Behind the Classics

BEE GEES

BEE GEES
“Jive Talkin’” BEE GEES Thank the public works department of Biscayne Bay, Fla. One of their bridges—the Julia Tuttle Causeway—inspired the song that redefined the Bee Gees’ career and became the first of their disco-era No. 1 hits. Barry Gibb recalled that he and brothers Robin and Maurice were working on the Main Course album. “We were trying to make a comeback. It was 1975—and we were sort of out of vogue at that time,” said... 

HEARTBREAK HOTEL

HEARTBREAK HOTEL
“Heartbreak Hotel” ELVIS PRESLEY  A suicide note was the unlikely inspiration behind the song that became Elvis’ first No. 1 hit and million-selling single. Steel guitarist and session musician Tommy Durden read a newspaper article about a man who had killed himself, leaving behind a note with the haunting words: “I walk a lonely street.” Durden brought the article to his friend and co-writer Mae Boren Axton. A 41-year-old high school... 

Crying

Crying
“Crying”   ROY ORBISON  Roy Orbison’s ultimate aria of love and loss had its roots in a real-life episode. “I was dating this girl and we broke up,” the singer recalled. “Two or three years later, I went to the barber shop to get a haircut and looked across the street, and there was the girl I had split up with. I wanted to go over and say, ‘Let’s forget about what happened and carry on.’ But I was very stubborn. So I got in... 

AMERICAN PIE

AMERICAN PIE
“American Pie”   DON MCLEAN When Don McLean wrote “American Pie” in 1971, he was thinking far beyond the usual scope of a pop song. “I was conscious of the fact that I was trying to create a rock ’n’ roll dream sequence,” said McLean. “But it was way more than rock ’n’ roll. It was about an America that was coming apart at the seams. I was trying to create this song that connected with parts of America that mattered to me,... 

CHICAGO

CHICAGO
THE FACES OF CHICAGO WERE UNKNOWN TO MANY when photographer Norman Seeff shot this L.A. session for the band’s 1978 album, Hot Streets. “All their previous covers featured graphic renditions of their logo,” he says. “No one ever saw the band.” When a “mob of guys” arrived at his studio, Seeff feared he had his work cut out for him. “When you have a large group—and a square album cover—one challenge is how to squeeze everyone in,”... 

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”   THE ROLLING STONES On May 7, 1965, Keith Richards woke up in the middle of the night at a Florida hotel with a melody in his head. Fumbling in the dark, he grabbed his guitar next to the bed and a cassette recorder on the nightstand—and played an eight-note riff into it. It was accompanied by the mumbled vocal line, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Then he fell back asleep. “On the tape you can hear... 

BLONDIE

BLONDIE
WRITTEN BY: Debbie Harry, Chris Stein RECORDED: RECORD PLANT, NEW YORK PRODUCED BY: MIKE CHAPMAN DEBBIE HARRY: VOCALS NIGEL HARRISON: BASS CLEM BURKE: DRUMS, DRUM MACHINE CHRIS STEIN: ELECTRIC GUITAR JIMMY DESTRI: KEYBOARDS FRANK INFANTE: GUITAR FROM THE ALBUM: PARALLEL LINES (1978)   “Heart of Glass”   BLONDIE  “Everyone was like, ‘Blondie’s gone disco!’” drummer Clem Burke recalled of the group’s first No. 1 hit. It was spring... 

DEEP PURPLE

DEEP PURPLE
WRITTEN BY: RITCHIE BLACKMORE, IAN GILLAN, ROGER GLOVER, JON LORD, IAN PAICE RECORDED: THE PAVILION AND GRAND HOTEL, MONTREUX, SWITZERLAND PRODUCED BY: DEEP PURPLE IAN GILLAN: VOCALS ROGER GLOVER: BASS IAN PAICE:  DRUMS RITCHIE BLACKMORE: ELECTRIC GUITAR JON LORD: ORGAN  FROM THE ALBUM: MACHINE HEAD (1972)   “Smoke on the Water” DEEP PURPLE   It’s the riff that will not die. It’s the heavy metal version of “Chopsticks.” Metallica’s... 

MARVIN GAYE

MARVIN GAYE
WRITTEN BY: NORMAN WHITFIELD AND BARRETT STRONG RECORDED: MOTOWN, DETROIT PRODUCED BY: NORMAN WHITFIELD MARVIN GAYE: VOCALS JAMES JAMERSON: BASS RICHARD “PISTOL” ALLEN: DRUMS ROBERT WHITE: ELECTRIC GUITAR EARL VAN DYKE: ORGAN  THE ANDANTES: BACKING VOCALS PAUL RISER: STRINGS FROM THE ALBUM: I HEARD IT THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE!   “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” MARVIN GAYE    Though it has become one of Motown’s signature songs... 

DAVID BOWIE

DAVID BOWIE
WRITTEN BY: DAVID BOWIE RECORDED: TRIDENT STUDIOS, LONDON PRODUCED BY: GUS DUDGEON DAVID BOWIE: VOCALS, ACOUSTIC GUITAR, STYLOPHONE HERBIE FLOWERS: BASS TERRY COX: DRUMS MICK WAYNE: ELECTRIC GUITAR RICK WAKEMAN: MELLOTRON, PIANO PAUL BUCKMASTER: STRINGS FROM THE ALBUM: DAVID BOWIE (1969)   “Space Oddity” DAVID BOWIE In the dark of London’s Cinerama theater, 22-year-old David Bowie stared at the space embryo floating across the theater’s... 

THE KINKS

THE KINKS
“Waterloo Sunset” THE KINKS WRITTEN BY: RAY DAVIES RECORDED: PYE RECORDS STUDIO, LONDON, MARCH 1967 PRODUCED BY: SHEL TALMY AND RAY DAVIES RAY DAVIES: VOCALS, ACOUSTIC GUITAR DAVE DAVIES: ELECTRIC GUITAR, BACKING VOCALS PETE QUAIFE: BASS, BACKING VOCALS MICK AVORY: DRUMS NICKY HOPKINS: PIANO, HARPSICHORD RASA DAVIES: BACKING VOCALS DAVID WHITAKER: STRINGS FROM THE ALBUM: SOMETHING ELSE (1967) One morning in February 1967, Ray Davies rolled out... 

“Bohemian Rhapsody” QUEEN

“Bohemian Rhapsody” QUEEN
Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor, Freddie Mercury “Bohemian Rhapsody” QUEEN “Bohemian Rhapsody” is one of rock’s most beloved hits—and yet for all its brilliance, the song is only more remarkable considering it breaks every rule. There is no chorus. The form is odd and asymmetrical. The title never once appears in the lyric. It’s more than six minutes long. And it has an opera section with mock Italian lyrics. That the disparate... 
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