I am back from France so I will restart the lists shortly and then restart Song of the Day a week on Monday. Had a great time and saw lots of interesting things, including many war sites along the way, Paris and of course, the glorious Alps. I am a bit bruised and battered from throwing myself down a mountain on a mountain bike and got sunburnt in the excessive heat.
The picture shows the 21 Turns leading to Alpe d’Huez, where we were staying, which this week will host the Tour de France.
Just a quick message to say that I am going travelling through France, hence this week’s travel theme. I will be setting off later and taking the ferry from Dover to Calais, hoping that I, my boyfriend and our two friends don’t encounter any problems, given the problems over there at the moment. We have a car full of provisions and love to get us by though.
We are staying in the North of France for two nights before will be driving wherever the road takes us, through big cities and sleepy towns, down to the Alps in the South, on the border with Italy. We will be doing silly things like throwing ourselves down mountains on mountain bikes and enjoying what promises to be some of the best scenery we have ever seen.
I wish you all well, I will miss posting on here but will be back as soon as I can. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm towards my work and all your likes, it has been wonderful so far and I will look forward to seeing you all soon.
With my deepest gratitude, “Looking out from here, at half past France”,
I Drove All Night is a song written by songwriting duo Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. The duo have also exhibited their vast tune crafting skills on some of pop’s best known hits, including Madonna’s Like A Virgin, released on her 1984 album Like A Virgin; …
… True Colours, which was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper on her 1986 album, True Colours …
and later by Phil Collins on his 1998 compilation album, Hits …; …
… Alone by Heart, from their 1987 album Bad Animals; …
… So Emotional, recorded by Whitney Houston on her 1987 album Whitney; …
… Eternal Flame, recorded by The Bangles for their 1988 album Everything; …
… I Touch Myself, recorded by The Divinyls for their 1991 album, Divinyls …
… and Night in My Veins …
… and I’ll Stand By You, recorded by The Pretenders and both featured on their 1994 album, Last of the Independents.
Like many of their songs, I Drove All Night started with merely a title thought up by lyricist, Steinberg. Steinberg lived in Coachella Valley in California at the time and spent a lot of time driving backwards and forwards between Los Angeles and the desert. It was on one of these many drives that he came up with the title for the song.
The song tells of a driver and his desperation to reach their loved one, whilst utilising a key theme in Steinberg’s lyrics, sex and sexual desire. There is a certain filmic quality to the lyrics, complimented by the driving rhythm, particularly on the Orbison version. The narrator of the song tells of how, “I had to escape, the city was sticky and cruel, Maybe I should have called you first, But I was dying to get to you”. The narrator continues to tell of his desperation as they escape the oppressiveness of the city in the following lines, “I was dreaming when I drove the long straight road ahead, Uh-huh, yeah, Could taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide, This fever for you is just burning me up inside”. In the song, the heat of the city which the singer escapes and the “fever” caused by their desire is likened to the heat associated with sexual interaction. Further into the song, the narrator tells of how “I think about you when the night is cold and dark, uh-huh, yeah” before stating, “No one can move me the way that you do, Nothing erases this feeling between me and you” re-enforcing the feeling of emptiness when not with the object of their desire.
The desire felt by the narrator reaches its climax in the monolithic chorus of “I drove all night, To get to you, Is that alright? I drove all night, Crept in your room, Woke you from your sleep, To make love to you, Is that alright? I drove all night”.
I Drove All Night was first recorded by Roy Orbison in 1987 but was left unreleased until 1992, four years after the singer’s death, when it was finally released as a single and featured on the posthumous King of Hearts album.
In an interview with Songfacts in 2009, Steinberg spoke of Orbison influencing on his and Kelly’s songwriting:
“Tom and I were both huge Roy Orbison fans. Tom grew up in Indiana and I grew up in Palm Springs, California and we really are as different as night and day as people, but the one thing that we have always shared in common is that we always liked the same music when we were kids. We both loved the Everly Brothers, Laura Nyro and Roy Orbison. We had, like most songwriters do, certain artists who inspired us and would inspire our songwriting, and one of those was Roy Orbison. When we wrote the song I Drove All Night, we didn’t entertain any fantasy about Roy ever recording this song. We just set out to write a song sort of in the style of Roy Orbison. In fact, what I would refer to as the B section of that song, the British would call it a pre-chorus, when it goes, “Taste your sweet kisses, your arms open wide”, that part that lifts into the chorus, it has a definite similarity to the Roy Orbison song Running Scared [single A-side, 1961 / Crying, 1962].
