A seventiesmusic milestone

July 29, 2012

On Thursday July 26 2012, seventiesmusic was visited by it’s 100,000th reader. 

To every 100,000 of you – thanks for coming.


American Pie – Don McLean – 1971.

July 26, 2012

At 8 minutes 33 seconds, Don McLean’s 1971 hit American Pie is the longest song to ever hit #1 on the US singles chart.

musical prodigy?

Born and raised in New York, Don McLean suffered from asthma as a child which curtailed is ability to play sport. He turned instead to music becoming a huge fan of Buddy Holly. According to his parents, Don knew more than one hundred songs by the time he was two years old.

Despite his love of Buddy’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, by the time he was a teenager, Don had become infatuated with folk music. He bought a guitar and began performing shows for family and friends. While still in high school he made his first recording. He then attended Villanova University for a short while where he became friends with fellow singer/songwriter Jim Croce.

the day the music died

It was prior to these teen experiences that Don worked a schoolboy newspaper route. One morning, as a 12 year old, he cut into his bundle of papers and saw the headline announcing that his hero Buddy Holly, along with Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, had been killed in an aeroplane crash.

But February made me shiver

With every paper I’d deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried

When I read about his widowed bride

But something touched me deep inside

The day the music died

if at first you don’t succeed

Don’s first album, Tapestry, was rejected by 34 recording companies (some sources say 37) before being released by Media Arts. Both the album and the single from it, Castles in the Air, were flops.

Undeterred, Don commenced work on his second album, American Pie. It was released by United Artists in November 1971 and was an instant success moving up the charts faster than any other UA record in history. It reached #1 on the US album charts in January 1972 and remained there for nearly four months. American Pie sold more than three million copies as a single, five million as an album.

american pie fax

  • American Pie was recorded early in 1971 and released as a single and as a track from the album of the same name, in November of the same year.
  • American Pie hit #1 in the US and remained there for four weeks. It reached #2 in the UK.
  • American Pie is Don’s recounting of the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper.
  • American Pie was listed at #5 on the RIAA’s Songs of the Century project.
  • With a running time of 8 minutes and 33 seconds, American Pie is the longest song to reach #1 on the US singles chart. It was too long to fit on one side of a 45 rpm record and so was split into two parts. Many radio stations played only part one of the original split-sided single release.
  • Over the years, many attempts have been made to interpret the meaning American Pie. Don has resisted responding to direct questions about the lyric’s. He simply refers to them as “poetry that is beyond analysis.” What we do know is that the first verse is mainly about the day Buddy Holly et al died. The third verse (“Now for ten year we’ve been on our own”) onwards is said to represent a symbolic “loss of innocence” for 1960s youth.
  • A number of artists have sung cover versions of American Pie – often only singing a verse or two, or altering the lyrics to sing about something relating to themselves, their lives, or the town they’re playing in. The first English language cover version was by The Brady Bunch in 1972. Since then it’s been sung by Catch 22, Mott the Hoople, Chris de Burgh and Eddie Vedder. In 2000, Madonna released a version to promote the soundtrack to her film The Next Best Thing.
  • A number of comedians, including Weird Al Yankovic, have released parody versions.
  • In 1971, a singer named Lori Lieberman saw McLean perform American Pie at the Troubadour theater in Los Angeles. She claimed that she was so moved by the concert that her experience became the basis for her song Killing Me Softly With His Song which was a huge hit for Roberta Flack in 1973. Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, the song’s composers deny this, however.
  • American Pie lyrics

american pie – don mclean – 1971 – video

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My Sharona – The Knack – 1979

July 19, 2012

The Knack’s 1979 #1 hit My Sharona had the distinction of selling a million copies faster than any other debut single since The Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1964.

i recognise that

Don’t you love those riffs that are immediately recognisable? Smoke on the Water, Whole Lotta Love, Pinball Wizard, Lola – there must be hundreds of them.

The My Sharona riff was bouncing around inside the head of Berton Averre, The Knack’s guitarist, long before he joined the band.  The problem was he couldn’t think of any words to go with it. When The Knack formed he played the riff for Doug Fieger, the group’s lead singer. He loved it and was determined to make it into a song but, like with Berton, ideas evaded him, until…

would the real sharona please reveal herself

In 1977 Doug met Sharona Alperin and fell instantly in love. He said later,

It was like getting hit in the head with a baseball bat; I fell in love with her instantly. And when that happened, it sparked something and I started writing a lot of songs feverishly in a short amount of time.

