The 1,001 Greatest. Songs of the 20th Century – 530 to 521

Written by | April 6, 2021 6:36 am | No Comments

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530. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1965. Dylan served up an epic comedy on his “115th Dream,” discovering an unwelcoming America (with talking cows), getting refused like Jesus, and having a passing encounter with Christopher Columbus. “They asked me for some collateral and I pulled down my pants” might be my favorite line in popular music. Author Evan Schlansky, “’115th Dream’ comes off like a way for Dylan to show off his exploding verbal abilities: look how easy it is for me to spin a yarn, just based on whatever comes in my head next. The song is famous for its false start and Dylan’s stoned laughter. ‘Start again!’ the bemused producer’s voice says over the intercom. And then the band comes crashing in, locomoting along for six and a half minutes, and playing by the seat of their pants. Together they whipped up a loose-and-bluesy sound that has never been recreated.” Guitarist Bruce Langhorne on Dylan’s stoned cackling intro, “We didn’t know where to cut the groove. So he went, ‘I was ridin’ on the Mayflower’…and we should have all come in on ‘Mayflower,’ but everyone sat there.’ Producer Tom Wilson quickly called for take two and the horses were off and running.”

529. “Young Blood,” The Coasters. Songwriters: Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus; #8 pop/#1 R&B; 1957. The title concept for “Young Blood” came from Doc Pomus and was passed to Leiber and Stoller by Jerry Wexler. It took Jerry Lieber fifteen minutes to write the lyrics, describing an all-encompassing lust in a manner that was both playful and illicit. Mike Stoller, “It probably took me about as long to write the music as it took Jerry to write the lyrics. I was especially pleased because I was crazy about Doc Pomus. He was the great R&B guru.” Authors Michael Campbell and James Brody, “The story told in ‘Young Blood’ deals with youthful infatuation, but it is a far cry from the starry-eyed romance found in songs like ‘Earth Angel.’ The Coasters’s songs were the opposite of most doo-wop: steely-eyed, not sentimental, and deeply humorous. The Coasters’ singing sounds slick, not sweet. Although the Coasters have a black sound, the theme of the song is universal: teens of all races could relate to it, and did.”

528. “Alex Chilton,” The Replacements. Songwriters: Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars; Did Not Chart; 1987. Recording in Memphis, Paul Westerberg paid tribute to teen rock star turned pop iconoclast Alex Chilton on the “Pleased to Meet Me” album. Westerberg, “If there’s a sense of ‘Oh, God, what if this is looked on as being stupid or weird?’ – that’s usually a tip-off that it’s worth doing. Those are generally the best songs, and I had that feeling about ‘Alex Chilton.’” Chilton’s response to this “I never travel far without a little Big Star” rocker, “I feel like a great legendary outlaw, like John Wesley Harding or something.” Author Bob Mehr, “The lyric represented a hopeful projection on Westerberg’s part as well: in a world where ‘children by the million’ clamored for Alex Chilton, surely they’d beg for the Replacements too.” The lyrics were also based in reality in that upon first meeting Chilton, Westerberg’s fumbling introduction, when he couldn’t remember the Big Star song title “Watch the Sunset,” was “I’m in love with that one song of yours. What’s that song?”

 

527. “Fast Car,” Tracy Chapman. Songwriter: Tracy Chapman; #6 pop; 1988. Massachusetts singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman brought a folk sound back to pop music with the multi-generational poverty tale “Fast Car.” The lyrics are about failed escapism, where a young woman with limited options latches onto a man for a perceived chance for a better life. Unfortunately, the initial adrenaline rush and comfort she finds in her relationship quickly evolves into the same despair that she was trying to leave behind. Chapman, “It’s not really about a car at all… basically it’s about a relationship that doesn’t work out because it’s starting from the wrong place. I had so many people come up to me and say that they felt it was their song and someone told me at one point that they thought I’ve been reading their mail. They were saying, ‘You seem to know my story,’ and people would come up and tell me about a car relationship and some detail that they felt was in the song that represented something that happened in their lives.”

526. “Not Fade Away,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Buddy Holly, Norman Petty; #48 pop; 1964. The Crickets released the Bo Diddley influenced, won’t-take-no-for-an answer love song “Not Fade Away” as the b-side to the 1957 Top Ten hit “Oh, Boy!” Buddy Holly was feeling his oats on that one, telling his woman how things were going to be. The Stones placed their aggressive stamp on the number with Mick Jagger sounding even more incontestable than the gentleman from Lubbock. Bill Wyman, “The rhythm thing was formed basically around the Buddy Holly thing. We brought the rhythm up and emphasized it. Holly had used that Bo Diddley trademark beat on his version, but because he was only using bass, drums and guitar, the rhythm element is sort of a throwaway. Holly played it lightly. We just got into it more and put the Bo Diddley beat up front.” Stones manager Andrew Oldham was particularly delighted with the results, “Although it was a Buddy Holly song, I considered it to be like the first song Mick and Keith wrote, in that they picked the concept of applying that Bo Diddley thing to it. The way they arranged it was the beginning of the shaping of them as songwriters. To me, they wrote the song. It’s a pity we couldn’t have gotten the money.”