We had great fun writing that song because it felt like it authentically captured the spirit of the drama that Roy Orbison would inject into the great songs that he wrote, songs like Running Scared, Crying [Crying, 1962] …
… or In Dreams [In Dreams, 1963]”.
Despite the fact that I Drove All Night has all the hallmarks of a great Orbison single, the song was actually first offered to another artist, Peter Kingsbery, a Texas-based singer from a band called Cock Robin. Steinberg said of this:
“We heard Cock Robin play live and this guy Peter Kingsbury had this great voice very much like Roy Orbison – it’s a powerful voice. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if he would sing I Drove All Night, so we invited him over to Tom’s house where we had a studio. Peter was a good guy, a little bit arrogant. He heard the song and he liked it, but he said, ‘Well. I’m a songwriter myself. Why would I record one of your songs?’ It was a nice meeting but he didn’t have any interest in recording our song”.
On the 9th February 1987, Steinberg and Kelly saw Orbison perform at a supper club in Lakewood, California called The Hop:
“When we walked in, the place was jammed and most of the people there were middle-aged women. At that time, Roy hadn’t had a record on the charts in many years. He did not have a recording contract. Roy hadn’t been heard in a long time. The band went up on stage, Roy was not in sight and there were a couple of background singers. The band starts playing and the girls start singing the intro to Only the Lonely [single A-side, 1960 / Lonely and Blue, 1961] …
… I sort of braced myself. I said to myself, ‘His vocals on his records are so otherworldly and so unbelievable that there’s no way the guy’s going to walk in this club and sing those songs he did on those records’. Roy Orbison walks out and he sang Only the Lonely and he sang all his hits and if it’s possible, he sang them better than he did on his records. It was just unbelievable. It was one of the great moments in my life, just to be there in this small club and hear Roy sing one hit after another. When the show was over, Tom and I wandered outside and there was his trailer. Of course, we were hoping to meet Roy. We didn’t, but we met somebody who I guess was Roy’s manager at the time. We mentioned we had written a few hits an were Roy Orbison fans. Not much came out of that, then for some reason I went into a recording studio called Record One in Sherman Oaks and Roy Orbison was in there recording. I went up to him and said, ‘A few months ago, Tom and I heard you play at this club and you were so good’. We kind of connected and somehow we arranged that he would come by Tom’s house and do some work with us and that maybe we would write together. We had already written I Drove All Night’. We had a demo of it with Tom singing it. Tom and I walked out and were standing out in the street. We looked down the street and we saw in the distance a red Ferrari convertible coming up the street and we both knew that it had to be Roy Orbison. He was driving slowly like someone would who was looking for a street number. As the car pulled up, we saw a guy with big black sunglasses, black hair, and there on the residential street in Woodland Hills was Roy Orbison getting out of his red Ferrari to work with Tom and me. Working with Chrissie Hynde, The Bangles or The Divinyls is one thing because those are people of my generation, but Roy had been a childhood idol. Roy was somebody whose songs just changed my life when I was a kid, so to have him standing there as a peer, someone I was going to work with, my knees wanted to buckle. We walked into Tom’s house and there was the idea we could write something together and he just didn’t seem to really want to start writing a song, so rather than write something we said, ‘Well, we’ve got a song that we think you could sing really well’, and we played him I Drove All Night. He said he liked it. Tom played either piano or guitar and taught him the song. Roy stepped up to the microphone. We all had headphones on and Roy sang two takes of the song. Tom and I had written into that song a section that goes, “Uh-huh, yeah”, and when Tom sang it on our demo, we would laugh because Tom was blatantly trying to sound like Roy and then when Roy did it, it was a moment that was just unbelievable because Roy did it like it was supposed to be done. Roy did two takes of the song and I gave him some song lyrics. He took them with him with the idea that he might write something to them or that we could work on something in the future. So we had this demo of Roy Orbison singing I Drove All Night, but Roy didn’t have a recording contract at the time and Tom and I didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything with Roy Orbison’s version of the song. We couldn’t sign him to a recording contract or promote him with anything at that point in time. We didn’t know what to do with it. By that time, True Colours had been a big hit for Cyndi Lauper and she had expressed an interest in meeting us and writing with us, so Tom and I flew to New York and we took with us the demo of I Drove All Night sung by Tom because we figured that she could sing it well. We wrote a couple of songs with Cyndi and we presented this song, I Drove All Night, to her and she liked it and immediately went about recording it. Tom and I even participated in demonstrating that song to a couple of musicians she worked with. She recorded it and it came out on her record called A Night to Remember (1989)”.
