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With a discography from over 800 songs, Elvis Presley has recorded lots of songs. Many of those songs became hits, but there are quite some hit versions which originally were not sung by Elvis..
Always On My Mind, written by Johnny Christopher, Wayne Carson Thompson and Mark James, was a big hit for Elvis Presley. In the UK, it was a number 9 hit for him, but the original was sung by Brenda Lee, who did not have a hit with the song. Later, it was covered by Willie Nelson and the Pet Shop Boys (who had a number 1 hit with the song). Mark James made the original of another big Elvis hit: Suspicious Minds. Though his version flopped (for uncertain reasons), Elvis heard that it could be a hit and recorded it. It would be his last number 1 hit.
A song which you immediately identify with Elvis is Blue Suede Shoes. However, the original was not his song. Elvis toured with Johnny Cash and the writer of the song, Carl Perkins, who sung the original. He recorded it, but as his brother died in a car crash, he was unable to promote the song. Elvis recorded a cover and the rest is history. Another Elvis classic is Hound Dog. The original by blues singer Big Mama Thornton is largely forgotten, as it dates back to 1953, and is different from the Elvis version. He took the performance from Freddie Bell and The Bell Boys, covered it, and made Hound Dog a number 1 hit.
The song Green Green Grass Of Home, which was made famous by Tom Jones, was another song Elvis covered. The original was recorded by Johnny Darrell, but Tom Jones got the inspiration for his cover from Jerry Lee Lewis. And then Elvis covered it, just like he covered Girls! Girls! Girls! The original recording was made by the Coasters, but Elvis had the hit, as he used it in a faster version in the movie with the same name.
Blue Moon of Kentucky, the song that was written by Bill Monroe, was made famous by Elvis. It was on the B-side of his first single, and established the genre Rockabilly (a mixture of country, blues and a fast tempo). A little closer to the original was the song It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’, which was written and sung by Johnny Tillotson. The song was the only hit for Johnny, and for a change, it was not a hit for Elvis! Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn), a song by Joe Dowell, was a hit for Elvis. Actually, just his version stayed and the original was forgotten.
However, the discography of Elvis also contains quite some songs which are obviously covered, but of which you never would have thought Elvis also recorded them.
Bridge Over Troubled Water, the song which was made famous by Simon & Garfunkel, was one of them. This to proove Elvis was a good vocalist, as some doubted that. Paul Simon reacted that it was nice to have a song covered by Elvis, but he felt Aretha Franklin’s version did more to him. He would have liked to hear more gospel material, as his gospel albums sounded very good. On one of them is a version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, originally by Gerry & the Pacemakers.
Several songs became famous for their live versions. My Way by Frank Sinatra was added to the concerts at the end of his career, the song Words by the Bee Gees some earlier (a version can be heard on Elvis at the International Hotel),
The Beatles were covered no less than three times! Lady Madonna, Hey Jude and Yesterday were all covered by Elvis, although you can ask yourself if all were necessary (especially Hey Jude…). Another of those songs includes Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond, which never did a lot in charts. Neil probably did not think much of it, as he liked Frank Sinatra’s cover the best.
The Righteous Brothers were covered two times by Elvis. The songs You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling and Unchained Melody were both recorded by Elvis. The last was recorded only six weeks before his death!
What would be a career without a Christmas album? Elvis recorded several, and on one of them, he covers the song White Christmas from Bing Crosby.
Well, two more songs. The Last Farewell by Roger Whittaker, for example, was also recorded by Elvis, in 1976. But let’s end with a cover which is maybe better than the original (though that’s difficult to say). The song Solitaire by the Carpenters was sung by Elvis, and he probably would have recognized himself in the text.
Of course, these are just some of his covers. In fact, he did many, many, many more, but I tried to make a nice selection for you.
