Thursday song of the day: On its first independent release, today’s song went nowhere.
English band The Darkness was both a throwback to and a parody of hair metal. Formed in 2000 and including brothers Justin and Dan Hawkins, The Darkness performed over-the-top glam metal at a time when the genre was pretty much dead. They gained a following as a live band, and in August 2002 released a three-song EP on the small Must Destroy label. The centerpiece of the EP was I Believe in a Thing Called Love. Only a small number of copies were printed, but it did get enough interest that it helped get The Darkness signed to Atlantic Records.
I Believe in a Thing Called Love was consciously written to be silly while still being grounded enough to be believable. It takes some of the excesses of Queen and goes about two notches more bombastic. As lead singer Justin Hawkins explained, “Some of the most stupid stuff is the ones that people sing at you, and that always makes me smile. Things like, ‘My heart’s in overdrive and you’re behind the steering wheel.’ That’s just daft. But in the right way, it’s not too stupid, and it’s not clever-clever stupid. Just daft. And that’s quite uplifting, I think. Or it makes people feel like they’re part of something innocent and pure. I think that’s quite challenging actually, because being daft in the right way is very difficult. I’ve only done it well a couple of times. That’s probably one of them.”
On Atlantic, the band released their first album, Permission to Land. The album contained the three songs from the EP and seven new songs. I Believe in a Thing Called Love was remastered and re-released as a single in September 2003. This time it sold very well across Europe, especially in the band’s native United Kingdom. It placed at #1 on the UK Rock and Metal chart, and #2 on the overall UK Singles chart. In the United States it failed to break into the Billboard Hot 100, but it did place at #9 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart, and #35 on the Mainstream Top 40 radio airplay chart.
The Darkness had several more hits in the UK over the next few years, but so far has failed to chart in the US again.
Always thought this was an aerosmith original. Turns out it was a cover.
Apparently Mary Weiss, lead singer of the shangri-las (who wrote the original) song back up on this track
Top comment on youtube
This song came out when most of our boyfriends were being ripped away from us & shipped to Viet Nam. We lived for letters that came from them...or would never come to us again...all we had were our memories till they came home--alive, or not. This song perfectly expressed our emotions...
Friday song of the day: Today’s song was recorded by a family.
The Five Stairsteps (sometimes spelled as The 5 Stairsteps) were a group of siblings, the children of Betty and Clarence Burke of Chicago. For a while, the sixth child Cubie Burke was added to the group and they were known as The Five Stairsteps and Cubie. When they recorded O-o-h Child in 1970, they still had all six members, but had dropped the “and Cubie” from their name.
They released their first single in 1966, but their records failed to break the Top 40 until O-o-h Child. That record was a big hit, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Originally, the song was a B-side on a record with a cover of Dear Prudence as the A-side, but O-o-h Child started getting airplay in several key cities, so the record company re-released it as an A-side, with Who Do You Belong To as the B-side.
The Five Stairsteps disbanded in 1976, although a version of the band under the new name The Invisible Man’s Band formed in 1979.
Saturday song of the day, 4th of July Edition: Today’s song was the last Top 40 hit for an R&B legend.
Sylvester Stallone was working on Rocky IV in 1985 and wanted a patriotic song for the film about Rocky fighting the Russian Drago. Dan Hartman and Charles Midnight wrote the song Living in America, and Stallone approached James Brown to record the song for the film’s soundtrack. Brown had been a popular R&B artist since the 1950s and was still a reliable live act, but he had not had a hit record since 1976. While he usually recorded his own songs, he agreed to perform Living in America for the movie.
In Rocky IV, James Brown and his band perform the song before the Apollo Creed vs Ivan Drago fight, and the music video for the song features part of the scene, interspersed with images from across America. Between a catchy tune and exposure in a blockbuster movie, Living in America was a hit, placing #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was one of Brown’s biggest hits, surpassed only by 1965’s I Got You (I Feel Good), which placed at #3 on the Hot 100. Brown referenced I Got You (I Feel Good) in Living in America, ending the later song with the exclamation “I feel good!”
Living in America was the final big hit for James Brown. While he continued performing into the 2000s, he only had one more song place in the Hot 100, and that only at #93. Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006 of complications from pneumonia.
Sunday song of the day: Today’s song was recorded for a movie and then the original vocals were replaced by those of the songwriter.
Dan Hartman was in The Edgar Winter Group in the early 1970s, writing and singing on the band’s hit Free Ride, among others. He launched a solo career in 1976, and by the 1980s was best known for writing songs for movies. This included yesterday’s song of the day, Living in America, which was recorded by the legendary James Brown for 1985’s Rocky IV.
The previous year, Hartman wrote for the underrated action/noir film Streets of Fire. One of the standout songs in the 1984 film was I Can Dream About You. In the movie it was performed by the fictional singing group The Sorels, portrayed by actors but voiced by studio musicians, with Winston Ford singing lead. Hartman, however, had had it written into his contract that only he could sing the song on a soundtrack album for the film, so on the record the same musical track was used, but with Dan Hartman’s voice replacing Ford’s. The soundtrack album sold well, and Hartman’s version of I Can Dream About You was released as a single and reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Hartman had three other Top 40 hits during his solo career, but only I Can Dream About You cracked the Top 10.
Monday song of the day: The events that inspired the lyrics of today’s song resulted in the author committing suicide.
One of the saddest songs sung by The Temptations was 1967’s I Wish It Would Rain. The song told the story of a man who had just been left by his girl, who had found someone else. The singer was crying and wanted rain to hide his tears when he went outside. It was a common enough premise for a song, but one that mirrored reality.
The song was written by Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, and Rodger Penzabene. Whitfield and Strong wrote the music, and Penzabene provided the lyrics. When they wrote the song, the 23-year-old Penzabene had just found out that his wife was cheating on him with someone else, so he put his real-life situation into the lyrics. His pain was real, and ten days after The Temptations’ recording of the song was released on December 21st, 1967, Penzabene committed suicide by shooting himself on New Year’s Eve.
In February 1968 I Wish It Would Rain peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained in that position for three weeks.
Tuesday song of the day: Today’s song added lyrics to an earlier instrumental hit.
In 1968, South African trumpet player Hugh Masekela had a huge hit with the jazz instrumental Grazing in the Grass. While working on Masekela’s album The Promise of a Future he was told that the album’s run time was about three minutes short of the contractual minimum of 30 minutes, so he and the studio musicians improvised a tune to fill the needed time. One of the studio musicians, Philemon Hou, came up with the main melody, so he was credited as the songwriter. While Grazing in the Grass was a throwaway song, the record company thought it had potential and released it as a single. The label was right, and the record went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming one of the biggest hits of 1968.
The following year, a fairly new vocal group called The Friends of Distinction decided to record a version of Grazing in the Grass using lyrics written by one of the group’s members, Harry Elston. The lyrics were fairly simple and repetitive, but they fit the song well. The Friends of Distinction released Grazing in the Grass as their first single and while it didn’t make it to #1 like the Masekela original, it was still a big hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group had a few more hits in 1969 and 1970, and then broke up in 1975.
Wednesday song of the day: A surgery to remove nodules from her vocal cords helped the singer of today’s song achieve stardom.
In the 1976 and 1977, Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler released four singles and had minor hits in the UK and a few other countries but had yet to crack the US market. Then she developed nodules on her vocal cords, and the surgery to remove them left her with a raspy voice. Her first single after the surgery was It’s a Heartache, a song written by her managers. The single was released in some European countries in November 1977, and her new raspy voice turned out to be a benefit rather than a detriment to her singing.
It’s a Heartache was an international hit, reaching #4 in the UK, and placing in the top 5 in most other European countries. In the United States, the record wasn’t released until March 1978, and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in June. Beyond its high chart placement, it stuck around for a considerable period, and achieved sales in excess of six million records.
Since It’s a Heartache was released several months earlier in Europe than in the United States, Tyler’s original had direct competition from a cover version that was in circulation at the same time. Singer Juice Newton released a cover as her first solo single in early 1978, around the same time that Tyler’s version hit US stores. The Juice Newton version had some minor success, placing at #86 on the Hot 100 in April 1978, nowhere near the popularity of the Bonnie Tyler original. Nevertheless, it was Newton’s first charting single until her big breakthrough with Angel of the Morning and Queen of Hearts in 1981.
Ever since the surgery left her voice raspy, Tyler’s singing has been compared to another singer with a hoarse voice, Rod Stewart. Apparently, Stewart had heard these comparisons over the years, and in 2006 he covered It’s a Heartache on his album Still the Same… Great Rock Classics of Our Time.