January 17 – Turntable Talk 10 : Words, Words, Words

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we finish up the topic with a few thoughts (or maybe more than a few) from me at A Sound Day.

First, I’d like to thank all seven of our guest writers who took part and each added some very interesting thoughts on the topic and a truly diverse range of songwriters that spanned the musical landscape from international superstars to British beat poets to heavy metal icons. I think we all learned a bit about at least one or two acts we might not have known, or came to look at them through new and improved eyes.

To me, lyrics are something I usually notice and the good ones really make me take note and admire the work. Guess it follows since ever since school, I’ve gravitated towards writing – short stories, longer works, magazine-style articles, blogs like this – and when I very briefly, in high school, fancied becoming a musician I mostly wrote lyrics. I had no aptitude for putting together melodies and was mediocre at best trying to play keyboards, but I had at least some sense of how to put words together.

That’s not to say I only like songs with great lyrics. Far from it. Some of my favorite artists have songs that seem either meaningless or so oblique as to be mysteries, but I still love the music. I admit too, many songs I love I don’t even know the lyrics to – if I happen upon a TV music site or similar that displays the lyrics as the song plays I often find myself going “Really!? That’s what they’re saying?” But if a song has a great sound and great lyrics, well that’s something that catches my attention.

If I was assigned the same thing I asked my guests to do this time, I would have had a terrible problem picking just one. There are so many truly outstanding songs with impactful lyrics out there. Some of the ones which quickly came to mind included Bruce Springsteen, who was picked by Max for “The River”, and what to me was the standout on his massive Born in the USA “My Hometown”. Man, there are a lot of people who lived in cities like the one he tells of, and those who didn’t, certainly had driven through them… “now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores, seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more/ theyre closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks, foreman says ‘these jobs are going boys, and they ain’t coming back…” Perfectly encapsulates the despair of so many fading towns and the people who feel stuck in them.

Then there was his rural counterpart, as I think of him, John Mellencamp, who right about the same time, 1985, was ranting on behalf of the poor small farmers, having so much difficulty holding their heads above water in “Rain on the Scarecrow” : “crops that grew last summer, weren’t enough to pay the loan; couldn’t buy the seed to plant this spring and the farmer’s bank foreclosed/ called old friend Schepman up to auction off the land, he said ‘John it’s just my job, and I hope you understand’/ ‘well calling it your job Ol’ Hoss, sure don’t make it right, but if you want me to I’ll say a prayer for your soul tonight…” Kind of made you look at those rural corn and chicken 40-acre plots differently when you drove by them, didn’t it?

Continuing on the concept of celebrating the “losers” or at least those who have it rough, were one of my favorite bands, Toronto’s Blue Rodeo, who kind of hit you out of the gates with the title track of their debut, Outskirts. It starts “here, on the outskirts of life, dreams seldom come true”. Well, you get an idea you’re going to meet some interesting characters and not hear much of caviar and Rolls Royces don’t you? And feel like it will be an interesting ride. And it put me in mind of another beloved Ontarian, Gordon Lightfoot. Would anyone remember that ship the Edmund Fitzgerald if he hadn’t set its sorry last voyage to music ? “The legend lives on from the Chipewa on down of the big lake they call Gitchee Gummee, the lake it is said never gives up her dead, when the skies of November turn gloomy…” We actually studied the song in English class when I was about 12 years old; I can recite those lyrics more or less to this day, something I sure can’t say about any Shakespeare we read.

While some of those North American musicians can come across very seriously in songs like those, some of their British counterparts have a way of being just as snarky but doing so with a sense of humor. After I watched the interviews with Harry and Megan recently, I thought of Joe Jackson’s 1979 hatchet job on the British tabloids, “Sunday Papers” : “mother’s wheelchair stays out in the hall, why should she go out when the TV’s on?/ whatever moves beyond these walls, she’ll know the facts when Sunday comes along…”

There are so many songs that stand out to me for their lyrics, my pick would change from day to day. I considered Steve Earle’s brilliant look into the mind of an Appalachian rebel, “Copperhead Road.” And Aussie Midnight Oil’s scathing opinion of the mining industry “Blue Sky Mine.” And Don Henley’s time-out from all those cocaine-fueled parties of the ’70s with the Eagles sober look at California, “The Last Resort” : “some man came and raped the land, nobody caught him/ put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus people bought ’em…” And I didn’t forget the fantastic autobiographical wonder of Gerry Rafferty, “Baker Street” nor Dire Straits whimsical “Industrial Disease.”

But today I’ll leave you with one of the ’80s great surprise hits, a comeback of sorts that their record company didn’t want out as a single . A humorous yet touching bit of nostalgia and family life courtesy Ray Davies, the fine frontman of the Kinks. His tribute to his late elder sister Rene, who loved to dance when she was young and carefree. “Come Dancing” became the Kinks biggest North American hit in over 15 years. These somewhat autobiographical lyrics of Ray’s deserve a second look:

They put a parking lot on a piece of land
When the supermarket used to stand
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local pally
That’s where the big bands used to come and play
My sister went there on a Saturday
Come dancing
All her boyfriends used to come and call
Why not come dancing, it’s only natural
Another Saturday, another date
She would be ready but she’s always make him wait
In the hallway, in anticipation
He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration
He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week
All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek
Come dancing
That’s how they did it when I was just a kid
And when they said come dancing
My sister always did
My sister should have come in a midnight
And my mom would always sit up and wait
It always ended up in a big row
When my sister used to get home late Out of my window I can see them in the moonlight
Two silhouettes saying goodnight by the garden gate
The day they knocked down the pally
My sister stood and cried
The day they knocked down the pally
Part of my childhood died, just died
Now I’m grown up and playing in a band
And there’s a car park where the pally used to stand
My sister’s married and she lives on an estate
Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait
She knows they get away with things she never could
But if I asked her I wonder if she would
Come dancing
Come on sister, have yourself a ball
Don’t be afraid to come dancing
It’s only natural
Come dancing
Just like the pally on a Saturday
And all her friends will come dancing
Where the big bands used to play

Songwriters: Ray Davies

Come Dancing lyrics © BMG Rights Management

Advertisement

January 16 – Turntable Talk 10 : Two Guys, Triple-barelled Names, Four Star Writing

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Colin from Once Upon a Time In the 70s . He’s one of the co-operators of the British site that as its name suggests, looks primarily at ’70s music! Will that influence his pick…

Thanks, Dave, for again asking Once Upon a Time in The ‘70s to join the Turntable Talk discussion.

