Song of the Day: Travel in Music (Day Five). “Could Taste Your Sweet Kisses, Your Arms Open Wide, This Fever for You Is Just Burning Me Up Inside”.

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.

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