Additionally, Lauper stated that she recorded the song because she “liked the idea of a woman driving, being in control” whilst in an interview with The Guardian in 2012, she said of the song:
“You don’t put accounts in charge of music. When that happens, you just have shit-ass music that sells but doesn’t have soul. Music is not a fucking graph. It’s a phenomenon. I didn’t just want to have a hit bubblegum song – I wanted to lift people up with music that had a message. Even when I sang I Drove All Night, I did that because there weren’t enough songs about women drivers”.
When released as a single, Lauper’s version of the song reached number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100, the singer’s last US top 40 single to date. It also reached number 7 on the UK singles chart, was certified gold by RIAA and received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The music video for Lauper’s version was directed by Scott Lalvert and Lauper herself and features shots of an antique car, some characteristically manic dancing from Lauper and a movie projected onto Lauper’s naked body.
Following Orbison’s session with Steinberg and Kelly, he had secured a recording contract with Virgin Records and set about recording what would become Mystery Girl with Jeff Lynne as producer. The album was released in February 1989, two months after Orbison’s death. The album featured the hit single You Got It, also released in 1989.
In 1988, Orbison also joined the Traveling Wilburys with Lynne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, recording the album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988). Steinberg said of this period:
“From afar we sort of watched Roy’s career come back. We were pleased for him but we didn’t participate because of all the great admirers of Roy had started to come out of the woodwork. People like Jeff Lynne, Bruce Springsteen and Bono. He didn’t exactly need Steinberg / Kelly when he had people of that calibre wanting to work with him. Roy died and a number of years went by. Tom and I took our demo of I Drove All Night to Jordan Harris, who was an A&R guy at Virgin. We got to know Jordan because we worked with The Divinyls, who were signed to Virgin. We said to Jordan, ‘Did you know Roy did a version of I Drove All Night early on?’ And he said, ‘No, I had no idea’. We played it for him and he said, ‘We want to make a record of the remaining masters that we have on Roy. We’d love to use that’. Our demo had been a very rough 16 track affair. We gave it to Jeff Lynne and Jeff rebuilt the track around the vocal we had cut. That was very satisfying for us”.
When it was released as a single, the Orbison version of the song reached number 7 on the singles chart, the same position that Lauper’s version had reached three years earlier. The music video for Orbison’s version features Jason Priestly and Jennifer Connelly.
The Traveling Wilburys were an English-American supergroup made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty. The band recorded two albums, Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 1) (1988) and the mischievously and misleadingly titled Traveling Wilburys (Vol. 3) (1990). Orbison died in December 1988, two months after the release of the first album.
Harrison had first mentioned the Traveling Wilburys during a radio interview with Bob Coburn on the Rockline Radio station in February 1988. In answer to Coburn asking Harrison what he planned to do as a follow up to his 1987 album, Cloud Nine, Harrison replied: “What I’d really like to do next is … to do an album with me and some of my mates ,,, a few tunes, you know. Maybe The Traveling Wilburys … it’s this new group I got: it’s called the Traveling Wilburys, I’d like to do an album with them and later we can do our own albums again”.
The band’s name derived from a slang term first used by Harrison during the recording of Cloud Nine with Lynne as producer. ‘Wilbury’ referred to any small mistake in the performance, with Harrison saying to Lynne, “We’ll bury ‘em in the mix”. Harrison originally suggested the name Trembling Wilburys for the band but Lynne suggested Traveling Wilburys, to which all members agreed.
The band name uses the American-English spelling, ‘Traveling’ in order to compliment the American / English membership of the band. The ‘Wilbury’ joke was extended to the pseudonyms used by the band. Taking on the guise of the Wilbury brothers, Harrison became Nelson Wilbury; Lynne became Otis Wilbury; Orbison became Lefty Wilbury and Petty became Charlie T. Jr. Wilbury. Harrison had already used a number of pseudonyms in the past. Take for example on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967).
Additionally, as a session musician, he had gone under names such as L’Angelo Misterioso, George O’Hara and Hari Georgeson. The five men stated that they were half-brothers and sons of the fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury Sr. The real names of the band members never appear anywhere on any Traveling Wilburys release.
The band began with a meal between Harrison, Lynne and Orbison. Shortly afterwards, they convened at Dylan’s home in Malibu, California to record a B-side for Harrison’s single, This Is Love (Cloud Nine, 1987). Petty’s involvement came by chance due to Harrison leaving his guitar at Petty’s house. When Harrison went to collect it, he took Petty back with him. The resulting song was Handle with Care. Those involved in the recording and Harrison’s record label felt that the song was too good to be thrown away on a single flipside and the five friends set out to record an entire album. Recording took place in the home and garden of Eurythmics member, Dave Stewart. Handle with Care is the opening cut on the resulting album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1.
