Hallelujah ~ Leonard Cohen

leonard-cohenLeonard Cohen is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet, novelist, and artist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often deals with the exploration of religion, isolation, sexuality and complex interpersonal relationships.

Musically, Cohen’s earliest songs (many of which appeared on the 1967 album, Songs of Leonard Cohen) were rooted in European folk music. In the 1970s, his material encompassed pop, cabaret and world music. Since the 1980s his high baritone voice has evolved into lower registers (bass baritone and bass), with accompaniment from electronic synthesizers and female backing singers. Over two thousand renditions of Cohen’s songs have been recorded. He has been inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and is also a Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honour. While giving the speech at his induction into the American Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 10, 2008, Lou Reed described Cohen as belonging to the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.”

Cohen was born in 1934 in Westmount, Montreal, Quebec, into a middle-class Jewish family. His father was of Polish ancestry. His mother, of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry, emigrated from Lithuania. He grew up in Westmount on the Island of Montreal. His father, Nathan Cohen, owned a substantial Montreal clothing store, and died when Leonard was nine years old. Like many other Jewish families with names like Cohen, Kahn, and Kagan, Cohen’s family claimed descent from the Kohanim: “I had a very Messianic childhood,” he told Richard Goldstein in 1967. “I was told I was a descendant of Aaron, the high priest.” He attended Herzliah High School, where he studied with poet Irving Layton. As a teenager he learned to play the guitar, subsequently forming a country-folk group called the Buckskin Boys. His father’s will provided Leonard with a modest trust income, sufficient to allow him to pursue his literary ambitions.

Hallelujah

Hallelujah” is a song written by Canadian recording artist Leonard Cohen, originally released on his album Various Positions (1984). Achieving little initial success, the song found greater popular acclaim through a cover by John Cale, which inspired a cover by Jeff Buckley. Buckley’s version is the most enduringly popular and critically acclaimed cover of the song to date. It is the subject of the book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah” (2012) by Alan Light. In a New York Times review of the book, Janet Maslin praises the book and the song, noting that “Cohen spent years struggling with his song ‘Hallelujah.’ He wrote perhaps as many as 80 verses before paring the song down.”

Following its increased popularity after being featured in the film Shrek,  many cover versions have been performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert, with over 300 versions known.  The song has been used in film and television soundtracks and televised talent contests..

Hallelujah – Cohen

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

  • Audio from the 1984 album, Various Positions:

Various-Positions

Play Hallelujah - by Leonard Cohen

Man in the Box ~ Alice in Chains

alice-in-chainsAlice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist Jerry Cantrell and vocalist Layne Staley. Although widely associated with grunge music, the band’s sound incorporates heavy metal and acoustic elements. The band is known for its distinct vocal style which often included the harmonized vocals of Staley and Cantrell.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.

Following the demise of his band Sleeze in 1986, vocalist Layne Staley formed Alice N’ Chainz, a band which he said “dressed in drag and played speed metal”. The new band performed around the Seattle area playing Slayer and Armored Saint covers. Staley met guitarist Jerry Cantrell while working at Music Bank rehearsal studios, where the two struggling musicians became roommates, and lived in a rehearsal space they shared. Alice N’ Chainz soon disbanded and Staley joined a funk band who at the time also required a guitarist. Staley asked Cantrell to join as a sideman. Cantrell agreed on condition that Staley join Cantrell’s band Diamond Lie, which at the time included drummer Sean Kinney and bassist Mike Starr. Eventually the funk project broke up and in 1987 Staley joined Cantrell on a full-time basis. Diamond Lie played in clubs around the Pacific Northwest, often stretching 15 minutes of material into a 45-minute set. The band eventually took the name of Alice in Chains.

