Greatest Pop Rock Ballads (1960's)

The Greatest Pop Rock Ballads (1960’s)

 
There are many definitions for “ballad” songs and many sub categories as well such as the; Sentimental, Blues, R&B, Hard Rock, Soft Rock and of course the Power-Ballad. A ballad is generally defined as a song with emotion and sentimentality that may include a story of love, loss, longing or self reflection. It is typically a longer and slower paced song. We can trace the origins back to the singing bards and traditional folk music, through the Victorian parlours, Big Bands and all the way to songs such as Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me“. I think all of us generally know a ballad when we hear one. Today I want to talk about Pop-Rock Ballads.

Yesterday” (recorded June 14, released August 6, 1965) written by Paul McCartney, credited to Lennon/McCartney and sang solo as a Beatles member by McCartney.  I’ve blogged on this, the most covered ‘pop’ song of all time before but not in this particular capacity, for me it ticks all the boxes for a great ballad. This was a turning point for ballads in Rock music and for that matter in popular music period. Just because the song is now almost 55 years old and most everyone knows the song doesn’t make it great, it was exceptional right from the first time it was performed. It’s well documented from McCartney’s own words that the melody came to him in a dream, and after months of using the comical placeholder lyrics of “Scrambled eggs/Oh my baby how I love your legs/Not as much as I love scrambled eggs” the words were finalized while on a holiday break. Paul has credited John Lennon with coming up with the title of “Yesterday” which helped him finish the song. There is so much written about the uniqueness of the song, the chord progression, lyrics and Paul’s acoustic guitar playing-not to mention George Martin’s brilliant idea to add the orchestra. While it was very briefly debated to release the song as it was, a solo by McCartney, this was vetoed and the the band would not allow it to be released as a single in the UK. Their American label was Capitol Records and the distance (both physical and legal) from EMI’s Parlophone label allowed them to make the decision to release the single on September 13, 1965 but in the US only. It hit #1 after four weeks and reportedly sold a million copies in five weeks, not unheard of however, even for the most popular singles at that time it was still about a year’s worth of sales. And people are still listening to and talking about the song. Currently there are well over 800 documented cover versions with likely a couple thousand others so it is tough to pick just a few. The first cover was from Marianne Faithfull in 1965 (catch the irony!) The Supremes  and John Denver are two of the over 70 versions from just 1966 alone. Frank Sinatra (1969). Himesh Patel from the movie ‘Yesterday’. (2018). Billie Eilish from the 2020 Oscars.

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Elvis Presley (part 2)

Elvis Presley (part 2)

In part one on the King (born January 8, 1935)  I stuck to songs he had covered and recorded in 1956. With August 16 coming up, being the anniversary of his untimely passing (August 16, 1977) I will honour his music and will wander outside of 1956.

I will have little trouble finding cover songs that I have not mentioned, even though including the one dedicated issue, I have cited and inserted Elvis songs throughout at least a dozen posts. There are just so many to choose from, since that first post just over a year ago Secondhandsongs.com has added more cover songs that Elvis recorded, it was 485 and it now stands at 507.

During the time Elvis was making a string of movies (1964-66) his recording releases were largely dedicated to songs from those films. Unless you are an Elvis fanatic you may not know that an album was released in 1999 of ‘home’ recordings from 1964-67. Some of the songs are just Elvis solo, several were used for a later Gospel album and other songs include an ensemble such as “500 Miles“. It’s a folk favorite written by Hedy West first recorded by “The Journeymen” (John Phillips, Scott McKenzie and Dick Weissman) in 1961. This song was based on the words and melody from this traditional folk song, the first recording is called “I’m Nine Hundred Miles from Home” by Fiddlin’ John Carson (1924).

Just how far back can we go to find a connection to a song Elvis covered? So far (that I’ve found at least) it is “Love Me Tender” as it’s roots go back to 1861 and you can check it out my Love Songs post. But here is another, “The Gospel Train” or “Get On Board” is a traditional gospel song dating back to at least 1872. Here are the Tuskegee Institute Singers (1916). Based on this same melody is “Cindy” by Riley Puckett and Clayton McMichen, first recorded in 1927. Hope you are following along OK, now a song based on that melody was recorded as “Cindy Cindy” (words and music by Darrell Fuller, Buddy Kaye and Ben Weisman) by Elvis in 1971.

Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” by Eddie Riff with Orchestra (written by Ivory Joe Hunter and Clyde Otis) in 1956. Elvis recorded this as a single in 1964.

And I Love You So” (1970) written and performed by Don McLean, another beautiful song from a gifted artist, this song touched Elvis enough that he released a version in May of 1975.

Elvis recorded several songs from the talented Jimmy Reed, such as “Baby What You Want Me to Do” (1959). Elvis (1968).

In an earlier post I talked about Aretha’s cover (1971) of “Bridge over Troubled Water’ from Simon and Garfunkel (January 26, 1970) but Elvis , and an astounding 52 other artists did a cover of this in that first year (1970) alone.

As with “Hound Dog” originally from Willie Mae Thornton albeit via Freddie Bell and The Bellboys, Elvis (on a somewhat rare occasion) would cover songs from female artists. “Dark Moon” from Bonnie Guitar (written by Ned Miller) was another of those home recordings by Elvis from 1966/7. Check out this clip from ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, “Everything Gonna Be Alright” and you will hear why she came to people’s attention beyond “Hound Dog”, she was an incredible talent who was unfortunately much overlooked in her time.

Elvis also covered Bob Dylan (four times) including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right“. To say Elvis’s tastes and abilities were diverse is a bit of an understatement.

Trivia. The Queen song “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (1979) was written by Freddie Mercury in about 10 minutes while lounging in a bath. It was a tribute to Elvis. It was the first time Freddie composed a song using a guitar which he admittedly “couldn’t play for nuts” and the band completed and recorded the song in half an hour. It went to #1 in the US, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands and sold close to 3 million copies worldwide. A great cover by the very talented Dwight Yoakam the closest thing to a legit ‘Country Elvis’ you’ll ever find, he hit #1 on the Canadian Country chart in 1999.

Interesting fact that top ranked (Rolling Stone Magazine) music icons Elvis (#3), Aretha Franklin (#9) and Robert Johnson (fifth greatest guitarist) all passed away on August 16,

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_PageSecondhandsongs.comhttps://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2rrx78

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1969

1969 The year in music

Being fifty years ago, this year has of course received a lot of attention. While I’m no historian, I will go back to some of the moments in 1969 music history and some of  the songs that are still being covered today. A good indicator of popularity at the time is my oft used reference of the ‘Billboard’ charts. However as I’ve indicated several times in past posts some of the greatest songs of our time did not chart well at all and many a number one song has long been forgotten. While this year-end #1 Billboard Hot 100 song is a lot of fun, it’s hardly one of the most enduring songs nor of such substance we’d choose to immortalize.Read More »

Yesterday

Paul McCartney’s iconic song “Yesterday”, is now inspiration for a movie.

The Movie ‘Yesterday‘ is due out in theatres on June 28th. Looks like it will be a fun movie, anything with a lot of Beatles songs has to be good. Initial reviews aren’t very great but I recall Bohemian Rhapsody was in the same spot, seems it did very well at the box office and at awards shows. Though in this case ‘Yesterday’ is not autobiographical it is fiction, still one has to think a Beatles Soundtrack is going to do as well or better. At the very least it will remind us of how great The Beatles actually were and that songs still hold up today. The plot of the movie is based on a struggling musician being the only one who remembers ‘The Beatles’ existed ‘yesterday’ as ‘today’ they are absent from everyone’s memory. It’s a brilliant premise and poses the question, what if these songs did just come out now, how popular would they be? If nothing else it highlights the genius of ‘The Beatles‘, the Lennon-McCartney duo and the added touches of the ever creative Sir George Martin.Read More »

Classic Rock

Classic Rock

What is now referred to as ‘Classic Rock’ was just plain ole R&R when I was growing up, so while the music is now ‘classic’, me…not so much. In part thanks to baby boomer parents like myself who exposed their children to the songs, 1970’s and 80’s Rock is alive and well. What has really kept it alive though (apart from demographics) is the music itself, a lot of really talented artists making great tunes. Everyone I think has some songs from their youth that hold a lot of meaning, but few era’s of music have the staying power these bands produced.Read More »