The theme of travelling in the music of the Traveling Wilburys is most prevalent on the band’s second single and closing track of Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, End of the Line. The single was released in January 1989. The riding-on-the-rails rhythm of the song compliments the travel by train themed lyrics and the on-the-move nature of the band. The whole band take on main vocal duties on the song, with the exception of Dylan. Harrison, Lynne and Orbison take turns in singing the chorus whilst Petty sings the verses. By the end of the song, the riding-on-the-rails rhythm has expanded into a freight train style rhythm. Due to the video for the single being shot after the death of Orbison, the band opted to pay tribute to him with a single shot of a guitar sitting in a rocking chair next to a photo of their late friend. The video shows the band members in a carriage of a steam train playing the song.
The song’s title refers to the train’s last stop whilst the lyrics contain the folk style wisdom derived from the band members’ past experiences. As the song starts, Harrison takes the lead vocal with backing vocals from the other Wilburys. The opening chorus sets the scene for the song, portraying the band members as free spirits: “Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze, Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please, Well it’s all right, doing the best you can, Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand”.
In the first verse, with lead vocals by Petty, the band tell of how they are unconstrained by every day things: “You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring, Waiting for someone to tell you everything, Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring, Maybe a diamond ring”.
Following this, the second chorus, with lead vocals by Lynne finds the band telling the listener not to take any notice of what anybody else says: “Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong, Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay, Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgement Day”.
Verse two, with lead vocals from Petty, finds the narrator thinking of somebody he has left behind: “Maybe somewhere down the road aways, You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days, Maybe somewhere down the road where somebody plays, Purple Haze”. “Purple Haze” refers to the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze. Purple Haze was released as the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second single in 1967 and was the opening song on the North American edition of his debut album, Are You Experienced?, also released in 1967. Here, Petty is expecting his muse to associate the song with him whilst she is thinking of him.
The third chorus, with lead vocals by Orbison, continues the joyous celebration of being unfettered by worrying about the troubles of life: “Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove, Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine, Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”. This verse is poignant due to “the end of the line” being an analogy for death as well as the end of the railway line.
The third verse, with lead vocals by Petty, tells of how the narrator cares little about material possessions and states that he doesn’t even mind if anybody is “by his side”, perhaps meaning a loved one or those who criticise him in general: “Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive, I’m glad to be here, happy to be alive, It don’t matter if you’re by my side, I’m satisfied”.
The fourth chorus, sung by Harrison, begins with the lines, “Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey, Well it’s all right, you still got something to say”. When the band formed, Harrison was 45 years old Dylan and Orbison were even older. Whilst traditional societies have often emphasised the wisdom of older people, modern rock music usually considers even the relative middle age of 45 as being too old to be relevant. This verse is notable for being adapted as the theme tune for the BBC series New Tricks (2003 – present) and sung by cast member Dennis Waterman.
As the fourth chorus continues, we find the line “Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live”. “Live and let live” was the name given to the strategy used by soldiers of both sides in World War One to avoid killing each other if it could be helped, often via the negotiation of truces between low-ranking soldiers. The war was essentially a pointless one, with the common man not having much to gain or a cause to fight for. As a result, these truces were quite common. The most famous truce occurred on Christmas Day, 1914 when the opposing sides took part in a football match. Unfortunately, such truces were easily broken with high ranking officers organising raids to encourage the violence to start again or disciplining soldiers for cowardice if they objected to killing. The punishment for cowardice was death. In the context of this song, however, “live and let live” means something akin to “let sleeping dogs lie”; i.e. live your life without harming others if necessary. The final line of the fourth chorus, “Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive” suggests that we should forgive those who have wronged you in order to be free of bitterness and therefore, happy.
The song comes full circle with the final chorus, with lead vocals by Harrison, which starts with the same two lines found in the first chorus. The verse continues with the line, “Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine”. The sun and clouds were reoccurring metaphors in Harrison’s songs, representing peacefulness and clarity. For the best examples of this, see All Things Must Pass (All Things Must Pass, 1970); …
… Blow Away (George Harrison, 1979) …
… and Here Comes the Sun (The Beatles, 1968).
The song and the journey are neatly brought to a close with the line, “Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line”.
In 2000, End of the Line was used at the close of the last episode of BBC television comedy One Foot in the Grave, Things Aren’t That Simple Anymore. The song was played over a montage of clips from the lifetime of the show, following the death of its main character, Victor Meldrew. Interestingly, Eric Idle, who provided provided the liner notes for Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 under the pseudonym Prof. Tiny’ Hampton, wrote and sang the theme tune for One Foot in the Grave.
