Danceable Rock

Sweet Caroline-Neil Diamond

“Sweet Caroline” is one of the most interesting “rock-ish” tune in our repertoire. It’s not a great song, but it is astonishingly memorable. It is so universally adored that I’ve never played “Sweet Caroline” when it wasn’t one of the biggest hits of the party. It also seems to be ageless, and genre-less. Everybody knows it, and everybody feels totally comfortable belting out the lyrics with our singers. That is a rather unique response to a very average song. A lot of people know some words to most tunes. But, with “Sweet Caroline” it is not uncommon to have the whole party singing with their arms around each other.

The most interesting element of the song, if you listen carefully, is the orchestration. The opening melodies are played by a French horn, followed by an oboe. When the famous “hands….” portions starts, it’s accompanied by shimmering strings, followed with a full horn section. All in all, it’s simply a remarkably famous song that people love to sing with, rather than dance to. But, as long as people are having fun, it’s all good. Here are the lyrics, which according to YouTube, was dedicated to President John Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline.

Where it began, I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s growing strong
Was in the spring, and spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along
Hands, touching hands
Reaching out, touching me, touching you

Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good
I’d be inclined, to believe they never would
But now I…
Look at the night and it don’t seem so lonely
We filled it up with only two
And when I hurt, hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I’m holding you
One, touching one. Reaching out, touching me, touching you
Sweet Caroline……….

Start Me Up-The Rolling Stone

“Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones is one of those great songs that never fails to pack a dance floor at any party. Once again, it’s got all the perfect elements to pack a dance floor. Keith Richards’  iconic guitar introduction makes the song instantly recognizable. Mick Jagger’s lyrics are, as usual less than brilliant, but definitely “sing-alongable.” Aside from the title, the phrase “you make a grown man cry” are forever implanted in the rock lexicon. Here is an example of the lyrics, which seem more like random syllables to match the rhythm, than an attempt at pop poetry. But you go to The Rolling Stones for raw energy, of which this song is filled.

You can start me up
You can start me up I’ll never stop
I’ve been running hot
You got me just about to blow my top
You can start me up, you can start me up,
I’ll never stop, never stop, never stop, never stop
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
You make a grown man cry
Spread out the oil, the gasoline
I walk smooth ride in a mean, mean machine
Rolling Stones
Let me know your thoughts; leave me a message.
Doug

Living On A Prayer-Bon Jovi

Rock band Bon Jovi’s 1986 song “Living On A Prayer” remains as popular today as it did when it was first released in 1986. The lyrics tell about a financially strapped blue-collar couple named Tommy and Gina trying to make enough money to survive. Hence the title…”Living On A Prayer.” The instantly recognizable bass line is dynamic enough to pack a dance floor before the first note is sung. Lead singer Jon Bon Jovi’s crystal clear tenor voice carries the melody over screaming rock synthesizers and guitars.

What distinguishes “Living On A Prayer” from so many other rock anthems is the key change near the very end of the song. The strength of that dynamic musical change takes the song to another, even stronger level of excitement just as you think the song is peaking. The fact that he can even still sing the song in the original key after thirty years later is astonishing on its own. The video, shot live at Madison Square Garden as part of a benefit for the victims of “Hurricane Katrina,” shows Jon Bon Jovi starting the song out a capella, and is quickly joined by the entire crowd before the band kicks in to start the song in its original form.

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The full album, “Slippery When Wet,” written by bandmates Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora also contains the band’s two other most famous songs…”You Give Love A Bad Name” and “Wanted Dead Or Alive.” “Living On A Prayer” is still one of the most popular songs we play at parties, and invariably gets the guests involved, singing along, just like the slightly larger crowd at Madison Square Garden. Definitely a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Let me know what you think.
-Doug

Walk This Way-Aerosmith/Run DMC

I couldn’t write a better description of the Aerosmith-Run DMC collaboration than this one that originally appeared in TIME Magazine. The only thing not mentioned in this insightful review below is that the original Aerosmith version reached #9 on the Billboard Charts in 1975. Then the reworked collaboration reached #4 eleven years later, which is pretty impressive. Here’s TIME Magazine’s account of the song’s history.

“It’s difficult to think of a more obvious metaphor for the divide between rock and hip-hop than the one in this video: literally a brick wall (one, by the way, that doesn’t appear to be very stable). In 1986, Run-DMC was an Adidas-rocking rap group on its way up, Aerosmith a quickly fading rock band that had achieved its peak in the mid-to-late ’70s (and whose members looked it — honestly, they still do). Originally recorded for 1975’s Toys in the Attic album, the song “Walk This Way” had a fantastic, jagged guitar lick. A little more than a decade later, Run-DMC blindly sampled it, discovered where it came from and got in touch with Aerosmith. A genre-smashing video was born. The concept is straightforward: The two bands practice in adjacent studios. Their music is different, but their servitude to the power of the beat is the same. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler busts through that wall, and a new partnership is formed. What’s it matter the type of music as long as it thrills the ears and compels the hips? Yes, it’s literal, but everyone who watched this video got the message loud and clear.”