Doug claims that My Sharona was written for his girlfriend in  just 15 minutes.

As for Sharona, she and Doug went out for about four years but eventually separated and married other people. They did, however, remain close friends.

Sharona now works as a real estate in Los Angeles. Her website address is www.mysharona.com – I wonder how many times she introduces herself and gets the response; “Ba ba ba ba ba-ba ba-ba ba-ba, My Sharona…”?

And, by the way, it’s the real Sharona on the cover of the My Sharona single.

what about the knack?

The Knack were an American New-Age band formed in Los Angeles in 1975. While they stayed together as a band for a long time and were active in the years, 1978–1982, 1986–1992, 1994 and 1996–2010, they never managed to repeat the success of their debut single.

doug rip

Doug has left us. He died of cancer at home in Los Angeles February 14, 2010. He was 57 years old.

bruce rip

The drummer, Bruce Gary, went on to have a very successful career as a studio and live drummer. He did studio work with artists such as Jack Bruce, Mick Taylor, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Spencer Davis, Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, and Sheryl Crow. Gary has also died – of lymphoma in 2006.

my sharona fax

  • Released in June 1979, My Sharona was The Knack’s debut single. It appeared on their album Get the Knack.
  • My Sharona hit #1 on the US singles chart and stayed there for six weeks. It was to top single of 1979.
  • No single since The Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand in 1964 had sold a million copies, and so achieved gold status.
  • The New York Times called My Sharona, “an emblem of the new wave era in rock and a prime example of the brevity of pop fame.”
  • In 2008, My Sharona gained the #75 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs. It was also ranked #16 on the Top Billboard Hot 100 Rock Songs of the chart’s first 50 years.
  • The Knack did have a second minor hit entitled, Good Girls Don’t. It peaked at #11 in the US but made #1 in Canada. (You’d know it if you heard it!!)
  • A number of bands have covered My Sharona including Nirvana and The Ramones. Nirvana joined Pearl Jam (or was it the other way around?) in a live performance of My Sharona.  And, Pearl Jam once performed the song in Italian in Verona, substituting the title lyrics for My Verona (cute, eh!).
  • Weird Al Yankovic did a parody of this called “My Bologna.” It was the song that kickstarted his career in song parody.
  • My Sharona has appeared in a number of movies; Reality Bites, RocketMan, Full Throttle, Super 8, and the trailer for Charlie’s Angels.
  • After appearing in the movie Reality Bites in 1994, it was released as a single from the soundtrack and peaked at #94 on the US charts.
  • Quentin Tarantino wanted to use My Sharona in his movie Pulp Fiction but The Knack said, “no.”
  • My Sharona lyrics.

my sharona – the knack – 1979 – video

good girls don’t – the knack – 1979 video


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Jon Lord 9 June 1941 – 16 July 2012.

July 18, 2012

A great contemporary musician  and co-composer of one of the great guitar riffs of all time passed away on July 16 2012.  The following is taken from the official Jon Lord website.

It is with deep sadness we announce the passing of Jon Lord, who suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism today, Monday 16th July at the London Clinic, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Jon was surrounded by his loving family.

Jon Lord, the legendary keyboard player with Deep Purple co-wrote many of the bands legendary songs including Smoke On The Water and played with many bands and musicians throughout his career.

Best known for his Orchestral work Concerto for Group & Orchestra first performed at Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1969 and conducted by the renowned Malcolm Arnold, a feat repeated in 1999 when it was again performed at the Royal Albert Hall by the London Symphony Orchestra and Deep Purple.

Jon’s solo work was universally acclaimed when he eventually retired from Deep Purple in 2002.

Jon passes from Darkness to Light.

Jon Lord 9 June 1941 – 16 July 2012.


Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum – 1970

July 12, 2012

In 1970 Norman Greenbaum’s, Spirit in the Sky sold two million copies, spent fifteen weeks on the US singles chart and is at #333 of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500 songs of all time.

another one hit wonder?

Yep, another one hit wonder… there were a lot of them in the 70s. I guess there have been a lot in every decade.