2-4-6-8 Motorway was the first single released by the British punk rock / new wave group, Tom Robinson Band. Released on the 7th October 1977, the single reached number five in the UK singles chart. The band had only formed in January of the same year and was signed to EMI in the August.
Robinson had written 2-4-6-8 Motorway between leaving his previous band, Cafe Society, in 1976 and forming his new band. At the beginning of the Tom Robinson Band, Robinson was playing gigs with whichever friends were available on the night, so the song was written in order that it could be learnt in a matter of minutes.
The music of 2-4-6-8 Motorway was conceived whilst Robinson was attempting to work out the chords for the Climax Blues Band song, Couldn’t Get It Right (Gold Plated, 1976).
He couldn’t remember the tune properly and this led to the song having just three chords repeated throughout the whole song. The song has a suitably driving beat which helps to conjure up visions in the listener’s mind of the “ol’ ten-ton lorry” travelling down the motorway.
Lyrically, the song was inspired by Robinson’s memories of driving back to London through the night after gigs with Cafe Society. He explained this in an interview with M Magazine in 2011: “The verse lyric came from having done cheap gigs around the country with my previous band, Cafe Society, and driving back through the night from places like Scarborough and Rotherham. By the time our van hit the last stretch of the M1 into London, the motorway sun really was coming up to the morning light”.
The song tells of the joys of driving a truck with lines such as “Drive my truck midway to the motorway station” and all the things the narrator encounters on his journey, such as “Fairlane cruiser coming on up on the left side”, “The little young Lady Stardust hitching a ride” and “Whizzkid sitting pretty on your two-wheel stallion”. “The little young Lady Stardust” takes her name from the David Bowie song Lady Stardust, from the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). Given that Robinson is openly gay, something celebrated in the song Glad to Be Gay and that the Lady Stardust in Bowie’s song is actually male, it could be suggested that 2-4-6-8 Motorway is about a gay truck driver and even that the narrator picks up “Little young Lady Stardust” for a “ride” in the sense of sexual intercourse.
Elsewhere in the song, Robinson sings “Me and my radio truckin’ on thru the night”. In this line, the “radio” could either refer to a radio in the stereo system sense or perhaps the CB radios used as a communication tool between truck drivers. Other lines include “Headlight shining, driving rain on the window pane” and “… on the double white line”, which further evoke thoughts of travelling on the motorway. Additionally, the narrator tells of how he doesn’t need anybody but his beloved truck and the simplicity of only having himself to answer to in lines such as “Ain’t no use setting up with a bad companion, Ain’t nobody get the better of you-know-who” and “Well there ain’t no route you could choose to lose the two of us, Ain’t nobody know when you’re acting right or wrong”.
The chorus of the song was adapted from a Gay Lib chant which went, “2-4-6-8, Gay is twice as good as straight … 3, 5, 7, 9, Lesbians are mighty fine”. Although the origins of the chorus are not apparent to the casual listener, they could be seen as a precursor to later more politically driven songs such as the follow up single, Glad to Be Gay (1978).
On hearing the song, EMI turned it down, but following a period of touring in which the band became tighter and guitarist Danny Kustow expanded his riff repertoire, they relented and released the record. The single was such an instant success that it saw the band performing it on Top of the Pops on the 27th of October and later on the 10th of November.
2-4-6-8 Motorway was not featured on the band’s debut album Power in the Darkness (1978). Robinson had described the decision to not include the song as a “fatal mistake” on many occasions. However, in the US, the song was included on a free 7” EP, together with Gad to Be Gay, which came with the album.
Paul Simon released his seventh solo album, Graceland, in 1986. Prior to the album’s release, Simon’s career had hit an all-time low. Following a reunion with former partner Art Garfunkel, which had been successful but contentious, Simon’s marriage to actress Carrie Fisher had fallen apart and his previous record, Hearts and Bones (1983), had been a commercial disaster. In 1984, following a period of depression, Simon became fascinated by a bootleg cassette of South African township music. He planned a trip to Johannesburg in the New Year with producer Roy Halee, where he spent two weeks recording with South African musicians, who most famously included Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
The album was recorded between 1985 and 1986 and featured an eclectic mix of styles ranging from pop and rock to a cappella, zydeco, isicathamiya and andmbaqanga. Simon faced much controversy for seemingly breaking the cultural boycott imposed by the rest of the world against the apartheid regime in South Africa at the time. Furthermore, some critics felt that Graceland was an exploitive appropriation of African cultures. Despite the controversy, Graceland was a major commercial hit, becoming Simon’s most successful solo album.
