on his own during his time with The Beatles.

Psychedelic singer Donovan Leitch taught Lennon the fingerpicking guitar style he used on this track. Donovan was with The Beatles in India at the Maharishi's camp in Rishikesh, India in February 1968. When Lennon was in Rishikesh, one of the biggest revelations he had was truly opening up (to himself) regarding the feelings he had for his mother, Julia. In leaning the finger-picking method, it did allow John to dig deeper into his emotions. To quote Donovan: "Learning a new style meant composing in a different way. In his deep meditation sessions, John had opened up feelings for his mother. He found release for these emotions in 'Julia,' the tune he had learned with the new finger style. I remember when I played 'Julia' on my guitar I was struck by how much the images in the song were like the images in my songs. They were very unLennon-like."

Donovan was a great conduit for capturing the wonder and innocence of childhood, as he had released an album of children's songs shortly before the trip to India. In his Songfacts interview, he added: "He [Lennon] was trying to write a song about a childhood he never had, and that was very touching to me. He said, 'You are the guy who writes the children's songs. Can you try and help me with this one?' So I may have added a line there."

The first 18 notes of this song are the same (in different metres, only changing the chords) but it's unlikely that this was done deliberately. If anything was deliberate about those notes, it would be that the number 18 resolves to a 9, which Lennon did slip into some of his tunes, but in this case, it was probably just a happy accident.

In Japanese, the name Yoko means "ocean child," which Lennon included as a line in the song.

Sean Lennon sang this at the special Come Together: A Night For John Lennon's Words And Music, which was held October 2, 2001 at Madison Square Garden.

Paul Shaffer and the Late Show Orchestra would play this every time Julia Roberts was a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman."

In The Anime series Cowboy Bebop, the main character's "girlfriend" is named Julia. The creator named her after this song - most of the episodes are named after songs.

‘Mother nature’s son’
Paul McCartney wrote this in India after the Maharishi gave a speech about nature. The 4 Beatles were attending the camp to learn transcendental meditation, but were not impressed with the results. John Lennon's demo "Child of Nature," which he later re-worked into "Jealous Guy," was similarly inspired by Maharishi's lecture.

McCartney recorded this by himself after the other Beatles had left the studio.

Paul McCartney told Mojo magazine October 2008 that Nat King Cole's 1948 standard "Nature Boy" influenced this gentle pastoral, "because that's a song I love." He added: "At that time I considered myself a guy leaning towards the countryside. But I would have to tip a wink to Nature Boy. Though, when you think about it, the only thing they have in common is the word 'nature'- the rest of the link is pretty tenuous."

John Denver recorded this in 1972. He was going to name his album after this song, but changed it when he came up with the song "Rocky Mountain High."

The song's bongo-style percussion sound was achieved by miking up the drums in the Abbey Road corridor.

‘Dear Prudence’
While Mia Farrow inspired such men as Andre Previn, Frank Sinatra and Woody Allen, her sister Prudence left her mark on John Lennon. According to Nancy de Herrera's book, All You Need Is Love, Prudence met The Beatles on a spiritual retreat with their guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, in India, which she attended with Mia. When Prudence, suffering depression, confined herself to her room, Lennon wrote this hoping to cheer her up. It did.

According to American flautist Paul Horn, who was also with them in Rishikesh, Prudence was a highly sensitive person, and by jumping straight into deep meditation, against the Maharishi's advice, she had allowed herself to fall into a catatonic state. Horn stated, "She was ashen-white and didn't recognize anybody. She didn't even recognize her own brother who was on the course with her. The only person she showed any slight recognition towards was Maharishi. We were all concerned about her and Maharishi assigned her a full-time nurse."

Prudence Farrow wanted to "Teach God quicker than anyone else," according to John Lennon. She would lock herself in her room trying to meditate for hours and hours. From A Hard Day's Write, by Steve Turner: "At the end of the demo version of Dear Prudence John continues playing guitar and says: 'No one was to know that sooner or later she was to go completely berserk, under the care of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. All the people around were very worried about the girl because she was going insane. So, we sang to her.'"

Prudence Farrow explained years later that she was just trying to take Transcendental Meditation seriously. She said in Mojo magazine, September 2008: "They were trying to be cheerful, but I wished they'd go away. I don't think they realized what the training was all about."

