He wasn't using his real last name yet - that would happen with the next album, "Uh-Huh." First, he had to conquer "American Fool" and one particularly pesky track on it that he gave up on more than once.
It seemed as if John Cougar's song, "Jack & Diane" was doomed from the start. Sure, it sounded great on the acoustic guitar, but when the band tried to play along, the situation bordered on mutiny. Nobody liked it, including Mr. Cougar.
Fortunately a savvy old veteran came to the rescue in the person of Mick Ronson. Mick is most famous as one of David Bowie's "Spiders from Mars," in the Ziggy Stardust era. He's played for a who's who of musicians and now he brought his know-how to John Cougar's "American Fool" album as background vocalist and guitarist. He also brought life support for "Jack & Diane."
By suggesting a choir-type arrangement on the now memorable "let it rock, let it roll..." and what he called "baby rattle" percussion, the diverse parts of the semi-autobiographical song started sticking together as never imagined by its author. One final touch was added, or should I say never deleted. The hand-claps.
Those hand-claps were used to keep the beat as the lead guitar went through countless stops and starts. They were to be removed when the song was mastered, but John believed the song didn't work without them. So there they remained, with the baby rattle, choir, former spider and disgruntled musicians.
In reality, nothing matters (and what if it did) when it comes to HOW they made it work. The important part is, it DID work. From its humble beginning as a song that John tossed in the scrap heap, "Jack & Diane" wound up spending four weeks at the top of Billboard's singles chart while the album, "American Fool" enjoyed a nine week run of its own at number one.
Mick Ronson passed away 20 years ago Monday at the age of 46.
In 1983, Prince had a hit with "Little Red Corvette," but in reality, there is no such thing. There is only one 1983 'Vette in existence and it's white.
When Chevy decided to change the design of the Corvette for 1983, they produced 43 of them. After testing and last-minute California emissions changes, they destroyed all but one, which was cleverly hidden by assembly plant personnel. It wound up in the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky after they were assured by GM that it would not be destroyed like the others.
Chevy did not introduce the newly designed Corvette until January, 1983 but its serial numbers reflect a 1984 model year and the "Black Book" has no entries between 1982 and 1984. So if you see a 1983 Corvette for sale on eBay, ask the seller why they are fibbing. The only 1983 Corvette for sale is the little red one found on Prince's "1999" album.
According to Amy Lee, lead singer of Evanescence, she was inspired to write the song "Bring Me To Life" by someone she didn't know, but thought might be clairvoyant.
"I was in a relationship and I was completely unhappy. But I was hiding it. I was being completely abused and I was trying to cover it up; I wouldn't even admit it to myself. So then I had spoken maybe 10 or 15 words to this guy, who was a friend of a friend. We were waiting for everyone else to show up, and we went into a restaurant and got a table. And he looked at me and said, ĎAre you happy?' And I felt my heart leap, and I was like, he totally knows what I'm thinking. And I lied, I said I was fine. Anyway, he's not really clairvoyant. But he is a sociology major."
Lee said in a VH1 interview:
"Open-mindedness. It's about waking up to all the things you've been missing for so long. One day someone said something that made my heart race for a second and I realized that for months I'd been numb, just going through the motions of life."
There are stranger stories, and there are stories of strangers, but this is a stranger stranger story than most. I hope it makes you happy, too.
Most times, when an artist appears on a song, they are credited. Sometimes an artist will lend a voice or instrument and only those in the studio are ever aware. Here are a few mystery guests that have come to light over the years.
Mick Jagger has long been considered the inspiration for Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," but all we know for sure is, Mick sings background vocals.
Under the alias of Dr. Winston O'Boogie, John Lennon has contributed background vocals for a few Elton John Songs, including EJs cover of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds."
Elton made a bet with John prior to singing background on "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night," that if the song went to No. 1, John would have to appear with Elton on stage. Guess what? It Did. And he did. It turned out to be John's last public performance. John can also be heard on David Bowie's "Fame."
Stevie Nicks has shared a mic or two in her time, but her appearance (along with Lindsey Buckingham) on Walter Egan's "Magnet and Steel" has a credit rating of zero. BTW, Mr. Egan (no relation) says the song is about his infatuation with Stevie.
George Harrison volunteered his voice and guitar on Belinda Carlisle's 1989 hit, "Leave a Light On." Speaking of George, did you know it was Eric Clapton's guitar that gently weeped on that hit? George returned the favor by co-writing and adding his guitar to the Cream song, "Badge." He initially received no credit for either, but later was credited for his songwriting and used the nom de plume of L'Angelo Misterioso for the guitar.
Here's a mind-blower: Michael Jackson sang background vocals on the Doobie Brothers' "Minute By Minute" and "What A Fool Believes."
Former James Gang and current eagle, Joe Walsh was kind enough to play slide guitar of Richard Marx' "Don't Mean Nothing."
Lou Gramm of Foreigner, whose autobiography "Juke Box Hero" hits stores on May 1st, was approached by a young Bryan Adams with a sob story of sick background singers. Lou obliged and wound up on 6 tracks, including "Cuts Like A Knife."
Led Zeppelin's (and later The Firm's) Jimmy Page has lent his magic fingers to The Who, The Kinks and Joe Cocker without fanfare, but next time you listen to Kim Kommando's opening theme, picture Jimmy playing guitar for Tom Jones on 'She's A Lady."
OK, one more. And this is a doozie, but I thought you oughta know... Flea and Dave Navarro of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed on the backing track of a certain Alanis Morissette song. Shhh, put a sock on it.
It's not like the B-52s were ever chart toppers at the beginning of their career. They weren't even the biggest band from Athens, Georgia, thanks to R.E.M. But, they were a "cult" favorite and so totally different from almost every other band that no one really minded.
Their first single, 1979s "Rock Lobster" was an instant classic, and even inspired John Lennon to drop his house-husbandry and start recording again. It reminded him of a Yoko song. However, "Lobster" only crawled its way to
No. 56 on the Billboard chart. Until September of 1989 it was their biggest "hit."
"Rock Lobster" was conceived in little old cabin in Athens with a rusty tin roof, where Kate Pierson lived for a while and the B-52s got together to brainstorm. Ten years later, it gave birth to another love shack baby the B's first top 10 hit. "Love Shack" is the band's biggest (No. 3 US, No. 1 Australia and New Zealand), first million-seller and set the table for another No. 3 from the "Cosmic Thing" album, "Roam."
BTW - that reference to oxidation? That was a line Cindy Wilson spontaneously blurted out during a discarded take and almost fell silent on the editing room floor. The band eventually decided to keep "tin roof... rusted" and I'm sure you would agree, it is the most memorable line in the song.
Sadly, that funky little shack on the Atlanta Highway burned to the ground in 2004. Oh, what priceless memories (and DNA) were lost forever that day?
Forget the fact that there's an elaborate urban legend surrounding the Phil Collins hit, "In The Air Tonight." I'm here to tell you, the truth is even more amazing. And depressing.
After a messy divorce, Phil Collins bought a drum machine as a form of therapy. What it did was open a flood gate of spontaneous inspiration that would make any fledgling songwriter take up basket weaving.
With tape rolling in the studio, Phil sat down, flipped on his new Roland CR-78, and - on the spot - recorded practically all of what you hear on the final version of his hit song "In The Air Tonight" off the top of his head. Lyrics and all. Yes, it was based on his previous relationship issues, but, c'mon man, OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD?!?! You made it up? On the fly? Sheesh. How about sharing some of that with the rest of us. It took me more time to come up with a title to this blog, than it did for Phil to record a classic.
Not only was "In The Air Tonight" a top 20 hit for Mr. P. Collins (of the Hounslow Collinses), but a zillion people have covered it.
And the urban legend? Bunk. As Phil puts it: "...this is one song out of all the songs probably that I've ever written that I really don't know what it's about..." How could he? He'd never even heard it until he, himself started recording it! I hate that guy. Not really.
It didn't stop Eminem from perpetuating the legend in his song, "Stan;" "You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air of the Night?" About that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drownin' But didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?" It probably took Mr. Mathers more time to write those lines than it took Phil, to-- oh, forget it.
In the Grammy-winning Police song, "Don't stand So Close To Me," Sting wrote about a less-than desirable infatuation between student and teacher. Contrary to urban legend, the song is not autobiographical. It is true that Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) was an English teacher, but that's where the similarity ends. The similarity with Sting's life, that is.
The song does, however, borrow from the themes detailed in 1955's "Lolita." Yes, it's "that book by Nabokov," to quote a line in the song. And Monday (4/22) is the 114th anniversary of the birth of Russian-American novelist, Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov.
Sting went on to use the melody for "Don't Stand So Close To Me" when he sang on Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing." Initially, Sting was not listed on songwriting credits, but after that little song fact was revealed during press conferences for the "Brothers In Arms" album release, Sting's label, A&M insisted he be credited on all future pressings.
Nabokov has not been available for comment since 1977.
Queen had just finished a massive South American tour and immediately went back into the studio in Montreax, Switzerland to record some new songs. They hooked up with David Bowie (who adopted the persona of Thin white Duke for a short time in the mid 70s), who lived nearby and, on the spur of the moment over dinner, decided to roll tape and improvise on the fly. "Under Pressure" began without scripted lyrics or sheet music, just five guys winging it. Bassist, John Deacon came up with the legendary bass line, Bowie suggested finger snaps and hand claps and the idea snowballed.
Freddie Mercury was in awe of Bowie and locked himself in one of the studios to avoid the pressure of this music legend/personal hero scrutinizing his work, while Bowie was in another doing his own thing. On occasion, Freddy would visit David and be amazed at how well Bowie's parts meshed with his. Finally Freddy asked Bowie how he did it. Bowie said, "It's easy when you stand in the doorway and listen to what you're doing." Freddy freaked, but got over it.
Somehow, amid insecurities and the natural clash of talent and egos, it all worked. Social conscience, iconic melody, and amazing vocals from rock royalty came together to produce a No. 1 hit in the UK (No. 29 in the US) from the 1981 Queen album, "Hot Space."
Here's a video that combines Freddy from a Queen concert and David from the Freddy Mercury tribute concert in 1992. BTW-the original tribute concert version, featuring Annie Lennox and Bowie is fantastic, too.