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5 2 SONG meanings

and origins


LIST OF SONGS NO. 01

NO. 10

NO. 02

NO. 11

AMAZING GRACE AMERICAN GIRL NO. 03

ROADIE

GLOOMY SUNDAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY NO. 12

BACKWARDS

HOTEL CALIFORNIA

NO. 05

NO. 13

NO. 04

BLOWIN' IN THE WIND NO. 06

DEAD MAN'S CURVE NO. 07

DIARY NO. 08

FIRE AND RAIN NO. 09

FORTUNATE SON

I DON'T LIKE MONDAYS NO. 14

IN THE AIR TONIGHT NO. 15

IT'S NO SECRET NO. 16

JENNY (8675309) NO. 17

LOUIE LOUIE

NO. 18

MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION NO. 19

PAGE 43 NO. 20

PRECIOUS LORD NO. 21

PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON NO. 22

PIZZA DELIVERY NO. 23

TAPS TEARS IN NO. 24

HEAVEN NO. 25

YOU OUGHTA KNOW SONGS 3


NO. 01 AMAZING GRACE


CLAIM:

The Tom Petty song "American Girl" was based on a student's suicide at the University of Florida.

STATUS: MULTIPLE ORIGIN:

Amazing Grace was penned by a slave trader immediately after he survived a horrific storm at sea, his survival prompting him to foreswear his former evil ways and accept God into his life. False. Amazing Grace was penned by a former slave trader, but only many decades after he'd left slave trading and seafaring behind and had become a minister of God. True. A number of legends circulate about why John Newton, a slavetraderturned-minister, penned the hymn 'Amazing Grace.' Most attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable: How could one who made his living trading in the misery of others have put into words such a powerful message of personal salvation? As is common with any number of music legends about particular songs, some will always look to events in the writers' lives that might have sparked such compositions. Thus are born tales of wild storms and pacts with God, as are stories about religious awakenings that prompted a slaver to set his cargo free. But the truth is far less poetic: 'Amazing Grace' is a song about salvation, but it wasn't composed until long after its writer had left his seafaring days behind him and become a minister. John Newton (1725-1807) first worked as a slave

buyer in Africa and later moved on to a position of captain on slave ships. He continued to make his living in the slave trade after becoming a Christian at the age of 23 in 1748. A violent storm at sea brought about his commitment to Christianity, but it was escaping with his own life that inspired him to get religion, not guilt over enslaving others. (Though this event is often pointed to as ''the" conversion, it really was only the first of many such pacts with the Almighty struck by Newton, each one brought about by his close shaves with death.) Newton quit the sea (and the slave trade) in 1754 or 1755. He did not free any of his merchandise on that 1748 trip, or on any others. Though he might have become a Christian, he did not yet allow it to interfere with his making a living. In 1754 or 1755, he became a Tides Surveyor in Liverpool (a form of Customs Officer charged with searching for contraband and paid with half the swag taken from others). It was at this point Newton first began to express an interest in the ministry, but at the time was unable to decide between the Methodist and Anglican faiths. He was ultimately ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1764. Newton most likely composed 'Amazing Grace' in 17n, although there is no clear agreement on the date. According to one biographer, the hymn was penned along with a great many others during an in-

formal hymn-writing competition he was having with William Cowper, another noted hymn writer. If so, that casts doubt upon this particular composition's being solely a cathartic outpouring of wonder over the Lord's mercy - there are, after all, only so many themes that can be expounded upon in a hymn, and personal salvation is one of them. Newton began to express regrets about his part in the slave trade only in 1780, thirty-two years after his conversion, and eight years after he wrote 'Amazing Grace.' In 1785 he began to fight against slavery by speaking out against it, and he continued to do so until his death in 1807. Thus, the bare bones of the story are true: A former slave trader did compose one of the most moving hymns of our times. But the meat of the claim - that a horrific event spurred a sinner to immediately repent his evil ways, penning 'Amazing Grace' as an expression of his repentance - fails on the facts. Newton's storm-driven adoption of Christianity didn't change him all that much; he continued to make his living from the slave trade for many years afterwards and only left the trade

SONGS 5


when his wife insisted upon their living a settled life in England. (Indeed, less than a year after his stormdriven Grace' as an expression of his repentance - fails on the facts. Newton's storm-driven adoption of Christianity didn't change him all that much; he continued to make his living from the slave trade for many years afterwards and only left the trade when his wife insisted upon their living a settled life in England. (Indeed, less than a year after his storm-driven conversion, Newton was back in Africa, brokering the purchase of newly-captured blacks and taking yet another "African wife" while there. He was hardly the poster boy for the truly penitent, at least at that point in his life.) Newton did eventually grow into his conversion, so that by the end of his days he actually was the godly man one would expect to have penned 'Amazing Grace.' But it was a slow process effected over the passage of decades, not something that happened with a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning. In Newton's case, the "amazing grace" he wrote of might well have referred to God's unending patience with him. Still, Newton's story gives us all hope - even the greatest of sinners can ultimately and meaningfully repent, and even the most half -hearted of conversions can over time work its magic.


NO. 02 AMERICAN GIRL

SONGS 7


CLAIM:

The Tom Petty song "American Girl" was based on a student's suicide at the University of Florida.

STATUS: FALSE

For whatever reasons — perhaps as a way to make sense of otherwise enigmatic lyrics, perhaps just for fun, or perhaps a bit of both — some popular songs (such as Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" and James Taylor's "Fire and Rain") have become strongly associated with fancreated urban legends, narratives that attempt to link the lyrics to real-life events. Another entry in this category is the Byrds-like "American Girl," one of the standout tracks from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' eponymous 1976 debut album.

ORIGIN:

According to legend, "American Girl" was inspired by a student's suicide at the University of Florida (UF), one committed by a female student who jumped to her death from the balcony of her Beaty Towers dormitory room. It's not hard to see why this story is so prevalent, as the reference to a suicide from a balcony is an obvious interpretation of the lyrics; Tom Petty himself is from Gainesville (where UF is located); and the words mention "441," a highway that runs past the school (and Beaty Towers): Well, she was an American girl, raised on promises. She couldn't help thinkin' that there was a little more to life somewhere else. After all it was a great big world with lots of places to run to. Yeah, and if she had to die tryin' she had one little promise she was gonna keep. It was kind of cold that night she stood alone on her balcony. She could hear the cars roll by out on 441 like waves crashin' in the beach, and for one desperate moment there he crept back in her memory. God it's so painful, something that's so close and still so far out of reach. Of course, the lyrics don't specifically mention Gainesville or the University of Florida or Beaty Towers, and U.S. Highway 441 spans about a thousand miles from Miami, Florida, to Lake City, Tennessee. Moreover, plenty of students familiar with UF have pointed out that the Beaty Towers buildings don't feature balconies, and the rooms have windows too small and awkwardly positioned to serve as practical exit points for would-be jumpers. But we don't need to engage in speculation about geographic locales and the physical features of buildings, because Tom Petty himself addressed the

legend of "American Girl" in an interview reproduced in the book Conversations with Tom Petty:

Q: There's the story that ['American Girl'] was based on the suicide of a girl at the University of Florida. Any truth to that?

A: Urban legend. It's become a huge urban myth

down in Florida. That's just not at all true. The song has nothing to do with that. But that story really gets around ... And that's happened with a lot of songs. But really extremely in that song. They've really got the whole story. I've even seen magazine articles about that story. Is it true or isn't it true? They could have just called me and found out it wasn't true. Additionally, Petty indicated that the lyrics were inspired not by anything associated with Florida, but rather by a freeway just outside the southern California apartment building where he was living when he wrote the song, several years after he moved away from Florida:

Q: Do you remember writing ['American Girl']? A: I don't remember exactly. I was living in an apart-

ment where I was right by the freeway. And the cars would go by. In Encino, near Leon [Russell]'s house. And I remember thinking that that sounded like the ocean to me. That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by. I think that must have inspired the lyric. An offshoot of the legend has UF students throwing Halloween parties at Tom Petty's former residence in Gainesville every year, another assumption Petty has disclosed as being based upon a fiction: I'll meet students from Gainesville. And they'll say, 'Yeah, we party in your old house on Halloween.' There's this tradition that they go to my house, whoever's renting it at the time, and have this big party. But I never lived in a house in Gainesville. I lived in apartments. I lived in my mom's house, where I know they're not throwing a party. So that's also a myth. Someone got a house and said, 'This is where he lived.' That tradition has gone on and on. And every time I tell them it's not true, they go, 'Aaah ...' [Laughs] I almost am tempted to go 'Oh great,' because I don't want to pop their balloon.


NO. 03 ROADIE

SONGS 9


CLAIM:

A song appearing on the final Byrds album was sung by a roadie.

STATUS: FALSE

At the end of 1971, only one member remained of the quintet of Byrds who had initiated the folk-rock boom six years earlier when they scored #1 hits by grafting their lush harmonies and jangly guitar sound onto traditional and modern folk songs such as "'Mr. Tambourine Man" and 'Turn! Turn! Turn!" Although the other four original Byrds had long since departed the group, founder Roger (originally Jim) McGuinn had weathered a series of personnel changes over the years and kept the Byrds going as a recording and touring act. The Byrds' last gasp as a studio group came with the November 1971 release of their final album, Farther Along. Many critics panned the LP as a hurriedly-recorded collection of disappointingly tepid songs, and some of them later suggested that the weakness of the Farther Along material was attributable to the members of this final incarnation of the Byrds sensing that the end of the line was near and withholding their best materi at for release on future solo efforts. Roger McGuinn, in particular, was said to be

ORIGIN:

Distracted by promise of a reunion of the original five Byrds, leading to his being unfocused and detached during the production of Farther Along. These criticisms prompted Byrds biographer Johnny Rogan to note a decade later that Roger McGuinn had been so uninterested in the Byrds' final album that a mere roadie (i.e., a person engaged to transport and set up equipment and perform errands for musicians on tour) had been allowed to write and sing one of the songs appearing on it: "BB Class Road" is another below-average track, sung by the Byrds roadie Stuart "Dinkie" Dawson. Dawson had the basic idea for the song and Gene Parsons added the melody. Sadly, it must be admitted that this song has no distinguishable Byrds sound whatsoever . Uterally, it could be anyone singing and playing. That a mere roadie could be given leave t o appear on an album as easily as this is a testament to McGuinn's loss of control and general lack of interest in the group. It's easy to see how a listener might have formed this impression of the song in question, "BB Class Road. ": It didn't much sound like a Byrds track; it listed the Byrds' roadie, Stuart "Dinkie" Dawson, as a co-writer; and the lyrics were

a firstperson account of life on the road, complete with a spoken introduction dedicating the song to "all the road managers that are worth a dang anywhere in the word": Now listen here! This song is dedicated to all road managers who are worth a dang anywhere in the world. We want you to know what we think of you. Driving down the highway, seven days a week, Looking for a number one, looking rather bleak. Well, I'm a r oadie, what a job being a roadie, I'm a roadie, BB Class Road Getting to the gig on time is not so hard to do. The only way's to br eak a crime, speeding is the thing to do. Well I'm a r oadie, what a job being a r oadie, Hey, hey I'm a roadie, BB Class Road'Well, I'm really, really tired today, been shaking my gear all night. You know what they're all going t o say, 'Someday you're gain' to miss a flight' ' Well, I'm a roadie, here today, troubling over things. Well, I'm a roadie, BB Class Road, BB Class Road, BB Class Road. In fact, although roadie Stuart Dawson had a hand in the writing and recording of "BB Class Road," the song was actually sung by the Byrds' drummer, Gene Parsons. The reason it didn't sound much like the Byrds was because Parsons' voice was unfamiliar to many listeners (he'd only sung lead on a couple of Byrds tracks prior to the release of Farther Along), and he departed from his normal vocal delivery on "BB Class Road" to assume an alternate persona as a roadie. As the liner notes to the 2000 CD re -issue of the Farther Along album describe the song: Co-written by Gene Parsons and Byrds' roadie Stuart "Dinky" Dawson, this quirky novelty song about life on the road was completed at a time when the group was still actively touring. Parsons gruff vocal concludes with a barrage of beer bottles tumbling over hi s drum kit."I was imitating and taking on a different persona," he recalls. "Stuart and I collaborated and i t's me growling and howling out the vocal. Dinky may have sung background and was involved in the studio. You can hear broken glass on there, that was his idea. "Although Farther Along proved to be the final record produced by what was known as the "CBS Byrds" (i.e., the group then under contract to Columbia Records), the original five members reunited briefly the following year to record an eponymous titled album for another label.


NO. 04 BACKWARDS

SONGS 11


CLAIM:

The Beatles' song "Because" is Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" played backwards.

