Monday, June 24, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Sweet Home Alabama”

Sweet Home Alabama

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Ed King/Gary Rossington/Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


Released: June 24, 1974


First Charted: July 21, 1974


Peak: 8 US, 7 CB, 8 HR, 1 CL, 31 UK, 6 CN, 56 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.68 US, 0.6 UK, 4.42 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 231.0 video, 836.82 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This ode to the state of Alabama was written by three non-natives. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington both hailed from Jacksonville, Florida, while Ed King was born in Glendale, California. According to Rossington, the three of them came up with the tune while waiting for the rest of the band to get to rehearsal. WK

The song was written as a response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and “Alabama,” songs implying that American Southerners were “racist and stuck in the past.” SF Lynryd Skynyrd responded with “Sweet Home Alabama,” an ode to Southern pride and which included the comment “Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/ A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

In his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, Young acknowledged he deserved the attack in regards to his song “Alabama,” admitting the words “are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue.” WK Young reportedly loved Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, saying, “‘I’d rather play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ than ‘Southern Man’ anytime’…The admiration was mutual; Van Zant wore a Young T-shirt on the cover of Skynyrd’s final album, Street Survivors, and according to legend, he is buried in the shirt.” RS500

Lynyrd Skynyrd stirred controversy with lyrics misinterpreted as supportive of George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama and noted supporter of segregation. WK A line seemingly dismissing the Watergate scandal has been interpreted as a commentary by the band that the South wouldn’t judge all northerners by the failure of their leaders in Watergate and that Southerners shouldn’t all be lumped together as contributing to racial problems. WK


Resources:


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Last updated 8/3/2022.

Saturday, June 8, 1974

Paul McCartney & Wings hit #1 with “Band on the Run”

Band on the Run

Paul McCartney & Wings

Writer(s): Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney (see lyrics here)


Released: April 8, 1974


First Charted: April 13, 1974


Peak: 11 US, 12 CB, 11 HR, 12 RR, 22 AC, 1 CL, 3 UK, 11 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 18.0 video, 177.21 streaming

Awards:

Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Paul McCartney’s planned working vacation to Lagos, Nigeria, took a turn when guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Danny Seiwell abruptly quit. As he said, “It was literally an hour before we were getting into the plane.” TB By necessity, the album was nearly a solo effort, although his wife Linda McCartney and Denny Laine were still on board. On the title cut for the album alone, McCartney played guitar, bass, drums, and synth. He also sang lead and backing vocals. SG

Nigeria was also “not the tropical paradise that McCartney had envisioned. Instead, it was a country recovering from a civil war and controlled by a military junta. Infrastructure had crumbled. Disease was rampant. And rather than relaxing in finery, McCartney had to make do with a studio that only had one eight-track recorder.” SG In addition, they ended up going during rainy season and Paul and Linda got robbed at knifepoint after ignoring locals’ advice and going out walking by themselves. Among the losses: “a notebook full of song ideas and a few demo tapes, including the original ‘Band on the Run’ demo.” SG

Paul also said, “in Lagos, these guys were really sensitive about…people ripping off their music. They couldn’t understand why we had come to Lagos. We told them there was no dirty motive behind it.” TB “Afrobeat god Fela Kuti…confronted McCartney at the studio, and McCartney had to play him the new Wings songs just to reassure him that they didn’t sound even remotely Afrobeat-esque.” SG

“The resulting album is easily the best non-Beatles thing McCartney has ever done, and its title track might be a best-case scenario for what can happen when you push big stars out of their comfort zones.” SG The song “should be a mess.” SG It “doesn’t have a clear plotline, but it’s a story about a musical group escaping from jail.” SG Critic Robert Christgau characterized it as a song “about the oppression of rock musicians by cannabis-crazed bureaucrats.” WK

It was partly inspired by improved relations with his ex-Beatles bandmates after they severed ties in March 1973 with manager Allen Klein, WK who McCartney had always hated. SG In one of the business meetings, George Harrison said “if we ever get out of here” in reference to the feeling like the Beatles were imprisoned by their record company problems. Paul thought it would be a good line for a song. WK

The song is “certainly indulgent: a three-part suite of unfinished ideas” SG – a slow ballad, a funk-rock style piece, and a country-esque section. WK There’s a 60-piece orchestra recorded in London, with orchestration by Tony Visconti, who’d worked with T-Rex and David Bowie. However, “all three parts have serious hooks, and even if they have nothing to do with each other melodically, McCartney knits them together with complete confidence.” SG “When the tension of the second bit gives way to the orchestra crashing in, it really does sound like a moment of liberation.” SG


Resources:

  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 366.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SG Stereogum (5/21/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia


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First posted 6/26/2022.