Monday has arrived – and you know that Monday means music! For the month of March, our Spotlight Dancer is our fearless leader and brainchild of Monday’s Music Moves Me, our very own Marie of Xmas Dolly! The theme selected for this week is “Music from the 50s-70s, pick a decade or mix ’em up”. Let’s get this vintage party started!
Let’s start with the 50s – this song was written by a prolific songwriter who wrote many hits for Elvis Presley, and became this particular artist’s signature tune, a perfect fit for his incendiary style. He was quoted as saying:
“A person tells at least a little bit about himself in any song he cuts.”
This song is filled with sexual innuendo, which was shocking for a southern musician in 1957. The artist grew up in a religious household and was conflicted over whether or not he should record this. He and Sun Records owner Sam Phillips argued as Phillips tried to convince him to sing it. Tape was rolling during the spat and the exchange can be heard on some Sun Records collections.
In 1989, Dennis Quaid portrayed the artist in the movie Great Balls Of Fire, which told the story of his life. Dennis, already an accomplished musician, spent 2 years learning how to play the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis.
Dennis Quaid was already signed to play the part of Jerry Lee Lewis in “Great Balls of Fire.” But what Quaid really wanted to do was sing the Killer’s songs, too. Dennis said Jerry told him:
“Son, you can’t sing like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
Dennis shot back:
“You can’t act like Dennis Quaid.”
“Normally, I don’t operate that way. As an actor, I had to get inside his head and his heart. ‘Jerry,’ I said, ‘I’d be nervous if anyone would be doing my life story.'”
Dennis didn’t give up on the idea of doing the songs himself. He played a tape of himself singing and playing Lewis’ hits for Lewis after a Seattle, Wash., concert. When Quaid said metaphorically, “Let’s go walk down to the river,” Lewis said, as Quaid related it, “‘Son, I’m gonna put you in the river and you ain’t never gonna come up.'”
“I came to my senses. I wanted to do the singing. Jerry was against it.”
So, Lewis re-recorded his rock ‘n’ roll hits heard in the movie and on the “Great Balls of Fire” sound track.
Get ready to dance, here’s Jerry Lee Lewis with “Great Balls of FIre”:
Next up, the 60s – the artist was was writing with his songwriting partner at his house when he told him to get started writing by playing anything that came to mind. The artist’s wife came in and said she was going to go into town to buy something. The artist asked if she needed any money, and his writing partner cracked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” Inspired, the artist started singing, “Pretty woman walking down the street.” His writing partner was quoted as saying:
“He sang it while I was banging my hand down on the table and by the time she returned we had the song. I love the song. From the moment that the rhythm started, I could hear the heels clicking on the pavement, click, click, the pretty woman walking down the street, in a yellow skirt and red shoes. We wrote Oh Pretty Woman on a Friday, the next Friday we recorded it, and the next Friday it was out. It was the fastest thing I ever saw. Actually, the yeah, yeah, yeah in Oh Pretty Woman probably came from The Beatles.”
The artist certainly went through some challenges – he and his wife had recently reconciled after some tough times, but as this song was climbing the charts, he found out she had been cheating on him and filed for divorce. In 1966, they remarried, but two months later she was killed when the motorcycle she was riding was hit by a truck. As if that wasn’t enough, the artist faced tragedy again when his two oldest sons died in a fire at his home in 1968. He was on tour at the time.
This was the artist’s last big hit. His career faded fast, but was revived in the ’80s when prominent musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and George Harrison cited him as an influence and invited him to join various projects. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and joined The Traveling Wilburys with Dylan, Tom Petty, Harrison and Jeff Lynne. As he was enjoying this career revival, he died of a heart attack on December 6, 1988 at age 52.
This was used in the 1990 movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. When the film was shot, its working title was 3000; the song was added later and became the title.
Give a listen to Roy Orbison with “Pretty Woman”:
Last, but not least, the 70s – two of the members of this group were a couple who wrote the first version of this song in early 1974, shortly after they first met. They didn’t have a proper title for the song, and would refer to it as “The Disco Song.” The artist said:
“Lyrically, it was about a stalker who was pursuing me, and Chris saved me from him.”
It wasn’t until they recorded this song in 1978 that her partner came up with the title. He didn’t know that it was also the title of a 1976 German movie directed by Werner Herzog. The two wrote the song in their dingy New York apartment and their keyboardist provided the synthesizer hook. The result brought punk and disco together on the dance floor. The artist was quoted as saying:
“When we did [this song] it wasn’t too cool in our social set to play disco. But we did it because we wanted to be uncool. It was based around a Roland Rhythm Machine and the backing took over 10 hours to get down.”
Her partner said:
“We didn’t expect the original to be that big. We only did it as a novelty item to put more diversity into the album.”
In the last chorus, following “Once I had a love and it was a gas,” the artist takes a different tack, singing “Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass.” This is a key line in the song, since the singer has now realized that this relationship is more trouble than it’s worth, and that her heart of glass might be more durable than she thought.
Unfortunately, American radio was generally ass-free at this time, so to ensure airplay stations were sent an edited version with the offending line replaced with “soon turned out I had a heart of glass.”
Without further ado, here’s Blondie with “Heart Of Glass”:
That’s a wrap for this week – see you on the dance floor!
I have the supreme honor and privilege of being a co-host with the inimitable Xmas Dolly and our musical cohort, the awesome Cathy from Curious as a CAThy, Callie of JAmerican Spice, and Alana of Ramblin’ with AM!
Want to join in the fun? It’s easy – just find a tune that rocks your boat, post it and link up – don’t forget to grab Xmas Dolly…er, um, I mean her button…over at her place here. Check out Xmas Dolly’s sidebar for the random themes we sport each week – and you can always ask for a specific theme of music you like, too. Check out the other music lovahs and let’s jam!
Marie of Xmas Dolly