Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sunshine Songs

article by Robert Benson

We have explored some ‘rain’ songs in a recent four-part article series in celebration of spring and now that summer is upon us, let’s explore some popular ‘sunshine’ songs and the history behind them in this two part article series.

Bill Withers released the epic cut “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971, a song which peaked at #3 on the US Pop charts. It was his first hit single and was actually the b-side for another cut called “Harlem,” but the DJs played “Ain’t No Sunshine” instead.

Bill Withers was still employed at a factory that manufactured toilet seats for 747s when he recorded the song. In fact, when he released the cut, he refused to resign from his job because of his beliefs about the music industry and the fact that he was still a novice when compared to other musicians.

In an interview, Withers explained the writing of the song:

"I was watching a movie called Days Of Wine And Roses (1962) with Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon. They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It's like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you. It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

And in the part of the song where Withers repeats the lyric “I know, I know” etc; (which is repeated a total of twenty-six times) he explains that he had originally intended to write more lyrics for that part of the song:

"I wasn't going to do that, then Booker T. said, 'No, leave it like that.' I was going to write something there, but there was a general consensus in the studio. It was an interesting thing because I've got all these guys that were already established, and I was working in the factory at the time. Graham Nash was sitting right in front of me, just offering his support. Stephen Stills was playing and there was Booker T. and Al Jackson and Donald Dunn - all of the MGs except Steve Cropper. They were all these people with all this experience and all these reputations, and I was this factory worker just sort of puttering around. So when their general feeling was, 'Leave it like that,' I left it like that."

Bill Withers won the Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1972. “Ain’t No Sunshine” is ranked 280th on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time and the song has been covered by an eclectic array of musicians including Michael Jackson, Prince, Sting, Aaron Neville, BB King, Buddy Guy, DMX, Elvis Costello, Isaac Hayes, James Taylor, Lenny Kravitz and Tom Jones, just to name a few. Additionally, the song has appeared in the films Notting Hill, Old School, Amy, Crooklyn, and Munich.

In 2001, DMX covered the song (under the title "No Sunshine") for the film "Exit Wounds." The song was released as a single and peaked at #67 on the US R&B Charts. Furthermore, a music video was produced featuring DMX performing the song against clips from the film. Recently, Kris Allen covered the song during the eighth season and the finale of American Idol. Not bad for a B-side.

Many claimed at the time that Scottish singer-songwriter, Donovan Leitch was nothing more than a Bob Dylan imitator, but the music world soon thought differently as Donovan was an accomplished musician and story teller. His cut, “Sunshine Superman” hit the top of the Billboard charts in the fall of 1966 (knocking out the Lovin’ Spoonful’s summer ditty “Summer In The City) and subsequently became the title track of Donovan's third album.

Donovan had previously hit the charts in 1965 with the folk-flavored cut “Catch The Wind” and became well-known of both sides of the Atlantic with a series of television appearances (In Britain, he appeared an “Ready Steady Go!” and in America on the television show “Shindig”). The song is believed to be the first of many from the highly successful three-year collaboration between Donovan and producer Mickie Most and is generally considered to be one of the first examples of the musical genre that came to be known as psychedelia.

Donovan had a great relationship with the Beatles (he sang on the Beatles cut “Yellow Submarine” and Paul McCartney could be heard whispering on Donovan’s next single “Mellow Yellow”) and the song was originally subtitled "For John and Paul," a reference to Lennon and McCartney. In fact, Mickie Most told him not to play this to Paul McCartney under any circumstances, because he knew McCartney would be tempted to do something similar.

Donovan was recording for Pye Records while he was working on song. Pye also had Mickie Most under contract, but he moved to CBS before the album could be released. This prompted a lawsuit that delayed release of the album, so it didn't come out in the US until September, 1966, and wasn't released in the UK until 1967. This was unfortunate for Donovan, because this cut may have been considered much more innovative if it was released on schedule.

Interestingly, a session guitarist named Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin fame) played lead guitar on the song and this was Donovan's first collaboration with arranger/musician John Cameron, who helped develop a new sound for him (Cameron played the harpsichord on the record). The lyrics of the song allude not only to Superman, but also to another DC Comics superhero, Green Lantern and 'Sunshine' and 'Superman' are the first words in the first and second verses respectively.

