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(Note: I chose “We Will Rock You” as a Tune o’ the Day because I heard a toddler belting it out in the Jefferson Kroger recently. That kid, he rocked.)

After a concert in 1977, guitarist Brian May of Queen wondered what audiences can do in confined spaces to express themselves. He concluded “They can clap their hands, they can stomp their feet, and they can sing.”

May decided Queen needed a song, something simple and catchy and rousing, that would cause audiences to get involved.

He said he woke up the next morning with the idea for “We Will Rock You” in his head, including the famous STOMP-STOMP-CLAP beat.

The song’s lyrics are a “three ages of man” story. In the first stanza, a boy on the streets dreams of a better life. In the second stanza, as a young man, he still struggles to make something of himself. In the third, he is a defeated old man whose life went nowhere.

(I tried to figure out what the energetic “we will rock you” chorus has to do with the three verses, but I gave up.)

Queen recorded the song in an empty London church because the band liked the acoustics. May said he found some old boards under the stairs that “just seemed ideal to stomp on.”

The stomping was done separately in a studio as the band, the staff, and the recording engineers all joined in to create and record the distinctive STOMP-STOMP-CLAP. No actual drums were used.

Creating a classic rock anthem is a lot of work.

Queen

We Will Rock You

By Queen, 1977
Written by Brian May

Buddy, you’re a boy,
Make a big noise,
Playing in the street,
Gonna be a big man someday.

You got mud on your face, You big disgrace,
Kickin’ your can all over the place, singin’

We will, we will rock you.
We will, we will rock you.

Buddy, you’re a young man,
Hard man,
Shouting in the street,
Gonna take on the world someday.

You got blood on your face, you big disgrace,
Waving your banner all over the place.

We will, we will rock you.
Sing it!
We will, we will rock you.

Buddy, you’re an old man,
Poor man,
Pleading with your eyes,
Gonna make you some peace someday.

You got mud on your face, big disgrace,
Somebody better put you back into your place.

We will, we will rock you.
Sing it!
We will, we will rock you.
Everybody!
We will, we will rock you.
Hmm
We will, we will rock you.

Alright.

 

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Bob Dylan said he wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in ten minutes. “Just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.”

I read somewhere that “Blowin’ in the Wind” succeeds because it’s ambiguous enough to have meaning for everyone. Fair enough, but the song has plenty more going for it.

It had the chops to became an anthem of the anti-war movement, to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and to place no. 14 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The “old spiritual” to which Dylan put words is “No More Auction Block,” a marching song of black soldiers during the Civil War, origin unknown. Dylan performed that, too.

Dylan also said this about “Blowin’ in the Wind”:

“It’s critical and it’s hard, this litany of questions about what’s wrong with the world. If one had to choose one subject to label the song, it would be a song asking ‘why.’ In other words, it asks why we have the issues we do in our world. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Dylan B

Blowin’ In The Wind

By Bob Dylan, 1963
Written by Bob Dylan

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

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According to rock musician Mark Knopfler, he wrote the 1985 hit song “Money for Nothing” after hearing a delivery man in an appliance store make comments about the musicians on MTV.

Knopfler said it happened in a store in New York. On a back wall, several TV sets were tuned to MTV. While watching the bands perform, a male employee wearing a baseball cap used the terms “money for nothing,” “that ain’t working,” and “what are those, Hawaiian noises?”

Knopfler has been criticized for including the term “faggot” in the lyrics. In 2011, the tune was even banned in Canada for being offensive — which created howls of protest about banning songs. Knopfler maintains it’s a term the song’s character would use.

Bonus fact: Knopfler shares the songwriting credit with Sting, who wrote and sings the “I want my MTV” lines.

Dire Straits-1

Money For Nothing

By Dire Straits, 1985
Written by Mark Knopfler and Sting

I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my… I want my MTV.
I want my MTV.

Now, look at them yo-yos. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Lemme tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb.
Maybe get a blister on your little finger.
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up —
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair.
That little faggot got his own jet airplane.
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchens deliveries.
We’ve got to move these refrigerators.
Got to move these color TVs.

I shoulda learned to play the guitar.
I shoulda learned to play them drums.
Look at that mama. She got it stickin’ in the camera, man.
We could have some fun.

And he’s up there — what’s that? Hawaiian noises?
Bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee.
Oh, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Get your money for nothin’, get your chicks for free.