Local promoter Randy Hauser became aware of the band at a concert, and offered to pay for demo recordings. However, one day before the band was due to record at the Music Bank studio in Washington, police shut down the studio during the biggest marijuana raid in the history of the state. The final demo was named The Treehouse Tapes, and found its way to the music managers Kelly Curtis and Susan Silver, who also managed the Seattle-based band Soundgarden. Curtis and Silver passed on the demo to Columbia Records’ A&R representative Nick Terzo, who set up an appointment with label president Don Ienner. Based on The Treehouse Tapes (a 1988 demo tape sold by the band at shows), Ienner signed Alice in Chains to Columbia in 1989.

Alice in Chains rose to international fame as part of the grunge movement of the early 1990s, along with other Seattle bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. The band was one of the most successful music acts of the 1990s, selling over 17 million albums worldwide. The band achieved two number-one Billboard 200 albums (Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains), 13 top ten songs on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, and seven Grammy Award nominations.

Although never officially disbanding, Alice in Chains was plagued by extended inactivity due to Layne Staley’s problems with substance abuse, culminating in his death in 2002.

In 2005, guitarist Jerry Cantrell, bassist Mike Inez, and drummer Sean Kinney reunited to perform a benefit concert in Seattle for victims of the tsunami disaster that struck South Asia] On March 6, 2006, the surviving members performed at VH1’s Decades Rock Live concert, honoring fellow Seattle musicians Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart. The band followed the concert with a short United States club tour, several festival dates in Europe, and a brief tour in Japan. Comes with the Fall vocalist William DuVall joined Alice in Chains as lead singer during the band’s reunion concerts.

Kinney mentioned in a February 2006 interview that he would be interested in writing new material, but not as Alice in Chains. He explained, “If we found some other dude, I’d love to move on, write some cool tunes and change the name and go on like that. I don’t see continuing as Alice and replacing somebody. … We’re not trying to replace Layne. We want to play these songs one more time, and if it seems like the right thing to do, it’ll happen. I don’t know how long it will go or where it will take us. It’s kind of a tribute to Layne and our fans, the people who love these songs. It’s not some ‘I’m broke and I need the money’ situation. We love playing together.”

In April 2009, the band went into Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 and laid down the tracks to their new album in ten years called, “Black Gives Way To Blue” — a tribute to Layne Staley — which was released in September 2009.

Man in the Box

Man in the Box” is a single by the American rock band Alice in Chains. It was released as a single in 1991 after being featured on the group’s debut full-length album Facelift (1990). The song was included on the compilation albums Nothing Safe: Best of the Box (1999), Music Bank (1999), Greatest Hits (2001), and The Essential Alice in Chains (2006), and is a playable track in the video game Rock Band 2. The song is also played in the 2000 film The Perfect Storm.

In the liner notes of 1999’s Music Bank box set collection, guitarist Jerry Cantrell said of the song, “That whole beat and grind of that is when we started to find ourselves; it helped Alice become what it was.”[4] The song makes use of a talk box to create the guitar effect. The original Facelift track listing credited only vocalist Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell with writing the song. All post-Facelift compilations credited the entire band.

“Man in the Box” is widely recognized for its distinctive “wordless opening melody, where Layne Staley’s peculiar, tensed-throat vocals are matched in unison with an effects-laden guitar” followed by “portentous lines like: ‘Feed my eyes/ Can you sew them shut?’, ‘Jesus Christ/Deny your maker’ and ‘He who tries/Will be wasted’ with Cantrell’s drier, less-urgent voice.” along with harmonies provided by both Staley and Cantrell in the lines ‘Won’t you come and save me’.

In a recorded interview with MuchMusic USA, Layne Staley stated that the lyrics are about censorship in the mass media, and “I was really really stoned when I wrote it, so it meant something else at the time”, he said laughing.