The song has been covered by Hüsker Dü on their 1983 album, "Everything Falls Apart," New York punk band Alice Donut on their debut album "Donut Comes Alive," by songstress Jewel (for the soundtrack of the 1996 film "I Shot Andy Warhol"), Trini Lopez, Rickie Lee Jones and infamously by crooner Mel Tormé.

Although the ‘supergroup’ Cream (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce) were not together very long, the group was able to lay down some of the best blues rock of their day and of all time. Included in this description is the instantly recognizable hit “Sunshine Of Your Love,” from their 1967 album Disraeli Gears. The song peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts in 1968 and stayed on the charts for an impressive twelve weeks.

The song was written by Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton with the lyrical help from Pete Brown (who also wrote lyrics for the Cream cuts “I Feel Free” and the classic cut “White Room”), a beat poet who was friends with Baker and Bruce.

However, development of the song actually began in January 1967, when Bruce and Clapton attended a Jimi Hendrix show in London. Bruce returned home and wrote the now memorable bass guitar riff that runs throughout the song.

"I picked up my double bass and played the riff," recalls Bruce. "Pete looked out the window and the sun was coming up. He wrote 'It's getting near dawn and lights close their tired eyes…'" Clapton later added the chorus ("I've been waiting so long…") which also yielded the song's title.

The song was almost not part of the album because of record company executive Ahmet Ertegun's dislike for Jack Bruce and his "Psychedelic hogwash." In fact, Atlantic Records initially rejected the song. However, Booker T. Jones (leader of Booker T. and the MG's) and a respected Atlantic musician heard the band rehearsing the song in the Atlantic studios and recommended it to the record company bosses. Based on this recommendation, Atlantic approved the recording. It's also rumored that the only reason that it was recorded was because they didn't have enough material to fill the album; although a song of this quality should certainly squash that statement.

The song appears on the soundtracks of the Movies School of Rock, Goodfellas, Uncommon Valor, and True Lies. Additionally, the cut was a set list staple for Jimi Hendrix throughout his 1968 and 1969 concerts. Other artists who covered the song are Ella Fitzgerald, the 5th Dimension, Frank Zappa, Ozzy Osbourne, Goo Goo Dolls, Toto, Elvis Costello and The Police and Living Colour (among others). The song was named the 65th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. In 2009 it was named the 44th best hard rock song of all time by VH1.

Cream played this at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1993 when they reunited for their induction. Eric Clapton still plays this song in concert, which is a testament to the longevity and magic of the song.

An upbeat and downright infectiously cheerful ditty called “Walking On Sunshine,” by Katrina and the Waves, hit the charts running in 1983 (from the LP “Walk On Water”) and the cut still has fans smiling and feeling happy after they hear it. Written by Kimberly Rew, founder of Katrina and the Waves, and sung with a bubbly-rushed tempo the cut has been used in a number of feature films including: The Secret of My Success (1987), Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie (1997) and American Psycho (2000). Additionally, Jack Black's character in High Fidelity (2000) played this song on a cassette tape. A cover by the duo Aly & AJ was used in the Disney motion picture Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005).

This is also the favorite song of Philip J. Fry, a character from the Futurama TV Show. He sings this while showering, but the only words he remembers are "I'm walking on sunshine," so he hums the rest.

Katrina and the Waves are considered a one-hit-wonder in the United States (where the band name evoked unfortunate images after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster), but they had another hit in the UK with “Love Shine A Light,” which was entered in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Look for part-two on Sunday!

Copyright 2009- Robert Benson

Classic Rock Videos

The Pretenders - Middle of the Road

Madonna Tops Money List

The Material Girl is at it again. Madonna has perennially been a big moneymaker in the world of music, earning between $40 and $50 million per year, but she certainly outdid herself in the period of June 2008 to June 2009 as she brings home enough money to top Forbes list of the Top-Earning Musicians.

The Forbes list also proves that, even if the music industry is falling on hard times, the big acts are making huge gains. The top ten musicians last year made a combined $500 million while this year's top ten brought in $719 million.