Dave asked us ‘to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.

As I’ve said before on this and other blogs, I’m not so much a ‘lyrics man.’ I’m a bit of a philistine in that regard, I guess. What hooks me into a song is the music; the beat and harmonies; the pace.

When I read the remit, though, one artist immediately sprung to mind. Then two. Three.

All three are poets. Simple. That’s it – poets in their own right. Not musicians with a clever turn of phrase; not an artist that had some weird LSD trip resulting in a profound, life affirming psychedelic vision that inspired them to write in romantic, flowery terms.

Nope. Just poets.

So, ever the rebel, I’m going ignore Dave’s instruction.

OK what I’ll do then, in an effort to keep this concise as possible (that’s a laugh!) is concentrate on the two artists who were around in The ‘70s. That makes sense, right?

I’m going to pass on the wonderful Kae Tempest, simply because I live in the past and Kae is very much ‘present.’ I don’t actually know any songs particularly well, but every one I’ve heard just drips lyrical genius. Not so much in the words that are used, but more the manner in which they are delivered.

Right, here we go, proper: Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in Jamaica but came to UK (Brixton, London) in 1963 at the age of eleven. The late Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties saw considerable racial tension in England, and Linton grew up facing prejudice and persecution from all angles – especially so, the police.

I grew up in Scotland. We didn’t witness anything like the discrimination that was so prevalent down south. So when Linton’s work began to gain airplay on the John Peel radio show, I was engrossed- shocked at the content and that such injustices could be happening only a couple hundred miles away, but also entranced by the delivery of such powerful patois poetry.

Linton Kwesi Johnson’s recitals had me listening hard. They made me focus; concentrate on what he was saying in this ‘foreign tongue’ and so his message became even more stronger.

An added attraction for me is Linton’s use of Dub / reggae music for backing. On many recordings, he would hire Denis Bovell for the mixing desk, percussion, keys. (Dennis is one of my favourite Dub artists , with several of his albums in my collection.)

This particular track, ‘Sonny’s Lettah,’ released in 1978 encapsulates pathos, indignation, retribution, regret and pride in under four minutes. Musically, it combines traditional blues with reggae / dub.

(The song relates a letter being sent to a mother back home in Jamaica, explaining why her son – the writer- and his brother are locked up in jail, having been arrested under the ‘Sus Law.’ This was a ‘stop & search’ law that allowed police to stop, search and potentially arrest people on suspicion of them being in breach of section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824. The police, it was established, unfairly targeted Black and ethnic minority groups and led in part to the riots in Bristol, London, Liverpool and Birmingham in 1980 & 1981. The law was eventually repealed in August ’81)

Altogether, it’s pretty damned powerful, I’d say – as indeed are all the works of LKJ. I could have picked any number of tracks, but this one conveniently displays the lyrics.

John Cooper Clarke is a spoken word performer from Salford, by Manchester. He’s often referred to as “The People’s Poet”, and more simply as a Punk Poet. As does Linton Kwesi Johnson, John deals with social issues but though he can be downbeat and hard-hitting, like with ‘Beasley Street’ below he more often resorts to humour to make his point – as in the second example, ‘Kung Fu International.’ (I know the latter is not technically a ‘song’ in that it has no accompanying music, but I think Cooper Clarke’s voice ‘sings,’ in a deadpan, Mancunian way.)

Though he now performs solo, and purely in spoken word format, his initial work in the ‘70s was put to music by producer Martin Hannett and a band of Manchester ‘all stars’ including Pete Shelly from The Buzzcocks and Vini Reilly of The Durutti Column, playing under the name The Invisible Girls.

And in keeping with his ‘punk poet’ tag, John Cooper Clarke has been special guest of such luminaries as Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Buzzcocks, while up and coming young whippersnappers like Joy Division, Duran Duran and New Order snapped up the chance to open for him.

People would say in 1981 that The Specials portrayed an image of desolate, urban decay here in UK. From the year previous, try this for size … my favourite verse comes in @ 2’ 40”:

Hot beneath the collar
An inspector calls
Where the perishing stink of squalor
Impregnates the walls
The rats have all got rickets
They spit through broken teeth
The name of the game is not cricket
Caught out on Beasley Street

And finally, if there’s anyone can make being beaten up and having their head kicked in sound funny, Johnny’s yer man!
https://youtu.be/-_zNMVmLd7E

Linton Kwesi Johnson and John Cooper Clarke. Two socially conscious men with more than just triple-barrel names in common and a fascination for unprovoked beatings!

January 15 – Turntable Talk 10 : Heavy Metal’s High Water Mark?

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Deke from Deke’s Vinyl Reviews & More. Deke is a fan of rock on the harder side, so who might he pick to spotlight lyrics?

Thanks to Dave for letting me once again be a part of Turntable Talk. My pick for one of my all time favourite lyricists is Steve Harris from Iron Maiden.

Let’s rewind to the fall of 1984

 The song I have chosen to talk about is “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from the Powerslave album

Steve Harris delivers the track of a lifetime and I recall reading about the pre hype of Powerslave in a Canadian music magazine called Metallion that Powerslave was gonna feature a 14 minute tune titled “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” and the album itself was going to clock in as a whole at over 51 minutes!

Now that’s getting your money’s worth. That alone sold me. MAIDEN, MAIDEN, more MAIDEN! Impressive that Harris and company could drop a real long tune at the end of the album so to speak and it could still draw me in as a listener.