When the classical composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and others wrote their compositions, they probably did not think about pop music. In fact, their music seems to be quite different from the modern pop music. Two worlds that will never meet? Well, not exactly…
One of the best known classical tunes probably is The Fifth Symphony by Beethoven. At least the beginning is iconic: ta-ta-ta-taaa…No wonder that it made its way to pop music. Walter Murphy used the whole song, and made a disco version out of it (which can also be heard in Saturday Night Fever), calling it A Fifth Of Beethoven. However, the first tunes are most used in pop music. Thicke (now Robin Thicke) used them to introduce his song When I Get You Alone. And the Electric Light Orchestra used them to make Roll Over Beethoven (original by Chuck Berry) some longer. Actually, they really rolled over Beethoven.
Listening to classical music inspired several artists. Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane listened to the Bolero from Ravel a few times, and wrote White Rabbit with the Bolero in her mind. If you listen closely to the song, you will hear the structure of the Bolero in it. It’s also no secret that Procul Harum used a part of Bach’s Air on the G-string for their composition A Whiter Shade Of Pale. Gary Brooker had been listening to a lot of classical music, and that’s why the text seemed to fit Bach’s song. A sort of combining, you could say. The same happened to Eric Carmen, who wrote All By Myself in small parts. As he was listening to Rachmaninoff, he thought it was useful for the verse. The only problem he encountered, was that the used part from the second piano concerto was not available in the public domain, as it was written in 1901. Luckily, he could make an arrangement with the Rachmaninoff estate to ensure it still could be used…
However, it is possible to copy entire melodies for your songs. The best example probably is Elvis Presley, who did it a few times. Love Me Tender, for example, was subject of copying: it used the melody of the traditional Aura Lee. Also the classical (Venetian) composition O Sole Mio was used. As Elvis heard it, he wanted an English text written for it, so he could record it. This song was called It’s Now Or Never, which brought Elvis to number 1.
There are, however, several less obvious cases. One of them is Alejandro by Lady Gaga. She used a part of Vittorio Monti’s Csárdás. It’s mainly inspired by the violin, which can be heard in the opening of the song. It proceeds throughout the rest of the song, though the dance beat is put over it. However, listen closely and you will hear Vittorio Monti’s composition. Another case of a dance beat which covers the classical music are the Pet Shop Boys with Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. They can be heard in All Over The World, but they are hidden quite well. Try if you can discover them… More disco music: I Love Your Smile by Shanice is said to use a small part of Arabesque No. 1 (Claude Debussy).
A favourite to use is Pachebel’s Canon in D Major. The descending cords can be heard clearly in All Together Now by the Farm, starting right at the start and playing through the complete song. The same composition was used by Stock, Aitken and Waterman for Kylie Minogue’s I Should Be So Lucky. Another composition that Stock, Aitken and Waterman used for their songs is Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner. Its strings are used in You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive…
Quite some music of the Beatles was inspired by classical compositions. Quite clear is the use of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, at the beginning of All You Need Is Love. A little less obvious are the instrumental parts at the end of the song: Glenn Miller’s In The Mood and Greensleeves (variations of Bach). Bach also inspired Penny Lane. Paul McCartney got the idea of adding a trumpet to the song after listening to the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2… More Bach: In Blackbird the guitar was inspired by Bourrée in E minor for lute. Especially the first four bars were used in the song. Also Beethoven was used for one of their songs: John Lennon heard Yoko Ono playing Moonlight Sonata, asked her to play it backwards, and as she did that, he wrote the rest of the song around it…
Of the great composers, Mozart has been missing. However, his Piano Concerto no. 21 has been used by Neil Diamond in Song Sung Blue. Probably a little more energetic than Mozart had meant it, and certainly not the thing Mozart ever could imagine, but it would be one of the biggest hits for Neil Diamond. Also a big hit, but some closer to the original: the song Russians by Sting. Writing about the tension between the USA and the USSR, Sting used Sergei Prokofiev’s Romance melody from the Lieutenant Kije Suite to accompagny his message. A last one, probably one you wouldn’t expect: Brahms in Silent Lucidity by Queensrÿche! His composition Lullaby can be heard in the song, played on a cello around 5 minutes and 26 seconds.
Of course, there are many more examples to name. Please don’t hesitate to leave your suggestions (pop and classical composition)!
