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: Travel in Music (Day Four). “Well It’s Alright, We’re Going to the End of the Line”.

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.