Power of music, folks! More impressive is the fact that singer Bruce Dickinson could nail each line live and not cheat with any help with the lyrics being taped all over the place to remember the words to this epic track

Rime” charges right out of the gate with Maiden loading up and delivering massive epicness of a sonic delight. At the midpoint you hear the creaking of the ship boards like you’re in the middle of the Atlantic with Harry and Crew. It’s amazing to me that Maiden during their “World Slavery Tour” would hammer out this tune every night, city after city and still toss in the usual after show party treats yet they could still deliver  at a higher rate of musicianship than some of their peers at the time! (I’m not naming names!).

Check out Harris’ brilliant crafting of lyrics or cue up the tune on streaming choice, YouTube or better yet an old fashioned album.

Driven south to the land of the snow and ice
To a place where nobody’s been
Through the snow fog flies on the albatross
Hailed in God’s name, hoping good luck it brings

And the ship sails on, back to the north
Through the fog and ice and the albatross follows on

The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he’s done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime

Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north ’til all is calm

The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung

And the curse goes on and on at sea
And the curse goes on and on for them and me”


HOOO BOY ….them Mariner fella’s are in deep doo doo…

Samuel Taylor Coolridge was the poet who wrote the original poem while Steve Harris wrote a tune about it!

Harris has always been one of my favourite lyricists as he wouldn’t write the same ole same ole of his counterparts. ‘Rime’ is the best example of this. Harris was probably in his mid 20s when he wrote this and it just boggles my mind that he had and still to this day has this kind of creativity.

So here’s a cool story relating to this song and I owe Steve a huge thank you! 

Back in 1985, I’m in Grade 12 English and one of our assignments was to dissect a poem by an author and present it in front  of  the class.

 Hip Hip Hooray as I raised my hand quicker than Billy The Kid drawing his pistol as I’ll never forget my teacher’s reaction as I had pretty much said jack shit all semester but now it was Deke’s time to shine….’I’ll do Rime by Coolridge I blurted out loud!’ All those little Duran Duranie girly fans sitting in the front row of Mr Babcocks Grade 12 class did not see that one coming…

Come presentation time  not only did I show up with my notes of the poem(thanks Mr Steve Harris for simplifying the actual poem for me in song) but I  showed up to class with a ghetto blaster(courtesy of my pal Tbone) and the cassette of ‘Powerslave'(once again courtesy of Tbone as I only had it on vinyl) and wasn’t going to drag my stereo system to school.

I’ll never forget those front row girls looked bored and dreaming of Corey Hart and Duran Duran and I plug-in and let the sonics of Maiden and Rime take over. No,the whole song wasn’t played that day in class, only snippets but man I wish I could have snapped a pic. BOOM….DONE….Mr Babcocks  Grade 12 English class just got Maidenized that morning!

When the dust had settled I scored a mid 80s mark, took my seat at the back of the class and went back into my Grade 12 English Coma!

January 14 – Turntable Talk 10 : Achtung, It’s The Poetry Of Bono

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Lisa from Tao Talk. There she showcases a lot of fine modern poetry, so a category about lyrics and wordsmiths should be right down her alley…

Poetry in Lyrics – Achtung Baby (album) by U2

This is another one of those daunting prompts from Dave, like the one asking us to choose a favorite year in music. Lyrics are probably what leaves the lasting impression in music for me, with many exceptions. Also like other prompts Dave has given us, the song I wanted to use came to me immediately, “One” from U2’s Achtung Baby. Yet dissonance percolated for me, as the album is permeated with the “it’s complicated” poetry of love. Yes, I could have gone for the low-hanging fruit of the plea for world peace in “One” and called it good; but I was in the mood for a fermented cornucopia to sip and pass the bottle.

When Dave gave me the OK to use a whole album of lyrics instead of just one song, I had a very specific purpose in mind. Since we are supposed to be looking for poetic lyrics, I decided to choose favorite poetic lines from each song on it and compose a found poem from them. It took some time to listen to them while reading the lyric list found on the internet (the included ones I have from the CD are too small for these eyes to read anymore) to make sure they were accurate (some tweaks were needed.) Then I spent some time choosing my favorites. It didn’t take me long to see that many of them are presented in couplets. I also noted that about a third were proclaiming the most positive aspects of feeling in love, including excitement, anticipation, freedom, ecstasy, adoration, and timelessness. The other two thirds express varied emotions evoked from it, including anguish, embarrassment, resentment, discouragement, confusion, wistfulness, blame, and existentialism.

I’ve broken up the couplets in some cases and arranged the lines with positive aspects first, then the more complicated aspects. At the end, I kept the section from,Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” intact as I didn’t have the heart to break it up.

Her skin is pale like God’s only dove
Screams like an angel for your love

I’m ready for the shuffle – ready for the deal
I’m ready to let go of the steering wheel

We’re free to fly the crimson sky
The sun won’t melt our wings tonight

Time is a train – makes the future the past
Well, my heart is where it’s always been
My head is somewhere in between

The night is bleeding like a cut

Standing in the station
My face pressed up against the glass

Well, you left my heart empty as a vacant lot
For any spirit to haunt

Love is clockworks and cold steel

You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

You gave me nothing – now it’s all I got

In my dream I was drowning my sorrows
But my sorrows, they learned to swim

Sunrise like a nosebleed

Love is a temple – love the higher law

If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel
On your knees, boy!

You ask me to enter – then you make me crawl

Have you come here to play Jesus?
To the lepers in your head

To touch is to heal – to hurt is to steal

In dreams begin responsibilities

I disappeared in you – you disappeared from me
She wears my love like a see-through dress

I gave you everything you ever wanted

Between the horses of love and lust
It wasn’t what you wanted

And a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle

You bury your treasure where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret that’s been passed around

your face of melting snow

Ah, the deeper I spin
Ah, the hunter will sin for your ivory skin
Took a drive in the dirty rain
To a place where the wind calls your name
Under the trees, the river laughing at you and me
Hallelujah, heaven’s white rose
The doors you open I just can’t close

youtube link for “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses

When I look at the above nuances of the greatest force in existence and remind myself that Bono and The Boys have spoken to each one, through the lyrics and the word made manifest in the music, I have take a moment to give a prayerful thanks to each one of them.