Man in the Box – Alice in Chains

I’m the man in the box
Buried in my shit
Won’t you come and save me?
Save me

Feed me my eyes (can you sew them shut?)
Jesus Christ (deny your maker)
they who try (will be wasted)
Fear in my eyes (now you’ve sewn them shut)

I’m the dog who gets beat
Shove my nose in shit
Won’t you come and save me?
Save me

Fear in my eyes (can you sew them shut?)
Jesus Christ (deny your maker)
they who try (will be wasted)
Fear in my eyes (now you’ve sewn them shut)

Feed my eyes (can you sew them shut?)
Jesus Christ (deny your maker)
they who try (will be wasted)
Fear in my eyes (now you’ve sewn them shut)

  • Audio from the 1990 album, Facelift:

Facelift

Play Man in the Box - by Alice in Chains

The Bad Touch ~ Bloodhound Gang

bloodhound-gangBloodhound Gang is an American band which began as a hip hop group but branched out into other genres, including alternative hip hop, rapcore, funk metal  and electronic rock, as their career progressed. Their songs usually have humorous and off-beat, satirical lyrics that often deal with sexual subjects and contain many puns and innuendos. They are influenced by The Beastie Boys

They are best known for their singles “Fire Water Burn”, “The Bad Touch”, “Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo”, “Along Comes Mary”, “Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss” and “The Ballad of Chasey Lain”. Formed in 1991,Bloodhound Gang has sold more than 6 million albums.

The Bloodhound Gang began as a small alternative band called Bang Chamber 8. It consisted of James Moyer Franks (“Jimmy Pop”) and Michael Bowe (“Daddy Long Legs”), both graduates of Perkiomen Valley High School. They released an eponymous tape before changing their name to the Bloodhound Gang, a reference to “The Bloodhound Gang”, a segment on the 1980s PBS kids’ show 3-2-1 Contact that featured three young detectives solving mysteries and fighting crime.

Jimmy Pop and Jared Hennegan (“Evil Jared Hasselhoff”) both attended Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Unable to book shows anywhere else, the Bloodhound Gang first performed in an extra room at Evil Jared’s house, in exchange for Schlitz, Marlboros, and a chance to hand out their first demo tape, entitled Just Another Demo. When the floor caved in one night, they began performing every month at CBGBs in New York City. When asked about the band’s tenure at the club, Jimmy Pop was quoted as saying, “I’ve seen cavemen with better clubs.”

In April 1994, the band released their second demo tape, The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to Hitler’s Handicapped Helpers. This resulted in a record deal with Cheese Factory Records.

In summer 1994, Jimmy Pop had a small role in the short independent film The Chick That Was Naked by independent filmmaker Kurt Fitzpatrick. A song  by the band was used on its soundtrack.

In November 1994, the Bloodhound Gang released their first EP, Dingleberry Haze.

The Bad Touch

The Bad Touch” is a song recorded by American alternative band Bloodhound Gang. It was released in May 1999 as the lead single from their album Hooray for Boobies, which was released a year later, in the US and UK. The song was remixed by many artists including God Lives Underwater, KMFDM and Eiffel 65.

Like much of the Bloodhound Gang’s other music, the song contains a wide variety of sexual colloquialisms. The sleeve for the single features a photo of two zebras in copula.

The main chorus and anthem of the song is the stanza “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals; So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel”, referring to the nature documentaries shown on the Discovery television channel in the 1990s.  As the song starts, a spoken deadpan introduction states that there are distinctions between animal sexual behaviour and sexual intercourse in humans.

The rest of the lyrics are composed almost entirely of double entendre, which include a number of references to late-1990s or topical North American popular culture. In the first verse these are: lack of precipitation leading to drought in the United States and specifically the state of Texas; risqué lyrics from musician Prince; Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert from television film-review programme At the Movies giving “two thumbs up”; restaurant-chain Waffle House and their hash browns foodstuffs; the delivery speed of courier firm FedEx; the stock-price of The Coca-Cola Company; and daylight saving time change during the Northern-hemisphere spring-time and its relation to nocturnal penile tumescence.

