The 1,001 Greatest Songs of the 20th Century – 500 to 491
500. “Down on the Corner,” Creedence Clearwater Revival. Songwriter: John Fogerty; #3 pop; 1969. Like the Beatles had done with Sgt. Pepper, John Fogerty jumped into the concept of a fictional band on “Down on the Corner,” writing about a street busking quartet named Willy and the Poor Boys. The band members had down home names like Rooster and Blinky and entertained their nickel paying audience with their washboard and kazoo skills. Fogerty on his inspiration, “I was kind of inspired by seeing an advertisement in the paper one day. It was an ad from Disney that said in great big letters ‘Winnie the Pooh.’ Something in my brain said ‘Winnie the Pooh and the Pooh Boys.’ Obviously that was close to ‘Willy and the Poor Boys.’ As I began to develop this idea it turned into music in that weird mystical, almost uncontrollable way, music comes to songwriters. Winnie the Pooh is still my favorite character who I’ve shared with my daughter Kelsy since the day she was born, though she’s growing out of it. But I’m not.” Fogerty, recalling “spoon-feeding” the bass notes to bassist Stu Cook, “Looking back, I should’ve been like one of the Kinks or the Troggs, picked up a guitar or a hi-hat, and just horned the guy – ‘You stupid-ass bimbo, this is not that hard. It’s just that it’s got some rhythm in it, and you don’t have any!’ My job was to make a hit record, so somehow I defused the situation and we all conquered the song. Nope – I didn’t hear ‘thank you’ afterwards.”
499. “(Say No To) Saturday’s Girl,” Human Switchboard. Songwriters: Bob Pfeifer, Myrna Marcarian; Did Not Chart; 1981. An Ohio based Velvet Underground influenced trio, Human Switchboard received heaps of critical praise for their sole album, 1981’s ‘Who’s Landing in My Hangar?’ – a title that sounds like a sexual identity crisis. Myrna Marcarian both pleads and makes demands to a lover who wanders on this I-know-I’m-losing-you heartbreaker. Stephen Haag of PopMatters, “Think Midwestern Blondie (Marcarian had a great husky pop voice, with some Chrissy Hynde thrown in there too) anchored by a roller-rink keyboard and an out-of-nowhere saxophone solo — great stuff!” And check out this Smokey Robinson quality lyric, “I’ll still be hanging around/I know there’s no place to go, but I’m keeping my eyes open/Yes, I’m just some kind of clown/They say a heart’s not quite a heart until it’s been broken.”
498. “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time),” Lefty Frizzell. Songwriter: Lefty Frizell, Jim Beck; #1 country; 1950. Lefty Frizzell was born in Corsicana, Texas, which is home to a fine museum in his honor today, and grew up in El Dorado, Arkansas. He was discovered by Dallas producer Jim Beck and had immediate success with the #1 country hit “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time).” Lefty displayed an upbeat mood and a love for the honky tonk lifestyle on this transactional view of romance. In the sometimes failure can be a success department, producer Jim Beck originally wanted to pitch this song to Little Jimmy Dickens, but Columbia Records executive Don Law preferred Frizzell’s vocals. Hank Williams took immediate notice of his new colleague, telling Lefty, “It’s good to have a little competition. Makes me realize that I’ve got to work harder than ever, and, boy, you’re the best competition I’ve ever had.” Rolling Stone, “Arkansas-bred Frizzell had a gentle drawl that made even his rowdiest songs go down sweet. His debut single – covered by George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson – taught an entire generation of country vocalists how to sing.” Nelson returned “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time” to #1 on the country charts in 1976.
497. “Dance to the Music,” Sly and the Family Stone. Songwriter: Sly Stone; #8 pop/#9 R&B; 1968. The celebratory garage rock meets psychedelic soul of “Dance to the Music” was Sly and the Family Stone’s first pop hit. Stephen Thomas Erlewine on the corresponding album, “This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. Prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms.” The doo wop inspired a capella section was a great hook, mixing traditional sounds with a modern funk bass line and a gospel organ. Greil Marcus, “There was an enormous freedom to the band’s sound. It was complex, because freedom is complex; sympathetic, affectionate, and coherent, like the reality of freedom. And it was all a celebration, all affirmation, a music of endless humor and delight, like a fantasy of freedom.”
496. “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” 13th Floor Elevators. Songwriter: Roky Erickson; #55; 1966. The Austin based 13th Floor Elevators may have been the first psychedelic rock band and embracing the counterculture lifestyle in 1960’s Texas had severe personal consequences for lead singer Roky Erickson. The band split the difference between typical garage rock of their era and the type of dark drama that would later become the hallmark of The Doors. Dick Clark on “American Bandstand,” “Who is the head man of the group here, gentlemen?” Electric jug player Tommy Hall, “Well, we’re all heads.” Descriptions of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”: Robert Dimery, “the apogee of early U.S. psychedelic rock”; Jim DeRogatis, “a stinging slice of lysergically fueled garage rock’; Steve Taylor, “a concise blast of proto-psychedelic punk.” Roky Erickson, who was once called “the haunted howling wolf of psychedelia,” sounds possessed on “You’re Gonna Miss Me” while Tommy Hall provides fluttering fills with his electric jug, giving the band an unearthly sound that nobody else dreamed of having. Tommy Hall on his ambitions, “I never considered myself a musician and still don’t. I was real interested, however, in introducing people to ideas and insights I was gaining through my use of LSD. Everything I wrote was inspired through my taking LSD. I invented the electric jug totally out of my desire to find a place onstage with this new group, so I could be a part of it, and so I could communicate my new ideas through the lyrics I wanted to write.”