Thanks again, Dave, for inviting me to write to the prompt and for giving me some leeway in the parameters.

Song and Source information:

Achtung Baby

Writer: HEWSON, EVANS, CLAYTON, MULLEN
Copyright: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
https://www.lyricsondemand.com/u/u2lyrics/achtungbabylyrics.html

If you want to read more about this iconic album, here are three first class reviews:

Allmusic’s

Achtung Baby Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rolling Stone’s

Achtung, Baby

Elysa Gardner

Spectrum Culture’s

David Harris

Revisit: U2: Achtung Baby


January 13 – Turntable Talk 10 : This River Wasn’t Exactly One Of Dreams

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Max from Power Pop Blog. There he gives us a great song or two daily with a great writeup, and coming soon apparently an episode-by-episode look at Star Trek. Will he pick a great power pop song, or might he go where no man has gone before?

Dave stated, “I just want you to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.”

I went through many songs to get to this one. Dylan songs mostly before I realized this one hit home. This was the title track to Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 double album The River. I picked this song because it is so easy to relate to. I’ve known friends who have lived this song. This is not a party starter song by any stretch of the imagination. The lyrics are downright sad because they are so damn real. It contains one of my favorite Springsteen lines “And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

I grew up in a small town with a population of around a thousand or so at the time. The jobs there were dead end jobs and the pay was even worse. I saw a cycle even at an early age by seeing parents and their kids doing the same thing generation after generation. It was enough inspiration for me to explore and find new things…and to get out. Some of my friends never made it out. They are doing now what they swore they wouldn’t do before.

I saw my sister get into the same position as the Mary character in the song. It ended many years later in a divorce but at least she is happy now so there are good endings! Her son was the best thing that happened to her. The funny thing is I ended up moving back near that town but I’m doing what I want to be doing not in a job or rut that I hate. Some of my old friends are not in that position.

I came to realize…it wasn’t the location at all. It was and still is a nice small town. No that wasn’t it. It was the lack of expectations at the time set upon everyone that made it seem pre-ordained for bad choices to happen.

The wedding in the song relates to Springsteen’s sister, who got married when she was still a teenager. She knew it was about her and her husband the first time she heard it. It was also based on conversations Springsteen had with his brother-in-law. After losing his construction job, he worked hard to support his wife and young child but never complained.

The songs lyrics are outstanding. Even the opening lines are so close to how I grew up. I did grow up in a valley. I come from down in the valley,
Where mister when you’re young, They bring you up to do like your daddy done.

It’s so easy to relate to. I’m sure many people can relate to this song with completely different circumstances than me.

Bruce saves the best for last though. He is talking about the dreams we have when we are younger about what we are going to do in life until life wakes you up with a bang.

Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse

The song didn’t chart in America or Canada but did make it to #35 in the UK. The album was #1 in the Billboard album charts, #1 in Canada, and #2 in the UK.

The River

I come from down in the valley
Where mister when you’re young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done
Me and Mary we met in high school
When she was just seventeen
We’d ride out of that valley down to where the fields were green

We’d go down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we’d ride

Then I got Mary pregnant
And man that was all she wrote
And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
No flowers no wedding dress

That night we went down to the river
And into the river we’d dive
Oh down to the river we did ride

I got a job working construction for the Johnstown Company
But lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy
Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister they vanished right into the air
Now I just act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

But I remember us riding in my brother’s car
Her body tan and wet down at the reservoir
At night on them banks I’d lie awake
And pull her close just to feel each breath she’d take
Now those memories come back to haunt me
They haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
That sends me down to the river
Though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
My baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride

January 12 – Turntable Talk 10 : NY Landmark Inspired Landmark Song

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Christian from Christian’s Music Musings. There he keeps his ear to the ground for new music worth listening, reviews concerts and shares Spotify lists to keep you listening. With an international background, will his pick originate from offshore?

Thanks for having me back again to share my thoughts for Turntable Talk about yet another interesting topic.

When it comes to songs, typically, I focus on melody, rhythm and sound before paying any attention to lyrics. This still goes back to the very beginning of my music journey as a seven or eight-year-old growing up in my native country Germany, i.e., a time when I essentially did not understand or speak one word of English. While as such, writing about favorite song lyrics may seem to be a tricky proposition, surprisingly, I knew right away which tune I would cover.

Some songs with great lyrics that come to mind are related to my all-time favorite band and its members: The Beatles’ The Inner Light (I always loved George Harrison’s wisdom), John Lennon’s Mother (you can literally feel John’s pain in his words and screaming) and Paul McCartney’s Here Today (one of the best tributes to John, which can still make me well up). I also love songs with a cinematic feel like Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down – in fact, I almost would have picked that tune. Finally, a great protest song like Neil Young’s Ohio (first released in June 1970 as a single by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) can get my attention as well.

Any of the aforementioned tunes would have been a good choice. Instead, I decided to go with a song that only became widely known with a remake that ended up topping the charts in various European countries. I’m happy to report I knew and came to dig the original long before that hit version came out. The song is Tom’s Diner by American folk singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega.

There are two versions of the tune that bookend Vega’s excellent sophomore album Solitude Standing, which came out in April 1987. Only the opener, an a cappella rendition, is relevant for the topic of this post. The closer, appropriately titled Tom’s Diner (Reprise), is an instrumental.

Tom’s Diner is like a mini movie, describing observations and memories by the narrator while having a cup of coffee at a diner. If you’ve ever been to a diner in New York City during the morning rush, you realize how brilliantly Vega captures the atmosphere. That’s why I love the lyrics of this tune.

Featuring Vega’s vocals only without any other singers also make Tom’s Diner an unusual a cappella song. While as such it’s very bare bones, I feel this approach works very well.