The second verse continues alluding to: the lost Egyptian Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa and early Egyptian hieroglyphs; the southern Pacific Ocean; US-National Weather Service weather alerts distributed as a small craft advisory to marine vessels; oceanic high-tides; the boardgame Battleship; automated coffeemaker manufacturer Mr. Coffee;  juvenile exploration through playing doctor; television programme-in-programme Tool Time, from sitcom Home Improvement; country music singer Lyle Lovett; and science-fiction series The X-Files.

The Bad Touch – Jimmy Pop

Ha-Ha! Well now, we call this the act of mating
But there are several other very important differences
Between human beings and animals that you should know about

I’d appreciate your input

Sweat baby sweat baby sex is a Texas drought
Me and you do the kind of stuff that only Prince would sing about
So put your hands down my pants and I’ll bet you’ll feel nuts
Yes I’m Siskel, yes I’m Ebert and you’re getting two thumbs up
You’ve had enough of two-hand touch you want it rough you’re out of bounds
I want you smothered want you covered like my Waffle House hashbrowns
Come quicker than FedEx never reach an apex just like Coca-Cola stock you are inclined
To make me rise an hour early just like Daylight Savings Time

Do it now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Do it again now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Gettin’ horny now

Love the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket
Like the lost catacombs of Egypt only God knows where we stuck it
Hieroglyphics? Let me be Pacific I wanna be down in your South Seas
But I got this notion that the motion of your ocean means “Small Craft Advisory”
So if I capsize on your thighs high tide, B-5 you sunk my battleship
Please turn me on I’m Mister Coffee with an automatic drip
So show me yours I’ll show you mine “Tool Time” you’ll Lovett just like Lyle
And then we’ll do it doggy style so we can both watch “X-Files”

Do it now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Do it again now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Gettin’ horny now

You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Do it again now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Do it now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Do it again now
You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals
So let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel
Gettin’ horny now

  • Audio from the 1999 album, Hooray for Boobies:

hooray

Play The Bad Touch - by Bloodhound Gang

I Alone ~ Live

live-the-bandLive is an American alternative rock band from York, Pennsylvania, comprised of Ed Kowalczyk (lead vocals and guitar), Chad Taylor (lead guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass guitar) and Chad Gracey (drums and percussion). Since approximately 1999, Live has toured with Ed’s younger brother Adam Kowalczyk as a rhythm guitarist. They have also previously toured with British keyboardist Michael “Railo” Railton and Christopher Thorn (from Blind Melon).

The song, Lightning Crashes was never released as a single in the United States, and therefore made it ineligible for the Billboard Hot 100 hits, yet it received enough radio airplay to peak at the #12 position on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart for 1994. It is considered to be the biggest hit of Live’s career to date.

The band dedicated the song to Barbara Lewis, a friend of the band who had been killed by a drunk driver who was fleeing from the police after a robbery. Barbara had many of her organs donated, and the song lyrics reflect how her death enabled others to continue living. After the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, Ed Kowalczyk would frequently dedicate the song to the victims at live shows.

Soon after the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19, 1995, a local radio station mixed in news clippings, audio clips of U.S. President Bill Clinton and Governor of Oklahoma Frank Keating responding to the attack, along with other sounds (such as ambulance and fire engine sirens) of that day.

I Alone

I Alone” is the second single from Live’s album, Throwing Copper. The single was released to radio stations in Canada and the United States, but was only released commercially overseas. It reached #6 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The song was ranked 62nd best song of the 1990s by VH1.

Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk said of the songs lyrics, “People think ‘I Alone’ is a love song but it really wasn’t. The lyrics were more abstract, encompassing a much larger message.”  He explained the line, “The greatest of teachers won’t hesitate to leave you there by yourself chained to fate,” by saying that a profound lesson he derived from studying spiritual teachings was that religion and truth must be found for oneself and practiced, rather than just accepting the word of others.

Live performed “I Alone” at the Woodstock ’99 festival on July 23, 1999 in Rome, New York. The song was featured in the tv shows Homicide: Life on the Streets, Beavis and Butt-head and Hindsight.