We got to install microwave ovens.
Custom kitchen deliveries.
We got to move these refrigerators.
We got to move these color TVs.

Listen here…

Now, that ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
You play the guitar on the MTV.
That ain’t workin’. That’s the way you do it.
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

Money for nothin’. Chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.
Your money for nothin’, the chicks for free.
Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Look at that, look at that.

I want my… I want my… I want my MTV.

Get you money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Money for nothin’, chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free.

Easy, easy money for nothin’. Easy, easy chicks for free.
Easy, easy money for nothin’. Chicks for free.

That ain’t workin’.

Dire Straits-2

Dire Straits-3

 

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Tunes o’ the Day

In 1958, the Kingston Trio’s recording of “Tom Dooley” gave the folk music craze a healthy boost.

The song is a solid, musically-pleasing folk ballad, and the subject (murder, hanging) made it stand out from most popular music of the time. Moreover, the tune is tantalizingly simple and only hints at the events in question.

FYI, Tom Dooley met a young woman, allegedly stabbed her to death, was apprehended because of someone named Grayson, and faced the gallows the next day.

The song may be lean, but the story behind it is detailed, lurid, and sensational.

“Tom Dooley” is based on the saga of a former Confederate soldier who was convicted and hanged for the 1866 murder of Laura Foster in Wilkes County, North Carolina. His name was Thomas C. Dula, pronounced “Dooley” in the local dialect.

The tale involved Tom, three women, much hanky-panky, and the fact that all four were being treated for syphilis. Some say the real murderer was one of the women, and Tom went to the gallows out of love for her. Grayson? He was a Tennessean who helped the posse catch Tom.

Not long after Dula’s execution, Thomas Land wrote a poem, “The Murder of Laura Foster,” that seems to be the source of the song. The origin of the music is unknown. You can Google “Tom Dula” for more.

The Kingston Trio version earned accolades aplenty — number one rated, chosen one of the Songs of the Century, and so on. I also like the funkier Steve Earle version from 2002, which added some additional details about the murder from Tom.

Here are both versions.

Kingston Trio

Tom Dooley

By the Kingston Trio, 1958
Based on a poem by Thomas Land

Throughout history, there have been many songs written about the eternal triangle. The next one tells the story of a Mr. Grayson, a beautiful woman, and a condemned man named Tom Dooley. When the sun rises tomorrow, Tom Dooley must hang…

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley,
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I met her on the mountain. There I took her life.
Met her on the mountain. Stabbed her with my knife.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be.
Hadn’t o’ been for Grayson, I’d o’ been in Tennessee.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

This time tomorrow, reckon where I’ll be.
Down in some lonesome valley, hangin’ from a white oak tree.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.
Poor boy, you’re bound to — die.

Earle Steve

Tom Dooley

By Steve Earle, 2002
Traditional lyrics embellished by Earle

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I met her on the mountain.
I said she’d be my wife.
I met her on the mountain.
Stabbed her with my knife.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

I drug her to the river,
As God Almighty knows.
The man beside the water
Hid her shoes and clothes.

I dug her grave four foot long.
I dug it three foot deep.
I threw the cold clay on her,
Tramped it with my feet.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound — poor boy you’re bound to die.

By this time tomorrow,
Reckon where I’ll be:
Down there in that hollow
Hangin’ from a tree.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Hang down your head and cry.
Hang down your head, Tom Dooley.
Poor boy, you’re bound — poor boy, you’re bound to die.

Yeah, that sounds like a phonograph record to me. That one right there.

 

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Tune o’ the Day

In the early 1960s, Ed Cobb of the pop group The Four Preps wrote “Tainted Love,” a song about, what else, love gone bad.

In 1965, a high-energy version of the song was recorded by soul singer Gloria Jones as the B-side of her latest single. Both sides bombed. Ms. Jones recorded “Tainted Love” again in 1974, and it bombed again.

Then in 1981, the English duo Soft Cell released a slower, synth-pop version of “Tainted Love.” For reasons every musician salivates to understand, it hit a sweet spot with the public. Even today, turn on an 80s Alternative music station, and you’ll hear “Tainted Love” within the hour.

Soft Cell has remained active over the years, apparently making a living on tour. But nothing they wrote attained the success of “Tainted Love.” Which they greatly improved upon, but didn’t write.

soft cell

Vocalist Mark Almond (left) and instrumentalist David Ball.