Initially, Tom’s Diner only appeared on Vega’s second album. Following the success of the record’s second single Luka, the tune was also released separately as a single in Europe. Perhaps not surprisingly, Tom’s Diner didn’t match the success of Luka, reaching no. 58 in the UK and no. 26 in Ireland – that is at first.

In 1990, British electronic outfit DNA created a dance remix. Initially, it was released unauthorized by Vega, her label A&M or her publisher on a limited basis for distribution to clubs as “Oh Suzanne” – a pretty gutsy move in the litigious music industry! After consulting with Vega who apparently liked the interpretation, A&M (her record company) decided to buy the song from DNA rather than taking them to court for copyright infringement.

It turned out to be a smart decision. The remix ended up topping the charts in Austria, Germany, Greece and Switzerland. It also climbed to no. 2 in the UK on the Official Singles Chart and no. 5 in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100. That said, I find it pretty atrocious!

Following are some additional tidbits from Songfacts:

Suzanne Vega wrote this song while eating breakfast at Tom’s Restaurant on the corner of Broadway and 112th Street in New York City. Tom’s has another famous place in pop culture as well: it was Jerry Seinfeld’s hangout in his hit sitcom Seinfeld. On the show, where it was called “Monk’s Cafe,” the “Tom’s” was cropped out so the exterior sign just said “Restaurant,” and the interior shots were done with TV magic on a sound stage.

The song has been sampled many times by other artists, including Tupac for his track “Dopefiend’s Diner,” Aaliyah on her single “Hot Like Fire”, Drake on a cut titled “Juice” and David Guetta on his tune “Let It Be Me.”

Giorgio Moroder covered the song for his 2015 Déjà Vu album. His version features vocals by Britney Spears. “The song doesn’t have a big range, and I added a bridge and some instrumental stuff,” the EDM godfather told Billboard magazine. “Britney sounds so good, you would hardly recognize her.”

When German engineers were developing the MP3 file format, they used this song to test their creation, checking for loss of fidelity. They picked an a cappella tune because they were particularly concerned about degrading the human voice.

Fall Out Boy sampled this song and used various elements from it on their 2014 hit “Centuries.”

The German rock groups AnnenMayKantereit and Giant Rooks recorded a cover of the song in 2019 that went viral on TikTok in March 2022 as people used the singing duo’s unique and expressive vocals to soundtrack videos on the platform. Their version peaked at #63 on the UK singles chart and #78 on the Hot 100.

January 11 – Turntable Talk 10 : Those Prairie Winds

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Today we have Randy from Mostly Music Covers. There he largely looks at songs so good they’ve been done time and time again. And he hails from Canada, a land which has produced its share of fine songwriters from Paul Anka to Neil Young to Joni Mitchell and many more. But his pick is…

Four Strong Winds”

by Ian Tyson

This is my song pick for another assignment from Dave at A Sound Day, who suggested:

pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.”

This clip is from a reunion in 1986, 23 years after the song was first released and eleven years after the divorce of Ian and Sylvia who first recorded the song.

Think I’ll go out to Alberta
Weather’s good there in the fall
I got some friends that I could go to working for
Still, I wish you’d change your mind
If I ask you one more time
But we’ve been through this a hundred times or more

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All those things that don’t change, come what may
If the good times are all gone
Then I’m bound for moving on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

If I get there before the snow flies
And if things are looking good
You could meet me if I send you down the fare
But by then it would be winter
Not too much for you to do
And those winds sure can blow cold way out there

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All those things that don’t change, come what may
The good times are all gone
So I’m bound for moving on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

Still, I wish you’d change your mind
If I ask you one more time
But we’ve been through that a hundred times or more

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
All those things that don’t change, come what may
If the good times are all gone
Then I’m bound for moving on
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way
I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way

Apart from being a part of Canadiana, for me this evocative song is the first time I recall being able to relate to the lyrics. Originally sung by the author, Ian Tyson, and his partner, also soon to become his wife, Sylvia (Fricker) Tyson. Known as Ian and Sylvia they released it in July of 1963. It would appear on the 1964 album of the same name. I was only four when the song came out so I was a bit too young to be relating to anything beyond “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, but it was such an iconic song in Canada at least, that I would have heard it many times by many singers as I was growing up.

However, the first time I really listened, and now with a bit of life experience was when it was covered by Neil Young. That was in 1978, so I’m 19 years old with a few relationships behind me and I’m very much into music. Now I’m understanding or at least trying to get the message from song lyrics. While I came to appreciate the original just as much, at that age it was Neil that was talking to me.

If you read the lyrics, there is nothing very complicated about them, but then many of the greatest songs are thus due to their seeming simplicity. Ian Tyson was a real Cowboy, I mean the riding, roping, and rodeoing kind. After a serious foot injury, he decided to take up the guitar while he was laid up. Long story short he ended up via the Toronto music scene mingling in New York’s Greenwich Village. This is where he met a guy named Bob Dylan. After a particular encounter he thought if Dylan can write his own songs than maybe he should give it a try. At his manager’s New York apartment, he wrote this song in about 20 minutes.

As I understand the story the first verse tells me the protagonist is looking for a change of scenery and that even though it’s not going to happen, they want a loved one to join them. The second verse is such a brilliant metaphor with “Four strong winds that blow lonely”, I hear that as the winds themselves are traveling in aimless directions and that they come to you and go again just as soon. Sea’s “running high” suggests so many things to me personally. I think of my visits to my mothers native Newfoundland and watching the crashing waves and I also picture my father on a Navy Ship at sea during WWII.

The words to me are saying these things are implacable, and when love is lost, it is us that must realize it’s time to move on, the wind and the sea will not. Again, I am at an age at that time where I was struggling with these very same feelings. I had the impulse to leave, to be “bound for moving on”. As the story progresses there is still a hope, a thought that maybe they can meet again, but reality sets in as does loneliness and “winds sure can blow cold”. Yet the wish to somehow reconcile “I wish you’d change you’re mind” is tempered with “we’ve been through that a hundred times or more”.