I Alone – Live

Its easier not to be wise
And measure these things by your brains
I sank into eden with you
Alone in the church by and by

Ill read to you here, save your eyes
Youll need them, your boat is at sea
Your anchor is up, youve been swept away
And the greatest of teachers wont hesitate
To leave you there, by yourself,
Chained to fate

I alone love you
I alone tempt you
I alone love you
Fear is not the end of this!

Its easier not to be great
And measure these things by your eyes
We long to be here by his resolve
Alone in the church by and by
To cradle the baby in space
And leave you there by yourslef
Chained to fate

Oh, now, we took it back too far,
Only love can save us now, all these riddles that you burn
All come runnin back to you, all these rhythms that you hide
Only love can save us now, all these riddles that you burn
Yeah, yeah, yeah

  • Audio from the 1994 album, Throwing Copper:

throwing-copper

Play I Alone - by Live

Never Been to Spain ~ Hanson

hanson-150Hanson is an American pop rock band formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by brothers Isaac (guitar, piano, vocals), Taylor (keyboards, piano, guitar, drums, vocals), and Zac Hanson (drums, piano, guitar, vocals). They are best known for the 1997 hit song “MMMBop” from their major label debut album Middle of Nowhere, which earned three Grammy nominations. Despite the enormous commercial success of Middle of Nowhere, the band suffered from the merger that eliminated their label, Mercury Records. The group was moved to Island Def Jam Music Group, which they eventually left after conflict with the label about creative input.

In the early to mid 1990s, Isaac, Taylor and Zac sang a cappella and recorded songs like “Rockin’ Robin”, “Splish Splash” and “Johnny B. Goode”, as well as their own material. Their first performance as a professional group took place in 1992 at the Mayfest Arts Festival in Tulsa.

Hanson also appeared on Carman’s Yo! Kidz: The Vidz, which cast Taylor as a young Biblical David facing Goliath, Isaac as an event announcer, and Zac and other members of the family in the stands cheering on this “sporting event”.

All three boys started their musical careers as pianists. Isaac later picked up a second-hand guitar, Zac borrowed an old set of drums, and Taylor became the keyboard player of what turned into a garage band. The band recorded two independent albums in their hometown of Tulsa, Boomerang (recorded in autumn 1994, released in 1995) and MMMBop (released in 1996). The latter featured the original version of the song “MMMBop,” which would later become the runaway single on their debut commercial record Middle of Nowhere. The boys then found themselves at the South By Southwest (aka SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. There, they were promptly signed by manager Christopher Sabec. He shopped them to several record companies, most of which dismissed the band as either a novelty or fraud before Steve Greenberg, an A&R representative for Mercury Records, heard them play a set at the Kansas State Fair. After this performance, they were signed almost immediately by Mercury. They soon became a worldwide sensation with the release of their first major-label album, Middle of Nowhere, which was produced by the Dust Brothers.

Never Been To Spain

Originally written by Hoyt Axton, and performed by numerous artists (including Elvis and most recently, the Hansons), Three Dog Night was the group that made it famous.

The lyrics consist of the narrator ruminating on places that he has never visited, but feels that he has some proxy experience of via the music or other features of those places, or from having gone to similar locations. In the final verse, he observes that while he has “never been to heaven”, he has “been to Oklahoma”, where he has been told he was born, thus implying a kinship between the two places. However, the singularity of this kinship is called into question when he then implies that he could just as easily have been born in Arizona.

Never Been To Spain – Axton

Well I never been to Spain
But I kinda like the music
Say the ladies are insane there
And they sure know how to use it
The don’t abuse it
Never gonna lose it
I can’t refuse it

Well I never been to England
But I kinda like the Beatles
Well, I headed for Las Vegas
Only made it out to Needles
Can you feel it
It must be real it
Feels so good
Oh, feels so good

Well I never been to heaven
But I been to Oklahoma
Well they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember
In Oklahoma, not Arizona
What does it matter
What does it matter

Well I never been to Spain
But I kinda like the music
Say the ladies are insane there
And they sure know how to use it
They don’t abuse it
Never gonna lose it
I can’t refuse it

Well I never been to heaven
But I been to Oklahoma
Well they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember
In Oklahoma, not Arizona
What does it matter
What does it matter

There is no album version of this song.