STATUS: NOT QUITE ORIGIN:

On our "Back and Fourth" page about the legend of a music student caught handing in a backwards version of someone else's composition rather than creating his own - we discuss the concept that (in western music, at least) one cannot create a viable piece of music by simply reversing an existing work. This prompted many readers to write to us and maintain that John Lennon had done just that, creating the song "Because" (on the Beatles' Abbey Road album) by turning Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" backwards. Although there is some basis for this statement, "Because" is far from being merely a reversed version of a Beethoven work in the literal sense implied in the college legend. Beethoven's sonata in C-sharp minor (Op. 27, No. 2, originally titled "quasi una fantasia" and also known as the "Arbor" sonata), written in 1801, has been associated with a number of romantic stories. When the sonata was published in 1803 it was dedicated to his young piano student Countess Giulietta Guicciardi, but Beethoven apparently did not have her in mind at the time he wrote it. The "Moonlight Sonata" (a title not given to the piece until after Beethoven's death) was immediately popular upon publication and has remained the most well-known of Beethoven's sonatas ever since, although most people are familiar only with the first of the sonata's three movements. John Lennon's dream-like "Because," recorded in gorgeous nine-part harmony (three voices recorded three times) for the Beatles' final album in 1969, shares

several attributes - its key (C -sharp minor), its chord structure, and its use of arpeggios (tones of a chord played in succession rather than simultaneously) - with Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," but "Because" is not at all a song created by simply turning a Beethoven work around from back to front. Finding similarities between the music of the Beatles and Beethoven is intriguing because it highlights a commonality between the (supposedly antithetical) high art of a cultured classical composer and the popular music of four provincial, musically unschooled and self-taught Liverpudlian youths, and the idea of the Beatles' turning a piece of music backwards certainly requires no stretch of the imagination when one recalls their use of reversed vocals in the fade-out of "Rain" or the backwards guitar solo in "' I'm Only Sleeping." However, "Because" is more accurately described as a song based upon or inspired by the reverse structure of a Beethoven piece rather than as "'Moonlight Sonata' backwards." John Lennon himself is the person responsible for the "backwards" claim, having explained the origins of "Because" many times in words similar to the following: (Yoko) trained as a classical musician. I didn't know that until this morning. In college she majored in classical composition. Now we stimulate each other like crazy. This morning I wrote this song called "Because." Yoko was playing some classical bit, and I said "Play that backwards," and we had a tune. However, a survey of

John's (and Yoko's) comments about "Because" demonstrate that what Lennon had in mind was a song based upon a reversal of "Moonlight Sonata"'s chord progression, not literally a backwards version of the piece: This is about me and Yoko in the early days. Yoko was playing some Beethoven chords and I said to play them backwards. ("Because") is really "Moonlight Sonata" backwards. Piano has been my security blanket all my life, and whenever I'm nervous or something, I tend to go to the piano. I was playing "Moonlight Sonata," I think, and John said, "its beautiful, beautiful - ah, could we just hear the chords, and could we play it from this end, and all that, you know, sort of backwards". And he used the chord progression . . . from the back on. It worked. Well, it wasn't quite the reverse, I mean, it wasn't exact or anything - that was the inspiration. Even at that, "Because" is much more than a song based on the chord sequence of "Moonlight Sonata" in reverse - the chord progressions of "Because" and a backwards "Moonlight Sonata" are similar but not identical, and the melody of "Because" is much closer to a forwards version of "Moonlight Sonata" than a backwards one. As John acknowledged: I was lying on the sofa in our house, listening to Yoko play Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' on the piano. Suddenly, I said, 'Can you play those chords backward?' She did, and I wrote 'Because' around them. The song sounds like 'Moonlight Sonata,' too.


NO. 05 BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

SONGS 13


CLAIM:

The Bob Dylan song 'Blowin' in the Wind' was actually written by a New Jersey high school student.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

A not uncommon phenomenon among the group of singer-songwriters who got their start in the popular music industry in the 1960s was that some of those who emerged as the biggest stars received the widespread public attention that launched their stardom not through their own performances, but by someone else's turning their songs into hits. For example, most people's first exposure to John Denver's music came not through his work with the Chad Mitchell Trio in the mid-1960s or from his first hit single (1971's "Take Me Home, Country Roads"), but when Peter, Paul & Mary took his song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" to #1 in 1969. Likewise, many people familiar with Judy Collins' Top Ten hit "Both Sides Now" didn't first hear (or hear of) its writer, Joni Mitchell, until several years later. So it was, to some extent, with Bob Dylan. He'd acquired quite a following in folk circles since arriving in New York City in 1960, and the release of his first album in March 1962 garnered positive reviews, but a much larger, mainstream audience was first exposed to his work when Peter, Paul & Mary's version of "Blowin' in the Wind" reached #2 on the charts in mid-1963. The popularity of this record ensured that Dylan's appearance at the July 1963 Newport Folk Festival (where he sang "Blowin' in the Wind" accompanied by Peter, Paul & Mary) was well covered by the media, and national news magazines such as Playboy, The New Yorker and Time were running pieces about him. Dylan's rise to popularity was all the more amazing in that it took place in an era when success on the singles charts

was everything in the music industry, but Dylan himself wouldn't crack the Top 40 with one of his own recordings for another two years. (Even the Beatles, despite having scored three consecutive #1 hits in England, were little known in America at the time because none of their singles had made much of a dent in the U.S. pop charts.) Bob Dylan's exposure to a mass audience came with a price, however. That price was a scurrilous rumor, popularized by a November 1963 Newsweek article, which claimed Dylan hadn't actually written "Blowin' in the Wind"; he'd bought (or stolen) it from a high school student and disingenuously claimed it as his own: There is even a rumor circulating that Dylan did not write "Blowin' in the Wind," that it was written by a Millburn (N.J.) High student named Lorre Wyatt, who sold it to the singer. Dylan says he did write the song and Wyatt denies authorship, but several Millburn students claim they heard the song from Wyatt before Dylan ever sang it. Dylan says he is writing a book that will explain everything. But, he insists, the explanations are irrelevant. "I am my words," he says. Maybe this is enough. "There's a lot about Bobby I don't understand," says Joan Baez, who plays princess to his prince among young folk fans. "But I don't care. I understand his words. That's all that matters." Lorre Wyatt was a high school student in Millburn, New Jersey, who in the fall of his senior year in 1962 joined a school singing group called the Millburnaires. At a rehearsal a few months later, Wyatt played and

sang for his fellow Millburnaires a song he claimed he'd written, called "Blowin' in the Wind." The group played "Blowin' in the Wind" for a school assembly just before Thanksgiving, where it was introduced as a song Wyatt had written. Wyatt later told a teacher he'd sold the song for $1,000 and donated the money to CARE. The claim that Lorre Wyatt had written the song was also repeated in the Millburn High School newspaper in December 1962 and early 1963. Bob Dylan's own version of "Blowin' in the Wind" didn't appear until the release of his second album (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) in May 1963, and most of America didn't first hear the song until Peter, Paul & Mary's version started receiving radio airplay at about the same time. Meanwhile, plenty of people from the Millburn area remembered having heard Wyatt play the song several months earlier. And since Wyatt himself had claimed he wrote (and subsequently sold) "Blowin' in the Wind," they naturally assumed Dylan bought up the rights to the song, assigned the songwriting credit to himself, and was now being propelled to stardom by a song penned by a mere high school student, a song which Dylan was now misleadingly claiming he had written. When it was later discovered that Dylan and Wyatt might have crossed paths (Dylan had to come to New York to visit an ailing Woody Guthrie at Greystone Hospital, where Wyatt frequently entertained patients by playing his guitar and singing), the rumor took an even more scandalous turn: Dylan hadn't bought the song; he'd overheard Wyatt play it at


Greystone and then stole it. Controversy over the authorship of "Blowin' in the Wind" plagued Dylan throughout the end of 1963 and early 1964, especially after it was brought to national attention by the Newsweek article, which Dylan biographer Anthony Scaduto asserted was a hatchet job by a disgruntled journalist: The article was true enough, of course; Dylan was an image maker who wanted to be a pop star. But the writer made it clear he was interested only in a hatchet job on Dylan when he repeated a rumor that had been kicking around for some time — one that was clearly untrue — that Blowin' In the Wind had been written by a New Jersey High School student who had sold it to Dylan. The student, who was named, denied it, but the rumor was published anyway. In a sense, however, Dylan and [manager Albert] Grossman had it coming to them. As had happened to so many others before him, the writer for Newsweek had been promised Dylan's cooperation in an interview, but then at the last moment either Dylan or Grossman (there are several versions but most credit Grossman) told the writer there would be no interview. The writer then went out to Minneapolis and Hibbing and dug up Dylan's background. On his return he threatened to publish all the gossip, and Grossman backed down and set up an interview. It was brief: Dylan became nasty and broke it off, and the hatchet job was printed. Dylan was deeply hurt by the Newsweek article. "Why did they do that?" he asked Chris Welles who, after trying for eight months had finally got Dylan to sit still for a Life feature interview. "Man, they're out to kill me. What've they got against me?" Clinton Heylin's 1991 Dylan biography tells a similar story (albeit it with a different gender for the reporter): In October [1963] he reluctantly agreed to be interviewed by a Newsweek reporter, Andrea Svedburg, after she had dug up

something of his Minnesota past and threatened to use the material if he did not agree to the interview. However, their conversation apparently soon deteriorated into a slanging match and Svedburg went ahead and published a vicious hatchet job on Dylan Svedburg brought up an old story that a high school student named Lorre Wyatt had written "Blowin' in the Wind" and sold it to Dylan for a thousand dollars and, while carefully avoiding saying Wyatt had written the song, she managed to sow a large seed of doubt by implication. The rumor was completely false, of course. Dylan had written "Blowin' in the Wind" in April 1962 and recorded it the following July, several months before Wyatt first played the song for his fellow Millburnaires. Although the publishing copyright wasn't secured until well after Dylan recorded the song (the reverse of the usual practice), this wasn't at all an unusual procedure for someone who was writing and recording material as quickly as Dylan was. Nonetheless, this bit of minutia would later be seized upon by conspiracy enthusiasts who claimed it as evidence that Dylan recorded "Blowin' in the Wind" and then, upon finding out the song hadn't yet been copyrighted, took advantage of the situation to publish it and claim it as one of own compositions. Some even put forth the theory that Dylan had coincidentally written a different song also titled "Blowin' in the Wind" at about the same time Wyatt wrote his version, and, finding Wyatt's composition to be superior to his own, Dylan secured copyright protection for that version instead. What really happened was that Bob Dylan fell afoul of the practice of allowing folk music publications such as Broadside and Sing Out! to print the words and music to folk songs, even newly-written ones. "Blowin' in the Wind" was published in Broadside #6 in May 1962, a full year before Dylan's own recording of it was released, and it was in just such a publication that Millburn High student Lorre Wyatt first came

across it. Trying to impress his fellow Millburnaires, Wyatt played "Blowin' in the Wind" for them and dishonestly claimed he had written it. As he continued to draw acclaim for someone else's work, Wyatt found himself in a bind which he tried to wriggle out of by refusing to perform the song, maintaining that he'd sold the rights to someone else. (He didn't actually say he'd sold the song to Dylan; just that he'd sold the song.) Wyatt eventually told the full story in a 1974 issue of New Times magazine: In September of 1962, fall of my senior year, I auditioned for the Millburnaires, a perennial singing octet from Millburn High. Ecstatic over making it, I raced to my first rehearsal overflowing with song suggestions like "Dona, Dona" and "500 Miles." Several weeks later, I thumbed through the new issue of Sing Out! It was seeded with protest songs which rekindled my songwriting desires. The ideas of one song in particular had an unavoidable impact. They agitated my head, and I made valiant attempt to find my own words. I scribbled feverishly at my heavy blond desk, pressed by the upcoming Millburnaires rehearsal. But the printed words kept looking better and better, and I couldn't resist trying to piece the tune together. On October 28th, the eight of us were sitting around Don Larsen's beige-carpeted living room swapping songs. In my pocket were two sets of words — the original and the song I had hoped would grow out of it. My mind seesawed nervously back and forth between them. Mine wasn't finished and that song was so good. Maybe I could sing it and not say anything and they'd think I wrote it and be impressed. If they said, "Let's sing that sometime," that'd be OK. I'd finish my song by then, and they probably wouldn't remember the original.

SONGS 15


Someone said, "Anybody got a song?" My hands formed a shaky D chord, and a distant voice began, "How many roads ..." Unexpected silence as I finished. WOW! "Where'd you get that? Did you write that?" (Why not, I thought, nothing will ever come of it . . .) Yes. A rush in my brain as the chasm between the simple and the horrible surreal complex evaporated. That moment my old life ended and a new one began.

"Hey, we gotta do that! . . . We could learn it for Thanksgiving!" "No, no — we can't — it's not done yet!" Thanksgiving assembly. The ONE time we would do the song. My strictest instructions to everyone were not to mention who wrote it, but Don circumvented that by saying, "Here's a song written by one of the Millburnaires." At the end of the assembly, people streamed backstage. Somewhere the answer slipped out. I became adamant that we would never sing the song again. My head was swirling. Next Monday my homeroom teacher asked to see me after school for a "just between you and me" chat. She wondered why I didn't want to sing that song anymore. I pulled out the answer that I had been toying with all weekend, and told her that I had sold it. But nothing would abate her curiosity. When she asked, "For how much?" I blurted out $1,000. Her surprise led me quickly to add that I had given it away, and "Where?" became C.A.R.E. I'd begun to make Pinocchio look like he had a pug nose. It's commonplace for many of us to feel jealous of those who achieve a great deal of success, especially when that success seems to have come too quickly and with too little effort. Therefore we're all too willing to

believe the worst when presented with a claim that a major star rode to prominence by appropriating the creative effort of a high school student, especially when presented with a selective set of facts that seem to constitute incontrovertible evidence of the theft. If we can't lift ourselves into the realm of acclaimed singers and songwriters, we can at least try to drag some of them down to our level.


NO. 06 DEAD MAN'S CURVE

SONGS 17


CLAIM:

Jan Berry of Jan & Dean had a near-fatal automobile accident on the very same road the duo had sung a~ut in their hit "Dead Man's Curve."