495. “Love Train,” The O’Jays. Songwriters: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1972. While the music of the early 1970s contained a plethora of anti-war songs, songwriters/producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff went a different route, making a call for international brotherhood. Singer Walter Williams, “1972 was explosive – Vietnam was rumbling on, the rich were getting richer – so it was the perfect time to sing about social issues. The song mentioned places that were having human rights problems, but in a positive, hopeful way: ‘The first stop we make will be England… tell all the folks in Russia and China too.’” “Love Train” is a perfect example of pre-disco, early 1970’s dance music, retaining the beat of traditional pop music, yet adorned with cascading strings and polished horn charts. The join hands message may be viewed as quixotically simple, but this is spirit lifting, feel good music.
494. “You Shook Me All Night Long,” AC/DC. Songwriters: Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Brian Johnson; #35 pop; 1980. AC/DC were working double time on the seduction line in 1980, scoring their first U.S. Top Forty hit with the filthy lyrics of the drum hooked rocker “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Roger Lotring of Loudwire on this American thighs rocker, “The familiar jangling guitar leading to the drum beat is so familiar, by now, ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ can be easily recognized by just the first few notes. Phil Rudd’s strategic cymbal crashes throughout the guitar solo are a masterful syncopated hook.” AC/DC biographer Jesse Fink, “Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, ‘You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long.’’ That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions. I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like ‘She told me to come but I was already there.’ Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-’80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.” The song owes a debt to the 1970’s heartland rock, the rhythm of “You Shook Me All Night Long” is a heavier version of Head East’s 1975 AOR hit “Never Been Any Reason.”
493. “I’m Walkin’,” Fats Domino. Songwriters: Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew; #4 pop/#1 R&B; 1957. Fats Domino biographer Rick Coleman, “Dave Bartholomew challenged Earl Palmer to come up with a different beat on ‘I’m Walkin’.’ Following Domino’s unique two-beat piano, the drummer added his own parade rhythms. ‘Fats was a hell of a lot better musician than people give him credit for,’ says Palmer. ‘He had a lot of original thoughts and they were all creative.’ Palmer pumped a bass drum introduction that harked back a generation to the parade beat of Little Jim Mukes with the Eureka Brass Band. Then he started a steaming snare two-beat. Papoose Nelson played a scintillating guitar riff, with a tuba bass pattern accelerating to double-time. He also added a crucial sixth note. Frank Fields blended his bass between the guitar and Domino’s rumbling left hand. After the session, Bartholomew called a couple of kids from out on the street into the studio. He then rewound the tape and played ‘I’m Walkin’’ for them. As if shot with a jolt of electricity, the kids immediately started dancing. ‘The only record I ever really felt that we had a big hit on was ‘I’m Walkin’,’ says Bartholomew. ‘You put the clarinet in ‘I’m Walkin’’—‘Doomp-doomp- doomp deedly-deedly-dee’—and you got traditional jazz. You got Dixieland.”
492. “King of the Road,” Roger Miller. Songwriter: Roger Miller; #4 pop/#1 country; 1965. Driving outside of Chicago, Roger Miller took note of a sign that read, “Trailers for Sale or Rent.” Miller was in Boise, Idaho a few weeks later, admiring a hobo statuette in the airport gift shop. Those two pieces of inspiration resulted in his signature song, a tale of a modern hobo content with his indigent lifestyle. Rock critic William Ruhlmann, “’King of the Road’ was an out-of-the-box smash, a surprising fate for a song about the joys of being a bum. Country singer/songwriter Roger Miller had been scoring crossover hits with self-written novelties like ‘Dang Me’ and ‘Chug-a-Lug’ since switching from RCA Victor to Smash Records in 1964. The easygoing, folkish ‘King of the Road’ was also something of a novelty, but in a warmly engaging, rather than outright humorous, way. Miller was a master of economical wordplay, and he deftly sketched the portrait of a footloose man at the bottom of society with short phrases, even including, for instance, quotations from cheap hotel notices: ‘no phone, no pool, no pets.’” Miller won five Grammy awards in 1965, leading to his quip, “It took me seven years to become an overnight sensation.”
491. “Shakin’ All Over,” Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. Songwriter: Johnny Kidd, Guy Robinson; Did Not Chart; 1960. Johnny Kidd and the Pirates formed in London in 1959 and released one of the U.K.’s most memorable pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll singles with 1960’s “Shakin’ All Over.” Johnny Kidd, “When I was going round with a bunch of lads and we happened to see a girl who was a real sizzler, we used to say that she gave us ‘quivers down the membranes.’ It was a standard saying with us referring to any attractive girl. I can honestly say that it was this more than anything that inspired me to write ‘Shakin’ All Over.’” Needing a b-side to their recording of the standard “Yes Sir That’s My Baby,” “Shakin’ All Over” was penned and recorded in less than a day. Richie Unterberger on its impact,”’Shakin’ All Over’ featured a more menacing guitar sound than had ever graced a British release. Particularly striking was the opening descending run, just a run down a basic scale, but done with a sharp yet menacing tone, like a hand running over a razor blade. The riff was repeated at various dramatic pauses in the track and played not by Kidd or one of the Pirates but by session guitarist Joe Moretti. After that riff opens the record unaccompanied, a basic grinding ominous guitar pattern kicks in, like a jungle tussle slowed to a crawl as a predictor circles around its victim. When Johnny Kidd sings the lyric about quivering and shaking when his girl draws close, he sounds like he’s trembling more or less equally with sexual excitement and fear of being devoured.” Cover versions resulted in a 1965 #1 hit in Canada by The Guess Who and a 1965 #1 hit in Australia by Norman Rowe.