During the recording of the album, Simon would remain unsure of the album’s thematic connection. He kept dozens of yellow legal pads with random words and phrases which he would combine in an attempt to define the album. The album’s title was taken from a phrase written on one of the pads, “driving through wasteland”, which was changed to “going to Graceland”, a reference to the Memphis home of Elvis Presley. In doing so, Simon believed that it represented a spiritual direction. Just as he had taken his trip to Africa to collect ideas, he also took a trip to Graceland in order to revitalise his love for music.
The album’s title track tells of the singer’s thoughts during this journey following the failure of his second marriage. As the song opens, we find the lines, “The Mississippi Delta was shining, Like a national guitar” in which the singer romanticises the spiritual home of the blues and the birthplace of modern music as we know it. In the following lines, “I’m following the river down the highway, Through the cradle of the civil war”, the singer is driving through the area where many civil war battles were fought.
Following the chorus of the song, the second verse introduces us to Simon’s travel companion with the lines, “My travelling companion is nine years old, He is the child of my first marriage”. Simon’s first marriage was to Peggy Harper from 1969 to 1975. They had one son, Harper Simon. However, Harper Simon was born in 1972, which would make the year of Simon’s trip to Graceland, 1981. We know that the trip took place later, somewhere between 1983 and 1986. Therefore, the child that Simon is talking about is more likely to be a metaphor for the emotional baggage which he carries from his first marriage. With Simon’s marriage to Peggy Harper ending in 1975, we can date his journey to Graceland to 1984. The idea of the “child” being a metaphorical one is made more apparent by the later line, “And my travelling companions are ghosts and empty sockets”, with the “ghosts” and “empty sockets” being the reminders of Simon’s failed relationships. In several lines of the song, such as “But I’ve reason to believe, We both will be received in Graceland” Graceland is portrayed as a spiritual place, somewhere which the singer and other imperfect sinners can be unburdened of their troubles and regrets. This can also be seen in the line in the chorus, “Poor boys and pilgrims with families”.
In the third verse of the song, Simon speaks of Fisher, describing the way “she” had physically left him but had then returned to let him know that she was leaving: “She comes back to tell me she’s gone, As if I didn’t know that”. Simon also tells of how his sense of observation has been insulted by his wife telling him she has left him in the lines, “As if I didn’t know my own bed, As if I didn’t know that”. In the same verse, Simon drifts into daydreaming thinking about his estranged wife with lines such as “As if I’d never noticed the way she brushed her hair from her forehead”. Following this, Simon speaks of how vulnerable love makes people and the devastating effect his marriage break up has been on him with words spoken to him by Fisher: “and she said, “Losing love, Is like a window in your heart, Everybody sees you’re blown apart, Everybody sees the wind blow”.
Some of the most curious lines of the song are found in verse five: “There’s a girl in New York City, Who calls herself the human trampoline”. Simon explained the meaning of “human trampoline” to SongTalk magazine, saying:
“That line came to me when I was walking past the Museum of Natural History. For no reason I can think of. It’s not related to anybody. Or anything. It just struck me as funny. Although that’s an image that people remember, they talk about that line. But really, what interested me was the next line, because I was using the word “Graceland” but it wasn’t in the chorus. I was bringing “Graceland” back into the verse. Which is one of the things I learned from African music: the recapitulation of themes can come in different places”.
As the Simon’s travelogue draws to a close, he sings of how the beauty of Graceland is the way in which “pilgrims” are received without question and do not need to explain themselves: “And I may be obliged to defend, Every love, every ending, Or maybe there’s no obligations now”.
Musically, Graceland is notable for featuring guest backing vocals from Simon’s childhood heroes, Don and Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers. Simon had previously paid tribute to the duo on Simon and Garfunkel’s album Bring Over Troubled Water (1970), which features a cover of the Everly Brothers’ Bye Bye Love (The Everly Brothers, 1958).
In The Story of Graceland as Told by Paul Simon, released by Legacy Recordings on the 25th Anniversary of Graceland, Simon stated, “I always heard that song as a perfect Everly Brothers song”.
Physical Graffiti was Led Zeppelin’s sixth album, released on 24th February 1975. The band wrote eight new songs for what would become Physical Graffiti at Headley Grange recording studios. Upon realising that due to the length of the tracks, they would not be able to fit all eight songs on one record, they decided to make Physical Graffiti a double LP by using the eight recorded tracks together with one outtake from Led Zeppelin III, three from Led Zeppelin IV and three from Houses of the Holy, including the unused title track. The new songs written for Physical Graffiti included Kashmir, a monolithic eight minute piece which became a staple part of every Led Zeppelin concert from 1975 onwards.