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

Many an American town has been home to a "dead man's curve" - a winding stretch of road so treacherous that it has (in legend or in fact) been the scene of numerous accidents and claimed the lives of several unwary or foolhardy drivers who challenged its bends at too high a speed. But the most famous "dead man's curve" of all belongs to Los Angeles, as immortalized in the 1964 top ten hit by Jan & Dean, the singing duo who crafted a string of chart-topping singles built around surfing and hot rods in the mid19605. Exactly where Los Angeles' version of "dead man's curve" can be found is the subject of some debate, but by general consensus i t's a tight corner of Sunset Boulevard near the Bel-Air Estates north of UCLA's Drake Stadium. (In this map of the UCLA campus, i t's the curve of Sunset just above Drake Stadium, which is identified with a yellow number 78.) This turn is particularly tricky for persons driving eastbound (left to right on the map above) on Sunset, as a long downhill stretch on which i t's all too easy to spurt well over the 35 MPH speed limit leads up to the curve, where a driver suddenly finds he must bank sharply left or centrifugal force will send his car crashing through a wall of trees bordering the UCLA campus. Motorists unfamiliar with this part of Sunset Blvd. (or those who know about it but opt to tempt fate and test their driving abili ties by approaching the turn without slowing down) can easily find themselves yanking the steering wheel too hard to the left and spinning off the road or into on-

coming traffic. The most renowned victim of Los Angeles' infamous curve was Mel Blanc, famous as the voice of Bugs Bunny and hundreds of other cartoon characters. In January 1961, Blanc was driving his sports car eastbound on Sunset Blvd. one evening around 9:30P.M., and at "dead man's curve" he collided head-on with another car. Blanc was pried from the wreckage unconscious, having suffered head injuries, a broken pelvis, and two broken legs; he barely escaped death and spent weeks in a coma. Just a few days after Blanc's accident, Los Angeles' Board of Public Works approved making changes to the banking of that portion of Sunset Blvd. to lessen the danger posed by the downhill curve, a city engineer testifying that it had been the scene of 26 accidents three of them fatal - within a two-year stretch. A few years later, in the summer of 1963, the singing duo of Jan & Dean (with help from the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson) topped the charts with "Surf City," and at the end of the year they scored another top ten hit with "Drag City." Looking to follow up their success with another single based on the familiar drag-racing theme, Jan Berry teamed with Roger Christian, a disc jockey turned songwriter who had co-written similarly themed Beach Boys car songs such as "Little Deuce Coupe." Christian came up with the idea for writing a song about a "dead man's curve" and structuring it as a narrative of a drag race: I thought someone ought to write a song about Dead

Man's Curve. I said, "Well, we ought to make it into a race," because Jan and I were really into racing. Every Saturday night we'd meet and go to Sunset and Vine ... and we'd race. I had a Jaguar XKE, and Jan had a Stingray - the same cars that are in the song. Jan Berry and Roger Christian turned their real-life experiences (Berry figured he "raced several hundred times on Sunset") into lyrics about a drag race and its tragic aftermath, and Jan & Dean scored another top ten hi t with their version of "Dead Man's Curve," which reached 118 on the Billboard chart in April 1964: I was cruisin' in my Stingray late one night when an XKE pulled up on the right and rolled down the window of his shiny new Jag and challenged me then and there to a drag. I said,

''You're on, buddy, my mill*s runnin' fine. Let's come off the line, now, at Sunset and Vine. But I'll go you one better if you've got the nerve. Let's race all the way to Dead Man's Curve." Dead Man's Curve, it's no place to play. Dead Man's Curve, you must keep away. Dead Man's Curve, I can hear 'em say: "Won't come back from Dead Man's Curve." The street was deserted late Friday night; we were buggin' each other while we sat out the light. We both popped the clutch when the light turned green; you shoulda heard the whine from my screamin' machine.


I flew past LaBrea, Schwab's, and Crescent Heights, and all the Jag could see were my six taillights. He passed me at Doheny then I started to swerve, But I pulled her out and there we were at Dead Man's Curve. Rather then setting their fi ctional drag race at the site of the real "dead man's curve," however, Jan Berry and Roger Christian placed it more to the east - from Hollywood down the Sunset Strip, the portion of Sunset Blvd. between Hollywood and Beverly Hills (bodered by Crescent Heights Boulevard and Doheny Drive) - in order to incorporate the names of locations more familiar to audiences outside of southern Cali fornia, such as the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, home to the disti nctive Capitol Records tower, and Schwab's drug store, where apocryphal. Hollywood legend proclaimed that a teenage Lana Turner was discovered sipping a soda. (A race running the route described in the song, from Hollywood and Vine to Sunset and Doheny, would have covered 4.5 miles; extended to the real "dead man's curve" near UCLA, it would have been a drag of 8. 7 miles.) The last verse of "Dead Man's Curve" was introduced by percussion effects reproducing the sounds of crashing cars, brass instruments sounding like automobile horns, and a harp glissando, all of which preceded a spoken dramatic interlude which interrupted the final repetition of the chorus: Well the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve I know I'll never forget that horrible sight. I guess I found out for myself that everyone was right The song- and especially this final verse- proved eerily prophetic two years later. On 12 April 1966, 25-year-old Jan Berry crashed his Corvette Stingray into

the back of a parked truck on a side street in Beverly Hills. Berry, initially thought to be dead, was cut out of his car and rushed to the nearby UCLA Medical Center, where he spent several weeks in a coma with severe injuries to the head and brain. The career of Jan & Dean was effectively over. The song- and especially this final verse- proved eerily prophetic two years later. On 12 April 1966, 25-year-old Jan Berry crashed his Corvette Stingray into the back of a parked truck on a side street in Beverly Hills. Berry, initially thought to be dead, was cut out of his car and rushed to the nearby UCLA Medical Center, where he spent several weeks in a coma with severe injuries to the head and brain. The career of Jan & Dean was effectively over.

Curve" be a terrible crash: The weirdest part of the story: Roger didn't intend for "Dead Man's Curve" to be a "disaster" song at all he wanted the race to end. In a tie. Jan, who wound up in a serious car accident in real life, insisted that the song end with a disastrous crash.

(Jan Berry did survive his ordeal, and although he suffered permanent brain damage that left him partially paralyzed on his right side and impaired his speech, he eventually recovered well enough to return to the stage with former partner Dean Torrence in 1978 for a summer tour as an opening act to the Beach Boys.) The legendary aspect to this story has it that Jan Berry's accident occurred on the very same "dead man's curve" that he and Roger Christian had in mind when they wrote the song two years earlier, but the Beverly Hills side street where Berry ran his Stingray into a gardener's truck was in fact south of Sunset Blvd., a few miles away from the real location of "dead man's curve." Nonetheless, this minor difference in detail between legend and actual events might Be overshadowed by the revelation that it was Jan Berry himself who was adamant the denouement of "Dead Man's SONGS 19


NO. 07 DEAR DIARY


CLAIM:

The Alicia Keys song "Diary" prompted a deluge of calls to her old phone number.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN: The television and film industries learned long ago that mentioning a phone number in a TV program or movie would prompt a plethora of crank-calling kids to dial the number in pursuit of some silly amusement, so they restricted themselves to employing numbers beginning with the mostly unused 555 prefix to avoid putting innocent parties on the receiving end of those prank calls. (These days the 555 prefix is used for real numbers, but the 555-0100 to 555-0199 range is still reserved for the use of Hollywood productions.) Unfortunately, Tommy Tutone weren't so accommodating, and their 1982 hit song "Jenny (867-5309)" unleashed a torrent of phone calls to that number (in all area codes) from pranksters inquiring after the elusive Jenny. Although the flood of calls has abated in the two decades since the notorious "Jenny" song topped the charts, a steady stream of crank callers still plague those unfortunate enough to have 867-5309 as their phone number.

Predictably, however, fans tried to reach Alicia by calling the given number in a variety of other area codes, resulting in a puzzling stream of calls to unsuspecting. Residents who had never heard of Alicia Keys and knew nothing about the song "Diary." According to the Statesboro Herald, a Mr. J. D. Turner of Statesboro, Georgia, who was unlucky enough to hold the 489-4608 number in the 912 area code, was receiving 20 to 25 calls a day, at all hours of the day, from fans looking for Alicia. The beleaguered Mr. Turner reportedly racked up a $95 phone bill trying to track down the prank callers through the *69 return call option (until he found out his phone company charged 95 cents for each *69 usage), and was understandably reluctant to change a phone number he'd held for 14 years. No doubt other parties around North America found themselves having to contend with similar circumstances.

The same phenomenon reared its annoying head again in 2004, thanks to R&B artist Alicia Keys and her hit single "Diary." The popular track, from the songstress' Diary of Alicia Keys CD, included a lyric imploring the listener to give her a call at a specific phone number: I feel such a connection.

"Even when you far away Ooooh baby, if there's anything that you fear Come forth and call 489-4608, and I'll be here." According to Keys' publicist, Lois Najarian, the number given actually was Keys' old phone number in New York, and callers who used the correct area code (347) got to listen to a recorded message from Keys (which sounded remarkably like a real person answering the phone) and were invited to leave one for her:

Hello? ... Co, wassup? Word. (Laughs.) Nah, I'm jus' playing — I'm jus' playin'. I always wanted to do that, but I'm not available to take your call right now, and although I can't always call back, I do appreciate the love. So, leave me a good message, all right? And take care of yourself. One. SONGS 21


NO. 08 FIRE AND RAIN


CLAIM:

The lyrics of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" chronicle his reaction to the death of his girlfriend in a plane crash.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

Gentle, plaintive, and compelling, "Fire and Rain" was the hit that launched the career of James Taylor, one of the 1970's premier singer-songwriters. The song's mournful lyrics of loss and redemption were enigmatic to many, and some listeners tried to make sense of the words by reading literal meaning into them: Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone. Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you. I walked out this mornin', and I wrote down this song; I just can't remember who to send it to.

I've seen fire, and I've seen rain. I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, But I always thought that I'd see you again. Won't you look down upon me Jesus? You gotta help me make a stand. You just got to see me through another day. My body's achin', and my time is at hand. I won't make it any other way. Been walkin' my mind to an easy time, My back turned towards the sun. Lord knows when the cold wind blows, it'll turn your head around. Well there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come: Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground. Taylor's audience collectively developed an autobiographical story line for his "Fire and Rain" lyrics: Suzanne, the girl who was now "gone," had been Taylor's girlfriend. They were frequently separated as he traveled on tour, but they kept in close touch, spending "hours of time . On the telephone line" and talking about the good "things to come" when Taylor finally established himself as a musician. Seeing how disconsolate Taylor was at being away from his love, his friends arranged

for Suzanne to fly out to meet him at his next tour stop. Suzanne joyfully accepted, but the flight carrying her to a reunion with her beloved crashed, and she was killed. Both the "flying machine" and Taylor's "sweet dreams" were now "in pieces on the ground," and he had lost the woman he "always thought" he'd "see again." Although James Taylor's song is indeed autobiographical, it doesn't match the heart-wrenching story line of popular legend. By the time "Fire and Rain" established Taylor as an international pop star at the tender age of twenty-two, he'd experienced plenty of psychological and physical pain upon which he could draw in crafting his lyrics. He already had a long history of depression and substance abuse for which he'd been hospitalized several times (his first hospital experience was the basis of one of his earliest songs, 'Knocking 'Round the Zoo'), and he'd spent quite a while recuperating from a near-fatal motorcycle accident which had broken both his hands and feet and prevented him from picking up a guitar for several months. All of this was fodder for his songwriting, as he explained in a 1972 interview with Rolling Stone: "Fire and Rain" has three verses. The first verse is about my reactions to the death of a friend. The second verse is about my arrival in this country with a monkey on my back, and there Jesus is an expression of my desperation in trying to get through the time when my body was aching and the time was at hand when I had to do it ... And the third verse of that song refers to my recuperation in Austin Riggs which lasted about five months. The "Suzanne" mentioned in the lyrics to "Fire and Rain" wasn't Taylor's girlfriend or fiancĂŠe, but merely an acquaintance (Suzanne Schnerr) whom he had met while he was a teenager in New York in 1966-67 performing (with friends Danny Kortchmar and Joel O' Brien) as part of a group called The Flying Machine. As quoted in Timothy White's biography of him, Taylor said that "I knew Suzanne well in New York, and we used to hang out together and we used to get high together; I think she came from Long Island. She was a kid, like all of us."

SONGS 23


A few years later, after Taylor had decamped to London and was finishing up his debut album for the Beatles' Apple Records label, he found out that Suzanne had committed suicide several months earlier, and that his friends had withheld the news from him so as not to let it distract him and derail his career: [Suzanne] committed suicide sometime later while I was over in London. At the time I was living with Margaret [Corey], and Richard [Corey] was around a lot, and so was Joel O' Brien. All three of them were really close to Susie Schnerr. But Richard and Joel and Margaret were excited for me having this record deal and making this album, and when Susie killed herself they decided not to tell me about it until later because they didn't want to shake me up. I didn't find out until some six months after it happened. That's why the 'They let me know you were gone' line came up. And I always felt rather bad about the line, 'The plans they made put an end to you,' because 'they' only meant 'ye gods,' or basically 'the Fates.' I never knew her folks but I always wondered whether her folks would hear that and wonder whether it was about them. By the time Taylor left London for the United States at the end of 1968, he was battling a heroin addiction for which he was hospitalized in Manhattan shortly after his return; he then committed himself to Austen Riggs, a private psychiatric facility in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was during his Manhattan hospital stay that he formed the song's second verse, with its pleas to Jesus to "look down upon" him and help him "make a stand" against the ravages of drug addiction. Earlier, during his senior year of high school, Taylor had entered McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, where he spent several months being treated for depression. After leaving that facility he traveled to New York and hooked up with childhood friend Danny Kortchmar, where they formed the aforementioned group The Flying Machine, a venture that ended badly for Taylor both professionally and personally: The nadir of the nadir for The Flying Machine was a booking in the Bahamas at a failing nightspot called the Jokers Wild Club in Freeport; after three weeks of bad food and no pay, the group used their return tickets to flee. They disbanded once their flight landed in New York. Sadder still was Taylor's horrifying descent, just before The Flying Machine had hit career turbulence and begun to lose altitude, into full-blown heroin addiction. The third and fourth verses of "Fire and Rain," finished off during Taylor's months at Austen Riggs, muster his feelings about his life in and around his hospital stays, as he struggled with depression, strove against heroin addiction, and experienced the disappointment of a bad ending in his fledgling musical career. Thus the allusion in the song's final line about "sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground" is not merely an indirect reference to shattered ambitions and ruined

lives, but a sly direct reference to a previous professional failure. Although James Taylor's eponymous debut album was not a tremendous commercial success, he sufficiently overcame the personal issues with which he had been grappling to leave Apple Records, sign with Warner Bros., and record an album (Sweet Baby James) that, propelled by the success of its second single, "Fire and Rain," reached a lofty number three position on the Billboard charts in 1970.


NO. 09 FORTUNATE SON

SONGS 25


CLAIM:

The Creedence Clearwater Revival song "Fortunate Son" was inspired by At Gore, Jr.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

Creedence Clearwater Revival might be the greatest singles band never to reach the lt1 spot on Billboard magazine's pop charts. Despite churning out a tong string of brilliant, commercially successfully recordings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, not once did the group manage to hit the top of Billboard's pop singles chart, instead tanding an amazing five lt2 singles (all in an eighteen-month span), as well as five other entries that peaked at the #3, #4, lt6, 118, and #11 spots. At the end of 1969, Creedence pulled off the rare feat of sending both sides of a single to the upper reaches of the pop charts, as "Down on the Corner" climbed to the #3 posi tion, while its B-side got all the way up to #14. That B-side was "Fortunate Son," John Fogerty's angry anti -privilege, anti -hypocrisy condemnation of those who would wield their wealth and influence while appealing to the forms of freedom and patriotism, but only so far as their own interests were protected and served:

Some folks are born made to wave the flag; ooh, they're red, white and blue. And when the band plays "Hail to the Chief," ooh, they point the cannon at you. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no senator's son. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one. Some folks are born silver spoon in hand, Lord, don't they help themselves? But when the taxman comes to the door, Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no millionaire's son. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one. Some folks inherit star-spangled eyes; ooh, they'll send you down to war. And when you ask 'em, 'How much should we give?" ooh, they only answer, "More, more, more.'' It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no militarist's son.

