For My Sunday Song #109, “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead gets the focus this week. This is one of the most iconic Motorhead songs and it reached #15 on the charts when it was released back in 1980 on the album titled ‘Ace of Spades’. The song actually hit the UK charts again after Lemmy’s death in 2015. It went all the way to #13, two spots higher than the original run.
The song is all about gambling and has every known gambling cliche known to man included in the song and yet it works. It was only 2:48 in length yet so memorable and impactful. The menacing opening bass riff by Lemmy and that fast driving, dirty rock sound matched up with that gritty vocal by Lemmy is what makes this one of the great rock songs of all time. It was the song that introduced me to Motorhead and I am sure I am not the only one.
As I am not a gambler (ok I am not a good one), I was curious about the dead man’s hand. It turns out the Dead Man’s Hand relates to the hand that Wild Bill Hickok had when he was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall while playing poker back in 1876. The hand he supposedly had was 2 Black 8’s and 2 Black Aces.
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For this month’s The Original Vs The Cover, we are comparing the versions of the song “Higher Ground” originally performed by Stevie Wonder and then later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Two great artists and two very different versions so which will come out on top.
The song was written by Stevie Wonder and it came out on his 1973 album ‘Innervisions’. It went all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. It was a very successful song for Stevie and in 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #265 on the Top 500 Songs of all time. Not bad.
The song is possibly about two things. One being second chances and the other is reincarnation (which could also be considered a second chance I guess). Stevie wrote the song and recorded it in a span of 3 hours which to me is amazing. According to Stevie, he felt a sense of urgency to get it done as if something was going to happen and he needed to finish it. Just a few months later, he was in a car accident that put him in a coma for four days (3 days after the album was released).
Okay, let us get to the songs…
Stevie’s song is pure 70’s funk. It has such an awesome little groove and that unique wah sound comes from a clavinet using a Mu-Tron III pedal. What are those? Here is a picture (thanks wikipedia).
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For My Sunday Song #108, I am going to discuss the song “Hell is for Children” by powerhouse singer Pat Benatar. The song was recorded in 1980 and released on her album ‘Crimes of Passion’ which went to #2 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. The song itself was never released as an official single, but became a hit nonetheless.
The song was inspired by an article that Pat had read in the New York Times that told the story of child abuse. She was so moved by the article that she started writing this song. In a time when no one was speaking publicly about child abuse, it was really groundbreaking for an artist to tackle such an intense subject.
The lyrics capture the sadness and despair the children of abuse face each day. Just read the opening verse:
“They cry in the dark, so you can’t see their tears
They hide in the light, so you can’t see their fears
Forgive and forget, all the while
Love and pain become one and the same
In the eyes of a wounded child”
The lyrics go on to talk about the abuser telling the kids not tell mommy and to lie to everyone about what happened while they apologize for what they had done yet continue to abuse. It doesn’t get more raw than this song, so powerful.
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For My Sunday Song #107 is going to take us out into a world that is so strange and bizarre you might never want to return. We will explore the world of Rob Zombie and his song “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown”. The song is off his 2013 album ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’. The song did chart at #15 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, but that doesn’t matter for Rob Zombie.
The song is in the normal Rob Zombie industrial style music. It is hard, heavy and slams a fist into your face. The main draw for me is his guitar player, the guitar god himself, John 5. John 5 is a beast of a guitarist. The sounds and his touch are always perfection and with this one there is at times a whole Sabbath vibe with some of his tone.
The song is about the state of rock radio today. What was once a flourishing hot bed of good music is dying off in droves. It changed the way we listened to music, but thanks to the internet and the digital download and streaming, the art of radio is dying off. I have to agree that radio seems to be a dying form. The problem with radio is no variety. They play the same songs and artists over and over and you don’t really discover new music on the radio anymore. That is what Youtube and streaming is for now.
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For My Sunday Song #106, I bring you “Renegade” by the band Styx. The song was released in 1978 off the album ‘Pieces of Eight’. It did pretty well on the charts and reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song for me is much better than that.
The song is about an outlaw (or renegade) who has been arrested for his crimes and is about to be hanged for those said crimes according to the lyrics…”Hangman is comin’ down from the gallows and I don’t have very long”. The lyrics are basically a letter to the renegades mom telling her that he has been caught and is going to die.
There is a dark, ominous feel to the song especially in the opening verse which is just Tommy’s vocals and small kick drum in the first two lines and then a chorus of voices for the next two. It is so eerie that it is wonderful. And don’t forget the scream that kicks the song into overdrive. And damn, that opening line is so impactful…”Oh, Mama, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law”.
What is also great about this song is the music. Whether it is the guitar solo by James “JY” Young, the keyboards by Dennis DeYoung or John Panozzo’s drumming or a combination of all three, it just works. Normally when Tommy write’s a song, he does the guitar solo, but he let JY do it instead and I think that was a good choice so he could focus on the vocal delivery.
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For My Sunday Song #105, I am bringing to you “Edge of Seventeen” by the wonderful and talented Stevie Nicks. The song was released as a single in 1982 and appeared on her 1981 album ‘Bella Donna’. The song reached all the way to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 just missing going Top Ten.
This is one of my favorite songs by Stevie and it is from a time where she could do no wrong whether it was her solo work or her work with Fleetwood Mac. She was everywhere. She didn’t have this beautiful, angelic vocals of the pop stars of that era. She was graced with a little gritty voice that is even better and is pure rock & roll. And if I had to pick my favorite female vocalists, she would be at or near the top.