Not only are we saying goodbye to the old year, but also to all those great musicians who have left us. In this (by far not complete) list of persons we lost this year, we stop to remember them and their contribution to music. It would not have been the same without them.
The first month of the year saw two great singers pass away. On the 25th of January, the Greek singer Demis Roussos passed away on the age of 68. He was the singer of Aphrodite’s Child, famous for songs like Rain & Tears, and later solo with songs like My Friend The Wind. A few days later, on the 29th, Rod McKuen passed away. He probably is better remembered for his poems, but in 1973, he had a hit with the protest song Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes. He was 81 years old.
February saw the passing away of the singer of Visage, Steve Strange. He was singer on the famous single Fade To Grey, and passed away at the age of 55 on the 12th of February. Four days later, on the 16th of February, Lesley Gore passed away. She will be remembered for singing hits like You Don’t Own Me and It’s My Party. Lesley was 68 years old. The end of February, the 25th to be exact, Chris Rainbow died. Though he had two solo songs, he will be best remembered for his vocals on several records of the Alan Parsons Project, including Don’t Answer Me.
On the 15th of March, the bass player of Toto, Mike Porcaro, died. He started with playing the cello on Good For You (Toto IV), but played the bass on the albums that followed. He was 59 years old.
In April and May, several legends passed away. Starting with Percy Sledge, who died on the 14th of April. Of course everyone will remember him for the number 1 hit When A Man Loves A Woman. He was 74 years old. On the 30th of April, Ben E. King passed away at the age of 76. His song Stand By Me returned to the charts quite some times, even making it to number 1 in 1987 in the UK. Errol Brown, the singer of Hot Chocolate, passed away on the 6th of May. He was the singer on hits like Everyone’s A Winner, Emma and You Sexy Thing. He was 71 years old. The 14th of May saw the passing away of the big blues singer B.B. King. Not only a great singer, but also a great guitarist, who left us an impressive catalogue of songs. One of the songs we will remember him for is The Thrill Is Gone. B.B. King was 89 years old.
Chris Squire, the bassist and one of the founders of Yes, passed away on the 27th of June. The most people will remember his bass play from the song Owner Of A Lonely Heart, but it can be heard on most of the albums by Yes. He was 67 years old. On the 30th of July, the singer Lynn Anderson died. She had a big hit with (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, which was number 1 in quite some countries. She also was 67 years old. The guitarist of REO Speedwagon, Gary Richrath, died on the 13th of September. He played the lead guitar, wrote songs, took the vocals on some songs, and helped with the production of the albums. He was 65 years old.
Jim Diamond, the singer of Ph.D., died this year on the 8th of October. Famous for the vocals on I Won’t Let You Down, the only big hit Ph.D. had, he was quite successful. He was 64 years old. In the end of October, on the 28th, Diane Charlemagne died. She is mostly famous in the electronic music, where she was the lead singer of the Urban Cookie Collective (famous for their hit The Key The Secret). She was only 51 years old.
The last two months of the year saw the passing away of some great musicians. On the 9th of November, Andy White passed away on the age of 85. He was a session drummer, most famous for playing the drums on Love Me Do by the Beatles. Two days later, on the 11th, another drummer passed away. Phil Taylor was the drummer of Motörhead, famous for their song Ace of Spades. He was 61 years old. On the 15th, P.F. Sloan passed away. He was the writer of quite some songs, including Eve Of Destruction, which became a number 1 hit for Barry McGuire. He was 70 years old. And then, on the 27th of December, Stevie Wright died. He was the singer of the Easybeats, who had a hit with Friday On My Mind. He was 68 years old. The 28th of December saw Lemmy Kilmister, the singer of Motörhead, pass away. This also meant the end of Motörhead, which had earlier lost its drummer. Lemmy was 70 years old. The same day saw the death of houseproducer Guru Josh, who was particularly famous for his hit Infinity. He only was 51 years old…
Not only musicians died, there were also some important figures who were important for music that died. On the 8th of January, the owner of the Cavern Club in the years of the Mersey Beat died. Ray McFall, the man who told the Beatles to smarten up, died on the age of 88.