It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one. It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate son. Although the lyrics give no indication that John Fogerty had any speci fic person in mind when he wrote the song, some listeners continue to speculate about the identity of the "senator's son" referred to therein - a young man who presumably avoided military service in Vietnam through his father's influence. At our remove of two generations from the song's original release, there is really only one son of a Vietnam-era U.S. senator who was of draft age in the late 1960s and has a name prominent enough to be widely recognized: former U.S. senator and U.S. vice president Al Gore, Jr., whose father represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1971. Anyway, I was showing the band the song. I didn't have much. I knew the chord changes and could feel the energy. I had a title, "Fortunate Son," but no song. Yet I was showing the band the structure, my normal gig as the musical director of the band. So, I went into the bedroom, sat on the edge of my bed with a yellow legal tablet and my felt-tipped pen. Out came the song. "It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son." I was screaming inside, very intense, but not saying a word. Out it came, onto three sheets of legal paper. It took about twenty minutes. It was like vrooom - it just came right out. I played that song at an antiwar protest. As I was walking in the hallway after our set, someone came up to me and told me what an awesome version we had played. I remember telling them, "Richard Nixon is a great inspiration." Nixon was always saying 'peace with honor' and 'my country, love it or leave it,' but we knew better 'cause the guy was obviously evil. A compilation of other comments by Fogerty on "Fortunate Son" is included in Craig Werner's oral history of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Up Around the Bend: When I wrote "Fortunate Son,'' Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower. And you just had the feeling that none of those people were going to be involved with the war. In 1969,


the majority of the country thought morale was great among the troops, and like eighty percent of them were in favor of the war. But to some of us who were watching closely, we just knew we were headed for trouble ... It was written, of course, during the Nixon era, and, well, let's say I was very nonsupportive of Mr. Nixon There just seemed to be this trickle down to the offspring of people like him. You got the impression that these people got preferential treatment, and the whole idea of being born wealthy or being born powerful seemed to really be coming to the fore in the late-sixties' confrontation of cultures. I was twenty-three years old, I think. I was mad at the specter of the ordinary kid who had to serve in an army in a war that he was very much against. Yet the sons of the well- to-do and powerful didn't have to worry about those things. They were fortunate . I thought, all these guys were running around saying, "It's good for America" - Nixon or whoever was saying this. Yet their kids ain't going. To head off some obvious questions, we'll note that John Fogerty himself was drafted in 1966 but, in his words, he ''was able to finagle [his] way into an [Army] reserve unit" instead because he had "contacted them before [he] got drafted." He served at Fort Bragg, Fort Knox, and Fort Lee, with a total of six months on active duty. David Eisenhower (for whom the presidential retreat known as Camp David is named) enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 1970 and served three years on active duty, most of it as an officer aboard the USS Albany in the Mediterranean Sea.

SONGS 27


NO. 10 GLOOMY SUNDAY


CLAIM:

The song "Gloomy Sunday" was once banned because of its connection with many suicides.

STATUS: UNDETERMINED ORIGIN:

'The" legend about "Gloomy Sunday" is a sort of meta-legend that encompasses the following claims: 1. The song "Gloomy Sunday" was connected to many suicides in Hungary. 2. The composer wrote the song for a former girlfriend, who committed suicide shortly after the song's release. 3. The composer himself committed suicide. The song supposedly drew little (adverse) attention until 1936, when it began to be connected with a rash of suicides in Hungary and was allegedly banned there. American musicians and singers soon jumped at the chance to record instrumental and translated versions of the "Hungarian suicide song," and by the end of 1936 several recordings were available to American audiences. (The Billie Holiday version, recorded several years later, was probably the most popular English-language version of "Gloomy Sunday.") It goes something like this:

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless. Dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless. Little white flowers will never awaken you,Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you. Angels have no thought of ever returning you. Would they be angry if I thought of joining you? Gloomy Sunday. Gloomy is Sunday; with shadows

I spend it all. My heart and I have decided to end it all. Soon there'll be candles and prayers that are sad, I know. Death is no dream, for in death I'm caressing you. With the last breath of my soul I'll be blessing you. Gloomy Sunday. On to the legends:

1. Up to seventeen suicides

were purportedly linked in some way to the song "Gloomy Sunday" in Hungary before the song was (allegedly) banned. These "links" included people who reportedly killed themselves after listening to the song (either from a recording or performed by a band), or who were said to have been found dead with references to "Gloomy Sunday" (and/ or its lyrics) in their suicide notes, with "Gloomy Sunday" sheet music in their hands, or with "Gloomy Sunday" playing on gramophones. I don't know how any of these claims could be verified short of paging through old Hungarian newspapers; even then, it would be di fficult at this late date to separate exaggerated and fabricated reports from true ones. I suspect that this portion of the legend is trivially true, a combination of Hungary's historically high suicide rate and the assumption of a causal - rather than a coincidental - relati onship between the song and suicides that caused rumors and media reports to be greatly exaggerated. Hungary has had the highest suicide rate of any country for many years (as high as 45.9 per 100,000 people

in 1984), so a few dozen suicides there over a year's time certainly wouldn't have been unusual, even in 1936. Nor is it at all uncommon for suicides to work something from popular songs or books or films into their deaths. Only when one particular song was coincidentally linked to a sufficient number of suicides to draw attention to all the suicides in which it played a part did people start to claim that it was somehow the cause of these deaths.

2. The "girlfriend who inspired the

song committed suicide" claims sounds like an embellishment of the basic legend, as I only found one source that mentioned it. It claimed that Javor "wrote the song for a former girlfriend," and that shortly after its release she committed suicide and left behind a note reading simply "Gloomy Sunday."

3. Rezso Seress did indeed com-

mit suicide, jumping from a Budapest building in 1968. This portion of the legend also appears to have been embellished, with some sources claiming that he was depressed because he'd never been able to produce another hit after "Gloomy Sunday."

SONGS 29


NO. 11 HAPPY BIRTHDAY


CLAIM:

The song "Happy Birthday to You" is protected by copyright.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN:

''Happy Birthday to You" is by far the most well路known song in the English-speaking world, and perhaps the whole world, too. For nearly a century, this simple ditty has been the traditional piece of music sung to millions of birthday celebrants every year - everyone from uncomprehending infants to U.S. presidents; it has been performed in space; and it has been incorporated into untold millions of music boxes, watches, musical greeting cards, and other tuneful products. It therefore surprises many to discover that this ubiquitous song, a six-note melody composed in the 19th century and accompanied by a six-word set of repetitive lyrics, is still protected by copyright- and will be for decades to come. The "Happy Birthday" story begins with two sisters from Kentucky, Mildred J. Hill and Patty Smith Hill. Patty Smith Hill, born in 1868, was a nursery school and kindergarten teacher and an influential educator who developed the "Patty Hill blocks" used in schools nationwide, served on the faculty of the Columbia University Teachers College for thirty years, and helped found the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia in 1924. Patty's older sister, Mildred, born in 1859, started out as a kindergarten and Sundayschool teacher like her sister, but her career path took a musical turn, and Mildred became an composer, organist, concert pianist, and a musical scholar with an speciality in the field of Negro spirituals. One day in 1893, while Mildred was teaching at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School where her sister served as principal, she came up with the modest melody we now know as "Happy Birthday"; sister Patty added some simple lyrics and completed the creation of "Good Morning to All," a simple greeting song for teachers to use in welcoming students to class each day:

Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning, dear children, Good morning to all.

melody.) After the song proved more popular as a serenade for students to sing to their teachers (rather than vice-versa), it evolved into a version with the word "teacher" replacing "children" and a final line matching the first two, and "Good Morning to All" became more popularly known as "Good Morning to You." (Ironically, in light of the copyright battles to come,"Good Morning to All" bore more than a passing resemblance to the songs "Happy Greetings to All" and "Good Night to You All," both published in 1858.) Here the trail becomes murky - nobody really knows who wrote the words to "Happy Birthday to You" and put them to the Hills' melody, or when it happened. The "Happy Birthday to You" lyrics first appeared in a songbook edited by one Robert H. Coleman in March of 1924, where they were published as a second stanza to "Good Morning to You"; with the advent of radio and sound films, "Happy Birthday" was widely popularized as a birthday celebration song, and its lyrics supplanted the originals. By the mid1930s, the revamped ditty had appeared in the Broadway musical The Band Wagon (1931) and had been used for Western Union's first "singing telegram" (1933), and when Irving Berlin's musical As Thousands Cheer made yet another uncredited and uncompensated use of the "Good Morning to All" melody, Jessica Hill, a third Hill sister who administered the copyright to "Good Morning to All" on behalf of her sisters, sprang into action and filed suit. By demonstrating the undeniable similarities between "Good Morning to All" and "Happy Birthday to You" in court, Jessica was able to secure the copyright of "Happy Birthday to You" for her sisters in 1934 (too late, unfortunately, to benefit Mildred, who had died in 1916). The Chicago-based music publisher Clayton F. Summy Company, working with Jessica Hill, published and copyrighted "Happy Birthday" in 1935. Under the laws in effect at the time, the Hills' copyright would have expired after one 28-year term and a renewal of similar length, falling into public domain by 1991. However, the Copyright Act of 1976 extended the term of copyright protection to

The Hills' catchy little tune was unleashed upon the world in 1893, when it was published in the songbook Song Stories {or the Kindergarten. (The composition of "Good Morning to All" is often erroneously reported as having occurred in 1859 by sources that confuse Mildred Hill's birth date with the year she created the SONGS 31


75 years from date of publication, and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years, so under current law the copyright protection of "Happy Birthday" will remain intact until at least 2030. Does this mean that everyone who warbles. "Happy Birthday to You" to family members at birthday parties is engaging in copyright infringement if they fail to obtain permi ssion from or pay royalties to the song's publisher? No. Royalties are due, of course, for commercial uses of the song, such as playing or singing it for profit, using it in movies, television programs, and stage shows, or incorporating it into musical products such as watches and greeting cards; as well, royalties are due for public performance, defined by copyright law as performances which occur "at a place open to the public, or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered." So, crooning "Happy Birthday to You" to family members and friends at home is fine, but performing a copyrighted work in a public setting such as a restaurant or a sports arena technically requires a license from ASCAP or the Harry Fox Agency. A common rumor holds that Paul McCartney owns the publishing rights to "Happy Birthday to You," but that rumor is false. Although Paul McCartney did buy up many song catalogs after seeing the publishing rights to most of his Beatles songs slip away in a series of bad business deals (his MPL Communications is now one of the world's largest privately owned music publishing firms and controls the rights to the Buddy Holly catalog, among others), he does not own (and never has owned) the publishing rights to "Happy Birthday to You." (In yet another bit of irony, Michael Jackson, who was introduced to the benefits of song ownership by Paul McCartney himself, eventually outbid the former Beatie for the publishing rights to the Lennon-McCartney catalog.) Who does own the publishing rights to "Happy Birthday to You"? They were acquired by a New York accountant named John F. Sengstack when he bought the Clayton F. Summy Company in the 1930s; Sengstack eventually relocated the company to New Jersey and renamed it Birch Tree Ltd. in the 1970s. Warner Chappell (a Warner Communications division), the largest music publisher in the world, purchased Birch Tree Ltd. in late 1998 for a reported sale price of $25 million; the company then became Summy-Birchard Music, now a part of the giant AOL Time Warner media conglomerate. According to David Sengstack, president of Summy-Birchard, "Happy Birthday to You" brings in about $2 million in royalties annually, with the proceeds split between Summy-Birchard and the Hill Foundation. As writer Bruce Anderson noted in "Beyond Measure," his excellent article on the "Happy Birthday" phenomenon: The next time you hear "Happy Birthday" in a movie - and now that you're listening, it won't be long - stay

for the credits at the end of the movie. Think about how Hollywood would love the story of the Hill sisters, two Southern kindergarten teachers who write a song that they only hope will be a useful teacher's aid. Instead, the song is a hit that never goes away. It is sung hundreds of millions of times each year, a musical juggernaut that tops the efforts of Tin Pan Alley's best. Appropriately, then, film credits are the one place left where Mildred and Patty Hill still get their due.