Ringo had left the group as the White Album sessions got very tense, so Paul McCartney played drums. When Ringo came back a short time later, there were flowers on his drum kit welcoming him back.

According to the singer-songwriter Donovan, who was on the retreat in India with The Beatles, he taught John Lennon a "clawhammer" guitar technique that he used on this track. "He was so fascinated by fingerstyle guitar that he immediately started to write in a different color and was very inspired," Donovan said in his Songfacts interview. "That's what happens when you learn a new style."

The clawhammer style, is played with the strumming hand formed into a claw, using the backs of the fingernails to strum down on the strings.

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics were auctioned off for $19,500 in 1987.

Lennon considered this one of his favorites.

Siouxsie And The Banshees covered this in 1983. Their version went to #3 in the UK and became their biggest hit.

This song was in the movie Across the Universe, which was based on The Beatles music. In the movie, Prudence (played by T.V. Carpio) locked herself in a closet after discovering that Sadie and JoJo were together when she thought she loved Sadie. Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), Jude (Jim Sturges), Sadie (Dana Fuges) and Max (Joe Anderson) sing this to make her feel better. It gets her out of the closet and they end the song at a anti-Vietnam War rally.

‘Michelle’
John Lennon invited McCartney over to college parties when he was still in high school, and French culture was a trend. Paul would try to fit in by sitting in a corner and pretending to be French. He would play little tunes in French, but he only knew a few French words so he would groan or make words up. John told him that he should make it into a real song for Rubber Soul, so he asked his friend Ivan Vaughan, whose wife was a French teacher, for a French name and some words to rhyme with it. Vaughan came up with "Michelle, ma belle." McCartney came up with the next line, "These are words that go together well," and Vaughan taught him the French translation, "Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble," which he used in the song as well. When he played it for Lennon, John suggested the "I love you" part in the middle.

This is not based on any particular woman. They chose the name because it sounded good.

None of The Beatles spoke French. They picked up some German when they went there in 1962, but no French.

This won a Grammy in 1966 for Song of the Year, one of just four Grammys The Beatles won while they were still active.

In France, this went to #1.

McCartney mailed a check to Ivan Vaughn's wife, Jan, for helping with the French lyrics.

The French verse is often misheard as "Sunday monkey won't play piano song.”

Paul McCartney said in Observer Music Monthly October 2007: "We used to go to these art school parties because John was at art school and me and George were at the school next door, which is now a performing arts school. John was that little bit older than us, which at that age is impressive. He was a year-and-a-half older than me and you really look up to people like that. But it's funny because I don't think I had that same feeling with Ringo, who I think was a few months older than John. John was a pretty impressive cat - being a year-and-a-half older and going to art school, all that was a pretty cool combination for us. So we'd tag along to these parties, and it was at the time of people like Juliette Greco, the French bohemian thing. They'd all wear black turtleneck sweaters, it's kind of where we got all that from, and we fancied Juliette like mad. Have you ever seen her? Dark hair, real chanteuse, really happening. So I used to pretend to be French, and I had this song that turned out later to be 'Michelle.' It was just an instrumental, but years later John said: 'You remember that thing you wrote about the French?' I said: 'Yeah.' He said: 'That wasn't a bad song, that. You should do that, y'know.'"

The singer-songwriter Michelle Branch was named after this song.

Encouraged by the successful foray into French on this song, Beatles ami Donovan sang a verse of his 1968 hit "Jennifer Juniper" in French.


When Paul McCartney received the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song award at a White House ceremony in 2010, he did something he later said he'd been itching to do for a while: sing "Michelle" to the First Lady. President Obama credited McCartney with helping "to lay the soundtrack for an entire generation." For his part, Sir Paul managed to work in a line hinting at his view of American presidential politics. "After the last eight years, " he joked, "it's great to have a president who knows what a library is." McCartney is the third recipient of the award - Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder are previous honorees - which recognizes songwriters "whose careers reflect a lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of artistic expression and cultural understanding."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Song facts (Songs from the 80's)

‘Forever Young’ (by Alphaville)
On the surface, this is a hopeful song celebrating the virtues of youth, but a closer listen reveals a fear of aging and death. The song was written during the Cold War, where the singer is "hoping for the best, but expecting the worst; are you gonna drop the bomb or not?"