But he was only just a one hit wonder because he almost had another hit. In 1968, under the name Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, he recorded a song named, The Eggplant That Ate Chicago which, I’m told was a hit but I can’t say as how I recall it at all – fortunately!

norman

Although the song might have seemed to have Christian roots, Norman was and is a Jew. He wrote this song after hearing a Gospel singer on the tele. He thought, “I could do that,” and so, in just 15 minutes he wrote Spirit in the Sky.

The inspiration for the song, however, is not religion but cowboys! Norman was, apparently, a bit of a western movie fan. When asked what the catalyst to writing Spirit in the Sky was, he answered:

If you ask me what I based “Spirit In The Sky” on… What did we grow up watching? …Westerns! These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on.

The song itself was simple, when you’re writing a song you keep it simple of course. It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise it was just a simple song. I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky. Funny enough… I wanted to die with my boots on.

In 1972 Norman released an album, with Ry Cooder, named Petaluma. It didn’t do too good and so he left the music scene and worked his dairy farm. In the mid-80s he returned to show business as a manager and promoter.

spirit in the sky fax

  • Spirit in the Sky was written and released very late in 1969.
  • Spirit in the Sky peaked at # 3 on the US singles chart in April 1970. It stayed in the top 100 for 15 weeks and sold two million copies. It reached #1 in the UK, Canada and Australia.
  • Spirit in the Sky was the title track on the first of Norman’s four albums.
  • In 1970 John Lennon gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he was very critical of many of the artists of the time such as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. He did, however, admit to liking Spirit in the Sky because it was plain and simple rock.
  • Spirit in the Sky has featured in a number of movies and television series including: House, My Name Is Earl, Saving Grace, Contact, Apollo 13, Remember the Titans, Ocean’s Eleven, Wayne’s World 2, The Longest Yard, Knocked Up, Forrest Gump, Evan Almighty, and Sunshine Cleaning.
  • Spirit in the Sky was ranked at #85 in VH1’s 100 Greatest One-hit Wonders.
  • Spirit in the Sky has been covered by DC Talk and Bauhaus. UK Pop Idol runner up Gareth Gates recorded Spirit In The Sky with The Kumars as the official Comic Relief charity single for 2003. It hit #1 on the UK singles chart.
  • spirit in the sky lyrics

spirit in the sky – norman greenbaum – 1970 – video


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Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury and the Blockheads – 1978.

July 5, 2012

Hit me with your rhythm stick, hit me slowly, hit me quick!

don’t let the hits fool you

Listening to some of Ian Dury’s radio music could give you the impression he’s kinda shallow but he was actually a wonderful, although very basic, lyricist.

Much of his talent was borne from his childhood angst. Ian contracted polio when he was seven years old. He spent six weeks in a full plaster cast in a Truro hospital before being moved to a hospital in Essex. He remained there for a year and a half before going to a school and hospital for disabled children.

The philosophy of this latest school was that “these sort of children” needed toughening up if they were going to survive the rigours of everyday life in the real world. It was an unhappy time for Ian.

good ol’ mum

Ian’s mother came to the rescue. She valued education and wanted him to excel academically. She enrolled him in Royal Grammar School. Here he gained an education but, as with the previous schools, didn’t enjoy the atmosphere at all.

[If I misbehaved] I had to go into a box room where the suitcases were stored and learn 80 lines of Ode to Autumn by yer man Keats. If I got a word wrong I had to go back, they added that to the end of the sentence and after five nights of this my head had definitely gone.

the blockheads

Ian had been writing poetry for years. Its basic and straightforward format fitted the New Wave music genre that was beginning to sweep Britain. Ian wrote enough songs to fill an album which he entitled, “New Boots and Panties.” Needing a band to back him, he formed The Blockheads and the rest, as they say, is history.

ian rip

Ian died on March 27th 2000. The Blockheads continue to perform.

dury trivia

Ian’s favourite album was Steely Dan‘s, Aja. He said of it;

It lifts my spirits up whenever I play it.

hit me with your rhythm stick fax

  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick was released on 23rd November 1978. It reached #1 on the UK charts in January 1979 but nearly didn’t make it – it was kept from #1 for five weeks by Village People’s YMCA.
  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick mentions a number of international locations and a number of non-English phrases.
  • Not surprisingly, there seems to be few, if any, cover versions of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, but it did appear in an episode of Dr Who.
  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick lyrics

hit me with your rhythm stick – ian dury and the blockheads – 1978 – video

hit me with your rhythm stick – ian dury and the blockheads – recorded live – 1985

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