The WTIT Blog’s feature A DJ’s Take has been one of our most popular features. Today we begin a new version that we have titled 5 Random Songs. When writing this, we will simply be picking out five songs (at random…) that we have grown to love over the years. We hope to share with you some of the background of the songs and of course why this music is important to us. On the day when this feature is published, the WTIT Playlist will play just those five songs. So, if you would like to listen to the songs as you learn about why we chose them, crank up the volume.
Dirty Water by the Standells. This song was a huge hit in 1966. It has a line in it about “frustrated women have to be in be twelve o’clock” and the title of the song is about the Charles River in Boston. I graduated from Emerson College, which is in Back Bay in Boston. At the time the college bordered the Charles River. We had heard an Emerson student had written this song, easy to believe because at the time at Emerson women did indeed have to deal with a twelve o’clock curfew. Whether they were frustrated or not, is anybody’s guess. By my sophomore year those curfews for women where removed.
Ed Cobbs actually wrote the song. He wrote quite a few hits including Tainted Love most recently covered by Soft Cell. His biggest accomplishment was as a member of Motown’s legendary Four Tops. The Standells really were a one hit wonder. They got the band’s name, Standells, from the experience standing around at record companies that an unsigned band would have to do. All the band cared about was trying to get a recording contract. The song, Dirty Water, was considered risqué and banned in some states in the bible belt. The whole controversy, plus the fact the Standells never really liked the song led to the group’s quick demise.
Do You Believe in Love by Huey Lewis and the News. Our friend Diesel at Mattress Police has made a big push to get Huey Lewis played on classic rock stations. Because of this, it has got us thinking about this great band. So today we selected the band’s first big hit as one of our five songs. Their self-titled first album did not sell well. John “Mutt” Lange wrote the song Do You Believe in Love. He produced Clover, which was the band Huey Lewis and fellow News band mate and keyboard player Sean Hooper were in before becoming Huey Lewis and the News. Since The News’ first album sank like a fucking rock, their record company strongly urged that this song be included on their second LP. And since they were being threatened to be dropped by the label, naturally the song was included and became the bands’ first huge hit.
Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right by Peter, Paul and Mary. Bob Dylan wrote the tune and does a great version in his own right. Probably a hundred people, including a bluesy version by Eric Clapton, have covered it. Our favorite was the P,P & M version. It is interesting that Dylan stole some of the lyrics from an Eric Clapton song Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone. The other interesting fact is that in most versions of the song the band or artist including (Peter, Paul and Mary) slightly changed the lyrics.
The trio also covered other Dylan songs including a huge hit they had with Blowing in the Wind. When my daughter Heather was in high school I was over at her mother’s house and played her a cassette of the song because I thought she’d like it. The next time I came over to pick her up, she had already memorized the lyrics and taught herself the song on her guitar. Heather’s music and acting talent is truly amazing. Her 84 year-old grandmother (my mom) still talks about Heather as though if she hopped on a bus to Hollywood, she’d be an instant star. (Although, then again, I would not be surprised…)
You’ve Got a Friend by Carole King. Carole wrote the song for the album Tapestry, which is one of the best selling albums of all time. While James Taylor sang harmonies on the original version with Carole, James recorded his own version in 1971 with Carole singing harmonies. For James Taylor it was a monster hit. But Carole had success herself winning a Grammy for You’ve Got a Friend for Song of the Year in 1971. We love both versions of the song, but give the nod to Carole, since she wrote it. There is a live concert that Ms. King recorded for an album where as she starts to play the song James Taylor walks out on stage. She simply say, “Surprise” and they did a fantastic version of it together alternating lead vocals. Every time it comes up on my iPod I crank it.
House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. No one really knows who wrote this song. Its origins are from the 18th century. The first recording of the song was by Tom Ashley and Gwen Foster in 1933. Woody Guthrie also recorded it in the 1940’s and Bob Dylan did a cover in 1962. The Animals were on tour with Chuck Berry and had heard a singer named Johnny Handle do the song in a club in Newcastle, where the band started. Even though Dylan recorded the song first, his version is often mistakenly called an Animals’ cover. However, when Dylan first heard Eric Burdon’s vocals he is said to have “jumped out of his chair” because he liked it so much.