Saturday, June 24, 2017

Jefferson Airplane chart with “White Rabbit” 50 years ago (6/24/1967)

First posted 4/17/2020.

White Rabbit

Jefferson Airplane

Writer(s): Grace Slick (see lyrics here)

First Charted: June 24, 1967

Peak: 8 US, 6 CB, 7 HR, 1 CL, 94 UK, 12 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 83.9 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

This was “one of the defining songs of the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’” SF and “one of the crucial sounds of the late ‘60s freak scene” DT of the psychedelic rock movement. When St. Louis radio station KSHE switched from an easy listening format to rock in 1967, “White Rabbit” was the first song they played to make it clear they “were aligning themselves with the counterculture.” SF

Grace Slick wrote the song while in her first band, the Great Society. The music came to her after taking LSD and listening to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain for hours. SF The “insistent, militaristic rhythms and the way the song gradually builds to its menacing peak” TB were loosely based on the classical piece “Bolero” by Maurice Ravel. SJ

Of course, the lyrics were famously inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She said, “Our parents read us stories like Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz…They all have a place where children get drugs, and are able to fly or see an Emerald City or experience extraordinary animals and people….And our parents are suddenly saying, ‘Why are you taking drugs?’ Well, hello!’” RS500

The FCC came down on the song as drug-related and it was banished from the airwaves, but not until the Nixon administration. Slick has said the song isn’t just about drug use, but “about opening up, looking around, checking out what’s happening…Feeding your head is not necessarily pumping chemicals into it.” SJ She’s also said, “I don’t think most people realize the song was aimed at parents who drank and told their kids not to do drugs.” SF

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lionel Richie: Top 30 Songs

image from

Born June 20, 1949 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Lionel Richie is one of chart history’s most successful crossover artists. He first found success as a member of the Commodores in the 1970s and then as a solo artist in the ‘80s. He has landed #1 songs on the pop, R&B, and adult contemporary charts and hit the country chart as well. In celebration of his birthday, Dave’s Music Database presents its list of his top 30 songs of all time, with the Commodores (noted with an *) and as a solo artist. #1 songs are noted as follows: #1 US (Billboard pop chart), #1 AC (Billboard adult contemporary chart), and #1 RB (Billboard R&B chart).

The Top 30 Lionel Richie Songs


1. Endless Love (with Diana Ross, 1981) #1 US, #1 AC, #1 RB
2. Three Times a Lady * (1978) #1 US, #1 AC, #1 RB
3. Hello (1984) #1 US, #1 AC, #1 RB
4. All Night Long (All Night) (1983) #1 US, #1 AC, #1 RB
5. Say You, Say Me (1985) #1 US, #1 AC, #1 RB
6. Truly (1982) #1 US, #1 AC
7. Brick House * (1977)
8. Easy * (1977) #1 RB
9. Still * (1979) #1 US, #1 RB
10. Stuck on You (1984) #1 AC

All Night Long (All Night)

11. You Are (1983) #1 AC
12. Sail On * (1979)
13. Dancing on the Ceiling (1986)
14. My Love (1983) #1 AC
15. Running with the Night (1983)
16. Lady (You Bring Me Up) * (1981)
17. Oh No * (1981)
18. Penny Lover (1984) #1 AC
19. Just to Be Close to You * (1976) #1 RB
20. Ballerina Girl (1986) #1 AC

Dancing on the Ceiling

21. Love Will Conquer All (1986) #1 AC
22. Sweet Love * (1975)
23. Machine Gun * (1974)
24. Do It to Me (1992) #1 RB
25. Se La (1986)
26. Don’t Wanna Lose You (1996)
27. Too Hot ta Trot * (1977) #1 RB
28. Old-Fashion Love * (1980)
29. Slippery When Wet * (1975) #1 RB
30. Deep River Woman (with Alabama, 1986)

* Commodores

Endless Love


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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Aretha Franklin hit #1 with “Respect” 50 years ago today (6/3/1967)

First posted 6/3/2012; updated 4/8/2020.


Aretha Franklin

Writer(s): Otis Redding (see lyrics here)

Released: April 10, 1967

First Charted: April 29, 1967

Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 13 HR, 18 RB, 10 UK, 3 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.14 UK, 1.14 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 72.0 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

“Respect” was first recorded by Otis Redding backed by Booker T. & the MG’s along with the Memphis Horns. It was a 1965 top five R&B hit and “considered among the best Southern blues-soul records of the era,” TB but Aretha Franklin transformed it into an anthem for blacks and women and made it her signature song in launching her reign as the Queen of Soul.

Aretha had recorded with Columbia Records from 1960-1966. In her years there, she developed neither a signature sound nor much commercial success. When she jumped to Atlantic Records, she was paired with producer Jerry Wexler, who had worked with Wilson Pickett and Dusty Springfield. He backed her with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, which would become legendary, but was then in their infancy. For “Respect,” initially comprised only of verses and no bridge, Wexler blended a King Curtis’ tenor-sax solo with the studio band playing the chord changes from Sam and Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong with My Baby.” RS500

Also giving the song heft was Aretha‘s addition of the “sock it to me” lines SF and the spelling out of the title, an idea which engineer Tom Dowd attributed to Aretha‘s sister Carolyn, who sang backup on the album. “I fell off my chair when I heard that!” RS500

Aretha defiantly demands respect without playing the part of a victim. As Wexler said, “Aretha would never play the part of the scorned woman.” RS500 Mix that with the gospel flavor of the call-and-response vocal arrangement, and a classic was born. Wexler reported Otis’ reaction to Aretha’s version: “He looked at me with a big grin and said, ‘That girl done stole my song.’” CR

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s, which includes “A Day in the Life,” 50 years ago (6/1/1967)

First posted 4/17/2020.

A Day in the Life

The Beatles

Writer(s): John Lennon/Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: June 2, 1967 (as album cut)

Released: September 16, 1978 (as single)

Peak: 1 CL (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 104.9 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

This is “one of the most complex and ambitious…songs performed by the Beatles...[and] the most outstanding instance” AMG of “seemingly disparate elements...fitted together into a cohesive and powerful whole.” BBC Producer George Martin said, “‘We put two pieces of songs together that weren’t connected in any way. Then we had that 24-bars-of-nothing in between…I wondered whether we were losing our audience...but...when I played it to the head of Capitol Records in America...he...said, ‘That’s fantastic.’ And of course, it was.’” SF

“The beginning was based on two stories John Lennon read.” SF One was a Daily Mail story about “the death of Guinness heir Tara Browne in a car crash,” BBC the other a Daily Express article about a surveyor who said the material needed to repair the roads of Blackburn “was enough to fill the Albert Hall.” SF Lennon created a “narrative of going through the motions and observing, in a detached manner, the cruelties and absurdities of the everyday world.” AMG

This was paired with a “jaunty McCartney tune about waking up and going to work. By itself, [it]...wouldn’t have been much. What made it effective was its juxtaposition next to Lennon’s dreamier sections.” AMG

In the middle was “the apocalyptic string crescendo [which] was McCartney’s idea.” BBC The orchestra was instructed “to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest.” SF The Beatles invited friends like Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull who, as Martin says, were “‘passing out sparklers and joints and…party novelties…The orchestra leader, David McCallum, who used to be the leader of the Royal Philharmonic, was sitting there in a bright red false nose.’” CR

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