Sunday, January 11, 2009

Classic Rock Videos

Im A Rock - Simon & Garfunkel

Rock & Roll Tidbits

Lesley Gore was given the first chance to record "A Groovy Kind of Love", but her then-producer Shelby Singleton did not want her to record a song with the word "groovy" in it. The Mindbenders seized the opportunity and took the song to #2 on the Billboard charts.

Gladys Knight's "Pips" were named after her manager / cousin James "Pip" Patten. Later on, Gladys said it stood for "Perfection In Performance."

Several meanings for The Rolling Stones' hit "Brown Sugar" have been suggested over the years, including Mick Jagger's alleged affair with a black woman, African slaves being raped by their white masters and the perils of being addicted to Brown Heroin. It has even been rumored that Jagger wrote the song as "Black Pussy" before commercializing it to "Brown Sugar".

With less than ten minutes of studio time left, The Marcels recorded a doo-wop version of a song called "Blue Moon", written in 1934 by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The result was a US number one hit in April, 1961.

The yardstick for every aspiring young drummer in the sixties was an instrumental called "Wipe Out" by The Surfaris. The record has sold millions and has become a classic rock standard, yet was put together as a b-side filler in about 15 minutes and recorded in just two takes.

Elvis Presley's former home, Graceland is the second most-visited house in America after the White House.

The original title of KISS' 1976 hit "Beth" was "Beck", a nickname given to songwriter Stan Penridge's girlfriend Becky. Penridge was the guitar player in a band that Peter Criss was in before he joined KISS. Additional lyrics were added by Criss and producer Bob Ezrin and resulted in a #7 Billboard hit.

William Ashton, who used the stage name Billy J. Kramer and scored hits with "Bad To Me" and "Little Children" during the British Invasion, took the last part of his name at random from a telephone directory. At the suggestion of John Lennon, Billy added a middle initial to give his name more appeal and used "J" in memory of John's mother, Julia and for his newly born son, Julian.

When The Guess Who performed at the White House in 1970, First Lady Pat Nixon, undoubtedly breifed as to the scathing anti-US sentiment of the band's hit "American Woman", asked that the band delete the song from their show.

Franki Valli's 1975 number one hit "My Eyes Adored You" was originally titled "Blue Eyes In Georgia", but was altered by Valli when he recorded it.

After "Good Lovin'" became Billboard's number one song in April, 1966, organist Felix Cavaliere admitted, "We weren't too pleased with our performance. It was a shock to us when it went to the top of the charts."

On the Mamas and Papas 1966 album "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears", the group's name was spelled with an apostrophe before the "s" - The Mama's and Papa's. Subsequent albums opted for grammatical correctness and the apostrophes were dropped.

According to songwriter Burt Bacharach, his first choice of artist to record "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" was Ray Stevens. Fortunately for BJ Thomas, Stevens didn't like the song and passed on the opportunity.

Tamla Motown celebrates 50 years

by Nathan Bevan, Wales On Sunday

SUNDAY FOCUS: Legendary Motown label celebrates 50th birthday

WHETHER you’re old enough to remember them the first time around, or just discovered them among the boxes of dusty vinyl in your parents’ attic while growing up, everyone’s life has been touched by a Motown song at some point.

Even if you’ve never heard of Martha Reeves And The Vandellas, you’ve still probably whistled Dancing In The Street in the shower without realising.

And there are tribes in parts of the Amazon as yet untouched by civilisation who could, at a push, do all the dance moves of Stop! In The Name Of Love.

Meanwhile, those of you who’ve never listened to Stevie Wonder will ... wait a minute, you’ve never listened to any Stevie Wonder? – Where have you been exactly?

Never mind, because now’s as good a time as any to catch up as the legendary label celebrates its 50th anniversary tomorrow, giving us all the perfect opportunity to bask in the glory of artists such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Jackson Five, The Four Tops and The Isley Brothers.

And to think it all started on the back of an $800 loan given to a man named Berry Gordy Jr by his family in order to set up a label called Tamla Records in the US car-making capital of Detroit in 1959.

Changing its name to Motown, an abbreviation of the city’s nickname of Motor Town, it would become a dream factory that would churn out a prolific number of bone fide pop classics.

It so nearly didn’t happen though. Gordy was one of eight children born to a strict middle-class family in the tough Midwest industrial city who dreamed of delivering hits of a very different kind with his aspirations of becoming a boxer.

He dropped out of school to pursue that ambition and later risked millions of us never hearing his musical mastery by risking life and limb by joining the US Army to fight in the Korean War.

He returned safely, got married and set up a record store, dabbling in songwriting on the side and penning Reet Petite, among other hits, for singer Jackie Wilson.

Gordy’s real strength, however, was in producing and talent spotting and in the years leading up to Tamla’s foundation he built up an impressive portfolio of artists, including The Miracles.

In fact, it was The Miracles’ lead singer and Gordy’s best friend Smokey Robinson who encouraged him to start his own label.

Detroit’s automotive legacy also played a small part in the story. “Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line, would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car,” says Gordy, now 79, who beat panels for a time in the local Lincoln-Mercury plant.

“I thought what a great idea!’

“Maybe I could do the same thing with music. Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown, go through a process, and come out another door, a star.”

And that’s exactly how Motown worked.

Behind the slick choreographed moves of The Supremes and The Temptations, or the raw emotion of Marvin Gaye and The Four Tops, was a well-oiled bank of songwriters, most notably the holy triumvirate of Holland-Dozier-Holland of brothers Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier.

This trio wrote more than 200 songs for Motown between 1962 and 1967, including such timeless hits as Where Did Our Love Go?, Reach Out I’ll Be There, You Keep Me Hanging On and You Can’t Hurry Love.

And, should there be anyone out there left wondering why so many of us are still obsessed with the sounds of Motown, let’s let Daryl Easlea answer.

“Pages and pages have been written about this over the years, but I think it’s simply the universality of the lyrics and the glory of the beat,” said the head of back catalogue at Universal Music, the firm that now owns Motown. “Look at those early symphonies, those classic love songs. There was high drama, mixed with a mundane use of everyday phrases that gave it such incredible reach.

“Those songs could mean something to the man or woman on the street in Rotherham, or in Richmond, Virginia.”

And no matter what you looked for in music, there was an artist to cater for all tastes, too.

“Diana Ross had that incredibly frail, interesting voice. Not a classic singer’s voice, but so charming,” said Daryl. “Then there was Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops who sounded like the most wounded man in the world.

“Marvin sang like he was everyone’s lover. Straightaway, you knew who you’re listening to.”

Another reason for Motown’s impact was the important part it played in America’s civil rights struggle, becoming the voice of so many black artists whose voices were suddenly starting to emerge in the mainstream.

Martha Reeve’s Dancing In The Street was adopted as an unofficial anthem of the fight for equality, while subjects such as the Vietnam War were dissected on albums like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and, more overtly, War by Edwin Starr. They were, to paraphrase a James Brown song, Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Something.

In this country these US imports were championed by the likes of pirate stations like Radio Caroline, while up north Motown became popular with the Northern Soul fraternity and the sound- track to the world-famous dance all- nighters at the Wigan Casino in the 70s.

And more than 30 years on, the sounds of Motown are still very much in demand.

“That’s our job now – to make sure we keep the new listeners coming in.

“That way, this wonderful music will be passed down and stay with us forever.”