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, 1 DF (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, 293.43 streaming


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.


  • 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 11/12/2022.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” released

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 DG, 11 RR, 119 AC, 16 A40, 26 AA, 11 UK, 2 CN, 15 AU, 13 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 12.0 US, 3.0 UK, 19.5 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 3518.7 video, 2274.38 streaming


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


Related Links:

Last updated 7/24/2023.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

John Mellencamp released Plain Spoken

Plain Spoken

John Mellencamp

Released: September 23, 2014

Peak: 18 US, 169 UK, 19 CN

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: rock/Americana


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks)

  1. Troubled Man [4:14] (8/19/14, --)
  2. Sometimes There’s God [4:34]
  3. The Isolation of Mister [5:35]
  4. The Company of Cowards [3:52]
  5. Tears in Vain [3:53]
  6. The Brass Ring [5:37]
  7. Freedom of Speech [3:53]
  8. Blue Charlotte [4:40]
  9. The Courtesy of Kings [3:33]
  10. Lawless Times [3:52]

All songs written by John Mellencamp.

Total Running Time: 43:40

The Players:

  • John Mellencamp (vocals, guitar)
  • Andy York, Mike Wanchic, T-Bone Burnett (guitar)
  • John Gunnell (bass)
  • Dane Clark (drums)
  • Miriam Strum (violine)
  • Troye Kinnett (keyboards)


2.716 out of 5.00 (average of 13 ratings)

About the Album:

This was Mellencamp’s fourth album (including the soundtrack for the musical Ghost Brothers of Darkland County) with producer T-Bone Burnett. Together they carved out an Americana sound for Mellencamp’s 21st century releases that was also typically marked by lyrical content that dealt with politics and social commentary. As he had always done, Mellencamp also created “character sketches of down and out and troubled people.” WK

The lead single, Troubled Man, dated back to the early 1990s. He tried it again in 2004, but it still didn’t work. When he finally recorded it for Plain Spoken, he said, “The older I get the more I realize that if I just get out of the way of these songs and let the songs come to me, they turn out so much better.” WK

Mellencamp said that Sometimes There’s God is “not so much a religious song but more about the feeling of inner peace and being able to identify happiness, disappointment without blaming it all on God.” WK The title came from a phrase uttered by the character Blanche DBois in the the movie/play A Streetcar Named Desire. WK

The Isolation of Mister is, as Mellencamp says, “a song about men and how we rationalize and isolate ourselves from our regrets and mistakes.” WK

The folk-based acoustic love song Blue Charlotte is “sung from the perspective of a man spending his final days with his dying wife.” WK He said, “I don’t know anybody in that situation. I don’t know about people who love each other until death do they part…So all I can figure is that Tennessee Williams sent me that thing.” WK

The Courtesy of Kings is an expression from the 1800s. Mellencamp explained, it meant “be respectful, keep your word…It’s an old, old, old saying that I had heard as a child…I heard my grandfather say it…The song is about a woman who wanted to show the courtesy of kings, but she just couldn’t do it.” WK

The closing track, Lawless Times, attacks “aspects of today’s society that seem less than moral.” WK Mellencamp said there were about 25 verses to the song and he had trim it down and try “not to be preachy or condescending or angry.” WK He said he thought he was inspired by John Steinbeck. WK

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 2/4/2012.