June 5 – Jones Made Us Look At The Sky Differently

Yippy-aye-ay, yippy-aye-o…it’s a big day for cowboys, especially musical ones. Because it has double significance in the history of what the Western Writers of America picked as the “greatest Western song ever” – “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” The song was written by Stan Jones, who was born this day in 1914, and then first released as a record also on this day by Jones, in 1948. The following year it would be the Billboard top song of the year, hitting #1 for Vaughn Monroe but also making the charts that year alone in versions by Burl Ives, Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby! Radio-listeners must have been getting a bit tired of hearing it by 1950, me thinks. Since then, countless other artists have recorded it including Johnny Cash, Lawrence Welk and most notably, The Outlaws.

The Outlaws were a Tampa-based Southern Rock band who were among the first signed to Arista by Clive Davis, based upon the urging of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant. They were a bit more country-oriented than some of their contemporaries. Plus they used two co-lead guitarists, which was a tad out of the ordinary. Their version of “Ghost Riders” was the title track of their sixth album, released in 1980 and peaking at #25 in the U.S.; in 1981 the supercharged single made it to #31 – their biggest success – and #15 on the mainstream rock charts, as well as in Canada.

The story behind the song apparently dates back to the 1920s. When Jones was 12 years old, living in Arizona, he met a Native (likely a Comanche) who told him of his people’s belief that when someone died, their spirit went to live in the sky and that clouds could be “ghost riders.” It gave him the idea for a song of ghost cowboy’s chasing the “Devil’s herd”, “red-eyed cows…a-plowin’ through the ragged skies”. He worked for awhile as a park ranger and he’d sing the song to movie scouts who came looking for locations to film Westerns in. Eventually he became a musician and recorded it. Little did he know that although it didn’t do a great deal in his own version, it would become an “American standard” . Sadly, he became a “ghost rider” himself when he succumbed to cancer at age 49.

May 23 – Change Was Only Roxy Music Constant

Ever-morphing and ever-popular in Europe, Roxy Music put out their seventh (and penultimate) studio album, Flesh + Blood this day in 1980. The album was surprisingly the first of their records to go platinum in the UK and the second one to top the charts there; it cracked the U.S. top 40 which they’d only done once before.

Roxy was down to just a core trio of Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera by this time but were well-supplemented with a raft of studio musicians including Paul Carrack on this one. The album was a little uneven and focused largely on love lost and also included a couple of ’60s cover songs – Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and the Byrds “Eight Miles High.” That marked the first time the band had recorded cover songs, although Bryan Ferry had put out a couple of solo albums in the ’70s consisting of nothing but coves.

Critics weren’t impressed; Rolling Stone called it “such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record” while years later would upgrade it to a 3-star rating saying “good – but lacked the spark that made some of the earlier albums so good.” Allmusic similarly gave it an unusually bad 2-star rating, surprising in that the review wasn’t all that bad really. They suggested that at its best, it was “effortlessly suave and charming”, that “Oh Yeah” was one of their best singles ever, but that the cover songs were superfluous and showed the band was running low on ideas. Ferry’s own website says of it “a record of grace and graciousness, sense and sensuality” and while top 10 singles “Oh Yeah” and “Over You” are good enough, it’s “Same Old Scene” that steals the show. Biographer David Buckley notes it was the band’s “most perfect dance record” and that a year later “the charts would be full of songs with a similar musical trajectory.”

Roxy Music came back two years later with their North American breakthrough, Avalon… then promptly broke up for years. They’d now back together for the first time in years getting ready for a 50th anniversary tour, kicking off Sep. 7 in Toronto.

May 17 – People Began Drink Juice Up In ’81

It was a good time to be a female singer around this time in 1981. This week 41 years back, Sheena Easton had just dropped out of the top spot on the Billboard singles chart with “Morning Train” and had been replaced by what would go on to be the biggest-seller of the year in the States, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes. Sitting between them, at a high position of #4 was the tasty Juice Newton‘s “Angel of the Morning.” It was an auspicious entry to the main stage for the New Jersey-born, California raised singer.

Juice had grown up singing and playing guitar, and got good at it playing folk music in cafes around California while she went to college there in the ’60s. Judy Kay Newton took the nickname “Juice” when she signed to RCA with a country band in the mid-’70s,but they didn’t do a great deal commercially. Patience paid off both for her and Capitol Records, who signed her individually after that. Her first two albums went almost unnoticed, but her third, the eponymously-titled Juice, changed all that. The key was that while it sounded in a country vein, it was good enough, and pop enough to hit mainstream radio. When all was said and done, the album went platinum in the U.S., three times that in Canada and launched four hit singles.

Angel of the Morning” was the first, and internationally, biggest of them. The song was written by Chip Taylor in the ’60s. Taylor also wrote the quite different “Wild Thing”, a hit for the Troggs. He says he wrote it right after hearing “Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones. “I wanted to capture that kind of passion,” he recalls. The song was offered to Connie Francis, but she found it too risque, so it went to Merrilee Rush. She recorded it and had a top 10 hit in 1968 with it, and others have recorded it including Olivia Newton John, Nina Simone and even Tom Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson, but no one did as well with it or “owned” it like Juice.

She sang and played the acoustic guitar on it, and had some talented studio help to fill out the sound including Dan Dugmore (a member of both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt’s backing bands) on aching slide guitar. Newton says she was vaguely aware of Rush’s version, but didn’t emulate it since “when it was popular, I was listening to folk music and R&B, and it was pop.”

Soon everyone was listening to her take on it. The song went gold in the States and in Canada where it hit #1. She’d have nearly as much success with the follow-up single, “Queen of Hearts” and then did well at home with “The Sweetest Thing” from it, and three years later, “Ride Em Cowboy”, re-released as a single from the album to promote a best of compilation. Soon after, she’d disappear from the mainstream pop and rock charts, but she remained a viable entity on country radio, having three #1 hits on their charts in the second-half of the decade.

Obviously a country girl at heart, Juice has voiced two audiobooks, both Westerns, and keeps herself busy keeping and trading horses in California these days.

April 18 – Eastwood Did Second-take Hearing Flack Song

Sometimes having just one fan can be enough to get your career rolling… if that fan happens to be a star themselves. Ask Roberta Flack. She had the #1 song 50 years ago today in 1972, with a song that had been rattling around for three years and had gone all but unnoticed – “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Thankfully, the one person who had noticed it happened to be Clint Eastwood.

By then, Flack was in her mid-30s and had put out a handful of albums, to little real avail. One wonders if she wasn’t thinking about giving up and going back to what she’d done before – teaching music. She grew up in a Baptist household in Virginia, raised on gospel music and Sam Cooke, and had shown not only a great voice but a real talent for piano while young. She got a music scholarship to university and became a teacher. Eventually though she began playing and singing in a few clubs and got signed to Atlantic Records. This song had been on her first album, First Take, which came out in ’69…to very little initial notice. The only single off it at the time, “Compared to What”, failed to chart anywhere and the album seemed to go ker-plunk. She had one minor chart hit with her friend and frequent duet partner, Donny Hathaway, with their take on Carole King’s “You’ve Got A Friend”. Like that one, “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” is a cover, but the original wasn’t well-known. It was written by Irish political folkie Ewan MacColl, who also adapted the popular version of the song “Scarborough Fair” for Simon & Garfunkel. (That song was based on an old traditional folk song but the arrangement and some of the lyrics were modernized by him.) He’d record it, as would Peter, Paul and Mary and Gordon Lightfoot, but it wasn’t ever a hit.

Meanwhile, neither was Flack’s career … until Clint Eastwood was making a movie about a DJ. He directed and starred in Play Misty For Me, and being that the main character in it worked in radio, he needed music for it. He’d heard Flack’s song and decided it was perfect for “the only part of the movie where there’s absolute love,” according to him, a love scene between him and his girlfriend, played by Donna Mills.

She willingly agreed, and Eastwood paid her $2000 for its use (not a bad amount back then for a relatively obscure song.) But she and her record producer, Joel Dorn both wanted to re-record it for him; make it faster and more upbeat like some of the earlier versions by others had been. Eastwood disagreed and kept it just as it was. A very good decision for all involved. It became one of the most popular bits of the hit movie and once in hit the screen, the song itself became very popular. Atlantic wisely put it out as a single, and this time it hit. It got to #14 in Britain, #2 in South Africa and topped the Canadian charts for three weeks. More importantly, at home, it went to #1 for six weeks, and ended up the top-selling single of the year, pushing First Take back onto the charts with it. The album went gold, the first of ten of hers to do that in the U.S. Later it would win the Grammy for Record of the Year…an award which she amazingly enough won the following year as well, for “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

And that’s how, with luck, one fan can help you make millions of fans. And why sometiems it’s good to do a double-take on a “first take.”

April 3 – The Turntable Talk : Part 1, Why We Are Still Talking About The Beatles

 

Today we start a new feature at A Sound Day, which we hope to run from time to time throughout the year – Turntable Talk. In it, we’ve invited several other ardent music fans and bloggers to discuss one topic. To start off, a timely one : “The Beatles : why are we still talking about them 50(+) years on?”

It seems that The Beatles are more in the news and public’s eye now than they have been in decades, with the release of the Get Back documentary last year. But, then again, they never really went away. So we’ve got a group of fellow fans to discuss what it is about the Beatles that makes them stay relevant, decade after decade. Today, we start with Paul over at Once Upon A Time in The 70s. Paul’s one of two people that put that one together, a fun site that looks back at the sights and sounds of the 1970s from a British  perspective. We recommend you checking it out!

 

I’ve no idea how many Beatle’s covers exist, but when you consider there are over 1,600 versions of the song ‘Yesterday’ then you’ve got to imagine there’s a fair few kicking around.

Everyone from Alvin & the Chipmunks to Frank Zappa have had a go at covering a Beatles song, which is hardly surprising given how many standards they’ve written. I grew up in the 60s and started getting into music at the turn of the decade just as the Beatles were heading towards their long and winding road. Truth be told I didn’t really appreciate the genius of the Beatles until I’d gone through my Glam Rock, Funk, and Yacht Rock phases, but I got there eventually and learned to appreciate how talented and ground-breaking they truly were.

The fact then that there are so few Fab Four covers in my music library is an anomaly to me.

For that reason, I decided to take a deep dive into the world of Beatles covers in the expectation that there would be plenty of overlooked gems that I’d missed over the years.

And that’s how I came to spend an afternoon recently crunching through Apple Music & Spotify looking for treasures, and I’ve got to tell you it was a long afternoon.


As an example, I love Aretha Franklin and I love ‘The Fool on The Hill’ so I had high expectations when I came across Aretha’s version, but it left me underwhelmed as did a lot of the Beatles covers I listened to.

One ‘new find’ I’m excited to share was a version of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by Todd Rundgren, which went straight into my list of Top 10 Beatles covers, shared below in no particular order.


As mentioned previously, there are so many Beatles covers so I’m sure there will be a few notable omissions in people’s eyes, for which I apologise in advance…. but like they say ‘beauty is in the ear of the beholder’


1)
Hey Jude by Wilson Pickett – Pickett makes the song his own with his rasping vocals, a great Muscle Shoals arrangement and the introduction of a young Duane Allman who marks his recording debut with a blistering guitar solo.

2) We Can Work It Out by Stevie Wonder – An upbeat version featuring a fuzzy clavinet intro and a trademark Stevie harmonica solo. Recorded in 1970 when Stevie was on the cusp of greatness and ably backed by the ubiquitous Funk Brothers.

3) With a Little Help from My Friends by Joe Cocker – A rare case of a Beatles cover being better than the original, a fact endorsed by McCartney himself. Cocker took this breezy Ringo Starr version from Sgt Pepper and turned it into a soul anthem featuring another cameo from a guitar great, the legendary Jimmy Page.

And of course, this song reminds us all of the fabulous ‘The Wonder Years’

4) Got to Get You into My Life by Earth Wind & Fire – Recorded for the Robert Stigwood backed Sgt Pepper project in 1978. The movie bombed and the soundtrack was a flop, but this cover, given the full EW&F treatment with their potent horn section front and centre, was head and shoulders above the rest of the Beatle covers.

5) Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade – I was 10 when this was released and didn’t realize it was a Beatles cover till several years later. The Marmalade were a local band, so we were all proud to see them reach number one in the UK. It won’t make many Beatles top 10 lists but it’s a great little pop song.

6) Dear Prudence by Siouxsie & The Banshees – At the time, it was a shock that these post punk darlings would go anywhere near a Beatles song but with Robert Smith from the Cure on board they took this White Album track and made it their own.

7) Strawberry Fields Forever by Todd Rundgren – No stranger to a recording studio you get the impression that producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Rundgren had a lot of fun capturing the 60’s psychedelic vibe on this recording.

8) In My Life by Johnny Cash – The subject matter and the fact that this was one of Cash’s last recordings makes this Rick Rubin stripped-down version even more poignant.

9) Eleanor Rigby by Aretha Franklin – I knew the Queen of Soul would come good. A Beatles classic given the full Aretha treatment. She certainly takes this version to church.

10) Come and Get It by Badfinger – A bit of a cheat, as technically Badfinger released this McCartney penned song first, but I agree with those who say that it was probably ‘the best unreleased Beatles recording’

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5HL42k0u5ax0khNIXF1yi6?si=059163c0b5984161

March 18 – One Last Duckwalk

Remembering one of rock’s Founding Fathers. Chuck Berry passed away five years ago today at his St. Louis area home, at age 90. Bruce Springsteen soon after would say Berry was “rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist and the greatest pure rock’n’roll writer who ever lived.” Although he had a fairly small number of hit records, few if any shaped the future sound of rock as much as Chuck did.

Berry was born in St. Louis, where he spent most of his life, and grew up listening to a mix of Gospel, blues and even country music, all of which would influence the sound he would go on to create. He began playing guitar with a blues group, Johnnie Johnson Trio, around 1950 and by 1955, his idol, Muddy Waters helped him get signed on to Chess Records. His first single, “Maybelline”, got to #5 that year when rock’n’roll was almost an unknown novelty, and as the Wall Street Journal‘s Matthew Osinsky said, “by 1958, Berry had already pioneered much of rock’n’roll’s instrumentation and rhythm.” Not to mention its style -decades before Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalk”, Berry came up with perhaps the original rock’n’roll move – his Duckwalk!

Songs like “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Rock & Roll Music” helped him become a popular and successful musician… and inspire the next generation or rock stars. Both the Beatles and Rolling Stones would jumpstart their young careers with covers of his songs, while the Beach Boys did so less directly – Chuck successfully sued them for plagiarizing his “Sweet Little Sixteen” on their “Surfin’ USA.”

Berry kept performing until weeks before his death, although his recording career stalled after his final (and strangely enough, biggest) top 10 hit, 1972’s “My Ding-a-ling.” But he was far from forgotten. President Carter had him perform at the White House and he was in the inaugural class of inductees in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, along with the likes of Elvis and Buddy Holly. Nine years after that, he’d play the first Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert, with Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band being the backing musicians.

His memory shone upon his 2017 death, with the New York Times running a lengthy obituary declaring “with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs (he) did as much as anyone to define rock’n’roll’s potential and attitude.” Mick Jagger said “I want to thank him for all the inspirational music he gave to us. He lit up our teenage years,” while Bob Seger noted “Chuck had tremendous influence on my work and could not have been a nicer guy.” Which seems like as good a way as any to be remembered. Long may you duckwalk across the rock’n’roll heaven stage, Chuck.

February 6 – Would John Have Been Jealous Of Bryan’s Take On Song?

Just like the general public, the music world was understandably shocked and saddened by the murder of John Lennon in 1980. Roxy Music led the way in reacting in song, with their version of Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” released this day in 1981. Among the significant tribute songs that followed were Lennon’s ex-bandmate George Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago”, which came out May ’81 and Elton John’s “Empty Garden” which he put out the following year.

Jealous Guy” was a Lennon song he wrote and first did a demo of in 1968. It was considered for use on The Beatles “White Album”, while it was known as “Child of Nature,” we can see a snippet of John singing that in the Get Back movie. Lennon wrote it while in India, being taught by a maharashi and was trying to come to grips with his personal nature and less-attractive personality traits. The Fab Four didn’t use it, so Lennon recorded it after their breakup, for the Imagine album – by now retitled. Among the musicians on it were two of the members of Badfinger, pianist Nicky Hopkins and even Mike Pinder of the Moody Blues.

Roxy Music were on tour in Europe at the time Lennon was killed. “We were due to play a show in Germany,” Bryan Ferry remembers. “We thought we should do something special, because we were all fans of his. His version is beautiful.” the band began adding it to their live shows, and then quickly recorded it in the studio. “It was a proper tribute record,” Ferry says.

The public approved. At least the European ones. The single became a top 10 hit in France, Ireland, Switzerland and other places and at home in the UK it became their long-awaited first #1 song. They’d had two singles stall at #2 there before. Oddly, it did far better than Elton or Harrison’s tributes in Britain, but barely got noticed here in North America where the other two were big hits. Roxy Music also released a live version of “Jealous Guy” on their 1983 live album, The High Road.

January 17 – Write The Songs, Sing The Songs, Potato, Po-tah-to…

Sometimes it’s good to take advice from the boss. Barry Manilow found that to be true on this day in 1976, when his single “I Write The Songs” hit #1 in the U.S. …even though he hated the song!

Manilow was at the time nearly 33 years old but was still a relative newcomer to the recording industry. He went to the Julliard School for Performing Arts and spent a good chunk of the ’60s writing commercial jingles. His first album had come out in 1973, on Bell Records, which didn’t seem to see his full potential. He’d moved over to new label Arista Records, and this song was from his first album recorded for them, Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again. Although he got to write four of the albums 11 songs and be a minor co-writer on four more, conflicts arose with Arista boss Clive Davis. Davis felt Manilow had the voice of a star, good talent on the piano…but didn’t have “it” as a songwriter. Manilow felt otherwise. thus he was already a bit perturbed at not getting to do all his own songs when Davis suggested this song to him.

To say the absolute least,” Davis wrote in his autobiography, “his response was not positive…the suggestion truly offended him.” Manilow felt it would make him look like he was on a “monumental ego trip”, besides which, there was something quirky about singing he wrote the songs when he didn’t actually write the one he was singing!

I Write the Songs” was written by a pretty talented writer, Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys. He states that the “I” in it was supposed to be “God”, who imbues people with the “spirit of creativity.” The track was first recorded a year earlier by the Captain and Tennille, but remained a fairly unnoticed album track with them.

Not only did Manilow relent and record it, Davis put it out as the lead single of the album. The song became Manilow’s second #1 hit, two years after “Mandy”, (he’d have one more with “Looks Like We Made It” the following year) and is to date among the 200 biggest-selling singles in the rock era, according to Billboard. It helped the album go double platinum. It got Johnston the Grammy for Song of the Year.

So, Barry didn’t write it, but he made it his own, and made fans from it. Not long after that, Frank Sinatra simply declared “he’s next!”… the next great American singer/crooner.

January 5 – Born On The Bayou. Or By The Bay.

Rock got swampier in 1969Creedence Clearwater Revival were on the rise. They put out their second album, Bayou Country, on this day that year, only seven months after their debut one.

Although the band was a quartet out of California, two things were quickly becoming apparent about them by then. One, that as allmusic would put it, singer John Fogerty “sounds as if he crawled out of the backwoods of Louisiana, instead of being a native San Franciscan.” And two, despite the contributions of his brother Tom, of Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, CCR was essentially John Fogerty and a few hired hands. On this album, John wrote six of the seven tracks (with the other being a cover of Little Richard’s hit “Good Golly Miss Molly”), sang, played lead guitar, added some percussion and then produced the record. He saw no reason for it to be any different. “We had a real confrontation”, he says looking back at the making of the record, “everybody wanted to sing, write, make up their own arrangements…this was after ten years of struggling, we had the spotlight.”

Single-minded or not, Fogerty managed to put together a good album that really clarified what would become the band’s highly distinctive “swamp rock” sound with this album. It was highlighted by two spooky tracks running past seven minutes, “Keep on Chooglin’” and “Graveyard Train”, but was dominated by the two singles : “Proud Mary” and “Born on the Bayou.”

Proud Mary” in particular has become an American standard. The song about leaving the city for a riverboat life was written two days after he’d been discharged from the National Guard and was perhaps an inspirational mantra to himself. The song was the first of five of theirs to get to #2 in the U.S., and was also a top 5 hit in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The single is currently double-platinum in the States; only two years later Ike & Tina Turner scored a gold, Grammy-winning single with their take on it. “Born on the Bayou”, looking back the more conventional CCR song (which is to say unconventional sounding compared to most of what was popular then) , failed to hit the top 40 then but has been so popular since, it’s now certified gold. All in all, the album improved upon the debut. It got to #7 in the U.S., #14 in Canada and while only making #62 in the UK, at least it charted, unlike their first one. Born on the Bayou went gold a year or so after its release and since has reached double platinum status.