NO. 12 HOTEL CALIFORNIA

SONGS 33


CLAIM:

The Eagles song "Hotel California" is about Satanism.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

The Eagles' 1976 album "Hotel California" has sold more than 16 million copies, spawned a best-record Grammy, and is regarded by numerous rock critics as one of the best albums ever. Its title track, the haunting "Hotel California" continues to entrance listeners even though during its heyday the song was on the charts for only nineteen weeks and in the number one spot for only one. Because its lyrics contain an ominous undercurrent, many have appeased their sense of disquiet by finding in the words literal and figurative meanings that j ust aren't there. Theories abound as to what the song means. Some see the devil in the lyrics. Others see a madhouse. Some believe the song was written about a real inn bearing that name. Though there is a Hotel California in Todos Santos, a town on Mexico's Baja California peninsula, its relation to the song begins and ends with the coincidence of a shared name. None of the Eagles stayed there, let alone wrote music there. Nor did they have this building in mind when they set down the lyrics to this popular song. Those who persist in believing the song must be named after an actual building have been known to assert "Hotel California" was the nickname of the Camarillo State Hospital, a state-run Minneapolis, MN'S NEW RULE psychiatric hospital near Los Angeles which housed thousands of patients across its sixty-year history before closing in 1997. To them, the lyrics seem to fit what a mentally disturbed person would experience upon incarceration in a long-term care facility. The imagery of the song is explained as that person's hallucinations j uxtaposed against moments of startling clarity as he realizes where he is. However, by far the most common theme to surface in Hotel California rumors is one that links the song to devil worship. The lyrics (which speak of trying to ''kill the Beast" and not having had "that spirit here since 1969") form the bedrock of the various Satan-related theories, but the belief is also fed by the album design. The inner cover is a photograph of people in a courtyard of a Spanishlooking inn. In a balcony above them looms a shadowy figure with arms spread. Many who look at that photo see Anton LaVey, leader of the Church of Satan, and interpret the spread arms as his welcoming the populace below into Satan's trap. Another oddly persistent set of rumors centers on the photos used for the album. On the cover was the image of the approach to a Spanish mission-style hotel at sunset. Inside was the courtyard scene described above, and on its back was a photo of a black man leaning on a mop in the hotel's lobby. Besides the "Anton LaVey standing on the balcony" whisper, the

presence of certain figures in some photos but not in others is attributed to their being ghosts whose spirits were accidentally captured on film, with the presumption being these were guests of the hotel who expired there. Also, the janitor leaning on a mop in the lobby photo has been rumored to be the proppedup corpse of a dead man (shades of Elmer McCurdy, that). In a particularly creepy extension of that rumor, he was murdered by LaVey as a human sacrifice or by the band members. On the cover of The Eagles album Hotel California, there is a pictur e of an abandoned hotel with someone in the doorway. When they took the pict ure there was noone in the hotel, and when they developed the picture it seemed as if there was noone ther e. But on the album cover there appeared someone in the doorway and the belief is that a person died ( in some form or another ... ranging fr om overdose to murder) in the hotel before i t became abandoned and then appeared in the photo. Another variation I've heard is that they went back & took the picture twice and both times someone appeared in the doorway. I've also been told that the person is only visible on the album cover & not the tape or cd. Besides the four primary rumors (real hotel, mental hospital, devil worship, ghostly images), we've also picked up some unusual ones: The song was about cancer. (We've no idea what prompted that thought.) The truth proves far less satisfying than the myriad rumors that have sprung up around this song. Hotel California is an allegory about hedonism and greed in Southern California in the 1970s. At the time of its release, the Eagles were riding high in the music world, experiencing material success on a frightening level. Though they thoroughly enjoyed the money, drugs, and women fame threw their way, they were disquieted by it all and sought to pour that sense of unease into their music and to warn others about the dark underside of such adulation. In a 1995 interview, Don Henley said the song "sort of captured the zeitgeist of the time, which was a time of great excess in this country and in the music business in particular." In another interview that same year, he referred to it as being about a "loss of innocence." The album has as its underlying theme the corruption of impressionable rock stars by the decadent Los Angeles music industry. The celebrated title track presents California as a gilded prison the artist freely enters only to discover that he cannot later escape. The real Hotel California is not a place; it is a metaphor for the west coast music industry and its effect on the talented but unworldly musicians who find themselves ensnared in its glittering web.


NO. 13 I DON'T LIKE MONDAYS

SONGS 35


CLAIM:

The Boomtown Rats song "I Don't Like Mondays" was inspired by a deadly shooting at a school.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN:

Horrifying events like the April 1999 killing of twelve students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, by two of their classmates might have left some believing deadly school shootings were a new ill bestowed upon us by a society only recently gone mad, yet that was not the case. That today's death tolls are higher and the media coverage surrounding them more intense might serve to encourage belief that this sort of random murder by, and of, young people is a recent phenomenon, but the sad history of such attacks belies that belief. Deadly shooting sprees at schools perpetrated by troubled teens took place at least as much as a generation before Columbine. One of the earliest mass school shootings occurred in 1975 in Ottawa, Canada, when on 27 October of that year, 18-year-old Robert Poulin went on a killing spree at St. Pius X High School, killing one student and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. Poulin had earlier raped and stabbed a 17-year-old friend to death. Of all the pre-Littleton school shootings, the one most remembered by people at the time was recalled primarily because of its impact on pop culture: it inspired the popular Boomtown Rats song "I Don't Like Mondays." Released in October 1979, this song captured the insanity of the moment by working the killer's chilling utterance into its lyrics. Of course fallible memory being what it is, people who now remember the shooting spree behind the song recall it in only the most haphazard of fashions. They remember that there was a shooting at a school, that lives were lost, that the shooter was female, and that by way of explanation for her actions she said "I don't like Mondays," but some have her as a high school student gunning down students at her own school, while others remember her as a high school teacher who turned a gun on some of her pupils. On 29 January 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer opened fire on children arriving at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego from her house across the street, killing two men and wounding eight students and a police officer. Principal Burton Wragg was attempting to rescue children in the line of fire when he was shot and killed, and custodian Mike Suchar was slain attempting to aid Wragg.

Spencer used a rifle her father had given her as a gift. As to what impelled her into this form of murderous madness, she told a reporter, "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day." The "Mondays" comment was not the only eyebrowraising declaration to issue from Spencer that day. According to a report written by the police negotiators who spoke with her during the six-hour standoff, she made such comments to them as "There was no reason for it, and it was just a lot of fun"; "It was just like shooting ducks in a pond"; and "[the children ] looked like a herd of cows standing around, it was really easy pickings." That Spencer failed to kill any of the children she shot at was attributable to luck rather than any reluctance on her part to take their lives. The bullet that struck 9-yearold Charles "Cam" Miller missed his heart by about an inch. Spencer pled guilty to two counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. She has been up for parole four times and has been turned down each time, the last in 2005. At her first parole hearing she expressed doubt that any of the victims were hit by bullets from her rifle and contended they might have been shot by police. She also claimed to have been under the influence of alcohol and hallucinogenic drugs at the time of the shootings and asserted prosecutors and her attorney had conspired to fabricate test evidence showing there had been no drugs in her system. By her third parole hearing she was admitting guilt and expressing remorse but was still contending she had been drunk and high on marijuana laced with PCP the day of her deadly rampage. She also claimed something new, that she had been beaten and sexually abused by her father, an avowal conspicuously absent from previous records. She is eligible to again apply for parole in 2019. Those who continue to be troubled by the callousness of Brenda Spencer's crime and concerned by her continued attempts to shift blame for her actions onto anyone or anything else can draw comfort from the knowledge that murderers are rarely granted parole in California.


NO. 14 IN THE AIR TONIGHT

SONGS 37


CLAIM:

Phil Collins wrote the famous song In the Air Tonight after witnessing an incident in which a man refused to contribute to the aid of a drowning swimmer.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

Of all pop songs for which elaborate, apocryphal backstories have been created to explicate the lyrics, Phil Collins' 1981 hit, "In the Air Tonight" (from his Face Value album), has perhaps the most varied and fantastic set of legends associated with it. Encompassing adultery, rape, murder, drowning, and the dramatic exposure of a reprehensible wrongdoer (resulting in an arrest or suicide), the narratives all include despicable acts either witnessed by Phil Collins or visited upon him and his family (or friends), inspiring the musician to exact a form of revenge by encapsulating the experience in the lyrics of a song: ( I] always thought it was true ... seeing a guy drown.,. same guy that he'd seen rape a girl in an alley. ( 1993) Every once in a while, I'll hear someone mention that there is a story behind the Phil Collins song "In the air tonight." At any rate Phil supposedly wrote this song after watching another man watch someone drown. He was too drunk/stoned to help himself . The other man apparently could have done something to save the drowning person, but didn't. One version of this story even has Phil doing detective work to find the identity of the bystander, inviting him to a concert for free (without revealing why), and then humiliating him in front of a huge crowd. The guy's wife divorces him, he loses his job, etc. ( 1994) Definitely TRUE (except the part about the spotlite, although he was in the front row. Probably looked like a spotlite was on him) . Right after the show the guy in question killed himself . ( 1994) Okay. My first girlfriend was a big Genesis/Phil Collins fan, and according to something she had heard 'In the Air Tonight' was inspired by Phil finding his then-wife in bed with another man at a party they were attending. ( 1994) What I heard about the song is it's Phil (or the storyteller) noting that a friend watched someone drown in a lake and did not offer to help. ( 1994) I heard that Phil Collins when he small, witnessed an individual drowning another individual. Apparently that individual looked up and spotted Phil. To this day, at every concert, Phil starts out singing this song as an accusation aimed at this individual. ( 1994)

Last nite at happy hour, good ol' Phil came on the jukebox singin "In the Air Tonite." Me an the boys got to tal kind (and doin the drum solo) when one of 'em mentions what sounds to me like a Ul. He says, the inspiration for this song came from years ago. Phil's wife had been raped and Phil knew who it was. Much later, at nite, Phil is walkin round a lake when he hears calls for help from the lake. Some guy is drowning. Phil swims out to save the guy, but when he reaches him, he finds it's the rapist! He lets him go, swims back to shore and lets him drown. { 1996} The version of the story that I heard is: 1} Phil's wife is raped. 2} He (Phil} finds out where the rapist lives. 3} He arranges to play a concert in the rapist's home town. 4} A ticket for the concert is then sent to the rapist's house. 5} Phil debuts the song at the concert. ( 1996) I heard a similar story about 10 years ago about that song ... I believe I heard it on Casey Kasem's Top 40 when I was a young lass. According to memory, Phil and a buddy were sailing and a downpour started, which caused the boat to capsize. Phil was swimming to shore with his friend and saw a guy sitting on his dock just watching them. He screamed for him to help (apparently the guy had a boat and everything) but the guy just sat there and watched. Phil made it back to shore but his friend drowned. Phil later tracked this guy down and send him front row Tickets to a nearby concert. The guy showed up and Phil sang "In the Air Tonight" while staring at him the whole song. { 1996} I heard a slight variation on this story in which the drowning victim was a camper at a summer camp and the guy at the concert was a camp counselor who didn't save the camper because he was busy getting laid. { 1996} I'Ve heard Phil Collins trying to kill this rumor for years, but it keeps popping back up. About ten years ago there was a rumor circulating that he'd written his song "In The Air Tonight" as a response to having witnessed someone drowning - the rumor went that he raced to the shore of the beach someplace after


having spotted someone drowning from quite a ways away, but by the time he'd gotten down to shore the victim had gone under for the third time. That's when Collins (so the story goes) saw there was someone else right on the beach, who'd been watching the whole time and hadn't done a thing to help. Variations of the tale that I've heard claim that the victim was a relative of his. { 1996) What I had heard about "In the Air Tonight" had to do with Phil's younger brother who died in some boating accident. The guy who was goofing off and pushed him in denied it happened and then the whole concert thing. etc., etc. ( 1996) I heard a story that the song "In the Air Tonight" is about a guy who had seen his wife raped, and then later saw the same man drowning, but didn't help him. Acording to the person who told me this, it was a true story (they also told me that this had happened to Phil Collins?) { 1996)

"In the Air Tonight" gives me chills too. I saw Phil perform it live on his "Into the Light" tour and it was really cool! The stadium was completely dark except for these lights encircling the stage that streched out and started lookingthrough the crowd. The lights looked like those things that a submarine uses to see the surface. The overall effect was really simple but effective. It was really neat. As Phil Collins has explained numerous times over the years, "In the Air Tonight" (as well as most of the Face Value album) deals with his bitterness and frustration over the end of his marriage to his first wife, and the lyrics do not reference any speci fic real -life event.

My story on this song is somewhat different. It involves Collins being the witness to a death - someone who he was with either allowed someone to drown, or out路 and路 out killed him. Collins stayed quiet for a number of years and then finally turned the killer in - by inviting him to a concert and having him arrested, quietly and without circumstance, right after this tune, which he dedicated to the killer during that performance. { 1996) On the radio in the area where I work, a song by Phil Collins was playing. One of my co -workers, who is a good Phil Collins fan, told me that this song was written when one of Phil Collins' friends drowned .. . She said that one of Phil Collins' friends went swimming after having too much to drink, started having problems trying to swim, and Phil Collins tried to get a bystander to help. The bystander just gave him the finger, walked away, and Phil Collins' friend drowned! Anyway, Phil Collins found out who the guy was, wrote In The Air Tonight, and mailed front row tickets to the guy for a concert in this guy's town, anonymously .. . non-specificity of the song's lyrics allowed for a variety of interpretations, with lines such as

'Well, if you told me you were drowning I would not lend a hand" and "'Ive seen your face before my friend, but I don't know if you know who I am," and 'Well, I was there and I saw what you did; I saw it with my own two eyes" lending themselves to the construction of some particularly sinister scenarios: "Well, if you told me you were drowning I would not lend a hand I've seen your face before my friend But I don't know if you know who I am Well, I was there and I saw what you did I saw it with my own two eyes So you can wipe off the grin, I know where you've been it's all been a pack of lies. And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord"

SONGS 39


NO. 15 IT'S NO SECRET


CLAIM:

Billy Graham and John Wayne had a hand in the creation of the song "It Is No Secret."

STATUS: TRUE ORIGINS:

Many who find solace in spirituals find an additional measure of satisfaction in discovering that cherished songs were penned by folks possessed of colorful histories. Songs celebrating the mercy of God seem to mean more when they issue from reformed sinners, so stories that play up that aspect of a song's history are especially prized, even if key points are embellished. As was the case with "Amazing Grace," though it is well grounded in fact, the history of "It Is No Secret (What God Can Do)" has been exaggerated at some points to make for better telling. Carl Stuart Hamblen (the emailed account misidentifies him as Russ Hamblin) composed and recorded "It Is No Secret" In 1950. Born in Texas in 1908, Hamblen enjoyed a long and successful musical career as a singer/songwriter, with more than two hundred songs to his credit, before he passed away in California in 1989. Hamblen was a heavy drinker who swore off demon rum and made religion a central part of his life in 1949 after attending 'Youth for Christ," a historic revival meeting held by the Reverend Dr. Billy Graham in Los Angeles. Various biographies of both Hamblen and Graham support the claim of the songwriter's having gone to Dr. Graham's hotel room and insisted he be prayed for. According to Grady Wilson, a lifelong friend and associate of Billy Graham, after attending the revival meeting earlier that night coming away from it troubled, Hamblen and his wife did pay a call on Dr. Graham at the Langham Hotel, one block off Wilshire Boulevard, at 4 a.m., asking to be saved. Wilson reports the singer was "broken up and crying as Billy said, 'We've been praying for you for weeks."' Hamblen's daughter, Lisa Hamblen Jaserie, also supports the tale of the "dark of the night" conversion. John Wayne's connection to the song does appear to be well established. According to Stuart Hamblen (and if anyone would know, it would be him) he did indeed gain his inspiration for "It Is No Secret" from a response he made to the movie star. Hamblen did appear in a number of minor westerns, including some that starred the Duke, so they knew each other, at least casually. The inspiration came from a brief conversation at a party: in reply to Wayne's comment 'What's this I hear- you got religion?," Stuart answered, "It is no secret what God can do in a man's life." The movie star then reportedly drawled, 'Well that sounds like a song," thereby planting the idea in the songwriter's mind. Yet not all the claims made in the e-mailed version of the song's history hold up. This one, for instance, is clearly false.