Holly Woodlawn, a transgender actress, died on the 6th of December at the age of 69. She is most famous for the song Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed, for whom she was the inspiration to write the song. Yes, she was the he that became a she.
Well, that was 2015. Let us remember those artists by never forgetting their music.
Minions. This summer, you can’t avoid them. They are everywhere. The cause for this all is the new movie around them: the minion movie. Is it worth to take a look when you don’t like minions, but you do like music?
The answer is definitively yes. The Minion Movie is full of small jokes, which will not be understood by children, but probably you will understand them. This varies from a small shot of a billboard with Nixon on it, to complete songs from the sixties. In the movie, you will hear songs by the Doors, the Kinks, the Beatles, and many more big artists from the sixties. In the first moments of the movie, you already will be confronted with the Turtles (Happy Together).
The music is not only there to be heard. You will also see a lot of visual jokes with music in them. The Beatles (well, er, their legs) do have a small role (and please notice that the VW Beetle has been replaced by a VW bus). You will understand that I’m talking about Abbey Road. Furthermore, a minion tries to put the Who and Jimi Hendrix in one (which works out quite well) and if you pay close attention, you will see the Blues Brothers in the public.
Apart from the many references to music (these are just some of them), there are a lot of references to movies. Yes, the Blues Brothers with their police car chase is there, just as the Ghostbusters, King Kong, Godzilla, and many, many, many more. James Bond, too (notice the music with Scarlett Overkill).
The Minions take the sixties, mix a lot of it together and that gives us a nice movie. Probably you will enjoy it more than your children will do, as they don’t understand all of the references. But mind you: the children are just happy to see the minions.
In the digital age, almost everyone streams or downloads, or does both. In this same age, vinyl is completely back. Two things that seem totally different and almost can’t go together, are happening next to each other.
The behaviour of the streaming and downloading person is quite clear: only the hits are played and downloaded, and other songs get only a few seconds to proove they are good. That’s the time someone listens to another song, so if the intro is not good, the song is skipped. That made me think: would the album actually die in the coming years? There seems no reason to make all those other tracks, since only a small group is there to listen to them. And let’s be honest: not a lot of people actually speak their mind on these album tracks. Therefore, it would almost seem logical to make songs that can become hits and not albums, because that would only cost a lot of money.
Luckily, there is hope for the album. The group that is buying vinyl records is growing steadily. Vinyl is back and big business! And it has one positive side: it’s very difficult to skip a song without damaging either the record or the needle, both are not recommended. This group consists of people who want quality for their money and also feel playing music is something special.
Albums are something great: they show what an artist can do more than just in the hits. Take for example Genesis. The hits are all short, but the longer songs on their albums are also great. Autobahn from Kraftwerk (if you ever hear it) is cut to four minutes, while the full album track is a true ride from more than 22 minutes.
But let’s also not forget artists are trying to tell us a story with their songs. Some albums are merily a collection of songs, but the concept album needs all the songs (hits and album tracks) to tell the full story. The Wall from Pink Floyd is just a great example. Take the songs apart and they tell a nice story, but together they form a powerful work.
Back to the start: is there a future for the album? Probably, though the public might change to a narrower public of people who want to hear more from artists. At least there is the hope that artists just want to create a complete work with a full story, and the only thing they need is a complete album.
So what is your view? Is the album dead or more alive than ever?
Last week, I ordered the new album by Mark Knopfler and Friday I found it when I came home. I couldn’t wait to listen to it and here’s the review:
The album starts off where Privateering stopped, or so it seems. Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes could easily have been featured on Privateering, which is not a bad thing at all, since Privateering was all but a bad album. The song sounds like a good song to sing along, especially the part which has the title in it. A great starter.
The album continues with the song Basil, which is more sober than the starter. It starts with a guitar and Mark Knopfler singing about a poet, Basil Bunting. As the song proceeds, it becomes a beautiful ballad, with additional vocals done by Ruth Moody, who really ads to the song and the story.