Here is this year's list:

•1. Madonna - $110 million

•2. Celine Dion - $100 million

•3. Beyonce Knowles - $87 million

•4. Bruce Springsteen - $70 million

•5. Kenny Chesney - $65 million

•6 (tie) Coldplay - $60 million

•6 (tie) Rascal Flatts - $60 million

•6 (tie) AC/DC - $60 million

•9. Eagles - $55 million

•10. Toby Keith - $52 million

•11. Bon Jovi - $50 million

•12. Dave Matthews Band - $45 million

Using Album Artwork as Your iPhone Background

This sure doesn't beat having the original album to look at, but maybe it can turn some young people on to some of the classic album cover art in music history.

Article by Shane Burley

Here are a few easy ways to use album cover art as your iPhone background.


One of the great things about the iPhone is the diversity of ways you can customize your device. The most basic way that people tend to customize their iPhone is by deciding the opening background image that shows up before you unlock your iPhone and reveal your application. These can be photos of different types that come from your computer, the internet, or even a photo taken on your high quality digital iPhone camera. Since you iPhone doubles as a full multimedia iPod you will notice that you have a surplus of album artwork from the music you upload onto it. This makes a great iPhone background when you are putting things together; especially when the liner notes of your favorite album is emblazoned on the front of your iPhone

Sync It

There are a couple different easy ways to make an album cover your iPhone background. The first way is to sync it to your iPhone like a simple photo. Take the cover art icon, if you do have the cover art, and put it into a normal photo folder. Find your iPhone under devices in iTunes and select it. Once you have it open go to the Photos tab. Make sure the Sync Photos From box is check then go to the pull down options and select Choose Folder. Go to the folder where you put the cover art and select it to be synced. Once it is in the Camera Roll select it and add it as background.


Another way to do this is by using a screenshot. Go to the album in your iPod and play a song from it. Once it is playing the album art will come up. Then just hit the power button and the Home button at the same time to take a screen shot. Then it will go to the Camera Roll and you can add it as your background. This will likely include the iPod controls in the picture, so you may want to go with the other way.


There are a number of other ways that you can get the album artwork onto your There are a number of other ways that you can get the album artwork onto your iPhone. You can scan it from the physical album cover, and many CDs now include digital information including artwork.


No suggestion or tip in this article indicates or promotes any illegal activity, copyright infringement or otherwise.


Casey, Counting 'Em Down One Last Time

The July 4th weekend will be the last countdown for radio veteran Casey Kasem. After 39 years (to the day) of playing the hits "from coast-to-coast," Kasem will sign-off his American Top 10 and American Top 20 syndicated radio programs.

Kasem and Premiere radio agreed that this was the time to end the franchise with Casey moving on to his other regular voice work in advertising and cartoons and Premiere saving some dollars. Ryan Seacrest will continue to host American Top 40, which he took over from Kasem in 2004.

American Top 40 premiered on the July 4th weekend in 1970 on just seven stations and was distributed by Watermark. Originally three hours in length, it had to move to four hours in 1978 due to the increased length of the hits of the day. The show was filled with information about the artists and songs, recaps of music from other genres and the infamous Long Distance Dedication.

Kasem left the show on August 6, 1988 over a contract dispute and it was taken over by Shadoe Stevens but it didn't keep him out of the countdown game for long. In 1989, Casey's Top 40 premired over the Westwood One radio network and quickly started stealing stations from the original AT40 roster.

Stevens' version of American Top 40 left the air in the U.S. in mid-1994 while Kasem's show was still going strong. In late-1997, Casey tried to talk his Westwoon One managers into letting him rename Casey's Top 40 to American Top 40, but they refused. Kasem took the show to AMFM Radio and the new version debuted on March 28, 1998.

Casey stayed with the new AT40 until January 10, 2004 when Ryan Seacrest took over the reins, leaving him with his Adult Contemporary versions, American Top 10 and 20 shows. Newly digitized versions of his 70's and 80's AT40 shows were also aired on satellite radio and, eventually, in syndication.


This Date In Music History-June 25


Mario Calire – Wallflowers (1974)

Mike Kroeger – Nickelback (1972)

Georgios Panayiotou- aka George Michael – Wham! and public restroom freak (1963)

David Paich – Toto (1954)

Tim Finn - Split Enz (1952)

Allen Lanier - Blue Oyster Cult (1946)

Ian McDonald - King Crimson, Foreigner (1946)

Eddie Floyd – Falcons (1935)

Carly Simon (1945)

They Are Missed:

Born in 1940, Clint Warwick of the Moody Blues. He died from liver disease on May 18, 2004.