Tainted Love

By Soft Cell, 1981
Written by Ed Cobb

Sometimes, I feel I’ve got to
Run away. I’ve got to
Get away
From the pain you drive into the heart of me.

The love we share
Seems to go nowhere,
And I’ve lost my light,
For I toss and turn, I can’t sleep at night.

Once, I ran to you (I ran).
Now I’ll run from you.
This tainted love you’ve given,
I give you all a boy could give you.
Take my tears, and that’s not nearly all.

Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).

Now I know I’ve got to
Run away. I’ve got to
Get away.
You don’t really want any more from me.

To make things right,
You need someone to hold you tight.
And you think love is to pray.
But I’m sorry, I don’t pray that way.

Once, I ran to you (I ran).
Now I’ll run from you.
This tainted love you’ve given.
I give you all a boy could give you.
Take my tears, and that’s not nearly all.

Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).


Don’t touch me, please.
I cannot stand the way you tease.
I love you, though you hurt me so.
Now I’m gonna pack my things and go.

Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).

Touch me, baby, tainted love.
Touch me, baby, tainted love.
Tainted love (oh).
Tainted love (oh).

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Tune o’ the Day

In the closing scene of the 1984 John Hughes movie “Sixteen Candles,” Jake and Samantha are together at last in a fairy-tale ending. And one of the reasons that schmaltzy scene worked so well was “If You Were Here” by the Thompson Twins” playing in the background.

Technically, “If You Were Here” was all wrong for the situation. It’s no happy love song. It’s about a guy who wants out of a bad relationship.

Maybe Hughes ignored the disconnect because the song sounds so good. Lyrics? What lyrics? Or maybe he rationalized that the song refers to Jake’s fizzled relationship with the school prom queen.

Yeah, the second one. That’s probably it.

Thompson Twins

If You Were Here

By The Thompson Twins
Written by Tom Bailey, Alannah Joy Currie, and Joe Leeway.

If you were here,
I could deceive you.
And if you were here,
You would believe.
But would you suspect
My emotion wandering, yeah.
Do not want a part of this anymore.

The rain water drips
Through a crack in the ceiling.
I’ll have to spend
My time on repair.
But just like the rain,
I’ll be always falling, yeah,
Only to rise and fall again.

If you were here,
I could deceive you.
And if you were here,
You would believe.
But would you suspect
My emotion wandering, yeah.
Do not want a part of this anymore.

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Tune o’ the Day

“Mad World,” one of the early hits by the British duo Tears for Fears, has remained a popular song over the years. It’s a pleasant tune, and, in fact, tells a compelling story. Not that people pay much attention to song lyrics.

Consider the line “The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.” Roland Orzabal, who wrote the song, said it was inspired by psychologist Arthur Janov, who believed that intense dreams (e.g., threats of death) are the best at relieving tension.

Bonus fact: Janov also inspired the name “Tears for Fears,” which refers to Janov’s concept of using “primal therapy” to relieve the repressed pain of childhood trauma.

Bonus fact two: Orzabal initially tried to sing Mad World’s vocals himself, but the results were lacking. He finally asked bandmate Curt Smith to try. “Suddenly,” said Orzabal, “it sounded fabulous.”

FYI, “Mad World” reflects the thoughts of a disillusioned teenager looking in despair at life around him. He feels hopeless and insignificant, deciding that life and people have neither meaning nor purpose.

He’s probably right, but that’s a weighty concept for some poor teen to handle.

Tears for Fears

Smith (top) and Orzabal.

Mad World

By Tears for Fears, 1982
Written by Roland Orzabal

All around me are familiar faces,
Worn out places, worn out faces.
Bright and early for their daily races,
Going nowhere, going nowhere.

Their tears are filling up their glasses.
No expression, no expression.
Hide my head, I want to drown my sorrow.
No tomorrow, no tomorrow.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles, it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.

Children waiting for the day they feel good.
Happy birthday, happy birthday.
Made to feel the way that every child should.
Sit and listen, sit and listen.

Went to school, and I was very nervous.
No one knew me, no one knew me.
Hello, teacher. tell me what’s my lesson.
Look right through me, look right through me.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.

I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.
Mad world.

And I find it kind of funny,
I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.
I find it hard to tell you ’cause I find it hard to take.
When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world.
Mad world.

Halargian* world.
Mad world.

* Curt Smith wrote, “‘Halarge’ was an imaginary planet invented … during the recording of “The Hurting.” I added it as a joke during the lead vocal session, and we kept it.”

The Hurting

 

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