The song is about death. It was written due to the death of two individuals. First one was John Lennon (heard in the lyric…”With their words of a poet / And a voice from a choir”) and the other death was her uncle. Her uncle was diagnosed with cancer and within weeks died and all those emotions she was feeling came out in the song.
What I also love about the song is the line “Just like the white winged dove” and then the chorus of “Whoo, Whoo, Whoo” which sounds like the bird is singing. The dove is symbolic of the spirit leaving the body and she flies away she sings. It is really a beautiful visual.
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For My Sunday Song #104, we are covering one of the great songs to come out of the Grunge Era, “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden. The song was all over the radio although it never broke the Top 40. It did reach #1 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks. The song was featured on the band’s fourth album ‘Superunknown’ back in 1994.
The grunge era was permeated with depressing songs and this was no exception; however, there was something more to it. Whether it was the songwriting, the vocals, or the music itself, Soundgarden was different than the other bands. They had talent, they had musicianship and they had one of the greatest vocalist at the time with Chris Cornell. I never got into grunge, but Soundgarden was one of the very few bands I got into because of the songs.
“Black Hole Sun” was juxtaposed with the darkness of a black hole and the brightness of the sun…at least in the title. It had this really beautiful chorus, but what the song was really about I had no idea. The words didn’t really make sense (see the lyrics below); however, they sounded great together. The song is really sad and dark although at times the song doesn’t sound that way. It all just kinda worked.
Chris was asked about the song after it became a hit and he said this…( SOUNDGARDEN: PAINTING BEAUTIFUL PICTURES by Jennifer Clay)
“It’s funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember. Other than that, I sure didn’t have an understanding of it after I wrote it. I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across.”
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For My Sunday Song #103, I am going with another classic rock song “Under Pressure” by Queen & David Bowie. Two of the best come together to deliver what has become one of my favorite songs. The song went to #1 in the UK and only #29 on the U.S.’s Billboard Hot 100. We Americans can be stupid sometime. It was only Queen’s 2nd #1 song in the UK, the other was “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The song appeared on their 1982 album ‘Hot Space”.
“Under Pressure” is about how life’s pressure can really take a toll on your life and how it destroys everything; however, love is the answer and can make everything so much better. I definitely got all that from the song, but it was less about the words and more about the give & take of the vocals between Freddie Mercury and David Bowie. Two of the best artist of all time duking it out vocally is one of the greatest things you can ever hear. I guess God wanted to hear this song too as now both have passed over to the other side.
The song is also famous for that simple, two note bass line by John Deacon. That “don don don dondo don” (or something like that) was immediately recognizable and played throughout. After Deacon had come up with that riff, the band went to lunch or something and completely forgot the riff. One of the band members (or maybe Bowie) helped remind him what it was. That famous bass line is not to be confused with “don don don dondo don don” the Vanilla Ice riff for “Ice, Ice Baby”…there is a difference and he will tell you…whatever.
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For My Sunday Song #102, we explore “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Probably not the best day to be visiting a song about the Devil, but then again maybe it is the best day. The song is off their 1968 album ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ and went only to #55 on the Billboard Hot 100, but that doesn’t take away from the fact it is one of my favorite Stones’ song.
The song was very controversial for the time and gave the Stones an image of being bad boys as opposed to the clean cut image of that little known band called The Beatles. The band was accused of being satan worshippers and being into the occult. The problem is that no matter if they were or were not, people don’t like something different and always tend to look for the bad and always blamed rock & roll.
The song isn’t a celebration for the Devil and the song isn’t even asking you to sympathize with him…although the Devil is asking you to do that when you read the lyrics. The song is strictly a march through time and all the evil that has occurred throughout. The person talking in the song is assumed to be the Devil as he travels through time, but is it the devil that was there or just some evil person who the devil is taking the credit?
The song was inspired by the book from Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov and his novel The Master and Margarita. The book was given to Mick Jagger by his then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. When Mick wrote the song, it was originally written as a folk song and quite different than the final version.
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For My Sunday Song #101, we go back to picking some of my favorite songs and no theme behind these next 10. First up is “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who. The song is off their album ‘Who’s Next’ and was the final song on the album as well as a single which wen tall the way to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. If you aren’t familiar with it, you might know it as the song on the opening credits for the CBS show CSI: Miami.
The song was written during the ‘Lifehouse’ project the Who were working on. This was another rock opera following the success of ‘Tommy’; however, the project was later scrapped. This song was so good that they felt it would work as a standalone song on the album that became ‘Who’s Next’.
The song is about a revolution and you can see that through the lyrics. The beginning of the song is of course the beginning of the uprising of the revolution. The middle of the song has the revolution over with the new people in power and the song ends with the new people in power being just as bad as the previous people so they have to start a new revolution. It is a stark look at the reality of government. You might vote someone new into office, but they are just as bad or worse than who was previously in power. It is a constant struggle across the globe.
The song itself is absolutely amazing. It is over 8 minutes long or you can get the single edit which is shortened to a measly 3:36, but you miss the whole power behind the song. The original “full” version is a stroke of genius musically. Pete outdoes himself with both his guitar work and his work on the synthesizer which is the main focus of the song. The synthesizer is symbolic of the revolution and you can track the progression with the impact of it during the song.
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