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A Short History Of The Popular Song , or, Why Today's Music Sucks (Mostly)


Eric Carmen

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Plus, sometimes it's really interesting to hear what happens to a song when done in a different artist's style. The song can take on a whole new style like ELO did with Roll Over Beethoven. Hardly Chuck Berry anymore! Other times it's just the vocal tone that makes a difference. Like Rod Stewart doing Having A Party (and it's not easy to top Sam Cooke in my opinion.)

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Richie777 - I'm still reeling from seeing another Canadian flag here.

I listened to my copy of Tukuleur's "Africa" last night. It is a radical overhaul of Toto's song - much more than "My Sweet Lord" was of "He's So Fine". First of all, the verses don't even share the same melody (it's basically rap!) or chord structure as the original..and the chorus is "loosely based" on the original. Not only are the lyrics in French, they aren't a translation of Toto's lyrics...they are a new set that actually speaks about Africa and the contemporary issues facing it. One could say that the song actually *deserves* be called "Africa". (A cynic could also say that Toto had no business writing a song called "Africa" in the first place, but I don't like cynicism in my music!)

If you're interested, this can be found on a CD called "Cover The World". It features "World Music" artists covering popular Western songs. Also notable is a swinging, sassy Brazilian (sung in Portuguese) take on "Hit the Road Jack" and another Francophone African take on "December 1963 (Oh What A Night)". If one likes cover versions, that is.

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Kia ora Guys, Last weekend our national Solid Gold Radio station (they only play music from the 50's 60's & 70's)had a Hit's and Remake's weekend. First they played the original then they played the re make.It was really interesting to hear songs that I thought were "original" were actually re makes.Though i must confess to being a bit of a purist, when it comes to music, especially when it comes to re makes of Eric's music.You can't get any better than the maestro himself.IMHO.

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The list could go on and on. ec

yep.... and in many ways covers make up a good chunk of what makes pop music go round... it can either show u how visonary someone is or how much a hack they are...

just a few that matter:

Nilsson: "Without You," "Everybody's Talkin'," "She's Leaving Home"

Ed Harcourt: "Atlantic City" & "Still I Believe In It"

Stories: "Brother Louie"

Hollies: "Jesus Was A Crossmaker"

Led Zeppelin: "When The Levee Breaks"

Pretty Things: "Don't Bring Me Down"

Yardbirds: "I'm A Man"

Herman's Hermits: "Wings Of Love"

Morrissey: "East West"

Wonder Stuff & Generation X: "Give Me Some Truth"

Ramones: "Indian Giver" & "California Sun"

Flashcubes: "Hello Suzie"

Posies: "Song Of A Baker"

Alex Chilton: "Motel Blues"

Flo & Eddie: "Afterglow"

Roxy Music: "Jealous Guy"

3 Dog Night: "Out In The Country"

Clash: "Police On My Back"

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Morrissey did 'East West'? I can't imagine what it sounds like. 'Depressingly Quadrophenically British', I assume.

Funny thing about 'Without You'....whenever I've played with, or seen Joey Molland live, he doesn't mention Nilsson's version. But he mentions Mariah Carey's (which also went to #1). As if Joey's ignoring Harry.

There's one story that Nilsson was recording at Abbey Road when Badfinger was recording the No Dice LP. While on break he came in and heard Joey, Pete, Tommy & Mike doing the song. Apparently, Harry loved the song so much, he just went ahead and recorded his OWN version at the same time, and then 'beat' Badfinger to having a hit with it....partly due to Apple's delay in gettign the album out to begin with.

Can any historians out there confirm that?

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The Molland thing is intersting, however there should never be any further 'Badfinger' shows as Peter Ham was the creative force behind the success (and ultimate death). Now, if Molland wants to run around with the Badfinger name, I guess that might be alright as long as there is a bit of "educating" amongst the younger folks about the history. His stuff, which has been brought out in a few documentaries, was more of the "jammin band" that might have took away from Mr. Ham's legacy (and subsequent sales).

When Eric and some folks talk about at the "what age were the greatest works" issue, Mr. Ham took his own life at the age of 27. He finally understood all of the money had been stolen, despite the gold records that he had garnered.

Eric, I know from Marathon Man the shows with Badfinger and Mr. Ham were not what you had anticiapted. However, was/had Peter been asked to be part of Raspberries?