Critics then, and since, have probably got the right idea about it. At the time, Rolling Stone said “the good cuts (particularly “Proud Mary” and “Born on the Bayou”) are very good, but the bad ones just don’t make it.” Years later, allmusic would give it a fine 4.5-star rating, better than the debut but not as good as the trio that would soon follow. They complimented their “southern-fried groove” and called “Proud Mary” “timeless…utterly distinctive and addictive.”

The music wasn’t the only thing addictive. John Fogerty loved the press and the attention and tried to take even more control of the band in the coming months. The result was a run of brilliant music and massive success… but a short one. Tom quit not much more than a year later and the band had basically called it a day by 1972 due to the internal strife.

December 18 – Like A What, Now Manfred?

One could say Bruce Springsteen’s biggest hit hit the top 40 on this day 45 years back. But one probably wouldn’t, because that would not only be confusing, but rather misleading. Still, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band‘s take on “Blinded by the Light”, which charted this day in 1976, is the only song written by The Boss to ever be a #1 single in the U.S., surprising as that might seem.

Now, that it was a hit wouldn’t have surprised Springsteen, or shouldn’t have. It was the first song on his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, and he wrote it as a late addition to it when Columbia’s boss Clive Davis told him he liked the record but it needed something that could be a radio hit. Springsteen quickly came up with this one and “Spirit in the Night” to try and deliver just that.

Springsteen said he used a rhyming dictionary extensively creating “Blinded by the Light” and that the song was one of his which “is like when you’re walking down the street. My songs are what you see, only distorted.” He ran together various disparate scenes from his hometown and memories in rapid-fire pace. They included a few references to baseball – the “Indians in the Summer” line, for instance refers to his little league baseball team, and “merry go round” slang for a pitcher who keeps walking batters – and people he knew. The “silicone sister” was a local stripper and as Songfacts put it, the phrase was “arguably the first mention of breast implants in popular music.” And then there was that line. Springsteen wrote and sang “cut loose like a deuce, another roller in the night.”

Hearing the Springsteen version, one can see how he could have been compared to Bob Dylan back then. The lyrics were poetic yet seemingly unintelligible and the delivery straight out of the tortured troubadour playbook. But hear it you might not have done back then; it was released as Bruce’s first single but flopped commercially.

Which is where Manfred Mann comes in.

His Earth Band had already cut another Springsteen song – coincidentally “Spirit in the Night” and had minor success with it in 1975, especially in Europe. So they decided to try and see if they could get lucky twice and do a Springsteen cover for their seventh album, The Roaring Silence. They picked “Blinded by the Light.” they added some two minutes to The Boss’ five minute-plus telling (although conversely the record company edited it down to under four for the radio version) and with Mann’s soaring keyboard crescendos and Dave Flett’s guitar, complete with Wah pedal effects, it sounded bold and upbeat; Chris Thompson sang it energetically. And just a wee bit differently.

He changed “cut loose” to “revved up”, but with his British accent and what Mann described as poor recording equipment, it sounded to most like he was singing “wrapped up like a douche.” Oops!

The band’s namesake said Warner Brothers weren’t happy. “The southern Bible Belt radio stations think that it’s about a vaginal douche, and they have problems with body parts down there!” He said they tried to recut it, but it sounded worse, so they left it as is. Much to Bruce Springsteen’s chagrin, perhaps. “I don’t think that Springsteen liked our ‘Blinded by the Light’ ‘coz (he thought) we sang ‘wrapped up like a douche…if I ever saw him, I’d avoid him and cringe.” Something The Boss seemed to confirm. “Deuce was like, ‘Little Deuce Coupe’, as in a two-seater hot rod. Douche is a feminine hygiene procedure. What can I say? The public spoke.”

Indeed they did. It was easily Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s biggest hit and the first big hit Mann had been on since “The Mighty Quinn” about a decade earlier. It hit #1 in the U.S. and Canada, #6 in the UK and pushed the album into the American top 10, 30 spots better than his next best. It is, in the words of Songfacts, “one of the most triumphant covers ever recorded.” It also, as noted it curiously the only American #1 single Springsteen wrote, the best of his own singles (chart-wise) being “Dancing in the Dark”, which came oh so close, at #2.