River Towns is a song that could have been made by the Dire Straits. Next to the great guitar playing and the complete band, a saxophone is played. First just in the background, almost quiet, but steadily growing and in the end even with a solo. Definitely a highlight on the album.
Skydiver is the first song on the album which is shorter than five minutes. It starts off with a great intro (coming close to a wall of sound), but then the song turns around and Mark starts to sing with a ‘simple’ musical arrangement. In this song, we can really hear Mark having fun, together with Ruth Moody. The song almost reminds of those songs sung around the campfire, including clapping at the end of the song. And again: great guitar playing!
After the happy song, Mighty Man brings in a more mysterious tone. It almost reminds of Private Investigations, but it soon turns out not to be that. The song is, I suspect, a story about the days Mark Knopfler started as an artist. A good song where I can’t yet lay my finger on.
The clapping is back in Broken Bones, which is a bit like an old folk song. It sounds different from what we heard before, but at the same time it also feels like you have known it for years.
A bit of a love song comes in on Long Tall Girl. Ruth Moody comes in to do some additional vocals, which works: it feels like a duet between the girl, who is at home, and Mark, who is travelling around the world. They belong together, but because of the touring they can’t. Beautiful resting point.
A suggestive photograph is placed underneath the songtext of Lights Of Taormina. We can see Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler in his Dire Straits time. The question is: is it a Dire Straits song? Maybe yes, maybe no. Difficult to say. The text starts as a song about old love, but then it seems to be about a succesfull artist (probably Mark Knopfler himself). The text brings in the antiquity, and is a great song to dream away with.
In the song Silver Eagle we travel with Mark on tour, thinking about the one he loves but who is sleeping half a mile away. Again, the text is difficult to decipher, but the music is great to listen to.
The shortest song on the normal album is Beryl. This is the Dire Straits sound back again. Mark plays the guitar like never before, and it sounds great. Really a shame that it doesn’t last longer…
The last song of the album is Wherever I Go. Ruth Moody is back for one last time, not to sing backing vocals, but to take some lines herself. The text is (for a change) not very difficult: even if Mark is on tour, the one he loves is there. The saxophone plays a melancholic solo, and the whole song is that beautiful, that it could make you cry.
If you have got some extra money, I would advise you: buy the Deluxe edition. It features four extra tracks, which you may not miss hearing. .38 Special has a sort of country/folk groove, is up tempo and done in less than three minutes. However, it is (after Beryl) my favourite track. My Heart Has Never Changed is a good song, probably not the best on the album, but it is quite nice. Terminal Of Tribute To has something mystical about it and bursts out in a song that is too good to miss (somewhere between Privateering and the Dire Straits). Heart Of Oak is the shortest song with less than two minutes to play. A nice song to hear, not really something special about it.
In conclusion: an album full of great tracks, with great variation in what you will hear. If you have some extra money, definitely buy the deluxe version! I’m looking forward to the tour, especially his concert in Amsterdam (yes, that’s the one I’m going to visit!)
This week I was asked whether I would take Spotify. Some reasons were given why I would have to have it. Finally, I have decided. The answer is no.
The question was quite logical. Since Spotify is one of the new ‘hot’ media, just like Facebook or Instagram are, it’s logical that you want to have it. It seems an excellent service: listen to all the music you want, where and when you want it, and the best part: it’s FREE! That seems like heaven, a walhalla for the lover of music, maybe it’s Funkytown!
The classmates that asked me to get on Spotify, wanted me to make a list of all the songs of the day, so they could listen to them everywhere. I’m a sort of dinosaur when it comes to funky new services (it took me quite some time to get on Twitter and I still don’t have a smartphone), so I asked my sister about it. She is into those things, and as I suspected, she does have Spotify.