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I never actually met Pete Ham. I was surely a fan, but the only one in Badfinger I ever really got to know was Joey Molland, who's a very nice guy and a fine guitar player. I remember seeing Tom Evans at the Rainbow one night and he was drunk and rude. I was embarrassed for him. As far as I know, Pete ham was never asked to be a part of the 'Berries, and I think I would have known. ec

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There's one story that Nilsson was recording at Abbey Road when Badfinger was recording the No Dice LP. While on break he came in and heard Joey, Pete, Tommy & Mike doing the song. Apparently, Harry loved the song so much, he just went ahead and recorded his OWN version at the same time, and then 'beat' Badfinger to having a hit with it....partly due to Apple's delay in gettign the album out to begin with.

Can any historians out there confirm that?

the story is probably false considering the fact that Badfinger's "No Dice" was released in November of 1970 while both "Without You" & the LP "Nilsson Schmilsson" came out in January 1972...

even if Badfinger's version was released as a single (which it wasn't) it probably would've not done as well as Harry's since he took it up another notch in the chorus & his lead vocal was more passionate... he also took out the lumbering guitar solo, i think

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The Molland thing is intersting, however there should never be any further 'Badfinger' shows as Peter Ham was the creative force behind the success (and ultimate death). Now, if Molland wants to run around with the Badfinger name, I guess that might be alright as long as there is a bit of "educating" amongst the younger folks about the history.

Joey performs as himself ('of Badfinger') with backing bands, and he has his own 'Joey Molland's Badfinger'. It's legal and proper. Especially now that he is the sole survivor...he is keeping the flame alive. (BTW...the group will be doing a tour of Brazil next week!)

Joey always mentions Pete & Tommy in his shows, and credits them as the main songwriters...usual things like 'A lovely guy, Pete Ham...who's no longer with us...wrote most of the hits...'

He also tells the neat story of how their manager Bill Collins suggested to Pete that he take the verse of a song he was writing, and put it with a chorus that Tommy was writing. They threw it together in the studio, and the result was Apple Records' most successful song of all time....Without You.

Of course, the royalties to the band are another chapter in the tragedy.

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Tony - As much as I love Eric's cover of "Walk Away Renee", sorry, but it's still not as good as the original, IMO....which, believe me, is NOT an insult at all, as I consider the original one of the very best singles ever. I'm guessing you might not be fond of Steve Martin's vocal? His voice is somewhat of an acquired taste, but I love it. I do dig Eric's more faithful cover over those of the Four Tops (which made the Top 40), Terry Reid, and Southside Johnny...all of whom went in a more R&B direction....and all of whom are incredibly good singers.

I also just heard what is probably the best cover of the Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight" earlier tonight - the version that Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet do on their just-released :Under The Covers, Vol. 1".

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You can never really top the original. I love everything about that record. I will say, however, that it sounded a lot better compressed and in mono over a car radio than it does digitally remastered in stereo over good speakers. Sometimes too much clarity isn't a good thing. ec

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Eric - You just summed up a lot of the old hit singles of the 60's.....with the recording technology back then, most of them sounded (and still do sound) better in mono, compressed, etc.

That's one of the reasons the Phil Spector boxed set ("Back To Mono") is one of my all-time favorites....nobody tried to mess with the original sound of those classics.

I've got 3-4 CD versions of the original "Walk Away Renee"....and none of them sound quite right, compared to the old mono 45.

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Another case in point. Listen to the 45 mono version of "Paperback Writer". Sounds great, kicks butt! Then listen to the CD "stereo" version of it crazy . Horrible! Bass & drums on one side, vocals & guitar on the other. it's really distracting.

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Speaking of 'Paperback Writer'....

I just got the new book "Here There & Everywhere" by Geoff Emerick for my birthday. That guy was such a genius at 19 years old, engineering REVOLVER and coming up with many studio 'tricks' which evolved into standard practices for the rest of the 60's & 70's.

Hired at 15, his second day of work at EMI (later to be called Abbey Road Studios)was witnessing the Beatles recording 'Love Me Do'. SSSSS-weet.

He tells about Paul coming into EMI Studios to play "our new #1, lads"...on piano. As he was going along, he was 'teaching' the harmony parts to John & George. It was 'Paperback Writer'. I assume much like Eric wrote GATWay?

Geoff talks with similar passions as those on this thread, about how more 'romantic' and 'real' music on vinyl is, compared to CD. He makes MANY references to their songs, just not as good on the CD re-issues. As well as opinions about mono versus stereo, 'over-echoing' songs on American releases, and pressing lacquer for Judy Garland & Marlene Dietrich.

Just thought I'd throw that in there ;^)

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hmmm.....I think I just tasted crow. Oh well, if there's one thing I'm pretty good at, it's admitting that I'm wrong. Eric you pointed out some covers that I didn't even know were covers LOL!!!!

I stand corrected.