Along came a young pr eacher holding a tent r evival. Hamblin had him on his r adio show, pr esumably to poke Fun at him . And to gather more material, Hamblin showed up at one of the r evival meetings. According to Dr. Graham, he went on Stuart Hamblen's radio show as part of a media push to raise interest in advance of the revival meeting. He and the other organizers of the event were having trouble getting any advance press coverage, so his appearance on Hamblen's show was a boon to them. And rather than poking fun at the Reverend, Hamblen told his listeners to "go on down to Billy Graham's tent and hear the preaching." Another aspect of this e-mailed account rings false: it is inaccurate to say of Hamblen that "hard times were upon him" after his spiritual awakening. A year after his discovery of the Lord, Hamblen wrote "It Is No Secret," a tune that brought him tremendous acclaim as it became the first cross-over gospel, country, and pop ballad, reaching the number one spot on all three charts. That same year, he wrote "Remember Me, I'm The One Who Loves You," a song which peaked at #2 on the gospel and country charts and held that position for a full nine weeks. As for 'This Ole House," supposedly the sole bright spot in Hamblen's career during a period of professional reverses between his conversion and the success of "It Is No Secret," he didn't write that song until 1954, four years after he'd topped the charts with "It Is No Secret." ('This Ole House" shouldn't be dismissively described as "the only one that had much success" - it went to #2 in the country field and stayed on the charts for thirty weeks, while Rosemary Clooney's version went to #3 in the pop charts and was named Song Of The Year. ) In the early 1950s Hamblen did lose his radio show, the Cowboy Church of the Air, over his refusal to do a commercial promoting alcohol, but his principled stand led the Prohibition Party to nominate him as their candidate for President of the United States in 1952. Hamblen racked up nearly 73,000 votes and finished fourth in a field of twelve candidates despite appearing on the ballot in only twenty-one states.

SONGS 41


NO 16 JENNY (867-5309)


CLAIM:

The Tommy Tutone song "Jenny (867-5309)" drove the phone companies (and their customers) nuts.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN:

The 1980s produced a number of one-hit wonders, including the infamous Tommy Tutone and its 1982 hit song "Jenny (867-5309)." This San Francisco band led by Tommy Heath and Jim Keller doesn't appear to have made much of a mark on the music world, and it likely wouldn't now be remembered were it not for the furor raised by its use of a phone number in its one memorable song. In "Jenny," a young man laments not having the courage to dial a number found scribbled on a wall but finds some comfort in the notion that he can someday call this girl and sweep her off her feet. Though not explicitly stated in the lyrics, i t's strongly implied the name and number were harvested from a bathroom wall, which also implies "Jenny" is a gal of easy virtue and is to be had for the price of a phone call. "Jenny (867-5309)" caused nothing but grief for telephone customers unlucky enough to have that combination of numbers as their own. Its relentless chorus, "Jenny don't change your number - eight six seven five three oh nah-eeh-ahine," pounded the phone number into the minds of teenagers everywhere, resulting in waves of kids dialing it and asking for Jenny. The joke quickly became old for those who had the number and weren't interested in talking to horny teens. Even as recently as 1999, phone customers unlucky enough to have been assigned an 867-5309 number were still getting plenty of crank calls. An article from Brown University's newspaper explained what happened when the school added an 867 exchange in the fall of 1999: The biggest complaints about the new phone exchange come from Nina Clemente '03 and Jahanaz Mirza '03, the two students with the telephone number 867-5309. "It's so annoying," Nina said. "It's the worst number to have in the world." The girls receive an average of five "stupid" messages every day on their machine, in addition to a slew of hang路 ups. "It's as if they are really expecting Jenny to pick up the phone," Clemente said. Unfortunately, the problem is not getting better, and people just keep calling. Some ask for Jenny, some play the Tommy Tutone song on the girls' answering machine, and some males even leave their phone numbers in hopes of finding a date.

The song gave rise to its own lore, which asserted that the "Jenny" in the song was the lead singer's real-life girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend). I heard a more elaborate story that the number act ually belonged to one of the band member's ex-girlfriends (named Jenny, of course) and that he wrote the song to get back at her for dumping him. She supposedly got a restraining order taken out against him and won a court order to have the song pulled from the airwaves for a while, etc. etc. Other explanations leave off her suing the songwriter but have her becoming angry with him and changing her number (which, ironically, is the one thing the song begged her not to do). In another flavor of the tale, the band is sued by a sheriff who had both a daughter named Jenny and the notorious 867-5309 as his home number. "Jenny" has had a breath of new life breathed into it by the Goo Goo Dolls, a popular band that debuted in 1987 but only began to hit its stride in 1998. Though it has yet to record a cover of "Jenny," the Goo Goo Dolls have often included a rendition of it in club appearances. An adjunct to this legend is the rumor that due to the overwhelming number of prank calls now made to 867-5309, that phone number is permanently non-assigned for every area code in North America. That isn't the case although 867-5309 is unassigned in many area codes, we have verified that it is still a valid working number in some of them. In 2004, the putative owner of the 867-5309 phone number in New York (area code 212) put it up for auction on eBay.

Whether there was a real Jenny with that very phone number is debatable. Those who attempt to dial 867-5309 on a touch-tone phone will quickly discover that this seemingly random combination of seven digits forms a consistent pattern as tapped out on the pad. The upward diagonal of "8-6" is followed by "7-5-3," the upward diagonal to the left of it, which in turn is followed by "0-9," yet another upward diagonal, this one to the right of the original starting sequence. SONGS 43


NO. 17 LOUIE LOUIE


CLAIM:

The lyrics to "Louie Louie" are really dirty.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

"Sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll" is more than an Jan Dury slogan; it also neatly encapsulates the three pastimes of America's youth that adults have expended the most effort in trying to control for the last half-century. Films such as Reefer Madness and Blue Denim have been supplanted by "Just Say No" and sex education programs, and the lyrics of rap songs may concern parents more than Elvis Presley's hips or the Beatles' haircuts once did, but the battle continues. By 1963 the rock 'n' roll genie had long since been let out of the bottle, but what one could say (and sing) about sex and drugs on the public airwaves was still often circumscribed by the government and corporate standards and practices divisions. Lou Christie's "Rhapsody in the Rain" and the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" both struggled against radio airplay bans in 1966 for allegedly dealing too explicitly with sex and drugs (respectively), and in 1967 the host of America's premier television showcase for entertainers, Ed Sullivan, was still trying (unsuccessfully) to coerce groups like the Doors and the Rolling Stones into altering their "suggestive" lyrics about drugs and sex (respectively) when they appeared on his program. As rock critic Dave Marsh noted: In a culture that interprets puberty as a tragedy of lost innocence rather than as a triumphal entry into adulthood, the possibility of someone actually giving vent to sexual feeling remains deliciously scandalous. Sex is bad, and somebody singing about it would be really bad. So it was that the youth of America scored a major coup in 1963 by spreading the rumor that a popular recording of an otherwise innocuous 1956 song about a lovesick sailor's lament to a bartender named Louie was really all about sex. You had to listen carefully, the rumor went, maybe even play the single at 33 RPM instead of 45 RPM, but if you did, you'd find that "Louie Louie" was chock full of smutty lyrics. (Another version claimed the dirty words could only be heard on the single and not on the album, even though both were pressed from the same master.) A more effective means of aggravating the older generation could scarcely have been devised: they could neither reassert control by proving the lyrics dirty and punishing those responsible for them, nor could they demonstrate they had never relinquished control by proving the lyrics clean. Or, as Marsh wrote:

In the viperous new generation arising in America's schools, no greater sport could be had or imagined than making all repositories of respectability cringe and groan over the unprovable. Somebody, somewhere, came up with the idea of dirty "louie louie" lyrics not only as a way of putting on other kids and panicking authority, but as a way of creating something rock 'n' roll needed: a secret as rich and ridiculous as the sounds themselves. Perhaps the time was right, and if "Louie Louie" had not come along, some other song would have been tagged as the "dirty" one. (After all, the word was already out that the Peter, Paul and Mary children's song about a dragon named Puff was actually about drugs.) We'll never know, because "Louie Louie" did indeed come along. "Louie Louie" was the creation of Richard Berry, a Los Angeles sideman, session player, and singer-songwriter. Inspired by Rene Touzet's "El Loco Cha Cha" and Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon," Berry crafted his immortal three-verse sailor's lament and recorded it with a group called the Pharaohs in 1956. His laid-back version was released in 1957 (as the B-side of a single), enjoyed moderate success on the Pacific coast, and then promptly sank from sight. The song itself remained popular in the Pacific Northwest, however, and it was revived in 1961 by Seattle's Rockin' Robin Roberts and the Waiters, who recorded it in the much more raucous fashion most familiar to modern listeners. Their version also fared moderately well in the Pacific Northwest but failed to catch on outside the region. Still, "Louie Louie" had an appeal that wouldn't die, and in 1963 two Portland-area bands, the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders, recorded the song within days of each other at the same studio. The two discs battled it out on the national charts at the end of 1963, with the Kingsmen's version eventually emerging victorious and establishing itself as the definitive "Louie Louie."

SONGS 45


What happened next was presciently covered by Marsh in his book-length exploration of the "Louie Louie" phenomenon: Back in 1963, everybody who knew anything about rock 'n' roll knew that the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" concealed dirty words that could be unveiled only by playing the 45 rpm single at 33路 1/3. This preposterous fable bore no scrutiny even at the time, but kids used to pretend it did, in order to panic parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Eventually those ultimate authoritarians, the FBI got involved, conducting a thirty-month investigation that led to "Louie"'s undying - indeed, unkillable - reputation as a dirty song. So "Louie Louie" leaped up the chart on the basis of a myth about its lyrics so contagious that it swept cross country quicker than bad weather. Nobody - not you, not me, not the G路men ultimately assigned to the case - knows where the story started. That's part of the proof that it was a myth, because no folk tales ever have a verifiable origin. Instead society creates them through cultural spontaneous combustion. In retrospect, it's easy to identify the aspects of the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" that made the "filthy lyrics路路 myth even a tiny bit plausible. The pidgin English narration of the lyrics was unusual enough, and comprehension difficulties were compounded on the Kingsmen's recording by several factors: Lead singer Jack Ely had strained his voice participating in a marathon 90-minute "Louie Louie" jam the night before the session. Ely was singing with braces on his teeth. The boom microphone in the studio was fixed way too high for Ely, who had to stand on tiptoe and sing up into the mike. What the band thought was a rehearsal run-through turned out to be the one and only take of the song. At this point we should probably make note of the song's true lyrics:

Louie, Louie, me gotta go. Louie, Louie, me gotta go. A fine little girl, she wait for me; me catch a ship across the sea. I sailed the ship all alone; I never think I'll make it home Three nights and days we sailed the sea; me think of girl constantly. On the ship, I dream she there; I smell the rose in her hair. Me see Jamaica moon above; It won't be long me see me love. Me take her in my arms and then I tell her I never leave again. What circulated among adolescents by word of mouth and on furtively-passed crib sheets

for the next several years were numerous variations like the following: Louie, Louie, grab her way down low. Louie, Louie, grab her way down low. A fine little bitch, she waits for me; she gets her kicks on top of me. Each night I take her out all alone; she ain't the kind I lay at home Each night at ten, I lay her again; I fuck my girl all kinds of ways. And on that chair, I lay her there; I felt my boner in her hair. If she's got a rag on, I'll move above; It won't be long, she'll slip it off. I'll take her in my arms again; tell her I'd rather lay her again. Once concerned parents began to report their outrage about this allegedly "obscene" song to the FBI, the Bureau made the mistake of expending all their effort in proving it true rather than investigating the rumor itself. It was as if a frightened mother had written to J. Edgar Hoover concerning a story she'd heard about a maniac with a hook being on the loose, and Hoover responded by sending out field agents to investigate whether or not a criminal with a missing hand had recently escaped from a psychiatric hospital. The FBI didn't try to find out where these dirty lyric sheets were coming from; instead, they spent two and a half years analyzing "Louie Louie" played at a variety of speeds and interrogating nearly everyone connected with the song, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Richard Berry, the Kingsmen, and even record company executives. One person they never, ever talked to was the one person who indisputably knew what words had been sung on the Kingsmen's recording: singer Jack Ely. (Ely had been fired from the band well before "Louie, Louie" hit it big, a fact the remaining Kingsmen were not anxious to publicize.) After thirty-one months of trying to unravel the mysteries of "Louie Louie," the FBI could conclude only that they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record." Don't we all sleep a little better at night for their efforts?


NO. 18 MOTHER AND CHILD REUNION

SONGS 47


CLAIM:

Paul Simon took the title of his song "Mother and Child Reunion" from the name of a chicken-and-egg dish he spotted on a Chinese restaurant's menu.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN:

No popular song, it seems, can be so straightforward in meaning that it won't be misinterpreted by listeners, and lyrics with the least bit of ambiguity to them give wing to some rather amusing interpretive flights of fancy. Thus we have common legends that "Puff, the Magic Dragon" was really about drugs, that Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" dealt with a bad samaritan who refused to come to the aid of a drowning victim, and James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" chronicled the death of his girlfriend in a plane crash. So, when singer/songwriter Paul Simon released his first post-Simon & Garfunkel single, "Mother and Child Reunion," in 1972, his elliptical lyrics initiated yet another round of the musical "guess the secret meaning" game: No I would not give you false hope On this strange and mournful day But the mother and child reunion Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine. I can't for the life of me Remember a sadder day I know they say let it be But it just don't work out that way And the course of a lifetime runs Over and over again What was the nature of this reunion, fans wondered, and why was it "sad and mournful"? Had mother or child just passed away, rejoining the other as death brought them together in the afterlife? Was the mother about to meet the child she'd given up for adoption many years earlier? (If so, why was the reunion to be "sad and mournful"?) Some listeners, reading significance into the "only a motion away" phrase, postulated that the titular "reunion" was to be effected through an abortion. Whatever Simon may have been thinking when he crafted the lyrics, his inspiration for the song's title was indeed an unusual one, as he explained in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview: Know where the words came from on that? You would never have guessed. I was eating in a Chinese restaurant downtown. There was a dish called "Mother and Child Reunion." It's chicken and eggs. And I said, "Oh, I love that title. I gotta use that one." Simon wasn't pulling his interviewer's leg: chicken-andegg dishes

known as "mother and child reunion" or "mother-daughter reunion" are not uncommon menu items at Chinese restaurants. According to the "New York Rock-N-Roll Trivia Map," the specific eatery where Simon made this fortuitous culinary discovery was Say Eng Look Restaurant in New York City's Chinatown district. Does knowing the origins of the title aid us in interpreting the song? Probably not, although Simon did elaborate in that same interview on how he came to write it: [L]ast summer we had a dog that was run over and killed, and we loved this dog. It was the first death I had ever experienced personally. Nobody in my family died that I felt that. But I felt this loss — one minute there, next minute gone, and then my first thought was, "Oh, man, what if that was [my wife] Peggy? What if somebody like that died? Death, what is it, I can't get it." And there were lyrics straight out forward like that. The chorus for "Mother and Child Reunion" — well, that's out of the title. Somehow there was a connection between this death and Peggy and it was like Heaven, I don't know what the connection was. Some emotional connection. It didn't matter to me what it was. I just knew it was there.