The song was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, with contributions from John Bohnam, over a period of three years. The lyrics were written by Plant in 1973 immediately after Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US Tour in an area he has referred to “the waste lands” of Southern Morocco, whilst driving from Goulimine to Tantan in the Sahara Desert. Despite the geographical location of the song’s conception, the song is named after Kashmir, a region in the Indian subcontinent. In an interview with William S. Burroughs in 1975, Page mentioned that at the time of the song’s composition, none of the band had been to Kashmir. Plant explained the reason for naming the song Kashmir to Cameron Crowe for his extended essay to accompany the Led Zeppelin boxset, The Complete Studio Recordings in 1993:
“The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on, it was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. ‘Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams …’ It’s one of my favourites … that, All My Love and In the Light and two or three others were the finest moments. But Kashmir in particular, it was so positive, lyrically”.
In an article with Triple J Broadcasting Association for an article entitled Hottest 100 of All Time, in 2010, Plant spoke of the challenges which he faced writing lyrics for such a complex piece of music:
“It was an amazing piece of music to write to, and an incredible challenge for me … Because of the time signature, the whole deal of the song is … not grandiose, but powerful: it required some kind of epithet, or abstract lyrical setting about the whole idea of life being an adventure and being a series of illuminated moments. But everything is not what you see. It was quite a task, ‘cause I couldn’t sing it. It was like the song was bigger than me. It’s true: I was petrified, it’s true, it was painful, I was virtually in tears”.
The song has a very distinctive musical composition featuring a rising and falling guitar riff played on a guitar tuned to DADGAD. It was inspired by Middle-Eastern, Moroccan and Indian music. In the 1994 book, Led Zeppelin by Chris Welch, Page explained: “I had a sitar for some time and I was interested in modal tunings and Arabic stuff. It started off with a riff and then employed Eastern lines underneath”.
To add to the composition’s uniqueness, Kashmir was one of the very few Led Zeppelin songs to feature outside musicians. Session players were brought in the studio to record the string and horn sections. As well as the original Physical Graffiti version of the song, several alternative versions exist, including one entitled Driving Through Kashmir (Kashmir Rough Orchestra Mix) with a slightly different structure. This version was released in February 2015 as part of the remastering process of all nine albums.
Additionally, and perhaps most impressively out of the alternative versions of Kashmir, Page and Plant recorded a live 12 minute version with a Moroccan / Egyptian orchestra for their album No Quarter (1994).
As the lyrics begin with the line “Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream”, we are introduced to the narrator, a powerful, mysterious and transcending figure. This audible thought finds the narrator pausing from his travels to soak up the warmth and light from above, figuratively, and perhaps literally, recharging himself. In the following line, “I am a traveller of both time and space, to be where I have been”, we are told that this is a journey of epic proportions, one which transcends the limitations of this dimension, both temporarily and in physical space.
Following this, “To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world had seldom seen” could refer to Revelation 4:4 in the Book of Revelation where John the Apostle is caught up in the heavens and sees the 24 elders seated on their thrones: “And around the throne were twenty-four thrones and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads”. Alternatively, this line and the next three, “They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed, Talk and songs from lifting grace, whose sounds caress my ear, But not a word could I relate, the story was quite clear”, may refer to JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and Lord of the Rings (1954). Plant was well known to be a fan of Tolkien and often used imagery from his work. Take for instance, the lyrics to Ramble On (Led Zeppelin II, 1969): “Mine’s a tale that can’t be told, My freedom I hold dear, How years ago in days of old, When magic filled the air, ‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair, But Gollum and the evil one crept up, And slipped away with her”.
Additionally, see the song titles, Over the Hills and Far Away (Houses of the Holy, 1973) …
… and Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971).
Following this, the line “But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear” is also likely to be a Tolkien reference. In a number of Tolkien’s works, particularly The Silmarillion (1977), it is mentioned that when the elves sing in a language the listener can’t understand, they can sometimes still see the images that they are singing about.
Moving into the bridge section, the lyrics, “Oh, I been flying … mama, there ain’t no denyin’, I’ve been flyin’, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin’” could refer to the band travelling round the world before and during the composition of the song.
In the following lyrics, “All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground, And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land, Trying to find, trying to find where I’ve been”, we can clearly see the landscape which inspired Kashmir, “the wastelands” in southern Morocco. Next, “Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace”, perhaps refers to God, whilst following this, “like thoughts inside a dream” refers to the creator of the storm being as hard to visualise as the thought inside one’s dream. The creator is elusive and mysterious but somehow very real.
The “Shangri-La” mentioned in the lines “Heed the path that led me to that place, yellow desert stream, My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again” refers to the fictional paradise from James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon (1933). In the novel, Shangri-La is a utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet. Shangri-La is often referred to in the same way that someone would refer to the Garden of Eden. These lines suggest that the narrator of the song s haunted by the memories of the place which he speaks of and is attempting to return.
“Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin’ through Kashmir” finds the narrator once again speaking of the dusty road which inspired the song. Following this, the “father of the four winds” mentioned in the following line possibly refers to Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds who is usually depicted as the controller of the Anemoi, the minor wind gods. Alternatively, the “Father of the four winds” could possibly be another Tolkien reference: Manwe, the King of the Valar, from The Silmarillion.
More travel imagery follows with “… fill my sails, across the sea of years, With no provision but an open face, along the straits of fear”. Here, the lyrics once again compliment the utter vastness of the composition, with the narrator, the “traveller of both space and time”, travelling across “years”, unsure of what he will discover on his journey.
The song reaches its climax with Plant singing “… well I’m down so down … let me take you there”. Kashmir speaks of a dark time of reflection, of God, of existence and Plant attempting to find his place in the midst of all of this.
One thing to note about Kashmir is its curious placing on the album. One may expect a song of such monolithic proportions to end the album but it is instead placed, if we were to think of Physical Graffiti as a double vinyl album, at the end of side two. In an interview with The Guardian in 2015, Page said of this:
“Each side of the vinyl was sequenced to showcase whatever was on there, so it wasn’t square pegs in round holes. Any of the four sides could be your favourite side. All of them have an intensity to them, but some have got more rock roots than others. A double album was so right for Zeppelin”.
Similarly, on the vinyl versions of Physical Graffiti, the colossal 11 minute In My Time of Dying closes side one of the album.
Once again speaking to The Guardian, Page said: “Those songs – In My Time of Dying, Kashmir – are supposed to be: That’s it. Nothing follows that. You need time to catch your breath after”.
Canadian folk rock band Crash Test Dummies released their second album God Shuffled His Feet in October 1993. The first single from the album was Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, was released in the same month. The song’s distinctive chorus of simply “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm …” sung in singer, songwriter and guitarist Brad Roberts’ distinctive bass-baritone voice helped to make the song the band’s most successful single and an international hit. The song was a number one hit in Germany, Australia and on the US Modern Rock Track chart. Additionally, it reached number 2 in the United Kingdom and number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Of writing Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Roberts, whom had studied to be a professor of English literature prior to the band’s success, told The Independent in May 1994:
“When I wrote that song, it didn’t flow through me, I wasn’t inspired. I sat down and I decided I had certain themes that I wanted to make sure I handled in a way that wasn’t sentimental but at the same time was powerful and poignant. I wanted to put a funny angle on it without being merely slapstick. It all boils down to careful scrutiny of what you’re doing, your rational faculties being brought into play”.
Each verse of Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm deals with the isolation and suffering of a child, two of whom have a physical abnormality. The first verse of the song tells of how “Once there was this kid who, Got into an accident and couldn’t come to school, But when he finally came back, His hair had turned from black into bright white, He said that it was from when, The cars had smashed so hard”. Ironically, in 2000, Roberts was nearly killed in a car accident but escaped with a broken arm before his car exploded.
Meanwhile, in the second verse, Roberts sings about a girl with birth defects: “Once there was a girl who, Wouldn’t go and change with the girls in the change room, But when they finally made here, They saw birthmarks all over her body, She couldn’t quite explain it, They’d always just been there”.
Following this, the bridge of the song expresses the boy and girl’s relief that “one kid had it worse than that” before Roberts tells of how “then there was this boy whose, Parents made him come directly home right after school, And when they went to their church, They shook and lurched all over the church floor, He couldn’t quite explain it, they’d always just gone there”. During a live performance of Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm for Dutch radio station Kink FM, Roberts whispered during the third verse, “Pentecostal”, inferring that the lyrics relate to the Christian denomination.
Sometimes when the band perform the song in concert, the character in the third verse is replaced by a boy whose mother disposed of his tonsils after a tonsillectomy, thus depriving him of the possibility of bringing them to show and tell.
The promotional video for the single sets the song’s lyrics as the script for a series of one-act plays performed by school children. During the performance of the plays, the band are seen playing the song at the stage side.
Despite the success of the single, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm is constantly mentioned on lists of bad songs. The song was ranked number 15 on VH1’s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever, whilst Rolling Stone magazine named it as the “15th Most Annoying Song”. On AOL Radio’s list of 100 Worst Songs Ever in 2010, Matthew Wilkening described the song as “Not only bad but amazingly monotone and depressing”, and “Absolutely the last song to play for your sad friends”. On a positive note though, in 2011, VH1 named Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm the 31st greatest one-hit wonder of the 1990’s.