525. “Till the End of the Day,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; #50 pop; 1965. “Till the End of the Day” was written in the original Kinks style – musically, power chord driven and lyrically addressing romantic infatuation. Michael Gallucci writing about Dave Davies’ influential guitar playing, “A combination of primal garage-rock thunder and British Invasion one-upmanship, Dave’s killer riffs defined a generation (or two or three) of budding guitar heroes. ‘Till the End of the Day’ features one of his best.” The song would later be given a pseudo-reggae arrangement, as documented on the 1980 live album “One for the Road.” According to the Nick Halsted book “You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks,” Ray Davies sought help from songwriter Mort Shuman, who penned “Viva Las Vegas,” to defeat a case of writer’s block. Shuman’s advice included to “lose the wife and kids” and to create a song based upon his favorite chords. Halsted, “Ray sang in the voice of a hip young man who feels resurrected every time the sun rises, a perfect Mod hungry for experience, having the time of his life. Dave’s strangled, high tension solo and he and Rasa’s (Ray Davie’s first wife, Rasa Davies) sunburst harmonies made this pop to blast its subject from bed.”

524. “Stick to Me,” Graham Parker & the Rumour. Songwriter: Graham Parker Did Not Chart; 1977. London native Graham Parker spent the early ‘70s working odd jobs and developing his skills as a musician and a songwriter. David Robinson, a co-founder of the U.K.’s groundbreaking Stiff Records label, helped assemble his band, mainly comprised of former pub rock musicians and billed as the Rumour. Parker’s attitude, on his debut album he chastised God on His lack of moral authority, and sound fit in well with the punk rock era. “Stick to Me,” the title track of his third album, conveys a life or death desperation regarding romantic commitment with a level of intensity seldom heard in rock music. Parker, in 2012, describing his uphill battle during the mid-1970s, “People were still discovering Uriah Heep and Pink Floyd. I remember reading about these alleged punk bands in CBGB, while out in reality I was playing to people who thought we were aliens.”

523. “I Want You,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Songwriter: Elvis Costello; Did Not Chart; 1986. “I Want You” is a brutal look at jealousy and heartbreak from the viewpoint of a spurned lover. For over six minutes, Costello repeats “I want you,” while injecting self-defeating thoughts like “I want to know the things you did that we do too/I want to hear he pleases you more than I do/Did you call his name out while he held you down?” Music journalist David Ford, “The guitar solo consists of the two ugliest notes available in this musical key, hacked out with the tenderness of a lump hammer. It’s dark and disturbing and dirty and utterly compelling.” Costello, “I was on the train from Liverpool to London with a sheet of paper on the table before me filling up fast with the same three words, repeated over and over. ‘I Want You.’ I’d done all those cruel, irrational things people do to test their power, to test their limits, to seek revenge. Those things had served me well, so I suppose it served me right to be on the receiving end for once. I wasn’t halfway to Nuneaton before I completed the song and the sting was pulled out of the skin. Singing that song night after night might have seemed like a punishment to some people, but in the end it just became a play I had to perform.”

522. “Been Caught Stealing,” Jane’s Addiction. Songwriters: Eric Avery, Perry Farrell; Did Not Chart; 1990. Jane’s Addiction brought petty theft as personal adventure, barking dogs, and a funk sensibility to Modern Rock radio and MTV with 1990’s “Been Caught Stealing.” While rock ‘n’ roll poster boy Dave Navarro gets plenty of ink for his contributions to Jane’s Addiction, the key players in “Been Caught Stealing” were the rhythm section. Drummer Stephen Perkins, “’Been Caught Stealing’ was written when I was really hot for go-go music. It had a lot for a drummer to explore. I have cowbells and timbales on the kit, and I try to use my left hand as a percussionist, and let my right hand play the hat and the snare pocket. That fun factor that you get from go-go and funk, I’m bringing that to the kit every time I play. I didn’t realize the quality of the drumming in straight funk growing up, but go-go was in your face and showed off a little more, you didn’t have to be a drummer to hear those kinds of drum parts and how African they were.”

521. “Where Did Our Love Go,” The Supremes. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Songwriter Eddie Holland, “I originally cut this track with the Marvelettes in mind. In fact, I cut it in Gladys Horton’s key, the lead singer, which was much lower than Diana Ross’s. I had the chorus and went to the office to talk with Gladys and played it for her. She said, ‘Oh, honey, we don’t do stuff like that. And it’s the worst thing I ever heard.’ I was shocked. I told (The Supremes) it was tailor made for them, knowing that they had nothing going on at the time and needed a song. Much to my surprise, they said no. They were so annoyed that, in the studio, they had a really bad attitude. Diana (Ross) said it was in the wrong key, that it was too low. (Of course it was – I wrote it in Gladys’ key.) Since the track was already cut, she had to sing it in that key and she’d never sung that low before. It turned out that her bad attitude and the low key were exactly what the song needed! I’d worked out intricate background vocals but the girls refused to learn them. Finally I said, ‘Just sing `Baby, baby, baby.’ It worked to their advantage and worked perfectly.” “Where Did Our Love Go” took the group known as “no hit” Supremes to the top of the pop and R&B charts as did the follow-up hit, structured with the same lyrical and musical hooks, “Baby Love.”

 

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