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel
The pair were very close friends in high school and actually had a bit of a hit song in 1957 but their career didn’t really go anywhere at that point. Not ones to quit on music they persevered and eventually got a contract with Columbia Records in 1963 and produced the Album “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.”.  Recorded in March 1964, the album was released on October 19. The music did not sell enough to convince Columbia Records to keep Simon and Garfunkel, so they went their separate ways. Still working in the industry, the duo split up but stayed in touch. As there are few businesses stranger than the world of recorded music, fate would have other plans.

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The Beatles Cover songs

The Beatles Cover songs

The Beatles some might say (arguably) are the best band in history. I say this! Few have amassed the body of work in the relatively brief time they were together, officially from 1960 to 1970. Ringo joined in 1962 to form the best-selling band of all time. And its not just about the quantity of songs but the quality.  Whether you are more a Lennon fan or McCartney, or you favour Ringo over George, they were all exceedingly talented.

I don’t want to get into the debate of Stones v. Beatles, hey straight up Rock and Roll and longevity needless to say the Rolling Stones win that battle! I shall blog the Stones as well in the future. So, just how many songs did they record? How many originals and how many were cover songs? Cover songs are important as they show some of the early influences on their music and songs they liked enough to re-record. 
According to Soundscapes the Beatles recorded 212 original songs between 1962-1970
Hal Leonard sights 213 original songs
Wikipedia lists 236 original songs and 69 cover songs for a total of 305
Seems odd we all can’t agree on a number, however for my purposes I’m going to focus on cover songs and my go-to authority on this is Secondhandsongs.com. They have the Beatles being covered on 192 original songs, not sure which of the either the 212, 213 or 236 originals have not been re-recorded by I guess there is still time.
Accordingly, they have listed the Beatles recording 102 covers from other artists. Mind you they included ‘technical’ cover songs like those of them covering their own songs and songs from Tony Sheridan who the Beatles backed up as “The Beat Brothers” and German versions etc. so the Wiki number of 69 seems more accurate.  I shan’t attempt to list them all, but I will talk about some of them and there’s enough to fuel several blog posts for sure. I’ll stick to actual Beatles songs originally done by someone else and not written by them. Just for your own edification I have over 200 Beatles songs in my library, and I have 85 songs in my Beatles covers/covered playlist.
Today I’d like to talk about some of the oldest ones, that is to say the originals that date back the farthest.
Maggie Mae” recorded by the Beatles in 1969.  This was a staple song for the Quarrymen and was widely played and recorded in the UK in the 1950’s and 60’s.
The Beatles add their own words but the song was based on the Traditional Folk song from the mid to late 1800’s but first recorded in 1905as “Good-Bye Maggie May” by J.W. Myers

Here is “Maggie May” by The Vipers Skiffle Group 1957
And yes I believe that Rod Stewart took the name for his hit song, though that’s the only similarity.

Here is a clip of Paul McCartney from “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” singing a snippet of the song. Originally a sailor’s song from what I’ve read so not out of place here.

This one is listed as recorded by the Beatles from 1963 but released on Anthology 1 in 1994.
Moonlight Bay” a silly version from a British Comedy show
The original song is from 1911 written by Edward Madden, and Percy Wenrich
Listed as ‘American Quartet and Orchestra’ first released in 1912.
Shimmy Shake” Live, At the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany 1962, Album released May 1, 1977
This song is based on “IWish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” written by Armand Piron but I think its just an instrumental only from 1921
Here’s one with lyrics from Muggsy Spanier “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” recorded in 1939
I would say this song inspired Chan Romeo in 1959 to write this song “Hippy Hippy Shake
The Beatles did it in 1962
Part 2 of the Beatles cover songs has some you may actually recognize from regular albums and some you probably didn’t know were covers!
Sources not mentioned; iTunes, RollingStone.com, thebeatles.com, http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/all-213-beatles-songs-ranked-from-worst-to-best.html

If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of anyone’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB or other social media. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!