Friday, September 26, 2014

50 years ago: Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” topped the chart

Oh Pretty Woman

Roy Orbison

Writer(s): Roy Orbison/Bill Dees (see lyrics here)

First Charted: August 29, 1964

Peak: 13 US, 13 CB, 11 HR, 48 AC, 89 CW, 1 CL, 12 UK, 11 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.76 UK, 7.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 103.05 video, 250.31 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Orbison’s “most enduring recording” NRR grew out of a crack Bill Dees made to Roy’s wife, Claudette. She interrupted the pair while they were writing to ask her husband for some money to go to the store. Dees shot back that a “pretty woman never needs any money.” RS500 From that, Roy came up with the idea of a man watching a pretty woman walk by and wondering if she might be lonely like him.

The path from inception to release was, as Dees says, “the fastest thing I ever saw.” KL He says they wrote the song on a Friday, recorded it the next Friday, and by the following Friday it was released. KL The song was marked by “Orbison’s tiger-like growl and the repetitive guitar riff.” JA His singing is “uncharacteristically exuberant” TC on this “perfect country rock boogie sound.” TC Chet Atkins called it the “best commercial record I ever heard.” HL

The flirtatious nature of this “anthem for voyeurs” TC was amusingly ironic, depicting Orbison (or at least the song’s protagonist) “as a trolling stud.” MA The image was far better suited to singer David Lee Roth’s machismo when his hard-rock band, Van Halen, took their 1982 cover of the song to #1 on the album rock chart and #12 on the pop charts. Six years later, Orbison died of a heart attack, but as a testament to the song’s timeliness, a version recorded live in September 1987 hit the adult contemporary and country charts in 1989 – twenty five years after the original.

Rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody under the title “Pretty Woman” and sampled the bassline from the original. WK Orbison’s publisher sued under the claim that the fair use doctrine did not allow for copyrighted material to be reused for profit. WK In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in what is now considered a seminal fair use decision, WK that parody qualified as fair use.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Roy Orbison
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 694.
  • HL Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh (1998). Behind the Song: The Stories of 100 Great Pop & Rock Classics. London, England: Blandford Books. Page 16.
  • JA David A. Jasen (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 150.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 103.
  • MA Dave Marsh (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 32.
  • NRR National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress The Full National Recording Registry
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • WK

First posted 8/29/2011; updated 4/24/2021.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” released

Last updated 2/6/2021.

Thinking Out Loud

Ed Sheeran

Writer(s): Ed Sheeran, Amy Wadge, Julian Williams (see lyrics here)

Released: September 24, 2014

First Charted: October 25, 2014

Peak: 2 US, 11 RR, 119 AC, 16 A40, 26 AA, 11 UK, 2 CN, 15 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 5.96 US, 3.0 UK, 11.28 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 3199.0 video, 1444.0 streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Thinking Out Loud” was the third single from Sheeran’s second studio album, X (or Multiply). The song took 19 weeks to climb to #1 in the UK WK and went on to become the first single to spend a full year in the UK top 40. WK In the U.S., it peaked at #2 for eight weeks behind “Uptown Funk!” It became the first song to be streamed over 500 million times on Spotify. WK

Sheeran wrote the song with Amy Wadge, a Wales-based singer/songwriter whom Sheeran met when he was seventeen years old. When she visited him in February 2014, he was nearly finished with his album. Sheeran heard her playing guitar and the tune caught his attention. He wrote the song in 20 minutes and then recorded it on his phone. The next day he recorded it in the studio. WK Sheeran later explained he wrote the song about his then-girlfriend Athina Andrelos and about “everlasting love” at “a really, really happy point.” WK It became a popular first-dance wedding number, topping Spotify’s 2017 list of the most popular wedding songs in America. SF