Alphaville was a German Synthpop/Rock music group. The song was not a big hit when it was released, but has become well known as a result of its use in movies and TV shows. Among its uses:
The TV show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (episode 103: "Underage Drinking: A National Concern")
Queer As Folk (season 1, episode 18)
One Tree Hill (season 4, episode 16).
The movie Listen To Me
Napoleon Dynamite in the school dance scene.
commercials for Saturn ION automobiles.

A year after this was released, Laura Branigan covered it for her album Hold Me and began performing it as an encore at her concerts. The Canadian dance group Temperance recorded the song in 1996.

In 2005 the Australian band Youth Group recorded this for an episode of the TV show The O.C.. Their release was a hit in Australia.

‘Human Nature’ (by Michael Jackson)
"Human Nature" was written by Steve Porcaro, keyboardist with the band Toto. "I had written the song for my daughter Heather. Something had happened at school and it just inspired me. I wrote the song while we were mixing "Africa" and was just tinkering on the piano and wrote 'Human Nature.' It was one of a batch of three songs I had written in a certain time period. I had written the lyrics, which were the same verse I was singing over and over again. I had the 'why, why' chorus with the slap echo. Like most of my songs it was an unfinished song."

Steve Porcaro and fellow Toto member David Paich worked with producer Quincy Jones on the Thriller album, doing some synthesizer programming and playing. Said Porcaro: "Quincy had been asking David for songs and he was sending a messenger almost every day to David's house - where I was living at the time - to pick up anything David was working on. And so David was sending him stuff. One time, he had gotten a call that the messenger was on his way and he called down to me and told me to throw something we'd been working on onto a cassette. I didn't have any blank cassettes, so I took a cassette that had 'Human Nature' on one side and turned the B-side over, rewound it and put on these two songs of David's. and then gave them to the messenger."

Jones played both sides of the cassette and was excited about "Human Nature." Quincy called David the next day and was raving about this tune that went 'why, why.' It took David half an hour to tell Quincy that it wasn't his song! But the song was incomplete lyric-wise and Jones asked Porcaro to finish them. Porcaro recalls: "I forced myself to write the lyrics and Quincy was less than thrilled with them and he asked me if I would mind if he brought in John Bettis to finish them. I was completely thrilled with what John did with the lyrics."

Quincy Jones assembled an impressive array of talent to work on the Thriller album, including four members of the band Toto. These guys knew the ropes because they were session musicians before they formed the band, and in 1982 they were red hot, scoring hits with "Rosanna" and "Africa" from their album Toto IV, which would win the Grammy for Album of the Year at the 1983 ceremony (Thriller would win the next year).

Four members of the band played on this track:

David Paich: synthesizer
Steve Porcaro: synthesizer
Steve Lukather: guitar
Jeff Porcaro: drums

Paich, Steve Porcaro and Lukather also did the arrangement.

In our interview with David Paich, he explained that Jackson gave them lot of support and creative freedom. "Michael was very involved in it, and he's a perfectionist," said Paich. "He was always in the room with us, privately, saying, 'I just want you to have total freedom to do whatever you want. Just think of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel - do whatever you need to do here. Sky's the limit.'"

The Jazz legend Miles Davis recorded this song in 1985. Steve Porcaro was thrilled when he first heard Miles' version of his tune. "My father was a jazz musician and when I was growing up, most of the music we heard in our household was classical music and jazz - Miles Davis. He was my father's hero. My brother Jeff learnt to play drums listening to 'Bag's Groove.' Miles Davis was ingrained in all of us, so I was completely thrilled. I was so honored. I remember doing a session with the bassist Neil Stubenhaus about six months after Miles did You're Under Arrest. He just cornered me and said 'do you realize how great it is to have Miles do one of your tunes? Do you have any idea what it means?' I certainly did. It's one of the things I'm most proud of out of everything I've done."

In 1985, Miles moved to Warner Brothers records and teamed with Porcaro to record new material for his first Warner album. They went to Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro's studio (The Villa) and tried recording "Exist" and "Walk of Life," but the sessions were unsuccessful. While at The Villa, Miles ended up playing on the Toto tune "Don't Stop Me Now." (Thanks to George Cole, author of The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis, 1980-1991. Cole interviewed Steve Porcaro for the book.)

This was the fifth of seven singles released from the Thriller album. All of them made the Top 10 in the US.