NO. 19 PAGE 43

SONGS 49


CLAIM:

The title of the David Crosby song "Page 43" is a reference to the New Testament.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGINS:

The 1988 film Imagine: John Lennon includes a scene in which a scruffy-looking young man is caught lurking on the grounds of John and Yoko's Tittenhurst Park estate in Ascot, England, and is brought to the masters of the house for questioning. As John and Yoko stand in the doorway of their home inquiring about the lad's presence on their property, the interloper launches into a discussion about the meaning of lyrics to various Beatles songs, particularly "Dig a Pony" (which was featured in the Let It Be movie and album). John patiently explains to the youth that (like many of his songs) "Dig a Pony" had no particular meaning — it was merely a collection of words and phrases that sounded good together, which listeners could imbue with whatever meaning(s) they chose to read into it. John then sympathetically asks the young man if he's hungry and invites him in for a meal before sending him on his way.

page from a book? Which one? In fact, as David Crosby acknowledged to interviewer Paul Zollo in 1993, "page 43" didn't refer to anything definite at all — yet that didn't stop some listeners from declaring that they absolutely knew the answer:

The episode demonstrates a not uncommon phenomenon associated with popular music: Fans who are insistent they know exactly what a songwriter is referring to in a particular song, even when the title or lyric has no specific referent at all. A case in point is the enigmatically titled "Page 43," a David Crosby meditation on the theme of "dive into life before it passes you by" which appeared on the 1972 Graham Nash/David Crosby album:

A: No. As a matter of fact, some very peculiar things

Look around again It's the same old story You see, it's got to be It says right here on page 43 That you should grab ahold of it Else you'll find It's passed you by Pass it round one more time I think I'll have a swallow of wine Life is fine Even with the ups and downs And you should have a sip of it Else you'll find It's passed you by. The lyrics seem straightforward enough, but ... what is the "page 43" from which they're supposedly drawn? A

Q: It's a song about diving right into life. A: Yeah. Don't wait for it. Taste it. Go with it. Q: Was "Page 43" a page from a specific book? happened with people saying [in a low whisper], "Page 43. Yeah. I read that too. I know that nobody else knows, but that was really far out." [Laughter] And I'm thinking, "Yeah! What book are you thinking about?" "The Kaballah!" [Laughter] You have no idea which page 43 they're absolutely sure that I'm talking about. But they're sure.

Q: One guy told me he was absolutely sure it was page 43 of the New Testament.

A: The New Testament. See, that's the one I didn't

read. I read the Old Testament. [Laughs] You know, Zap Comix, Issue 28. It could be anything. And they're sure. And they come up to you in a very conspiratorial way and say, "Page 43, yeah, I got it, man." We note for completeness' sake that different editions of the same book can be paginated differently, so even if one knew specifically which book "Page 43" referred to, that information wouldn't necessarily be sufficient to identify the material of interest. Particularly in the case of a book such as the New Testament, which is available in many, many different versions and translations, a mere page number (rather than a chapter and verse citation) would be virtually useless as an identifier.


NO. 20 PRECIOUS LORD

SONGS 51


CLAIM:

In response to the death of his wife and child, Tommy Dorsey wrote the song "Precious Lord."

STATUS: MULTIPLE ORIGIN:

Famous big band leader Tommy Dorsey wrote the song "Precious Lord": False. Account describes the writing of "Precious Lord" by gospel great Thomas Andrew Dorsey: True. Origins: The earliest record we have of the account quoted above appearing in the January 2000, when it was posted to the newsgroup nz.soc.religion. Variously titled "Birth of a song,路路 "Beautiful Story!" and 'The Birth of 'Precious Lord' by Tommy A. Dorsey," it has since been circulated widely in e-mail and reproduced on numerous web sites. Its text came into the online world via a transcription of the article 'The Birth of 'Precious Lord'," written by Tommy A. Dorsey and published in the inspirational magazine Guideposts in 1987. Other than a misspelling or two ('Professor Fry' and 'Malone's Poro College' of the e-mailed version are 'Professor Frye' and 'Madam Malone's Poro College' in the printed version), the one is a word-for-word transcription of the other. The article was also presented in the July/August 2000 edition of Hidden Wisdom magazine. online world dates from As to the question of whether the account is true, the answer is yes. The gospel great Thomas Andrew Dorsey did indeed weather the death of his wife, Nettie, and their newborn child, and these sad events served to inspire him to pen "Precious Lord" in 1932. The song has since been translated into 32 languages and was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite, the one Mahalia Jackson sang at his funeral. It was also sung by Leontyne Price at President Lyndon B. Johnson's funeral. Yet Thomas Andrew Dorsey of gospel renown and Tommy Dorsey of big band acclaim are not one and the same - they were two different men who, while they both made their marks in the music world, did so in di fferent genres. Tommy Dorsey, the acclaimed trombonist and dance-band leader, was born on 19 November 1905. After working for other bands, he and his brother Jimmy formed their own ensemble in 1920. The brothers had a falling out in 1935 and parted ways, Jimmy staying with The Dorsey Brother Orchestra but renaming it 'Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra,' and Tommy taking over what was left of another band to form his own group. In 1939 Tommy Dorsey hired Frank Sinatra away from rival bandleader Harry James. (While the various Dorsey bands recorded numerous songs that went to #1 on the charts of their day, a great many are unknown to music listeners of the modern era. Arguably, Sinatra's ''ll Never Smile Again" is one of the exceptions.) In 1953 Tommy Dorsey broke up his own band and returned to his brother's, the pair eventually renaming that ensemble the

Dorsey Brothers Orchestra. Sedated by sleeping pills following a heavy meal, Dorsey accidentally choked to death at the age of 51 on 26 November 1956. Thomas Andrew Dorsey was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, on 1 July 1899. He was a blues bandleader for singers including Ma Rainey, but after becoming a Christian he turned to writing gospel music, reportedly after undergoing a spiritual experience while hearing the hymn "I Do, Don't You?" at a Baptist convention. Across the course of his lifetime he penned more than a thousand gospel hymns, including "Say Amen," "Somebody," 'Take My Hand" and "Peace in the Valley." He died in Chicago on 23 January 1993 of complications arising from Alzheimer's disease. It is to be expected folks would confuse two musicians of the same name who were present on the music scene at approximately the same time. Beyond the difference in their genres of music, here's another way to tell the them apart: Tommy Dorsey the jazz musician of many popular hits was Caucasian, while Tommy A. Dorsey of gospel fame was African -American.


NO. 21 PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON

SONGS 53


CLAIM:

The Peter, Paul & Mary tune "Puff, the Magic Dragon" is a coded song about marijuana.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

No, "Puff, the Magic Dragon" is not about marijuana, or any other type of drug. It is what its writers have always claimed it to be: a song about the innocence of childhood lost. The poem that formed the basis of the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon" was written in 1959 by Leonard Lipton, a nineteen-year-old Cornell student. Lipton was inspired by an Ogden Nash rhyme about a "Really-0 Truly-0 Dragon," and, using a dragon as the central figure, he came up with a poem about the end of childhood innocence. Liptonpassed his work along to a friend, fellow Cornell student (and folk music enthusiast) Peter Yarrow, who put a melody to the words and wrote addi tional lyrics to create the song "Puff, the Magic Dragon." After Yarrow teamed up with Mary Travers and Paul Stookey in 1961 to form Peter, Paul & Mary, the trio perormed the song in live shows; their 1962 recording of "Puff" reached 112 on the Billboard charts in early 1963. The 1960s being what they were, however, any song based on oblique or allegorical lyrics was subject to reinterpretation as a "drug song," and so it was with "Puff." (For Peter, Paul & Mary, at least, the revelation that Their song was "really" about marijuana came after the song had finished its chart run; other groups were not so fortunate, and accusations of "drug lyrics" caused some radio stations to ban songs such as the Byrds' "Eight Miles High" from their playlists.) "Puff' was an obvious name for a song about smoking pot; little Jackie Paper's surname referred to rolling papers; "autumn mist" was either clouds of marijuana smoke or a drug induced state; the land of "Hanah Lee" was really the Hawaiian village of Hanalei, known for its particularly potent marijuana plants; and so on. As Peter Yarrow has demonstrated in countless concert performances, any song - even 'The Star-Spangled Banner" - can be interpreted as a "drug song." Here is what the people who created and popularized the song have said about it: Leonard Upton (co-writer): [ "Puff" is about) loss of innocence, and having to face an adult world. It's surely not about drugs. I can tell you that at Cornell in 1959, no one smoked grass. I find the fact that people interpret it as a drug song annoying. It would be insidious to propagandize about drugs in a song for little kids. Peter Yarrow (co-writer) : As the principal writer of the song, I can assure you it's a song about innocence lost. It's easier to interpret "The

Star -Spangled Banner" as a drug song than "Puff, the Magic Dragon." This is just a funny rumor that was promulgated by Newsweek magazine [who ran a cover story about covert drug messages in pop music) . There is no basis for it. It's inane at this point and really unfortunate, because even in Hong Kong it's not played because of the allegation it's about drugs. But I assure you it's not. When 'Puff' was written, I was too innocent to know about drugs. What kind of a meanspirited SOB would write a children's song with a covert drug message? Mary Travers: Peter wrote the song in 1958 [ sic), and it is not about marijuana. Believe me, if he wanted to write a song about marijuana, he would have written a song about marijuana.


NO. 22 PIZZANO MAN

SONGS 55


CLAIM:

A pizza delivery man played the piano part on the Bachman-Turner Overdrive hit "Takin' Care of Business."

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN:

A common type of tale within the realm of urban legendry is the story of the stranger who (despite being a novice or amateur in the field) suddenly shows up and makes a small yet vital contribution to an enterprise — a key idea or suggestion that, simple as it may be, had never occurred to any of the professional experts. (One of the better known examples of this genre is the tale of the stranger who stands the soft drink industry on its head by appearing at Coca-Cola's headquarters one day and offering the company's executives a revolutionary two-word idea: "Bottle it!") Another tale in this mode is the anecdote of the pizza delivery man who, having dropped off a pie at the studio where the Canadian group Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) was in the process of recording "Takin' Care of Business" (a #12 hit for BTO in 1974), not only offered the suggestion that the song was lacking a boogiewoogie piano part, but sat down at the instrument and proceeded to play it before vanishing into the night, with his musical efforts being retained on the finished track. This version of events has been offered by BTO singerguitarist Randy Bachman multiple times, including the following 2002 interview with Canadian newsman Peter Mansbridge (the handsomest man in Canada): PM: There are so many things we could talk about, but I want you to tell one anecdote because it's great. It's about the song "Taking Care of Business." It's the story of recording that song and the pizza man. RB: The song was written by accident. It was a song that the Guess Who had passed on earlier, and I desperately put it together one night on stage when Fred Turner, who was the main lead singer in Bachman-Turner Overdrive, had lost his voice and I had to finish the last set. We were going to record it a few weeks later. After we were recording it with just guitar and bass and drums, there was a knock on the recording studio door. This is in Seattle, Steve Miller was down the hall recording the Fly Like an Eagle [sic] album, and War was down the hall doing their album, and there is great big guy there. I'm big, so when I say a big guy, I mean a really big guy — about six foot six, three hundred something pounds, and hair like Fidel Castro, big beard. And he was wearing the full army fatigues and the hat just like Castro, standing there with about five pizzas. He said, "Did you guys order pizza?" I said, "No, it must be down the hall." And he's standing there listening to the song, and it was "Taking Care of Business."

So he went down the hall and dumped the pizza with whoever — Steve Miller or War — and then he came back and knocked again. And he said, "You know, that song sounds like it could really use a piano." It was two o'clock in the morning, and I said, "Look, we're going home." I'm closing my briefcase and everything and he says, "Please, please, I'm a piano player. Can I have a shot?" And I said, "Oh, who am I not to give the guy a shot, right?" Okay, you have one pass." He took a napkin and he wrote down the key and he said, "What should I play like?" I said, "Well, Little Richard, Elton John, Dr. John" — all this kind of stuff. Normally you would try a whole pass like Little Richard, then a whole pass like Dr. John, then a whole pass like Elton John. He went and did it all at once. When it was all done, I said, "Great, that's it. Thank you very much." I was going to wipe this track the next day, just erase it. The head of our label, Charlie Fasch, flew in because he wanted to hear this album and hear some songs to get us on Top 40 radio. We played him the song, and he says, "This is really good." Suddenly the engineer brought up the fader that had the piano on and he went, "Wow, BTO with a piano? This gives you a whole different sound on radio — let's leave it in! Who played piano?"