The romantic ballad had blue-eyed soul influences. Sheeran composed the melody on guitar which he considered in the style of Irish musician Van Morrison. WK He told Q magazine, “Everyone always channels Michael Jackson and the Beatles and Bob Dylan…I feel like Van Morrison is a key figure in the music that I make.” SF

Some noted the song had similarities to Marvin Gaye’s 1973 song “Let’s Get It On.” Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz even called it a “sleek update” of the classic. WK The heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote and co-produced “Let’s Get It On,” sued Sheeran for plagiarizing the song. SF The lawsuit was dismissed because the complaint wasn’t served before the deadline of January 20, 2017. SF

Resources and Related Links:

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22, 1964: Fiddler on the Roof opened on Broadway

image from

Originally posted September 21, 2011. Last updated September 3, 2018.

Fiddler on the Roof (cast/soundtrack)

Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick (composers)

Opened on Broadway: September 22, 1964

Cast Album Charted: October 31, 1964

Soundtrack Charted: October 30, 1971

Sales (in millions):
US: 2.0 C, 1.0 S
UK: --
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 3.0 C+S

US: 7 C, 30 S
UK: 26 S
Canada: --
Australia: --

C cast album
S soundtrack

Quotable: --

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks:

  1. Prologue: Tradition (aka “Prologue and Tradition and Main Title”)
  2. Matchmaker, Matchmaker
  3. If I Were a Rich Man
  4. Sabbath Prayer
  5. To Life
  6. Miracle of Miracles
  7. The Dream (aka “Tevye’s Dream”)
  8. Sunrise, Sunset (Roger Williams, 1/28/67, #84)
  9. Wedding Dance (aka “Wedding Celebration and the Bottle Dance”)
  10. Now I Have Everything *
  11. Do You Love Me
  12. The Rumor *
  13. Far from the Home I Love
  14. Chava Ballet Sequence **
  15. Anatevka
  16. Finale **

* on cast album only
** on soundtrack only


Fiddler on the Roof is one of Broadway’s great classics. Based on the tales of Sholem Aleichem, the musical tells the humorous and heartbreaking story” DH of “Tevye, a Jewish milkman who lives in Russia with his family (including five daughters).” ER “He tries to maintain the simplicities of his traditional life even as his daughters grow up and Russia heads toward revolution.” DH “Anti-Semitic notions abound as Tevye and his family find themselves being forced from their village. Tevye’s daughters break from their village’s tradition as they marry for love, not for prosperity. Throughout all of this, a symbolic fiddler lingers over them.” ER

Fiddler on the Roof was the most successful musical up to its time, running for over 3,000 performances.” ER “The music is beautiful, and haunting at moments” ER while the musical “was also the origin of several famous and now-standard songs” ER like Sunrise, Sunset, If I Were a Rich Man, and Matchmaker, Matchmaker.

“As Tevye, Zero Mostel leads – and at times dominates – the original 1964 Broadway cast, displaying irrepressible swagger and bluster.” DH “The original Broadway cast…also had Beatrice Arthur as Yente, the matchmaker.” ER “A young Julia Migenes plays his middle daughter, Hodel, while those who only know Bert Convy as a game-show host will be surprised by his pleasant voice as her suitor.” DH

The movie version of Fiddler on the Roof “became the top-grossing film of 1971.” WR The soundtrack “stretched out Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s song score with musical adaptations by conductor John Williams. There was plenty of screen dialogue, too. But the appeal of the work continued to be the wonderful songs.” WR

Topol, who starred in the 1967 London production, EV takes on the role of Tevye for the movie. He “wasn’t as funny as Zero Mostel…but gave it more gravity. Occasionally on the soundtrack, he sounded so tired, though, that he barely got his lines out. Happily, he nailed ‘If I Were a Rich Man,’ which is Tevye’s real showcase number.” WR The soundtrack also features Isaac Stern as the fiddler. EV “Still, the Fiddler album to buy is the original Broadway cast recording.” WR

Review Sources:


Related DMDB Link(s):