The WTIT Blog’s feature A DJ’s Take has been one of our most popular features. Today we continue our latest version of this feature that we have “sub-titled” 5 Random Songs. When writing this, we simply pick out five songs (at random…who’d a thunk?) 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.
Animal by Def Leppard. In last week’s comments for this feature, we were asked to choose a Def Leppard song for this week. Animal has an interesting history. It was one of the first songs that the band wrote and tried to record, but the band had lots of problems with each of the song’s recording. Three producers tried to get it right, including Jim Steinman (who is best known as songwriter and producer of the first two Bat Out of Hell albums from Meat Loaf). Steinman also has worked for many other artists including Barbra Streisand.
Steinman was fired by Def Leppard and the songs he produced including Animal were never released. In the US, by the release of the 1983 album Pyromania, Def Leppard was huge. Rock of Ages, Photograph, Rock Till You Drop and Too Late for Love were big songs in the states. In their native UK the band was still ignored. It was not until 1987 and the album Hysteria that Def Leppard had a hit in England. Ironically, it would be the now reworked Animal that would be Def Leppard’s first top ten hit in the UK. Mutt Lange would be producing the band by that time and it was his production of the song that became the hit.
The Letter by the Box Tops. The Box Tops didn’t even have a name when a Nashville songwriter named Wayne Carson Thompson gave the band this song. Thompson played guitar on the band’s recording. He never was happy with the result. Alex Chilton was the lead singer at age sixteen when the song was recorded. Thompson did not like Chilton’s vocals as “too husky”. The irony was that this was not the way Chilton normally performed, and his vocals were attributed to a lack of sleep. Thompson did not like the production and the sound effect of an airplane in the song.
After recording the song the band needed a name. One member of the band suggested that they have a contest and have people send in cereal box tops to enter. The band’s producer responded, “The Box Tops, that’s your name.” The song was the band’s only number one hit in the US. At one minute, fifty-eight seconds it was the last hit record, from 1967, that was under two minutes in length.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Dusty Springfield. The song is big in WTIT folklore. Bouncing Billy had a girlfriend that we kidded him about. Not that there was anything wrong with her, but Billy hated being teased, so we as his high school jerk friends teased him a lot. Anytime we were talking about the girlfriend I’d slip this song on the turntable. Billy hated the song because of this. Billy and I recorded the very first WTIT tape. Bill recorded with us from 1967 till his final appearance in 1985.
The song was an Italian song that Dusty Springfield heard and loved. She didn’t know what the song was even about and decided that it needed English lyrics, and she got Simon Napier-Bell (who produced the Yardbirds) and Vicky Wickham (who hosted the popular English music show Ready Set Go) to write the lyrics. Dusty, Vicky and Simon were heading to a nightclub that night, so they had only an hour to write the lyrics. The words were actually finished in the taxi on the way to the club. It became Dusty’s only number one song in Britain. (We could only find a ten second version Dusty’s version of the song for today’s Random Five playlist, so we included a full version of Elvis’ cover as well. Yes, we know it is not the same. So sue us.)
Hey Jealousy by the Gin Blossoms. This is an important song for me personally. When I became sales manager of an alternative rock radio station in the mid 90’s, I had to be completely up on the music. The Gin Blossoms were my first favorite band of the era. Doug Hopkins was the original leader of this band and wrote Hey Jealousy about an ex-girlfriend he wanted to reconnect with. It was included in the Gin Blossoms first ever album Dusted that was released in 1989. Although, no one noticed.
Hopkins had a lot of problems with alcohol. During the recording of their first album for a major record label, A&M, the band fired Hopkins. Hey Jealousy was the band’s breakout hit. Doug Hopkins’ depression over being thrown out and then having a song he wrote become such a big hit, was more than he could endure. In 1993, Doug Hopkins committed suicide. The band’s breakthrough album was titled New Miserable Experience because of what they had gone through. The band broke up in 1997. Ten years later, they would reunite and record the CD Major Lodge Victory. A good album, but not great, prooved to be successful enough to allow the band to stay together as today, on this silly feature we do here on the WTIT Blog.
Who Will Save Your Soul by Jewel. Another artist that broke out when I became management at an alternative rock station, Jewel would play as an opening act for any alternative rock station for very little money. Most of the shows that we had at Radio 104 in Hartford, Jewel opened. I left and entered management at WBCN in Boston that had just changed formats from classic rock to alternative. Jewel opened a lot in Boston as well, and she wound up as a huge force in the music industry.
Who Will Save Your Soul was written by Jewel when she was sixteen. It wasn’t until 1995 when Jewel recorded her debut album, Pieces of You, which Jewel recorded at Neil Young’s ranch studio with The Stray Gators, one of Neil’s backup bands. Along with this song, Foolish Games and You Were Meant for Me were also on this CD. Not bad for a nineteen year-old and her first album. However, like so many artists she peaked early. Her last album did not do well. She is currently working on an album to be released in June, and is her debut in the world of country music.
Join us next time.