In 1993, SWV (Sisters With Voices) hit #2 in the US with a medley of this song combined with their own release "Right Here."
Sheryl Crow performed with Michael Jackson on his Bad tour, joining him on stage for "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." In 2010, she told Rolling Stone, "My favorite memory of Michael was watching him do 'Human Nature' every night. he'd cry, and those tears were so directly linked to the wounds that drove him to anesthetize himself."

On November 7, 2008, Britney Spears and Madonna performed this at Madonna's Dodger Stadium concert in Los Angeles. Justin Timberlake also performed at the show, joining Madonna on stage for "4 Minutes."

‘The Greatest love of all’ (by Whitney Houston)
This was written by songwriters Michael Masser and Linda Creed. Linda Creed was recovering from breast cancer when they wrote the song in 1977. Originally recorded by George Benson, his version went to #24 in the US. In 1985, the song was revived by Whitney Houston, and on May 17, 1986, it went to #1 for the first of three weeks.

Creed's cancer claimed her life on April 10, 1986. She was later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on the strength of this song and the many hits she co-wrote for The Spinners, The Stylistics, and other acts on the Philadelphia International label. Phil Hurtt, who also wrote for the label, told us, "There are thousands of ways to say I Love You, and the difficulty is trying to find a nuance, a new way to say what's been said thousands of times, and Linda Creed is someone who was able to do that.

Masser and Creed wrote this for the 1977 film biography of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, and the song first appeared on the film's soundtrack recorded by George Benson. Ali played himself in the movie, essentially recreating his defining moments intercut with clips of his actual fights. Ali was the heavyweight champ at the time of the film's release.

Houston's version was originally the B-side of "You Give Good Love" but the amount of airplay it received persuaded Arista to release it as a single.

‘Let’s go crazy’ (by Prince)
The lyrics are about getting through life and the battle against evil, Satan being the de-elevator. We are encouraged to not allow the devil to break us down and instead to turn to God to help us by going crazy and punching a higher floor (God).

This is the opening song from Prince's film Purple Rain. The album was a soundtrack to the film, and a huge hit, spending 24 weeks at #1 in America. Much of the movie takes place at a club where Prince performs - these scenes were shot at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, where Prince really was a regular player. When Prince and his band, The Revolution, embarked on their tour to promote the album, they used most of the choreography from their film performance of this song for their concert performances.

The beginning of this song is one of the most famous spoken intros in pop history. Prince takes the persona of a preacher and is joined by a church organ as he gives what amounts to a sermon, reminding us that we should enjoy this life, knowing that we can look forward to a world of never-ending happiness when we die. Credit this to George Clinton, who did many similar bits ("free your mind, and your ass will follow...") with P-Funk.

The rock band Incubus recorded a cover for their 2009 two-CD compilation album Monuments and Melodies. It was released as the second single from the set.

Following Prince's death, The Minnesota Wild ice hockey team made the decision to honor him by playing this song when celebrating goals at their home stadium. The song was chosen after a fan poll was conducted to help find a goal theme to replace Joe Satriani's "Crowd Chant."

Bruno Mars, dressed in full Prince regalia, performed this in tribute to Prince, who died the previous year, at the Grammy Awards in 2017.

‘Material Girl’ (by Madonna)
This was written by the songwriters Peter Brown and Robert Rans. The song is about a woman who craves the finer things in life and will manipulate men to get them. Like A Virgin was only Madonna's second album, and she was still developing her image. Much to her dismay, "Material Girl" became Madonna's nickname, but over the next few years she was able to dissociate from the song and establish many new looks. Later in her career, Madonna wrote and recorded many more substantive and personal songs, and adapted a lifestyle that stressed harmony and mindfulness over materialism and excess. This is apparent in her 2003 song "American Life."

The video re-created a classic scene from the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Madonna as the Marilyn Monroe character. MTV played the video constantly, which associated Madonna closely with the song. Fortunately for her, "Like A Virgin" was an even bigger hit, and after she performed that song on the MTV Video Music Awards she became much more identified with that one.

Mary Lambert, who worked on most of Madonna's early videos, directed the clip, but Keith Carradine portrayed the director in the video (this "film within a film" concept was an early MTV staple, first seen in the Human League video for "Don't You Want Me"). He is the son of actor John Carradine and half-brother of David, but despite his pedigree, this video may have been his biggest role. He did have a hit song called "I'm Easy" in 1976.

