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.

Song of the Day: Movies in Music (Day Four). “And Here’s to You, Mrs Robinson …”

Mrs Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel, from the album Bookends (1968) is famous for its inclusion in the movie The Graduate (1967) and has become inseparable from the character in the film.  However, the roots of Mrs Robinson came from a song completely unrelated to the movie that Paul Simon had written called Mrs Roosevelt, about Eleanor Roosevelt.

In the years previous to The Graduate, Simon & Garfunkel had risen to national fame in the United States touring colleges and releasing a string of hit singles and albums.  At the same time, director Mike Nichols was in the early stages of making his movie, The Graduate.  Nichols had become an instant fan of the duo, listening to them constantly before and after filming.  So infatuated with the duo was Nichols that he met with Columbia Records chairman Clive Davis to ask permission to use their music in his new film.  Davis saw the idea as potentially lucrative and envisioned a best-selling soundtrack album.  Paul Simon, however, was dubious, considering movie soundtracks to be selling out.  After careful consideration and being impressed by Nichols’ wit and script, the songwriter agreed to write at least one or two songs for the film.

After a few weeks, Simon presented two new tracks, Punky’s Dilemma and Overs, neither of which particularly impressed Nichols.  Nichols asked the duo whether they had any more songs to offer, and after a break in the meeting, they returned with an early version of what would become Mrs Robinson, then still named Mrs Roosevelt.  Nichols was instantly ecstatic about the song and could envision its use in the film instantly.

Of the song’s content, the “dee de dee dee de dee dee dee” section of the introduction of the song occurred when Simon and Garfunkel presented the unfinished song to Nichols and didn’t have lyrics to sing over the music.  Nichols suggested that this should be part of the finished song and Simon used it in the introduction.  Similarly nonsensical is the inclusion of the “coo-coo-ca-choo” phrase in the chorus, which is Simon’s homage to The Beatles’ I Am the Walrus, which was also released in 1967.

Parts of the song are very much still in line with the original subject matter of the song, Eleanor Roosevelt. Wife to US President Franklin Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt survived an orphaned and loveless childhood, a faithless husband and domineering mother-in-law, emerging as an independent personality after her husband was paralysed from the waist down after contracting polio in 1921.  Due to her husband’s paralysis and the many bouts of ill health which he had suffered from birth, the First Lady was transformed from shy wife into an autonomous public leader due to having to serve as her disabled husband’s eyes and ears.  This triumph of what women were capable of in a time when women were expected to be subservient to men came into even fuller effect in 1945 after Franklin Roosevelt’s death and was sustained through worldwide acclaim until her death in 1962.

In the first verse, lines such as “We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files, We’d like to learn to help you help yourself” could refer to Eleanor Roosevelt in conversation with her psychiatrist.  Eleanor Roosevelt suffered from depression throughout most of her life, mostly stemming from her tragic childhood.  Her mother had died from diphtheria when Eleanor was just 8 years old and her brother Elliott Jr died from the same disease just 5 months afterwards.  Her father was an alcoholic who was confined to a sanatorium and died just two years after Eleanor’s mother after he jumped out of a window during a fit of delirium tremens.  He survived the fall but died after suffering a seizure shortly afterwards.  Similarly, the lines “Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes, Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home” represent Eleanor Roosevelt being at a mental health facility with the workers and patients worrying for her.

The second verse, “Hide it in the hiding place where no one ever goes, Put it in your pantry where no one ever goes, Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes, It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair, Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids” are reference to Eleanor living in a time where strong women had to repress their feelings and emotions, hiding them away completely out of sight.  Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt had many marital problems, with Franklin having many affairs.  Women who he allegedly had affairs with include Princess Martha of Sweden, his secretary, Missy and Eleanor’s social secretary, Lucy Mercer.  These affairs would eventually lead to the couples’ separation and ended any intimacy in their relationship.  There are also rumours that Eleanor was a lesbian and had a relationship with Lorena Hickock.

In the third verse of the song, “Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon, Going to the candidates’ debate, Laugh about it, shout about it, When you’ve got to choose, Every way you look at it you lose”, Eleanor watches her husband’s debate in which he won he presidential election.  Due to her husband’s paralysis and ill health, Eleanor did most of the work.  Eleanor therefore would have been more than capable of running for the presidency herself but could not because she is a woman.

The song’s chorus could be read in many ways.  The references to “Jesus”, “Heaven” and “God” could be suggestive of mourners at Eleanor’s funeral or simply Eleanor being prayed for by those with the “sympathetic eyes” mentioned in the first verse of the song.  When used on the film’s soundtrack, the chorus takes on a new meaning, telling the listeners that Mrs Robinson should not cheat and sin on her daughter’s boyfriend and encouraging Mrs Robinson to become a holy and moral person.

The final verse of the song is perhaps the most talked about verse of the entire song.  The lyrics, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, What’s that you say Mrs Robinson, Jolting Joe has left and gone away”.  In the context of a song about Eleanor Roosevelt, lines about a New York Yankees Major League Baseball centre-fielder may appear to be slightly out of place when analysing the lyrics.  However, Joe DiMaggio is referenced in the song as he represented traditional American values with the lines being a tribute to his unpretentious heroic stature in America in a time when popular culture magnifies and distorts how we perceive our heroes.  It is widely known that Paul Simon was a huge fan of baseball player Mickey Mantle and when asked during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970 why he chose to talk about Joe DiMaggio instead, Simon replied, “It’s about syllables, Dick.  It’s about how many beats there are”.  DiMaggio initially had reservations about his name being used in the song, wondering why Simon had written the line, “Joltin Joe has left and gone away” when he hadn’t gone anywhere.  DiMaggio soon dropped his complaint after Simon explained what the lines meant.  In a New York Times op-ed in March 1999, shortly after DiMaggio’s death, Simon said of the DiMaggio reference:  “In these days of Presidential transgressions and apologies and prime-time interviews about private sexual matters, we grieve for Joe DiMaggio and mourn the loss of his grace and dignity, his fierce sense of privacy, his fidelity to the memory of his wife and the power of his silence”.  Simon later performed Mrs Robinson at Yankee Stadium in honour of DiMaggio a month after his death.

After its inclusion in The Graduate, Mrs Robinson was awarded two Grammy Awards at the 11th Annual Grammy Awards in 1969.  It became the first rock song to win Record of the Year and was also awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary-Pop Performance – Vocal Duo or Group.  The duo declined to perform the song at the ceremony, instead shooting a video which consisted of them at the Yankee Stadium in reference to the song’s final verse about Joe DiMaggio.  Mrs Robinson was ineligible for the Academy Award for Best Original Song because as a nominee, a song must have been written exclusively for the film in which it appeared.

The song has also seen the accolade of being covered several times, including by Frank Sinatra on his 1969 album My Way.  Sinatra’s version of My Way changes a number of lines, including replacing the word “Jesus” with “Jilly”, perhaps motivated by the refusal of some radio stations to play a song including the word “Jesus”.  Sinatra’s version also includes a new verse directly referring to The Graduate.  These changes make for a rather odd version of the song and is not one of Sinatra’s more successful covers.

More successful was The Lemonheads’ cover of Mrs Robinson, recorded to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of The Graduate in 1992 and featured on their 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray.