Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs of All Time [NOOK Book]

Overview



The first time on the open road with Dad's beat-up clunker and a brand-new driver's lecense. That first kiss. Practicing Steve Tyler moves in the garage. Lazy summer days with nothing to do but hang out with a group of friends and the radio. Classic Rock. In Classic Rock Stories, classic rockers reveal the sometimes painful, sometimes accidental, and often hilarious process of creating the songs that you can still sing aloud. In their own words, rockers like Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Elton ...
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Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs of All Time

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Overview



The first time on the open road with Dad's beat-up clunker and a brand-new driver's lecense. That first kiss. Practicing Steve Tyler moves in the garage. Lazy summer days with nothing to do but hang out with a group of friends and the radio. Classic Rock. In Classic Rock Stories, classic rockers reveal the sometimes painful, sometimes accidental, and often hilarious process of creating the songs that you can still sing aloud. In their own words, rockers like Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Stevie Nicks, Elton John, and Keith Richards tell about the drugs, the pain, the love gone bad, and the accidents that resulted in the hits.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429937504
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/1998
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 372,402
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author



Tim Morse is a native of Sacramento, California. He has a strong creative drive, dividing his time between writing, painting, composing and performing music.
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Read an Excerpt



Classic Rock Stories

Accidents Will Happen
Studio Incidents That Led to Award-Winning Songs

SONG TITLE Mony Mony
ARTIST Tommy James and the Shondells
Featured on Anthology (repackage). Released 1990/Rhino (original release 1968)
Words & music by Bobby Bloom, Ritchie Cordell, Bo Gentry and Tommy James
 

 

Tommy James (singer/songwriter):
The night we wrote the song, we were absolutely devastated because we couldn't come up with a "Bony Moronie," a "Sloopy" kind of title, and we knew that's what it had to be. It had to be a girl's name that nobody had ever heard of before. We were going through the dictionary, but nothing was happening. We were just absolutely frustrated. I walked out onto my terrace--I lived in Manhattan at the time--and I'm just sort of scanning around and I'm looking for just any part of a name, anything. I'm just kind of staring out into space, and all of a sudden, I look up and I see ... I said [to my manager], "Ritchie, c'mere." He came over and I said, "Look." And all of a sudden, here's this M.O.N.Y. with a dollar sign in the middle of the "0." [The sign was for the Mutual of New York Insurance Company!] The song kind of etched in stone in New York. We both just fell down laughing.

SONG TITLE Dust in the wind
ARTIST Kansas
Featured on Point of Know Return. Released 1977/Kirshner
Words & music by Kerry Livgren
 

 

Kerry Livgren (songwriter/guitarist):
A lot of people seem to identify with what I said in that song. And that really surprised me, because in a way it's kind of a dismal song. I was reading a book of American Indian poetry when I came across that line--this American Indian said, "For all we are is dust in the wind." And I thought, "You know, that's really true. I've got all this success and material possessions and a goal in my life was accomplished at that point, but I am going back into the ground. And what does this really mean in light of that?" And that's kind of the message in that song. But the amazing thing was that so many people identified with it, and that song ended up on the country charts, middle of the road charts, easy listening ... it crossed all kinds of boundaries.
I was always the lead guitar player in the band, a rock and roll electric guitar player, and I've never really been an acoustic guitar player. So I was trying to expand my musical horizons on the acoustic guitar by learning to fingerpick. So I made up this finger exercise to teach myself how to fingerpick. And I was sitting in my music room playing this thing, and my wife walked by and she stood there and listened and then said, "That's really pretty. You should make words to that." I said, "No, honey this is just something I'm trying to learn to do." And she said, "No, that's really nice. Don't forget that now." And she kept bugging me about this pretty thing, she really seemed to latch onto it. So I turned it into a song.
We were almost done with rehearsals for Point of Know Return, and we had pretty well learned all the songs. Someone said, "Have you got any more songs?" And I said, "Well ... I've got this one, but you guys wouldn't like it. It's not Kansas. I'm really hesitant to even play it." And they insisted that I play it, and when I did it on the acoustic guitar the band agreed, "We need to be doing this song." And I was amazed; in fact, I rejected the idea. I actually fought with the band over the fact that we shouldn't do this song. "This is not us ..." Well, it shows you what I know, because it turned out to be our biggest hit ever.

SONG TITLE Badge
ARTIST Cream
Featured on Goodbye. Released 1969/Polydor
Words & music by Eric Clapton and George Harrison
 

 

George Harrison (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
That whole song was quite silly. Ringo was sitting around drinking, out of his brain, saying anything. The part about "Our kid, now he's married to Mabel," well, "our kid" is a common Liverpool expression that usually means your younger brother. We were amusing ourselves.
Ringo came in--he was absolutely plastered and we were up to the lines: "I told you not to drive in the dark/ I told you ..." And Ringo said, "About the swans that live in the park!"

SONG TITLE Boris the spider
ARTIST the Who
Featured on A Quick One (Happy Jack). Released 1966/MCA
Words & music by John Entwistle
 

 

John Entwistle (songwriter/bassist):
I just had a childhood fear of spiders. In England they always seem to be on the ceiling--always up there. I just described a spider sort of crawling down, and then you squash it, that sort of thing. I don't like name-dropping, but I was sitting next to Bill Wyman one night down at the club, and we started talking about spiders, and I thought of a name for a spider: Boris the spider. Our production manager, the fellow with the bald head, he was driving my Bentley, he said, "That would be a good title for a song 'Boris the Spider.'" I had been contracted to write two numbers on the Who LP by the publisher who had given me an advance, and I'd already written "Whiskey Man," and I had to write another one for the album. And, like, we were recording it at the time. So I thought I might as well settle that and write another one about a spider called Boris. And we stayed up half the night, and I said to him, "How about a chorus going 'creepy, creepy, crawly, crawly'?" I mean I just sort of wrote the words, and the next morning I got up at ten and did the demo tape of it. That was just the amount of thought that went into it. It was like a drunken booze-up. We just did it as a joke.

SONG TITLE Friend of the Devil
ARTIST the Grateful Dead
Featured on American Beauty. Released 1970/Warner Brothers
Words & music by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia
 

 

Robert Hunter (lyricist):
I was playing bass for the New Riders of the Purple Sage, although I never actually got to the stage with them. We were sitting around practicing one night, and I had "Friend of the Devil" more or less written. Isaid, "Try this out," and then David Nelson and John Dawson helped work out the changes. I still have the recording of that evening, and it's not that different. We went down to get some coffee, and Marmaduke [Dawson] said, "It's real good, but it has that one repeating line, 'It looks like water but it tastes like wine.' Can you get anything punchier?" So I said, "I've got it. How about, 'A friend of the devil is a friend of mine?'" He said, "You got it. That's it!" So I took the tape with me back to the house where we were staying, and when I got up the next morning, I heard [Jerry] Garcia listening to the tape, with that funny look in his eye. The next thing you know he'd written a bridge for it. He wrote the "Anne Marie" part. Before that it was the same melody all the way through. Then the Grateful Dead snatched it up, much to the New Riders' dismay.

SONG TITLE Substitute
ARTIST the Who
Featured on Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy. Released 1971 /MCA Words & music by Peter Townshend
 

 

Peter Townshend (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
It was written as a spoof on "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown." On the demo I sang with an affected Jagger-like accent, which Kit obviously liked, as he suggested the song as a follow-up to "My Generation." The lyric has come to be the most quoted Who lyric ever. It somehow goes to show that "trust the art, not the artist" tag that people put on Dylan's silence about his work could be a good idea. To me, "Mighty Quinn" is about the five Perfect Masters of the age, the best of all being Meher Baba of course, to Dylan it's probably about gardening, or the joys of placing dog shit in the garbage to foul up Alan J. Weberman. "Substitute" makes me recall writing a song to fit a clever and rhythmic-sounding title. A play on words. Again it could mean a lot more to me now than it did when I wrote it. If I told you what it meant to me now, you'd think I take myself too seriously.
The stock, downbeat riff used in the verses, I pinched from a record played to me in "Blind Date," a feature in Melody Maker. It was by a group who later wrote to thank me for saying nice things about their record in the feature. The article is set up so that pop stars hear other people's records without knowing who they are by. They say terrible things about their best mates' latest, and it all makes the pop scene snottier and more competitive. Great. The record I said nice things about wasn't a hit, despite an electrifying riff. I pinched it, we did it, you bought it.

SONG TITLE While My Guitar Gently Weeps
ARTIST the Beatles
Featured on The Beatles ("the White Album"). Released 1968/Capitol
Words & music by George Harrison
 

 

George Harrison (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
I had a copy of the I Ching--The Book of Changes, which seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental.
This idea was in my head when I visited my parents' house in the north of England. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book--as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it--saw "gently weeps"--then laid the book down again and started the song. Some of the words to the song were changed before I finally recorded it.
When we actually started recording "While My Guitar ..." it was just me playing the acoustic guitar and singing it, and nobody was interested. Well, Ringo probably was, but John and Paul weren't. When I went home that night I was really disappointed, because I thought, "Well, this is really quite a good song; it's not as if it's crap!" And the next day I happened to drive back into London with Eric [Clapton], and while we were in the car I suddenly said, "Why don't you come and play on this track?" And he said, "Oh, I couldn't do that, the others wouldn't like it," ... So Eric was reluctant and I finally said, "Well, damn, it's my song and I'd like you to come down," ... [And] everybody started behaving and not fooling around so much! And the song came together nicely.

SONG TITLE Bouree
ARTIST Jethro Tull
Featured on Stand Up. Released 1969/Chrysalis
Music by J.S. Bach (arrangement by Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull)
 

 

Ian Anderson (singer/songwriter/instrumentalist):
I was fortunate enough to hear "Bouree" daily through the floor of my apartment, because a music student was busy practicing on his classical guitar downstairs from me. So "Bouree" was kind of stuck in my brain when I was looking for an instrumental piece to play in 1969. We had quite a lot of different arrangements of that piece, but I don't necessarily remember exactly where it all fits in, especially since some of it is, shall we say, improvisation.

SONG TITLESympathy For the Devil
ARTIST the Rolling Stones
Featured on Let It Bleed. Released 1969/ABKCO
Words & music by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
 

 

Keith Richards (guitarist/songwriter):
It started as sort of a folk song with acoustics, and ended up as a kind of mad samba, with me playing bass and overdubbing the guitar later. That's why I don't like to go into the studio with all the songs worked out and planned beforehand. Because you can write the songs, but you've got to give the band something to use its imagination on as well. That can make a very ordinary song suddenly come alive into something totally different, just because they're not being dictated to, "No you've got to play this, because this is how the song goes," Charlie [Watts] will say, "It feels more like this," and suddenly it's a totally different song ... You can write down the notes that are being played, but the thing that you can't put down is the "Factor X"--which is so important in rock and roll--which is the feel.

SONG TITLE Fame
ARTIST David Bowie
Featured on Young Americans. Released 1975/Rykodisc (rerelease)
Words & music by David Bowie, John Lennon and Carlos Alomar
 

 

David Bowie (singer/songwriter):
My band had been working onstage with an old single by the Flares called "Foot Stompin'." The riff that Carlos [Alomar] had developed for it I found fascinating. I kept telling him that it was a waste to do it on somebody else's song, and that we should use that on something of our own. So we were playing that riff for John Lennon in the studio--he came down for the day--and we said, "What do you make of this, John?" He was playing along with it, just muttering to himself in a corner, saying, "--aim!--aim!" It just all fell into place when he said, "Fame!"
We said, "That's great, John! Hey, John, help us write this song called 'Fame'!" John carried on playing the rhythm guitar, and we just put the whole backing track together in about 15 to 20 minutes. It was a real "Hey-let's-do-the-show-right-here" Mickey Rooney thing. Then I took the idea of fame and just ran away and wrote the lyrics for it. The next day John came down again and said "Hey, that's real good, that one!"

SONG TITLE Hocus Pocus
ARTIST Focus
Featured on Moving Waves. Released 1971 /IRS
Music by Thijs Van Leer and Jan Akkerman
 

 

Thijs Van Leer (singer/songwriter/instrumentalist):
We were all sitting around the recording studio when Pierre began to play two-bar drum fills. Jan answered him on the guitar with a lighthearted tune. I didn't want to be outdone, and for the first time in my life I yodeled. Everyone considered it a very funny joke, but we found ourselves drawn back to the song.

SONG TITLE Lucky Man
ARTIST Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Featured on Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Released 1970/Atlantic
Words & music by Greg Lake
 

 

Greg Lake (singer/songwriter/bassist):
I actually wrote that when I was 12 years old. During the making of the first album, we ran out of material; it came to the end of the record, and we were one song short. There were vacant looks across the studio--"Does anybody have any more ideas?"--and terribly glum faces everywhere. I said, "I've got this folk tune that I wrote on acoustic guitar when I was a kid." Everyone said, "Oh, go on then, let's hear it." I strummed it out, and the reaction was, "Yeah, a cup of tea ..." Total disinterest. But we had to have something, so we decided to try and record it. Carl and I went out into the room with just a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, drums, and voice; I sang and he played along--and it sounded like shit! Then I put the bass guitar on it, and soon as I did that, it sounded more like a complete thing.
Keith said, "Let's see what I can do with it," and he started fooling around with a Moog synthesizer, rehearsing away, playing along with the whole track. Halfway through, I kind of liked what he was playing, so I put the machine into record.
 

Keith Emerson (songwriter/keyboardist):
I improvised something. I didn't think much of the solo. Honestly, it's a lot of shit. But it was just what he wanted. I just did a rough setting on the synthesizer, went in, and played something off the top of my head.

SONG TITLE Question
ARTIST the Moody Blues
Featured on Question of Balance. Released 1970/Polydor
Words & music by Justin Hayward
 

 

Justin Hayward (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
This would have to be my number one favorite, because it is so very different ... . It was originally two songs. I was under pressure on a Friday night--I knew we had three hours of studio time booked for the next day--and I was expected to turn up with a song that still wasn't finished. So I just put two songs together and strung the lyrics together to make it work--and it worked! The two had always been in the same key and the same tuning, but because of the different tempos I'd never thought of putting them together.

SONG TITLE Paint It Black
ARTIST the Rolling Stories
Featured on Aftermath. Released 1966/ABKCO
Words & music by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
 

 

Keith Richards (songwriter/guitarist):
Mick wrote it. I wrote the music, he did the words. Get a single together. What's amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy track. Bill was playing an organ, doing a takeoff of our first manager, who started his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit. We'd been doing it with funky rhythms and it hadn't worked, and he started playing like this and everybody got behind it. It's a two-beat--very strange. Brian playing sitar makes it a whole other thing.

SONG TITLE Sweet Emotion
ARTIST Aerosmith
Featured on Toys in the Attic. Released 1975/Columbia
Words & music by Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton
 

 

Tom Hamilton (bassist/songwriter):
I wrote that line on bass and realized I should think of some guitar parts for it if I was ever going to get a chance to present it to the band. I didn't think I ever would. But it was at the end of the recording, and Jack said, "Tomorrow's jam day, if anybody's got a stray riff hanging around." I said, "Yeah, I do." So I spent the day showing everybody everything, and we took it from there, refining it into what it is. Steven had the idea of taking that intro riff, which became the chorus bass line under the "sweet emotion" part, and transposing it into the key of E, and making it a really heavy Zepplinesque thing.
 

Steven Tyler (singer/songwriter):
We didn't know how to end it ... we got into a big fight. Blew [cocaine] all over the place. It was late, and we were at the end of our rope. Finally I said, "Just fuckin' play a drum fill, and we'll go into [sings outro riff]." And we did it. It was such a magic moment.
A lot of stuff I wrote in the old days just came out of anger. "Sweet Emotion" was about how pissed off I was at Joe's ex-wife, and all the other frustrations of the time. I could never get through to him.

SONG TITLE Tush
ARTIST ZZ Top
Featured on Fandango! Released 1975/Warner Brothers
Words & music by Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard
 

 

Billy Gibbons (songwriter/guitarist):
That song came together one evening. The particular room we were playing in was about 100 percent and was one of those nights where nobody wanted to quit. We kept on playing and just started making it up, and that tune literally came out as we went along. Dusty made up the words, and it kind of stuck. We kept using it. That particular tune has become an old standard now.

SONG TITLE Breakdown
ARTIST Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Featured on Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Released 1976/Gone Gator
Words & music by Tom Petty
 

 

Tom Petty (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
I wrote "Breakdown" in the studio about 11 years ago, and the first version was seven minutes long, with this long guitar solo in the end. Everyone had gone home, and I was sitting there listening, and in walks [singer] Dwight Twilley. Right in the fade-out of the song, Campbell plays [sings the song's melodic hook]. Twilley turns to me and says, "That's the lick, man! How come he only plays it once at the end of the song? It's the whole hook." I listened back, and he was right. So I called the band up--four in the morning--and told them to come back down. We did it again around the lick, took a couple of takes, and there it was.

SONG TITLE Fanfare for the common Man
ARTIST Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Featured on Works Vol. 1. Released 1977/Atlantic
Music by Aaron Copland (arrangement by Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
 

 

Greg Lake (singer/songwriter):
Keith was playing it as a piece of classical music. I played this shuffle bass line behind him, and all of a sudden it started to connect. Then Carl came in the studio, and the three of us started to play it. Luckily enough, the engineer had a two-track running, and that is what's on the record--the first time we played through the piece.

SONG TITLE You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
ARTIST Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Featured on Not Fragile. Released 1974/Mercury
Words & music by Randy Bachman
 

 

Randy Bachman (singer/songwriter):
That song is a joke. A gold joke. I did the stuttering as a joke. If you met my brother Gary, you'd know he stutters. There was no intentional copy of "My Generation." I didn't even think of it at the time. All it was was a dummy vocal track. I wanted to make a cassette of the song and work on a solo over the weekend, so I laid down a funny vocal.
I took it home, and everybody laughed at it at first, but the engineer said, "You know, there's something really dynamite about that track. The b-b-baby is a hook." When we got back into the studio, I tried to do a straight vocal track. It sounded like Frank Sinatra singing "Strangers in the Night," so we all agreed to leave it on. Actually, I was kind of embarrassed by it. The Mercury people came down to Sound City in L.A., where I was mixing it, and when it came time for them to hear the song, I turned off the board.

SONG TITLE Magic carpet Ride
ARTIST Steppenwolf
Featured on Steppenwolf the Second. Released 1973/MCA
Words & music by Moreve Rushton and John Kay
 

 

John Kay (singer/songwriter):
We were in the studio recording the second album, and Rushton came in, sat down with his bass, and said, "I wrote this song and it's really great." So we said, "Okay, play it," because everyone played their songs to the band. He played this three-chord pattern "Domp domp, da da da domp; domp domp da da da da domp domp" on his bass and sang, "I like my job, I like my baby." That was it ... I had some ideas for it. I felt there wasn't enough to "I like my job." I took the tape home and put it on my new sound system. We were still living on Fountain Avenue, but it was after the first album so there was some money rolling in. One of the first things I had done with some of my royalties was to go down to the Sound Center and purchase my first real hi-fi system, brand-new. I had the system in the apartment for no more than a week, when I brought home this tape. Out came this "domp domp ..." thing, and I just sort of let my mind flow. "I like to dream right between my sound machine"--the sound machine being the hi-fi system. Twenty minutes later the whole thing was finished.

SONG TITLE Start Me Up
ARTIST the Rolling Stones
Featured on Tattoo You. Released 1981/Virgin
Words & music by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
 

 

Mick Jagger (singer/songwriter):
It was Keith's great riff, and I wrote the rest. The funny thing was that it turned into this reggae song after two takes. And that take on Tattoo You was the only take that was a complete rock and roll take. And then it went to reggae completely for about 20 takes, and that's why everyone said, "Oh, that's crap. We don't want to use that." And no one went back to Take 2, which was the one we used, the rock track.
 

Keith Richards (songwriter/guitarist):
That was in the can for ages, and mostly we'd forgotten about it ... . So to us it was that interminable reggae track we did way back when.

SONG TITLE Walk This way
ARTIST Aerosmith
Featured on Toys in the Attic. Released 1975/Columbia
Words & music by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry
 

 

Steven Tyler (singer/songwriter):
It started out as a Joe Perry guitar riff, and then I put my rhythmic lyrics that stem from my early days as a drummer on top. I remember making up those lyrics the night we were meant to record vocals. I wrote 'em on the walls of the Record Plant stairway.
 

Tom Hamilton (bassist/songwriter):
We were rehearsing that riff, and I don't think Steven was even around that day as we practiced it and arranged it. And that night we went with Jack Douglas to the movies and saw Young Frankenstein. There's that part in the movie where Igor says, "Walk this way," and the other guy walks the same way with the hump and everything. We thought it was the funniest thing we'd ever seen in our lives. So we told Steven the name of this song has got to be "Walk This Way," and he took it from there.

SONG TITLE Benny and the Jets
ARTIST Elton John
Featured on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Released 1973/MCA
Words & music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
 

 

Elton John (singer/songwriter/pianist):
It's the strangest track on the whole album. It's a send-up of the glitter rock thing, and I sound like Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons.
I wanted "Candle in the Wind" to be the first single off the album, and I was recording Caribou at the time, it was when we were in Colorado and I still to this day can't see "Benny and the Jets" as a hit single, but a guy called Pat Pipolo from MCA Records rang me up and said, "You're Number One Black in Detroit," and I said, "I beg your pardon?" And he said, "It's the Number One Black record in Detroit." I said, "Black record--me in the R & B charts? Spit it out! Be it on your head if it isn't a hit," you know, like really considerate of me ... sometimes an artist doesn't know what's good and what's bad, he knows what he feels about a track, but he doesn't know how to pick singles.

SONG TITLE Black water
ARTIST the Doobie Brothers
Featured on What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. Released 1974/Warner Brothers
Words & music by Pat Simmons
 

 

Ted Templeton (producer):
It shows you what great ears I have--I put "Black Water" on the B-side because I figured that's an acoustic thing. And all of a sudden a small station in South Carolina picked it up--that's when that sort of thing could happen, and then a big station picked it up. It became a number one record; it was forced out by radio.

SONG TITLE Maggie May
ARTIST Rod Stewart
Featured on Every Picture Tells a Story. Released 1971/Mercury
Words & music by Rod Stewart and Martin Quittenton
 

 

Rod Stewart (singer/songwriter):
"Maggie May" was an accident. It wasn't meant to go on the album. A mate of mine who I thought had good ears said, "Well, I don't think it's got much of a melody, and it's a bit long, you know?" I said, "Well, I only recorded ten tracks for this album. There's nothing left over, so it'll have to stay. I've run over budget."
Even more important is the fact that when it came out on a single, it was a B-side; "Reason to Believe" was the A-side. And it was a disc jockey in Cleveland, I believe, that turned it over. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here today. I'd still be digging graves in the cemetery.