To me this song is about relationships and difficult choices. Knowing that its time to move on but at the same time it won’t be easy. If only things were different. The last line “I’ll look for you if I’m ever back this way” seems sincere but based on the reality of the separation and the leaving it seems unlikely this will happen. It is something I have found people say, perhaps to ease the pain.

Here is a video of the Neil Young version with lyrics.

This song has been covered about 100 times. Notable versions include Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare and Harry Belafonte all from 1964. There is Judy Collins (1971) and she did a duet with Glen Campbell on his TV show in 1970. Also covered by John Denver (1988) and Johnny Cash in 2006.

I started to write this on the evening of December 28 and just as I was putting in the finishing touches and starting to edit, I learned that Ian Tyson passed away today December 29, 2022, at the age of 89. Rest in Peace, Mr. Tyson and thank-you for the songs and the memories.

January 10 – Turntable Talk 10 : Porter Could Carry Those Words

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! Thanks to all the regular readers and welcome to any new ones. Briefly, on Turntable Talk we have a number of guest columns from other music fans and writers, sounding off on one particular topic. To kick it off in 2023, our topic is They’re a Poet Don’t You Know It... we look at a song that made a great impact on our contributors for its lyrics.

Leading off, we have Keith from the Nostalgic Italian site. There the former Michigan radio DJ talks about family life as well as books and music. And for his inspiration this time, he goes back a ways…

I have been asked again to be a part of Dave from A Sound Day’s feature Turntable Talk. Each month, Dave offers up a topic for us to discuss. This time around, we’re focusing on great song lyrics. In his instructional e-mail to us, Dave writes:

Not too long ago I covered how Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize in literature, which made me think of great song lyrics. I know Max has done a few columns listing favorite lines or verses of songs he loves. So, seems like a good topic would be – They’re a Poet, don’t you know it. There are thousands of great song lyrics, but for this post I just want you to pick one song that you think has fantastic lyrics, or one you like because of the lyrics, and say a bit about why you love it.

As with other topics, one song (and in this case, lyric) popped into my head immediately. I wasn’t sure, however, if it was the song I wanted to write about. That one line of the song kept swirling around in my head, however, and so I will go with that song.

I have to admit that I am a bit worried that I get to be the first one to post my song, especially since mine is so … old. I hope it’s not so old that it won’t be interesting or relatable to you.

Cole Porter

“The Great American Songbook” (as it is often referred to) consists of the most influential and most important American popular songs and jazz standards. While it isn’t a physical “book” it is the collection of songs written in the early 20th century and have stood the test of time. These songs were often featured in musical on stage and on screen.

When you look at the list of the songwriters responsible for these standards, you will find many familiar names. They include Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the great Cole Porter.

Cole Porter was born in 1891 to a very wealthy family in Indiana. His family wanted him to study law, but he chose music as a career instead. He was classically trained and he began to achieve success in the 1920s. By the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, he wrote the lyrics as well as the music for his songs. One of those songs was “Night and Day.”

Cole Porter wrote “Night and Day” for the 1932 musical Gay Divorcee. It was first recorded in 1933 by Fred Astaire. Hundreds of artists have recorded this song, including most recently Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. The song would become the #1 song of 1933. Astaire would perform it again in the 1934 film adaptation of the show, which was renamed the Gay Divorcee.

There are many stories behind the origins of the song. One fantastic story says that when Cole Porter first played the music for “Night and Day” for his friend Monty Wooly, Wooly sniffed, `I don’t know what this is you are trying to do, but whatever it is, throw it away. It’s terrible.’ Luckily for us, he didn’t.

Cole Porter gave various accounts of how he came to write “Night and Day.” He once said the music was influenced by an Islamic call to worship he’d heard while traveling in Morocco. Porter also said he began the tune on a Saturday night at New York’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and wrote the lyrics the next day while lying on a beach in Newport, Rhode Island. However it came to be, it has always had a line or two in it that sticks in my head. More on that in a minute.

While almost everyone has recorded the song, I feel like Frank Sinatra recorded the most recognizable version of it. He did that in 1957. When he re-recorded it in 1962, he included the original intro that Cole Porter had written. The 1962 version is more laid back and sultry, while the 1957 version is a bit more … swingin’.

Here is the 1957 version first –

Before you listen to the 1962 version, keep in mind that over the first eight bars of the song, just one relentless note is repeated 35 times. To great effect, says singer and pianist Steve Ross.

“There is a slight maddening quality to these repeated notes I think that sets you up for the obsession that is in the song. I never really thought about that. I think that’s true.”

And that’s how it is: dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun; him, him, him, him, him, him, him. I can’t stand it. I’m going crazy here. It makes you feel really alive to sing that song,” says Singer Susannah McCorkle. “Cole Porter was the sexiest songwriter. And his songs are infused with this sexual passion and longing that no other great songwriter captured, which is one reason he’s very close to my heart. It’s like having a new love affair all over again to sing a Cole Porter song.”

https://youtu.be/TppblXy_JGM

NPR writes, “Cole Porter was 41 years old when he wrote “Night and Day.” He’d been living in splendor in Europe for more than a decade with his wife, Linda Lee Thomas, who was considered one of the world’s great beauties, and who was, as Porter might say, not just rich, but rich rich. Life with the Porters meant summers bronzing on the Lido or the Riviera, costume balls and the grand Venetian palaces they rented, private trains and around the world cruises. It was the highest society, and Cole Porter’s songs glittering with references to Whitneys and Rockefellers, champagne and oysters, reflected his world.”

By the time he wrote “Night and Day,” Porter had overcome a series of Broadway flops and had hit his stride. This song would become an international sensation. Soon after Gay Divorcee opened, Porter received a letter at his home in Paris from his friend and supporter- Irving Berlin.

“‘Dear Cole, I am mad about ‘Night and Day,'” Berlin writes. “And I think it is your high spot. You probably know it is being played all over. And all the orchestra leaders think it is the best tune of the year, and I agree with them. Really, Cole, it is great. And I could not resist the temptation of writing you about it. As ever, Irving.'”