The song and video were widely misinterpreted as Madonna playing a capricious gold digger. The video concept was Madonna as an actress playing this role, but as soon as she's off camera, she's a regular gal who likes the simple things - we see her drive off with a regular dude in a crappy car. The irony was lost on or ignored by journalists looking for a storyline or moniker for Madonna, so the name and the image stuck.

In a 2009 interview with Rolling Stone, Madonna was asked about her first impressions hearing the demos for this song and "Like A Virgin." She replied: "I liked them both because they were ironic and provocative at the same time but also unlike me. I'm not a materialistic person, and I certainly wasn't a virgin." Expanding on her "not materialistic" statement, she said, "I feel lucky to be able to afford a Frida Kahlo painting or live in a nice house, but I know that I can live without it. I'm resourceful, and if I ended up in a log cabin in the middle of the forest, that would work too. These things are not mandatory for my happiness."

The video shoot for this song was where Madonna first met her future husband, Sean Penn. The connection was Meegan Lee Ochs, who was working on the shoot and had been Penn's assistant (she's also the daughter of the late folk singer Phil Ochs). Penn came by the shoot and got his first look at Madonna when she was in full costume.

The characters on Sesame Street did a version of this song called "Cereal Girl."

In 2010, Madonna and her 13-year-old daughter Lourdes launched their "Material Girl" juniors clothing line at Macy's. Many of the looks are inspired by Madonna's '80s outfits.

‘I just called to say I love you’ (by Stevie Wonder)
This was featured in the movie The Woman In Red, starring Kelly LeBrock as the woman and Gene Wilder as the married man who is mesmerized by her. Stevie wrote the score for the movie. He got the gig after Dionne Warwick, who was working on the soundtrack, suggested him to the producers of the film. Wonder ended up contributing songs as well, and the soundtrack contains songs from both Stevie and Dionne. The movie's producers rejected some demos written by Jay Graydon and David Foster, and one of those songs became "Who's Holding Donna Now," which was a hit for El DeBarge.

This is Motown's biggest-selling single ever in the UK, where it was Wonder's first #1. It was his eighth #1 in the US

This won the Oscar for Best Original Song, beating out "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)," "Footloose," "Let's Hear It For The Boy" and "Ghostbusters."

Wonder claimed that he wrote the music for this song in 1978, and then "modernized" it when he added lyrics for the soundtrack. Wonder is an extremely prolific composer and was constantly coming up with songs that he would sometimes revisit much later.

In the 2000 movie High Fidelity, this is the subject of a rant by a character played by Jack Black. In the film, a man walks into the record store and asks for this song so he can give it to his daughter. Black's character, who is working there, scolds him for wanting such and awful song and goes on to explain that his daughter probably hates it and it was clearly the low point of Wonder's career.

Wonder had moved to a much more adult contemporary sound when he released this song. His early hits like "Superstition" and "Higher Ground" were often filled with funk, but in the '80s, songs like this one and "Part-Time Lover" had a smoother sound, resulting in big hits, but disappointment for those hoping for a classic Wonder groove.

Stevie sang some of this when he made an appearance on The Cosby Show in 1986. The episode was called "A Touch of Wonder," and was later cited by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson as an inspiration to many young musicians who became interested in samplers and making music after seeing Wonder on the show.

‘Call me’ (by Blondie)
This song is about a prostitute. It was featured in the film American Gigolo in a scene where the lead character is "working."

European disco producer Giorgio Moroder wrote this with Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry, who thus became the first woman in British chart history to write three #1 hits. However she hadn't been Moroder's first choice. The Italian disco king had originally wanted Stevie Nicks to provide vocals on the track but the Fleetwood Mac vocalist declined the offer.

This was the most successful of all Blondie singles in their native USA. It was the best-selling single of 1980.

In 2002, The Box Tops recorded this for the compilation album When Pigs Fly: Songs You Never Thought You'd Hear. Cevin Soling, who was executive producer on the album, explains: "I got the Box Tops back together again, and that was a blast. That was so much fun working with the Box Tops. Especially with Alex Chilton there singing. I didn't produce that. I was in the studio, but the producer on that one was a buy named Benji King, who was the keyboard player for the band Scandal. That studio experience was pretty funny, because he's so full of energy. He's always excited and always really into things. The Box Tops are each one degree more laid back to the next. Coming from the South, they're all kind of very chill. Until you get to Alex Chilton, who's practically catatonic. And so you have that contrast." (Check out our interview with Cevin Soling.)