SONG TITLE Minute by Minute
ARTIST the Doobie Brothers
Featured on Minute by Minute. Released 1978/Warner Brothers
Words & music by Michael McDonald
 

 

Michael McDonald (singer/songwriter):
The success of "Minute by Minute" was a shock. I played it for a friend who was a mutual friend of the band--a good friend--and the guy didn't pull any punches, you know? He said, "I don't think so ... it just doesn't have it!"

SONG TITLE Take the Money and Run
ARTIST the Steve Miller Band
Featured on Fly Like an Eagle. Released 1976/Capitol
Words & music by Steve Miller
 

 

Steve Miller (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
It's a goofy tune, a Bonnie and Clyde thing. I sort of left that one up to the record company, and they said, "Stop that one ... it's a hit single!!!" Like they always do. I gave up on singles a long time ago. I used to work real hard on what I thought would be real good singles, and then I'd watch them through the weeks on the charts and they'd look like they fell down the mail chute at the Empire State Building.

SONG TITLE Help Me
ARTIST Joni Mitchell
Featured on Court & Spark. Released 1974/Asylum
Words & music by Joni Mitchell
 

 

Joni Mitchell (singer/songwriter):
"Help Me" is a throwaway song, but it was a good radio record. My record companies always had a tendency to take my fastest songs on albums for singles, thinking they'd stand out because they did on the LPs. Meantime, I'd feel that the radio is crying for one of my ballads.

SONG TITLE Don't eat the Yellow snow
ARTIST Frank Zappa
Featured on Apostrophe. Released 1974/Barking Pumpkin (rerelease)
Words & music by Frank Zappa
 

 

Frank Zappa (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
[Its success] was an accident. A disc jockey in Pittsburgh on a station that had a policy of playing novelty records of the sixties received the album in the mail, listened to "Yellow Snow" ... and said, "My God, it's a modern-day novelty record" ... put it on the station that was part of a chain. It instantly goes into the top 20, it's picked up on all the stations on the chain.

SONG TITLE Heat wave
ARTIST Linda Ronstadt
Featured on Prisoner in Disguise. Released 1975/Asylum
Words & music by Edward Holland, Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier
 

 

Linda Ronstadt (singer/songwriter):
I've turned down so many hits, you wouldn't believe it, especially in the days when I really needed them too. "I Don't Know How to Love Him" was one; "Help Me Make It through the Night" was another. I even felt that way about "Heat Wave." I loved it when Martha Reeves sang it. I threw it into my show when we were playing bars, because it was something fun that people could get drunk and rowdy to. I never had any intention of making a record out of it, but David Geffen said, "You've got to record that, it's a hit," and at that point, I realized that if I went ahead and did it, it would be good for me to have a hit. It would just make more sense for me in the long run, because then I could do more music that I wanted to do. The more secure my position was, the more I would be able to influence the music with my own taste. I did "Heat Wave," and I'm still sorry, because I hate to sing it. I don't think I sing it well, I don't think the record was good, and I cringe when it comes on the radio. I'm not doing it in the show anymore, and people are going to be bitching at me.

SONG TITLE I shot the sheriff the sheriff
ARTIST Eric Clapton
Featured on There's One in Every Crowd. Released 1975/Polydor
Words & music by Bob Marley
 

 

Eric Clapton (singer/songwriter/guitarist):
At the time I didn't think it should go on the album, let alone be a single. I didn't think it was fair to Bob Marley, and I thought we'd done it with too much of a white feel or something. Shows what I know.
The record came out and went up the charts, and shortly after that I got a phone call from Bob. I don't remember where I was, or exactly what the circumstances were, but we had a half-an-hour conversation on the phone. Again, half of which I understood and half of which I didn't [laughter]. And I kept asking him if it was a true story--did he really shoot the sheriff? What was it all about? He wouldn't really commit himself. He said some parts of it were true, but he wasn't going to say which parts.
Copyright © 1998 by Tim Morse.

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