They say that there is no greater praise than praise that is given from your peers. To have received a letter from the great Irving Berlin praising your work had to be a wonderful boost to Cole’s ego.

For me personally, I love the passion found in the song. I love the way the subject of the song is all the singer thinks about – day and night, no matter where they are, whether they are apart or together. There is a love. This person fills the thoughts of the singer at all times. It is infatuation. It is obsession. It is love. The singer is ALWAYS thinking of them.

Lyrically, the way Porter describes this passion gets me every time. Take for example the feelings of the singer as they desire to be with the subject of the song:

There’s an oh, such a hungry yearning, burning inside of me
And its torment won’t be through
‘Til you let me spend my life making love to you

Those words are powerful words – a yearning, a burning, it is tormenting to a degree. But the lines of the song that have always stuck out to me are maybe the oddest of the entire song:

In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you

Who would write a love song and talk about the loudness of traffic?! But it works. It is the great contrast to the silence of a lonely room. It totally works. I have always loved that line and this song. It has certainly stood the test of time and, in my opinion, one of the greatest passionate love songs ever written.

Cole Porter probably wrote many songs that were poetically and lyrically better than “Night and Day”, but the song remains one of his best known songs. Robert Kimball, artistic adviser to the Cole Porter estate, says wherever Cole Porter’s travels took him in years to come, he’d hear “Night and Day.”

In 1937, five years after he wrote “Night and Day,” Cole Porter was thrown from a horse, which fell on him and crushed both of his legs. For the rest of his life, he’d be in constant, often crippling pain. He endured more than 30 operations, but through his suffering, Porter maintained his prodigious output. That ended when one of his legs was finally amputated in 1958. Robert Kimball says, “When that occurred, he lost the desire to write and never wrote another song; never wrote again. Lost the desire. Lost the will. It just crushed him.” He passed away in 1964.

I’m looking forward to reading his entry and the entries of the other music lovers who are taking part in this edition. I’m also looking forward to what he comes up with for us next month.

Thanks for reading!

Night and Day – Cole Porter

Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick, tick-tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall

Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom-tom
When the jungle shadows fall
Like the tick, tick-tock of the stately clock
As it stands against the wall

Like the drip, drip, drip of the raindrops
When the summer shower is through
So a voice within me keeps repeating you, you, you

Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon and under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It’s no matter darling where you are
I think of you

Night and say, day and night, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go?
In the roaring traffic’s boom
In the silence of my lonely room
I think of you

Night and day, night and day
Under the hide of me
There’s an oh, such a hungry yearning, burning inside of me
And its torment won’t be through
‘Til you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day

This torment would never be through
‘Til you let me spend my life making love to you
Day and night, night and day
Day and night, night and day
Day and night, night and day
Day and night, day and night
Day and night, night and day

December14 – Turntable Talk, Round 9 : Wrapping Up The Event

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As this is the ninth instalment, regular readers know what it is. Every month, I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. Earlier this year we’ve looked at some topics that sparked lively debates, including if the Beatles were still relevant and people’s takes on how videos changed music. This time around though, in recognition of the calendar we have a simpler topic : Songs of the Season. We’ve just asked the guests to talk about a Christmas/holiday song that they love and why it has meaning to them.

Today we wrap up the feature for this round, with one from me here at A Sound Day. We hope you’ve liked the selections in the past week and will be back for the next round, when we’ll be looking at another music topic.

I want to thank our guest contributors who took part in Turntable Talk this month and brought a range of great Christmas music to us, ranging from the traditional “Silent Night” to the irreverently rocking “Mistress for Christmas.” 

Although I find we’re bombarded by too much Christmas music for too long each year – one local “rock” radio station switched to an all-Christmas format in the second week of November – I do appreciate the music and the feelings it evokes. And much like my personal feelings for the day are varied, it being both a religious day and time for reflection and a time to have fun and spend time with family and friends, my holiday musical tastes vary too. I very much like some of the traditional, often centuries old carols, like “Silent Night” (chosen by Christian) and “We Three Kings”, I like the modern pop/rock ones too, from the happy “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to the more downbeat “Please Come Home For Christmas.” I thought of picking any number of songs from either “category” but decided to go for one that just makes me happy and isn’t played to death – “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

The Waitresses were a short-lived northern Ohio band who drew heavily from British new wave sounds and a few American influences like The Cars. Making their sound a little bit different was the jazzy sax of Mars Williams (also of the Psychedelic Furs) to accompany the singer, Patty Donahue. The main guitarist and writer was Chris Butler, something of an avant garde artist who had the misfortune of unwittingly buying the house used before by killer Jeffrey Dahlmer.

Formed haphazardly in Akron in 1978, they put out an Indie single in 1980 and played their first show on New Year’s Eve that year. Their first (of only two full length, studio) album generated a minor college radio hit in “I Know What Boys Like”. Their two lucky breaks happened fairly quickly together around the end of 1981 and early 1982. They were asked to do the theme for the TV show Square Pegs (remembered, if at all, mostly for being the first regular TV role for Sarah Jessica Parker) and did a cameo on one episode. And they were asked by their small label – ZE Records, a division of Polydor – to contribute a Christmas song to a holiday compilation.

Butler was in the words of some, “notoriously Scrooge-like.” At the time, he’d relocated to the Big Apple and remembers “everybody I knew in New York was running around like a bunch of fiends. It wasn’t about joy. It was something to cope with.” Like writing a song on short notice. So he decided to do what was asked and create a Christmas song. He says “I think my subconscious wanted something to cure me of my Grinch-hood.”