In 2009, Franz Ferdinand covered this song for the War Child Presents Heroes charity album.

This song was covered by the heavy metal band In This Moment on their 2008 album, The Dream.

Giorgio Moroder told Billboard magazine that his difficult experience of recording this song with Blondie taught him not to work with rock bands. "There were always fights," he recalled. "I was supposed to do an album with them after that. We went to the studio, and the guitarist was fighting with the keyboard player. I called their manager and quit."

‘Another one bites the dust’ (by Queen)
This is one of the hardest Queen songs to understand. The opening line reads, "Steve walks warily down the street, his brim pulled way down low. Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet, machine gun ready to go..." Also, the last phrase spoken in the song is not "Shoot Her" or "Shooter," but "Shoot Out."

Though probably not intentional unless someone did an excellent splicing job, the "Another one bites the dust" line quite clearly says "...Decide to smoke marijuana" when played backwards. This is especially clear toward the end of the track when Mercury repeats the line with only the drums playing.
Queen bass player John Deacon wrote this song. All four members of Queen wrote songs, and each wrote at least one hit. Deacon also wrote "You're My Best Friend."

Deacon was influenced by the Chic song Good Times. In an interview with the New Musical Express, Chic bass player Bernard Edwards said: "Well, that Queen record came about because that bass player spent some time hanging out with us at our studio. But that's OK. What isn't OK is that the press started saying that we had ripped them off! Can you believe that? 'Good Times' came out more than a year before, but it was inconceivable to these people that black musicians could possibly be innovative like that. It was just these dumb disco guys ripping off this rock 'n' roll song."

Deacon played most of the instruments on the track: lead and rhythm guitars, bass, reversed piano and additional percussion. Brian May did some guitar effects with harmoniser (in the interlude), and Roger Taylor played the drum loop. Surprisingly, there are no synthesizers.

While the band and producer Reinhold Mack were mixing the track, Brian May's roadie suggested it to be released as single; the band didn't like the idea but were finally talked into doing it when Michael Jackson, after a concert, suggested the same idea.

John Deacon claimed in a 1980 interview that Roger Taylor opposed the song's drum beat. This is backed up by the comments of several figures in the Days of our Lives documentary, who noted that Taylor hated having tape put on his drums to deaden the sound.

However, the drummer denied this in an interview with Mojo magazine October 2008. He insisted: "I'd already had an ineffectual pop at that kind of music with 'Fun It,' on the Jazz album. I was never against 'Another One Bites The Dust,' but I was against releasing it as a single."

In 1998, this was used in a commercial for AIWA sound systems. In the ad, a guy drives around with this blaring from his car stereo. At the end of the commercial, we realize he is driving a hearse.

Freddie Mercury loved this track. Brian May recalled to Mojo: "Freddie sung until his throat bled on Another One Bites The Dust. He was so into it. He wanted to make that song something special."

During production of the movie Rocky III, this was used in a key scene where Rocky is training for a fight. Producers could not get permission to use the song, so Sylvester Stallone hired Survivor to write an original song instead, which turned out to be "Eye Of The Tiger."

Queen were originally reluctant to release this as a single, but backstage after a Queen gig at the Los Angeles forum, a visiting Michael Jackson convinced them it would be a hit. "Michael and all his brothers were all going, 'That's a fantastic track. You must release it,'" recalled Queen drummer Roger Taylor to Q magazine December 2009.

This meeting lead to several recordings and collaborations between Freddie Mercury and Jackson, all of which remain unreleased.
Weird Al Yankovic got his first chart placing with his parody of this song: "Another One Rides The Bus." It bubbled under on the Hot 100, placing at #104 in 1981. After a few more minor hits, he landed "Eat It" at #12 in 1984.

This was the single that really broke the band in America, and it garnered a huge following amongst American Disco audiences, with many fans and journalists convinced it was a black man singing lead vocals (these people obviously hadn't heard of Queen before so didn't know what Freddie looked like). The band occasionally were unsure of how to deal with this - Roger Taylor jokes in the Days of our Lives documentary of having fans shouting "you guys are bad!" in the street, and he had to ask "does that mean good or what?"

This was used in a 2016 commercial for the Hyundai Genesis that first aired on the Super Bowl. In the spot, Kevin Hart uses the Car Finder app to track down the guy who is using it to take his daughter on a date. After tormenting her suitor, Hart says, "A dad's gotta do what a dad's gotta do."

‘(Just like) starting over’ (by John Lennon)
This song embodied the sense of renewal in Lennon and Yoko's professional and personal lives during the writing and recording of Double Fantasy. "It was kinda obvious what 'Starting Over' was about," said journalist David Sheff, who did the last major interview with Lennon, to Mojo. "He'd been untrusting of Yoko, she'd been untrusting of him, all that kind of stuff. But in that one song was this incredible optimism and joy."

This was released in the United States October 27, 1980, which was the same day Mark David Chapman bought the gun he would use to kill Lennon on December 8. "Starting Over," which came out in the UK on October 24, was Lennon's first release since 1975. The Double Fantasy album was issued on November 17.

Lennon wrote this while vacationing in Bermuda earlier in the year.

Despite being the first single in five years from one of the most famous musicians on the planet, this song took a while to catch on. In America, it entered the Hot 100 on November 1, 1980 at #38 and made a slow but steady climb up the chart. Here's the progression:

Nov. 8: #32
Nov. 15: #10
Nov. 22: #9
Nov. 29: #8
Dec. 6: #6
Dec. 13: #4
Dec. 20: #3
Dec. 27: #1

When Lennon was killed, fans quickly scooped up the single along with lots of other Lennon material, but it took a few weeks for the chart to reflect these sales. When it hit #1, it stayed there for five weeks.
This was recorded at The Power Station in New York City. Musicians included Tony Levin on bass, Earl Slick on guitar, and Andy Newmark on drums.

Double Fantasy was released on David Geffen's record label, DGC. Many labels were competing for the album, but Geffen impressed Lennon when he wrote directly to Yoko and agreed to release it without hearing it first. All of Lennon's previous albums were released on The Beatles' label, Apple.

John and Yoko were considering doing a tour when this was climbing the charts.

This was one of the last songs recorded for the album. Lennon was not sure he should record it, but his producer and session musicians convinced him it would be a hit. It became the first single from Double Fantasy.

The day this was released, Yoko Ono hired a skywriter to write "Happy Birthday" above New York.

Lennon said in his last Rolling Stone interview in 1980: "All through the taping of 'Starting Over,' I was calling what I was doing 'Elvis Orbison.' It's like Dylan doing Nashville Skyline, except I don't have any Nashville, being from Liverpool. So I go back to the records I know - Elvis and Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis."

The copy of Double Fantasy that Mark Chapman asked Lennon to autograph might be the most valuable record in the world. The record, which figured in the court case, not only has Lennon's autograph but also boasts Chapman's fingerprints on the cover. In 2003, the record was sold for £525,000 but its value has since rocketed.

‘Take me home’ (by Phil Collins)
Often misconstrued to be about a man returning home, Collins stated on VH1 Storytellers that the song's lyrics refer to a patient in a mental institution, and that he was inspired by the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Sting and ex-Genesis band mate Peter Gabriel sang backup vocals. Also featured is former Culture Club backing singer Helen Terry.

In 2003 the hip-hop group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony heavily sampled the song for their single "Home." Their version reached #19 in the UK (the same as the original version), and Collins appeared in the video.

Collins explained in Rolling Stone: "Bone Thugs-N-Harmony called me up and said, 'We've done a version of your song 'Take Me Home' and we'd like you to be in the video.' I said, 'No, I'm not in America.' They said, 'They can come wherever you are.' I said, 'Don't make me say, 'No, f--k off.'' But then I heard the song, and I quite liked it, and they agreed to come to Geneva. How could I disappoint these guys? They were nice lads."

The video features Phil Collins singing a couple of lines from the song in various cities around the world, including London, Moscow, New York, Paris, Tokyo and Sydney.

This was originally released in the UK in 1985. It released in the US in March 1986, only after Phil Collins appeared in the TV series Miami Vice.


The music of Genesis featured in the 2000 film American Psycho, which examines greed and insanity with the financial industry as a backdrop. This song found its way into a key scene of the Season 2 premiere episode of the TV series Mr. Robot, which takes on these same issues. The lead character in the episode suffers from blackouts, so the refrain, "'Cause I don't remember," makes sense.