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Either version of this seminal rock tune works amazingly well on the dance floor.
Love this song. You can’t sit this one out. What do you think? Enjoy it!
-Doug

Addicted To Love-Robert Palmer

When Robert Palmer’s video of his mega-hit “Addicted To Love” on MTV in 1985 it caused a major sensation for its obvious sexuality.  But the song, as well as the video, was such an instant hit, and Palmer was already such an established and well respected singer/songwriter that it was taken as mere “tongue in cheek” humor.

The exact same thing can, and should, be said about the video for “Blurred Lines” which is a blatant rip-off of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love.” The only difference between the two videos is that the girls were totally naked in “Blurred Lines.”  The terrific filmmaker Richard Curtis pays tribute to the “pouty girls backing up the singer” genre in his much-loved romantic comedy, Love Actually. 

Almost thirty years later, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were taken to court and ordered to pay damages to the estate of Marvin Gaye because they more or less stole his song “Got To Give It Up.” What I never understood is why Pharrell, who is a brilliant businessman, as well as an incredible songwriter and producer, didn’t just announce that the song was an homage to the great Marvin Gaye, and negotiate a fee, or a portion of the royalties to Marvin Gaye’s family before he released the song.

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But rather than make this a condemnation of the authenticity of “Blurred Lines’“, I want this post to give kudos to “Addicted To Love” as a strong, guitar-driven song that successfully blurred the lines between dance music and rock ‘n roll.

Watch the video, listen to the tune….and let me know what you think.
Doug

 

Don’t Stop Believin’-Journey

 

I have long been convinced that the TV show “Glee” made the song “Don’t Stop Believin'” the most iconic rock song of all time. The original song was recorded by the rock group Journey in 1981, and was a hit, reaching #9 on the Billboard Charts. But it wasn’t until 2009, when the cast of “Glee” sang it in the pilot episode that it was introduced to a whole new generation.

“Glee” was such a global phenomenon (despite having entire orchestras magically appear to accompany their supposed a cappella arrangements) that the original Journey single was re-released in 2009 taking full advantage of the show’s rabid cult following.

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Steve Perry has always had one of the best, and certainly one of the highest, voice in the history of rock. Even the late, great Michael Jackson jumped into his falsetto when singing in Perry’s register, which is why “cover bands” (like mine) have always had to have the female vocalist sing his songs.

“Don’t Stop Believin'” is so universally recognizable that it was playing in the background during the  very last scene of the finale of “The Sopranos.”  I guarantee Journey never thought they were writing a dance song, but when was the last time you were at a wedding and didn’t hear the song that made South Detroit a vacation hotspot?

(Re)check it out!
-Doug

 

 

Taking Care Of Business-BTO

I recently wrote a blog about how “people will invariably dance to songs they can sing along with.” The post was about the pop tune “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk The Moon, and how they repeat the phrase “Shut Up and Dance” 15 times. Bachman Turner Overdrive‘s 1973 Rock hit “Taking Care Of Business” repeats the title phrase 50 times. And that’s with a fade-out…

Here is the actual chorus:
And I’ll be takin’ care of business every day
Takin’ care of business every way
I’ve been takin’ care of business, it’s all mine
Takin’ care of business and working overtime, work out.

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This song definitely meets at least two of my prerequisites for a guaranteed successful (wedding) dance song: 1. An instantly recognizable instrumental guitar hook; 2. And easily acquired “sing-alongability.” It’s really is perfect to add to our Classic Rock repertoire.
Let me know what you think.
-Doug

 

Old Time Rock and Roll-Bob Seger

My only goal at any party is to get the dance floor packed, and keep it packed for as long as possible.

Rule No. 1 People dance to songs to which they can sing along to, or are at least familiar with. Although we haven’t played this song in at least a dozen years, it’s fun to consider it here on a Throwback Thursday.
Rule No. 2 People are much more likely to start dancing to songs whose instrumental introductions are immediately familiar.

Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” became the classic example of just such a recognizable introduction in this scene that made an overnight star of a young Tom Cruise from the movie “Risky Business.”

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Other examples would be the guitar intro to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” or The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” (or any of a dozen other Stones tunes.) Usher’s 4-note synthesizer intro to “Yeah” is a more contemporary example of song introductions that get people running to the dance floor. Don’t forget about oldies “Shout,” and “Twist ‘n Shout.” I think you get the idea!

Let me know what you think.
Doug

Pride & Joy-Stevie Ray Vaughan

The lyrics to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s rock classic “Pride and Joy” don’t much deeper than “Yeah I love my lady, she’s long and lean…she’s my swet little baby, I’m her little lover boy.” But the no-prisoners guitar and hard-driving lyrics propel this blues anthem into a perennial party favorite.

Well you’ve heard about love givin’ sight to the blind
My baby’s lovin’ cause the sun to shine
She’s my sweet little thang she’s my pride and joy
She’s my sweet little baby I’m her little lover boy

Yeah I love my baby heart and soul
Love like ours won’t never grow old
She’s my sweet little thang she’s my pride and joy
She’s my sweet little baby I’m her little lover boy

 

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We first played “Pride and Joy” with the father of the bride singing lead and playing guitar. Now that was fun. Any time you can make a wedding feel more like a “black tie frat party” you should go for it.

Let me know what you think.
-Doug