What cured him was a little four-minute romcom movie set to upbeat music. “Christmas Wrapping” is to the canon of Christmas music what The Holiday is to the body of Christmas film – lightweight but eminently enjoyable. Happy. The song about the girl who starts with “Bah humbug!” details her aborted efforts to get to know one guy all year long, and her indifference to the crowds and forced festivity at Christmas, resigned to spend it alone with the “world’s smallest turkey” from A&P…until she goes out to get cranberry sauce and runs into, you guessed it, that guy! Cheesy perhaps, but like the best Hollywood offerings of the ilk, upbeat, humorous and by the end has you rooting for the star-crossed but unlucky couple! And perhaps dancing.

The tune wasn’t initially found under many trees. It did get to #45 on the British charts, not bad for a Christmas song but no Band Aid or “Last Christmas”. In their homeland, it went almost unnoticed until the producers of a compilation called A Very Special Christmas, featuring various holiday tunes, both classic and new, by popular artist needed to add a bit more filler and put it in. The 1987 album took off and The Waitresses, by then defunct, gained sudden radio popularity and soon had one of the most popular- and fun – Christmas songs year in, year out. Helping them out in that was its’ use on TV in Glee and Gilmore Girls this century. In recent years, it’s gotten as high as #12 on the Holiday sales and streaming charts.

Allmusic describe it as “one of the best holiday pop tunes ever recorded.” I agree. It’s lightweight to be sure, but it makes me happy when I hear it. That over-the-top sax solo, the ridiculous “oh damn, guess what I forgot?” (it was the cranberry sauce)… it makes me smile. And, perhaps there’s a lesson in it too for any of us bordering on Grinch-hood this season. Writer Butler didn’t want to have to do “Christmas” but he did and ended up having a great success and making others happy. To paraphrase Dickens, may that truly be said of us all.

December 13 – Turntable Talk Round 9 : Christmas Rock Was Country Hit

Dave threw us, the guest writers, a fun little snowball to Sing A Song Of The Season. For my Holiday song choice, I’m going to talk (and fortunate for you, not sing) about “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms.

Released in 1957 it was a popular song when I was growing up, so I heard it a lot, it’s great and I still love the song. Growing up, Christmas was as it is for many families a special time. I guess you’d call my family lower, middle class, but we never really wanted for anything. Like most families there were both good and bad times. My Mother stayed at home to raise six children. My father worked in construction insulation and when he couldn’t find work, he drove a taxicab. There was always time for charity, and we were fortunate to have a turkey on the table and gifts under the tree. It seemed there was always someone listening to music either on the stereo console upstairs, the radio in the kitchen or on the old Marconi in the basement, and we all had our favorites. Occasionally when I was a bit older one or both of my two older brothers would bring out their guitars. I don’t recall having a copy of this record, but I know my ears would perk up every time it was on the radio. When I think of Christmas and family this song plays a prominent role. This is why I chose it, but when I started to research the song, I found there is more to the story.

It turns out “Jingle Bell Rock” is #9 on the Top 10 Best-selling Christmas/holiday singles (according to Nielsen SoundScan data). This list is post “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby which as we all know was a smash #1 on The Hit Parade chart in 1942. When it comes to secular Christmas songs it’s “White Christmas” followed by everything else. Mariah Carey notwithstanding. Any stats I use apply to the era after “White Christmas” and its many re-releases and before the latest streaming data on “All I Want For Christmas is You” that pushed it to #1.

Another fact is (after “White Christmas”) it happens to be the second highest ranking Christmas song in it’s first year of release, which at that time was Billboard’s Best Sellers chart (this was one of the charts pre Hot 100). It was 1957 when it hit #6 (technically in January of 1958 when the chart was dated). It also hit #13 on the Country and Western chart. This was all pre Hot 100 which started in August of 1958. For that chart Helms also holds a record for the longest run to enter the ‘new’ Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 when it happened in 2019, that’s over 60 years! Since its original released, Billboard has added a Holiday Song chart. In 2020 it reached #3 behind Mariah Carey #1 and Brenda Lee at #2.

This gem of a song has a disputed origin story. By the time singer Bobby Helms got a tune titled “Jingle Bell Hop” to record he was a rising star in Country Music. His first singles from 1957 were “Fraulein” #1 on the Country & Western music chart and Top 40 on the Billboard Best Sellers in Stores chart (pre Hot 100), followed by “My Special Angel”, which also hit No. 1 on the C&W chart and peaked at #7 on another one of the pop music charts. So, he is no ‘one hit wonder’ and a talented guy.

For his part, Helms stated, and he is backed up by renowned musician and recording artist Hank Garland that he was the one who wrote the final version and of course it’s not disputed that he recorded “Jingle Bell Rock”. Adapted from some lyrics they were given titled “Jingle Bell Hop”, Helms made many changes before and while in the studio. Garland was the one to come up with the amazing guitar accompaniment and that distinctive intro. A song (admittedly based on Jingle Bells) they (Helms and Garland) say bore “little resemblance” to what they had been given. However, they were unable to sufficiently prove this and all the song writing credits went to Joe Beal and Jim Boothe, who had written the “Jingle Bell Hop lyrics. It was apparently more of a literal advertising Jingle. These advertising ditty’s date back to the late 1920’s and were hugely popular in the 1950’s. They were a pair of advertising guys that to my knowledge never wrote a song before or after. The royalty checks went to them and as was the standard, others from the record and publishing company. So, both Helms and Garland, other than the money they were paid for doing the song and some small performance royalty for Helms, they essential got cut out of what should have been a partial song credit.

Why this matters so much is that the song has since been covered over 440 times, garnering millions of dollars in royalties. So maybe not as Merry a Christmas as could have been for Helms, Garland, and their estates. But that’s the music business. Sorry for all the glum facts at Christmas time.

To end on a happier note the legacy of this song belongs to Bobby Helms and his great original recording with the fine guitar playing of Hank Garland and the backing of the Anita Kerr Singers.

Hall and Oates had a moderately successful cover and video in 2006

Brenda Lee from 1964

David Foster and Katherine McPhee

There are many instrumental versions as well dating from as early as 1961.

The Ventures in 1965

Kenny G 

I will leave you with this version from the surf guitar greats, Los Straightjackets from 2002

References: 1, 2, 3, 4,