“I love Rock ’N Roll” is a song with nine lives. It was originally written and recorded by the UK band Arrow. Alan Merrill, Arrow’s lead singer says it was his reaction to The Rolling Stones “It’s Only Rock ’N Roll.” In 1976, Arrow released “I Love Rock ’N Roll” as a B-side (sort of like “I will Survive” last week). Later, that year it was re-released on Side A. It still flopped.
That’s when Joan Jett heard the song. She was on tour in the UK with The Runaways and heard the song on a TV show called “Pop 45.” In 1979 she recorded a version with members of the Sex Pistols. That version didn’t do well either. It was in 1981 after having to buy back the rights to “I Love Rock ’N Roll” (and two other songs) from her record company for $2300 that Joan Jett recorded and released the version that is in the Rock ’N Roll Hall of Fame and clocks in at #491 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. What makes it tick? Check out the sheet below.
What can you add to the story of “I will Survive?” It’s an anthem that started out as a B side of the song “Substitute.” Gloria Gaynor recorded it in a while in a back brace after having spent 6 months in the hospital. The record company didn’t have any plans to support the song so Gloria’s team took it directly to DJs at dance clubs, where the song took on a life of its own.
“I Will Survive” comes in at 492 on Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs of all time, (or number 2 on its list of best disco songs of all time). While some people place it as merely the story of a lover who’s been done wrong finding strength and empowerment, Gloria thinks of it as about strength and empowerment more broadly. She says “I love the empowering effect, I love the encouraging effect. It’s a timeless lyric that addresses a timeless concern.” What keeps “I Will Survive” going? Find out in the sheet below.
A long time ago, I’d set my alarm clock for 1:30 in the morning, (sometimes two alarm clocks), and peeled my body out of bed to load delivery vans for UPS. As packages were conveyed down the line for me to load into the trucks, folks sorting the boxes listened to WZLX, “Boston’s Classic Rocker.” Every night. I listened to a lot of Eagles, and Jackson Browne over the two years I worked there.
“Running on Empty,” is probably my favorite Jackson Browne song and it lands at number 496 on Rolling Stones’s list of 500 Greatest Songs. It’s another song which mostly hangs its melody over a mere two chords. (I’m beginning to feel like I use too many chords). Last week’s song, “Miss You,” kept itself going through sheer groove and feel. Running On Empty uses other rhythmic and harmonic tricks to keep moving. In the sheet below I’m able to focus in on one or two of them. Can you find more?
This week, we’re back to checking out the 500 Greatest Songs of all time, (at least according to Rolling Stone Magazine). “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones is #498.
On paper this song could be booooooring. It basically two chords evenly balanced that repeat for four minutes, (with the exception of an eight bar bridge). Instead it’s fun as hell, a two chord jam with groove to spare.
How do The Stones do that? It’s got a little of everything, a funky bass line, a bluesy riff on guitar and harmonica, even a little taste of disco in the drums. Listen for yourself.
No matter how achingly beautiful an arrangement or harmony is, a chord is still just a chord. Whether it’s the Beatles sticking your heart with a melody like a pin cushion or Hendrix making your teeth sweat during guitar solo the chords supporting the song, at root, are the same.
A few days ago, while browsing the aisles of Amazon Prime I saw there was a documentary about Elliot Smith called “Heaven Adores You.” Elliot was a songwriter who knew how to harmonize and arrange a song. His Album, XO, is desert island material for me. Obviously, I had to watch.
Elliot started out as a punk rocker, then as his writing developed grew into a sort of folk singer-songwriter who nabbed harmonies from The Beatles and Beach Boys like a pro. But the arrangements he strung his melodies over and through are still merely chords. Chords are something we can learn about.
Today’s sheet is talking about slash chords (called inversions by fancy pants music theorists). If you’re interested in learning something about Elliot’s music, (or anyone else’s music), slash chords are a great place to start.
Check out the sheet below, and check out the video for a couple examples of how Elliot used them.