I will check out the Africa song but it doesn't sound like it's a cover but an original.

There's some covers out there that I will just "turn the knob" to avoid and that will never change.

And... yes, I can understand why an artist would be happy to be "covered". It means that the song is a song that will stand the test of time. I will throw out my opinion again, however, and say that when ppl think "all by myself" in 50 years it won't be Mariah's version.

Eric, put out an album please. Thanks bud.

Greetings from Canada eh??

"we say 'eh' as about as much as an Aussie says 'cobber', which is close to NEVER." (at least not where I come from)

Come on up sometime and I'll take you all

sailing.

GBU all

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Richie777,

I think the use of "eh" in Canada is highly dependent on one's location. I hardly heard it when I lived in Toronto, I hear it quite a bit now that I'm in Eastern Ontario, and I hear it even more when I venture into the sparsely settled north. It's probably an urban/rural thing.

Also, with respect to Tukuleur's "Africa" - I also have a video of this song and it was helpful in getting a handle on the French lyrics (although they are very clear and don't have any Quebecois "Joual", my French skills are still very wobbly). Subtitles are great.

Cheers from the East

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  • 4 years later...

I don't remember if this was covered in the book but here's my take. Back in the 40's and 50's we had guys like Hoagy Carmichael, George and Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter and a they inspired Henry Mancini and Burt Bacharach and Hal David and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and then they inspired Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and they ALL inspired Lennon and McCartney, Holland, Dozier and Holland, Brian Wilson and all the great songwriters of the 60's. The song was king. And then FM radio happened. And instead of playing great songs, they were getting high and playing great solos. The golden age of the song gave way to the golden age of the technical virtuoso. First it was guitar solos (Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and Page) then it was any instrument( Ian Anderson, Jim Capaldi etc.) Music was now based on a "riff" rather than a song. A great song is much harder to write than a great riff, so this development encouraged a million lesser talents who couldn't write a great song, but could play a guitar lick ala Jimmy Page, to start bands. The last decade of really good songwriting was the 70's as the musical offspring of the Beatles,Dylan, Who, Beach Boys, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye etc. who were also THE LAST GENERATION TO BE BORN AT THE END OF THE 40's AND TO HAVE ACTUALLY GROWN UP HEARING ALL THOSE GREAT SONGS ON THE RADIO IN THEIR PARENTS HOMES stepped up to the plate. I don't think it's an accident that Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and I were all born in 1949. Elton is a couple of years older, I think. I'm not trying to equate myself with those guys on the success meter (they win) but to point out that the guys I consider to be the last of the really inspired songwriters are now all in their mid fifties. Why? Because when solos and riffs became more important than songs the whole game changed. It paved the way for Metallica and Poison and Warrant to became they guys that the next generation wanted to emulate. And they didn't need to be great songwriters. As each new generation gets farther away from great songwriting, the music continues to deteriorate. There's a whole generation of musicians out there now that never heard the Beatles. Their parents were playing Jethro Tull records and listening to Guns and Roses on FM radio. There's one more thing. Each generation has to find music their parents hate. That's the rule. How many of your parents saw the Stones on Ed Sullivan and said "Oh, I really LIKE THESE GUYS!" The problem is, if you parents grew up on Alice Cooper, how do top that? MARILYN MANSON! If your parents grew up and the Temptations and Earth, Wind and Fire, how do you rebel? FITTY CENT! Now we're talkin'! My old man HATES this stuff! BRING IT ON!!! And the next step down from hits based on great songs, to hits based on great riffs is....HITS BASED ON A GOOD BEAT. No music necessary! Just a computer generated drum and percussion groove or better yet, A SAMPLE OF A GOOD GROOVE RECORDED BY SOMEONE ELSE WHO COULD ACTUALLY PLAY. WHY LEARN TO PLAY OR WRITE WHEN YOU CAN SAMPLE SOMEONE ELSE? WHY WASTE YOUR TIME? WHY STUDY GERSHWIN OR LEARN HOW TO SING("This sh*t is hard!") when I can just mumble a bunch of four letter words over a groove I just sampled and radio will play it and people will buy it! Now all this doesn't mean that there aren't any more good songwriters or that the occasional great song doesn't sneak onto the charts, but there's a lot less impetus these days to do the hard work. Daine Warren wrote some great songs in the 80's and 90's and there are others doing it today, but we just don't seem to be getting any new Brian Wilsons and Paul McCartneys do we? I sure do hope things turn around at some point, 'cause I shudder to think of what the NEXT step down might be. That's my rant for tonight. Glad I got that off my chest. e

Man oh man, I missed a lot of good posts over the last four years.....

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