I told her the story and asked if it would be something for me. No, she said. Actually you can’t do something with it when it is free. I did not understand all of it, but it came to it that you could not choose the song you wanted to listen, unless you chose to listen all songs by a certain artist. That seemed like a big negative point. But that’s not the only thing that witheld me from making a Spotify account. Why would I want to subscribe to the biggest library in music, when they don’t have the original songs by the Beatles (this was told by someone trying to convince me to get on it)? And actually I don’t listen to music on my laptop. I don’t even download songs. I play CD’s, vinyl and I listen to the radio. Quite enough, I thought.
And there is the question of quality. A bit technical: Spotify reaches a streaming quality of 160 kilobits per second, a CD reaches 1411 kbps! This tells me that the quality of Spotify is actually quite bad.
In conclusion: I won’t take Spotify and stay with CD’s and vinyl. Apart from the bad quality, it seems like an useless service.
Coming up: the vinyl story!
2014 was a beautiful music year, but unfortunately we have lost some great singers on the way. Once more an ode to the ones who died.
One of the first singers to die this year was Phil Everly, who was part of the Everly Brothers. He died on the third of January because of a lung disease, which followed his life of smoking. He was 74 years old, but will live on through his songs with his brother, who is still alive.
Some weeks later, the folk and protest singer Pete Seeger died. Though Pete did not have success with the original versions of his songs, covers have reached the hit charts. The song Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season), which was sung by the Byrds and written by Pete Seeger, even hit number 1. Pete Seeger was 94 years old.
In June, several famous artists passed away. Rik Mayall, a member of the Young Ones, died on the 9th. He was mostly a comedian, but his work with the Young Ones brought him a hit, when they re-recorded Living Doll with Cliff Richard for charity.
On the 19th of June, Gerry Goffin died at the age of 75. He was a songwriter, firstly for his wife, Carole King, but he wrote a lot of hits later: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, The Loco-Motion, and with some others Theme From Mahogany.
The drummer of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, died at the age of 65 in July. A nice anekdote is that he had to, since no-one else wanted to do it. Apart for drumming some years, he also was one of the producers of the Ramones.
On the first of October, Lynsey de Paul died. There were some charting singles, but that’s not the main reason why I remember her. I remember her for playing songs between different parts of a Tommy Cooper show, and I thought she had a lovely voice.
Alvin Stardust also died this year. Mostly famous for his hit Pretend, but with quite some more hits, he passed away at the age of 72. He was still active in the music industry, though he did not release any new albums the last years (since 1989).
November brought us the death of Big Bank Hank. He was one of the rappers in the Sugarhill Gang. Much too young, he died at 58 this year.
And only a few days ago, Joe Cocker died. He became really famous because of the hit Up Where We Belong, together with Jennifer Warnes, but his cover of the Beatles’ song With A Little Help From My Friends already established him in the sixties as a good singer. Hits like Unchain My Heart, You Can Leave Your Hat On and Summer In The City put his fame down in the eighties and the nineties.
An impressing list of good artists, who will live on in their music. May they rest in peace.
Yes, some artists make lots of money on their hits. But their hits with Christmas bring a lot of money to them. Performing Rights Society, a British organization for copyrights, made estimations for 2013. Here is their list (with some notes from me):
1. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody – € 606.000,-
I never expected this song to make so much money, but however: very good song!
2. The Pogues – Fairytale of New York – € 460.000,-
What song is this? Never heard about it, but it makes a lot of money. Strange…
3. Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You – € 412.000,-
God, not this song again. If this song is played for the first time, you know there’s no escaping it from there on… No wonder that she gets so much money!
4. Wham! – Last Christmas – € 400.000,-
Nice sum of money for the two gentleman. And after ten times this song, we’ve had enough for the rest of the year…
5. Cliff Richard – Mistletoe & Wine – € 115.000,-
6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas? – € 92.000,-
My question by this song is: where does the money go to? Still to some sort of fund for charity? Hope so, since there’s still hunger in the world.
7. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone – € 64.000,-
8. The Pretenders – 2000 Miles – € 54.000,-
9. East 17 – Stay Another Day – € 36.000,-
And then this song: What’s that?
10. Jona Lewie – Stop The Cavalry – € 16.000,-
On 23 December I start with some Christmas songs!