Born today in 1939, Harold Melvin of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. He died on March 24, 1997.

Songwriter Boudleaux Bryant died in 1987. Wrote with his wife Felice, the Everly Brothers hits, “Bye Bye Love,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” Other acts to record their songs include Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Beatles, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, R.E.M. and many more.

Hillel Slovak, the original guitarist and founding member of The Red Hot Chili Peppers died from a heroin overdose in 1988 shortly after the band returned from a European tour.

In 2007, American singer and record producer Hank Medress died of lung cancer at 68. He was the vocalist on The Tokens 1961 #1 hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Also produced the hit single “He's So Fine” by The Chiffons, as well as Tony Orlando's “Knock Three Times.”

Television producer and journalist Elkan Allan died in 2006 (age 83). Allan produced the ground-breaking British pop show Ready Steady Go! in the 60's.

Turkish-American music producer and arranger Arif Mardin died in 2006 (age 74) from pancreatic cancer. He worked at Atlantic Records for over 30 years, before moving to EMI. The winner of 11 Grammy Awards, he worked with Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Roberta Flack, Wilson Pickett, Average White Band, The Bee Gees, Barbra Streisand and Norah Jones.


In 1964, New York radio station WMCA plays the entirety of the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" album 10 days before it's due to be in stores. The record company rush-released the album the next day.

Today in 1966, "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles topped the charts and stayed there for 2 weeks. Also #1 hit in the UK.

In 1967, an estimated 400 million people saw The Beatles perform “All You Need Is Love,” live via satellite as part of the TV global link- up, 'Our World', Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash, Keith Moon and Gary Leeds provided backing vocals.

The Hollies recorded “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother” in 1969. Elton John played piano on the session.

Talking Heads’ fifth album, “Speaking in Tongues,'”was released in 1983. It became their highest-charting album, rising to #15 and launching the Top Ten hit “Burning Down the House.”

The film soundtrack to “Flashdance” started a two-week run at #1 on the US album chart in 1983.

The Police scored their fourth US #1 album in 1983 with “Synchronicity,” also #1 in the UK and featuring the singles “Every Breath You Take” and “Wrapped Around Your Finger.”

Patti Scialfa joined the E Street Band as a vocalist in 1984. She would later become Mrs. Bruce Springsteen.

In 1988, Debbie Gibson went to #1 on the US singles chart with “Foolish Beat,” making her the youngest female to write, produce and record a US #1 single.

Van Halen started a four-week run at #1 on the US album chart in 1988 with “OU812.”

In 1995, Pearl Jam canceled their tour because of an ongoing feud with Ticketmaster. They contended that the ticket giant held a monopoly and charged fans too big of a surcharge on concert tickets.

At a Grateful Dead show in Washington, D.C. in 1995, three people are struck by lightning.

Pink Floyd were at #1 on the US album chart in 1995 with “Pulse” the band’s fifth US #1.

In 2003, Ozzy Osbourne denied charges that he fathered a child out of wedlock, noting that he had a vasectomy 17 years ago. Nice try though.

2003 - The Recording Industry Association of America disclosed its plans to fight Internet piracy. The plan was to sue hundreds of individual computer users who illegally share music files online. The process was planned to begin the next day.

Prince's 'Purple Rain': 25th anniversary today

Purple Rain is an epic album by Prince and The Revolution and also the soundtrack to the film of the same name.

Purple Rain has regularly ranked among the best albums in rock music history. Time magazine ranked it the 15th greatest album of all time in 1993, and it placed 18th on VH1's Greatest Rock and Roll Albums of All Time countdown. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it the second-best album of the 1980s and 72nd on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. According to Billboard magazine, the album spent 24 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard album charts (August 4, 1984 to January 18, 1985) becoming one of the top soundtracks ever. Zounds magazine ranked it the 18th greatest album of all time. Finally, in 2007, the editors of Vanity Fair labeled it the best soundtrack of all time and Tempo magazine named it the greatest album of the 1980s.

The 1000th issue of Entertainment Weekly dated July 4, 2008 listed Purple Rain at number one on their list of the top 100 best albums of the past 25 years. The RIAA lists it as having gone platinum 13 times over.

Prince and The Revolution - When Doves Cry from the LP Purple Rain