I said, "I don't know, a pizza guy." "What do you mean, 'a pizza guy'? What musician did you pay?" "It was a pizza guy." "Well, we have to get him and put his name on the album and pay him!" So I went down the hall and said to Steve Miller, "Where did you order the pizza from?" He said, "Are you kidding? We've all been here two months, and every day about two in the afternoon it's Chinese or Mexican, and every night it's pizza. Here's the Yellow Pages." I went to the front of the studio and I said to the girl, "Would you please start phoning in the As and I'll go half through the alphabet — I'll phone from the Ms to the Zs." PM: Come on, you're kidding. RB: And we asked them if they delivered pizza to this


studio on this date. Now two days have gone by, and we had to find him. PM: And you found him? RB: I got it, but they wouldn't tell me his name or anything because they didn't know why I was calling. Finally I got a really good Italian guy and he said, "Oh yes, there's this musician that only works for us the last day of the month. When he can't pay his rent, he delivers pizza." And I said, "Can you give me his name and number?" "No. But if you order a pizza we'll send him out." So we ordered a pizza and the guy came out. His name was Norman Durkee, and this was his entrance into show business. He went on to become Bette Midler's musical director on her first national tour. About six years ago I was playing with the Ringo Starr All-Starr Band and we played at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, and before us the L.A. Symphony was rehearsing — and he's the rehearsal pianist. So that's the story of the pizza man. However, in another interview given the same year, Randy Bachman's brother, BTO drummer Robin "Robbie" Bachman, averred that although the recording of the piano track on BTO's "Takin' Care of Business" did involve a pizza box, the intriguing version of events that has it being suggested and played by an anonymous delivery man was an embellishment on Randy's part: the mystery pianist was not someone who had just happened to stop by to deliver a pizza, but rather a musician who was already present in the facility because he was working with the Steve Miller Band in an adjacent studio:

Q: There are lots of rumors about the recording of "Taking Care of Business". Can you tell me the real story?

A: Here's Randy's version of the story. We were

encased in the studio, and the pizza guy delivers our pizza. He hears us recording the song and says, "Hey, that needs piano!" Randy asks him if he can play. He does, and he goes into the studio and does one take. We think that's cool, pay for the pizza, give him a tip and he leaves. Then Randy realizes that we have to pay this guy for the session! Randy and the president of Mercury Records sit down with the yellow pages and phone every pizza parlor in Seattle until 4 in the morning asking if they had a pizza delivered to Casement Studios by a guy who can play piano. Here's the real story: We're in the studio recording "Taking Care of Business". In the next studio is a guy working with Steve Miller. He hears the song as he's walking back and forth getting coffee. He sticks his head in and says, "That needs piano! A real boogie-woogie piano would sound cool." The he leaves. We're looking around for him, asking, "Where's that piano guy?" So Buzz Richmond, the engineer, tells us that he's working next door and he'll go get him. So he comes back, and asks

us if we want piano on the song. He asks us how long the song is, and we tell him about five minutes. "Well," he says, "I only have six." He then picks up a pizza box, proceeds to write the chord progression on the cardboard box, puts it down on the piano, and plays it once. It sounds great. He then asks us to send him a check and he leaves us his card. The fellow's name is Norman Durkee. He's a musical director for Bette Midler and Barry Manilow. We credited him on the album. Whose version is correct? In September 2010, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner were interviewed on Seattle radio station KZOK in conjunction with their release of a new album and upcoming live appearances, and the radio hosts also undertook a telephone interview with Norman Durkee specifically to ask him about this legend. Durkee's account of his part in the recording of "Takin' Care of Business" differed in some details from both of the Bachmans', but the gist of his explanation was to confirm that the main element of the story was untrue: he was not a piano-playing pizza delivery guy who fortuitously dropped off a pie at a music studio on the day "Takin' Care of Business" was being recorded; he was an established professional musician who was present in the studio because he was recording commercials when he was asked to add a piano part to a BTO song: The thing is, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, when I met them, they were across the hall, and they don't get high; they just eat a lot of pizza. And they wanted piano on this song, and I was across the hall doing commercials, which is what I did a lot for money back at that time; and they come in, and one of the engineers says, "Can you play on this tune?" And I said, "No," because no one knew that "Takin' Care of Business" was a big deal when [they were] making it, and I had hired like eight or ten people [to record commercials] and I [was] paying them by the nanosecond. So to me, the most amazing part of this story is I go over to this studio — and the engineer's name is Buzz Richmond and he's a good guy — he says, "Can you please do this for 'em?" I says, "Okay, one time, and then I'm f***ing out of here." So Randy says — this is the part that kills him — "Do you want to hear this song?" and I said, "No, I don't have time to hear it." So we both put on headphones, and then when he wanted me to play, he would point, and when he wanted me to stop, he put his hand across his throat. And so, the thing starts [imitates intro to "Takin' Care of Business"] and they point, and I go [imitates piano playing], and anyway, we get through the whole song, and I get up and leave. And he says, "How do you do that?" And I says, "I don't know; I've got this magic, man, you know. Gimme some money or something." So I get ninety dollars, which is the legal fee for a union musician playing one session.

SONGS 57


NO. 23 TAPS


CLAIM:

The melody known as 'Taps' was found in the pocket of a dying boy on a Civil War battlefield.

STATUS: FALSE ORIGIN: It's hard to feel surprised when a melody as hauntingly beautiful as 'Taps' picks up a legend about how it came to be written — it's too mournfully direct a piece for the mere truth to suffice. Taps was composed in July 1862 at Harrison's Landing in Virginia, but aside from that basic fact the fanciful e-mail quoted above, which dates at least to the 1930s, in no way reflects the reality of its origins. There was no dead son, Confederate or otherwise; no lone bugler sounding out the dead boy's last composition. How the call came into being was never anything more than one influential soldier deciding his unit could use a bugle call for particular occasions and setting about to come up with one. If anyone can be said to have composed 'Taps,' it was Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, during the American Civil War. Dissatisfied with the customary firing of three rifle volleys at the conclusion of burials during battle and also wanting a less harsh bugle call for ceremonially signaling the end of a soldier's day, he likely altered an older piece known as "Tattoo," a French bugle call used to signal "lights out," into the call we now know as 'Taps.'

day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring brigades, asking for copies of the music, which I gladly furnished. I think no general order was issued from army headquarters authorizing the substitution of this for the regulation call, but as each brigade commander exercised his own discretion in such minor matters, the call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac. 'Taps' was quickly taken up by both sides of the conflict, and within months was being sounded by buglers in both Union and Confederate forces. Then as now, 'Taps' serves as a vital component in ceremonies honoring military dead. It is also understood by American servicemen as an end-of-day 'lights out' signal. When "Taps" is played at a military funeral, it is customary to salute if in uniform, or place your hand over your heart if not.

Summoning his brigade's bugler, Private Oliver Willcox Norton, to his tent one evening in July 1862, Butterfield (whether he wrote 'Taps' straight from the cuff or improvised something new by rearranging an older work) worked with the bugler to transform the melody into its present form. As Private Norton later wrote of that occasion: General Daniel Butterfield ... showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for 'Taps' thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night, and was heard far beyond the limits of our brigade. The next SONGS 59


NO. 24 TEARS IN HEAVEN


CLAIM:

The Eric Clapton song 'Tears in Heaven" is a tribute to Conor Clapton, Eric's pre-school son, who died in an accident in 1991.

STATUS: TRUE ORIGIN:

On 20 March 1991 at 11 a.m., four -and-a-half-year-old Conor Clapton died when he fell from a 53rd-story window in a New York City apartment. He landed on the roof of an adjacent four story building. Conor was in the custody of his mother, Italian actress Lori Del Santo, and they were staying in the apartment during a visit to New York from Italy. The boy's father, Eric Clapton, was also in New York (his permanent home is in Surrey, England} and was staying at a nearby hotel at the time of the tragedy. Clapton and Del Santo never wed. (Eric was married to Pattie Boyd, George Harrison's former wife, at the time of Conor's August 1986 birth}. Clapton has another child, Ruth Kelly, born in January, 1985, to Yvonne Khan Kelly (also during Clapton's marriage to Boyd}. The death of Conor Clapton was one of those accidents that seem so preventable with hindsight yet aren't imaginable until they happen. The housekeeper had j ust finished cleaning the window and left it open to air the room when Conor ran past him and fell out the 4-by-6 opening. By law, New York City apartments must have window guards installed on every window in all residential buildings with three or more tenants, but a 1984 ruling exempted condominiums from this regulation, placing the onus upon the owners of such units to install such safety devices. The ~ apartment Del Santos and her son were staying in was a condo unit, thus the window Conor fell through lacked a guard. The death of his son had a deep impact on Eric Clapton. For nine months the grieving father concentrated on coming to terms with his loss rather than on performing. When he returned to the stage, his music had changed, becoming softer, more powerful, and more reflective. 'Tears in Heaven"' (composed by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings) was Clapton路s way of pouring his grief and growing acceptance of Conor's loss into his music. The song was created for the 1991 film Rush, but in truth it was always about Conor - whatever Clapton was feeling was bound to come out in whatever he wrote. At the 1993 Grammy Awards, Clapton's recording of 'Tears in Heaven"' won the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance (Male Category), garnered Song of the Year honors for Clapton, and helped propel his "'Unplugged"' album into the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance spot and the winner's circle for the coveted Album of the Year prize. Other songs Clapton has written about Conor are 'The

Circus Left Town,"' which recalls the last time Clapton saw his son alive (they attended a circus the night before Conor's death), and "'Lonely Stranger."' Even when all the facts are known about a nightmarish event (which was the case here: there was no mystery about Conor's death; no unresolved nagging questions which left part of the story unknown or unknowable), there always remains room for embellishments as people's memories work to insert details they unconsciously feel should be part of the account. It's at this point a news story crosses the line into the realm of folklore: {Collected via !.'路moil, 1999] I heard that his young son had a habit or running to the window or their house to greet his father upon hi s arrival home everyday, and one day the window happened to be open, so the little boy fell to his death. The above recollection presents Clapton and his boy as members of the same household (a living arrangement that Clearly was not the case), a flourish which adds elements of poignancy to what really happened. In this version Clapton would not only have seen the boy fall to his death, but he would have been the catalyst that set this tragedy in motion. (His son was running to greet him, after all.) Other recollections place Clapton at a concert at the time of Conor's death, a detail that disapprovingly implies that if he'd been home watching over his son instead of performing or others, the accident wouldn't have happened. This too was not the case: Conor's fall occurred at eleven in the morning (a very odd hour to be giving concerts) andClapton was at his hotel at the time. The boy also wasn't left unsupervised by a neglectful, career-driven father or abandoned to the mercies of paid servants who didn't adequately tend to him - he was with his mother, his custodial parent, in an environment which anyone would reasonably assume was perfectly safe.

SONGS 61


The account has become part of an even stranger blurring of news coverage with remembered folklore : {Collected via e-mail, 1999] In the 3 men and a baby legend, I heard it was Eric Clapton's old apartment in NYC, and the little ghost boy is his son that fell out the window (30+ stories?) and died. Human memory is an amazing thing - it often takes two separate bits of remembered input that share one or more common elements and melds them to form a new "fact" that will henceforth be recalled as rock-solid truth. In this case, the shared elements of a New York City apartment and the death of a male child have injected the very real death of Conor Clapton into the apocryphal legend about a ghost boy who seems to appear in the film Three Men and a Baby. (That Three Men and a Baby was filmed on a soundstage in Toronto dissuades very few from believing some scenes were shot in a New York City apartment haunted by a dead child and that his image was captured in a few Frames of the film.) Perhaps the legendary aspects of Conor Clapton's death are a reflection of our reluctance to accept that bad things - even events as tragic as the loss of a child - sometimes happen for no logical or discernable reason. Someone must be responsible when a child dies in a senseless accident, so legend has recast a grieving Eric Clapton as a neglectful father at least partially responsible for the death of his son, a failing he now desperately seeks to expiate through his music.


NO. 25 YOU OUGHTA KNOW

SONGS 63


CLAIM:

The Alanis Morissette song 'You Oughta Know" is about actor Dave Coulier from TVs Full House.

STATUS: UNDETERMINED ORIGIN:

A segment of the modern audience insists on interpreting the lyrics of pop songs written in the first person literally (see the legend about Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" for a prime example) and assuming that the accounts described therein must reflect the personal experiences of the singers. (The latter perhaps fostered by the trend that began in the 1960s of pop musicians' wri ting their own material rather than relying upon the efforts of commercial songwriters.) When Mary MacGregor hit the charts with 'Torn Between Two Lovers" in 1976, for example, far too many fans assumed she must really have been involved in relationships with two different men at the same time (even though the song was not written by MacGregor, but was in fact was penned by two men, Peter Yarrow and Phil Jarrell, and listeners spent years trying to guess whom early Simon had in mind when she wrote 'You're So Vain." It was inevitable, then, that Alanis Morissette's vitriolic 1995 song 'You Oughta Know" (from her huge-selling third album, Jagged Little Pill) would trigger gossip about the identity of the ex-lover savaged in the lyrics for moving on so quickly: Did you forget about me, Mister Duplicity? I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner. It was a slap in my face how quickly I was replaced. Are you thinking of me when you fuck her? Rumors have named just about everyone of note with whom Morissette has ever been associated as the target of this bitter attack: Actor and comedian Dave Coulier, best known as Joey Gladstone on TV's Full House, whom Morissette dated for a while after they met at a hockey game in 1992. (The relationship reportedly ended because Coulier, fifteen years her senior, wanted to start a family, but Morissette felt she was too young.) Bob Saget, host of TV's America's Funniest Home Videos and another regular on the Full House series. Mike Peluso, a (former) member of the Ottawa Senators NHL team. Matt LeBlanc, star of TV's Friends, who once appeared in one of Morissette's music videos. Leslie Howe, Morissette's long-time friend and songwriting partner. Morissette did reveal in a 1995 interview that the song was not a mere abstraction but was indeed about someone specific with whom she had a relationship: I haven't heard from him, and I don't think he knows. Which sort of says a lot about him. The ironic thing is, if anybody questions whether it's them I'm writing about, that means something in and of itself . People who were kind and honest and full of integrity throughout the process of making this album wouldn't question whether they were in that song because they would know.

Dave Coulier is by far the name most frequently attached to this rumor, and if he didn't know about it in 1995, he reportedly did by 1997, when the spokesman for Boston's Comedy Connection (where Coulier was currently working) told the Boston Herald: He admitted the lines are very close to home. Especially the one about 'an older version of me' and bugging him in the middle of dinner. He said she used to do that all the time. But just as early Simon has steadfastly refused to identify the subject of 'You're So Vain" for all these years, confirmation of whom Morissette was thinking of when she wrote 'You Oughta Know" may forever remain elusive. Paul Cantin's biography of the singer quotes her as saying: I'm not going to deny or say yes to it because I think it is wrong. I sort of laugh at it. That was a most public relationship, and it is a predictable answer ... The truth is I am never going to tell who it is about.


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