  • Audio from the 2008 SXSW Concert in Austin Texas:
No official recording exists
No official recording exists
Play Never Been to Spain - by Hanson

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

dire-straits-150Dire Straits were a British rock band formed in 1977 by Mark Knopfler (lead vocals and lead guitar), his younger brother David Knopfler (rhythm guitar and backing vocals), John Illsley(bass guitar and backing vocals), and Pick Withers (drums and percussion). Dire Straits’ sound drew from a variety of musical influences, including jazz, folk, and blues, and came closest to beat music within the context of rock and roll. Despite the prominence of punk rock during the band’s early years, their stripped-down sound contrasted with punk, demonstrating a more “rootsy” influence that emerged from Pub rock. Many of Dire Straits’ compositions were melancholic. Dire Straits’ biggest selling album Brothers in Arms has sold over 30 million copies, and was the first album to sell a million copies on CD.

They also became one of the world’s most commercially successful bands, with worldwide records sales of over 100 million Dire Straits won four Grammy Awards, three Brit Awards—winning Best British Group twice, two MTV Video Music Awards, and various other music awards. The band’s songs include “Money for Nothing”, “Sultans of Swing”, “So Far Away”, “Walk of Life”, “Brothers in Arms”, “Private Investigations”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Tunnel of Love”, and “Telegraph Road”.

According to the Guinness Book of British Hit Albums, Dire Straits have spent over 1,100 weeks on the UK albums chart, ranking fifth all-time. Their career spanned a combined total of 15 years. They originally split up in 1988, but reformed in 1991, and disbanded for good in 1995 when Mark Knopfler launched his career full-time as a solo artist. There were several changes in personnel over both periods, leaving Mark Knopfler and John Illsley as the only two original bandmates who had remained throughout the band’s career.

Sultans of Swing

“Sultans of Swing” is a song by the British rock band Dire Straits from their eponymous debut album, which band frontman Mark Knopfler wrote and composed. Although it was first released in 1978, it was its 1979 re-release that caused it to become a hit in both the UK and U.S.

The song was first recorded as a demo at Pathway Studios, North London, in July 1977 and quickly acquired a following after it was put on rotation at Radio London. Its popularity soon reached record executives, and Dire Straits were offered a contract with Phonogram Records. The song was then re-recorded in February 1978 at Basing Street Studios for the band’s debut album.The record company wanted a less-polished rock sound for the radio, so an alternative version was recorded at Pathway Studios in April 1978 and released as the single in some countries including the United Kingdom and Germany.

The music for “Sultans of Swing” was composed by Mark Knopfler on a National Steel guitar in an open tuning, though Knopfler did not think very highly of it at first. As he remembered, “I thought it was dull, but as soon as I bought my first Strat in 1977, the whole thing changed, though the lyrics remained the same. It just came alive as soon as I played it on that ’61 Strat which remained my main guitar for many years and was basically the only thing I played on the first album and the new chord changes just presented themselves and fell into place.”

Inspiration for the song came from witnessing a jazz band playing in the corner of a practically deserted pub in Deptford, South London. At the end of their performance, the lead singer announced that they were the “Sultans of Swing”, and Knopfler found the contrast between the group’s dowdy appearance and surroundings and their grandiose name amusing.

Columbia recording artist Bill Wilson allegedly made an unsubstantiated claim to many of the lyrics to the song while he and Knopfler were both studio musicians working a session in Nashville. His claim was dismissed as being highly improbable, since Knopfler had not first visited Nashville till long after the song was released.

According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, the song is set in the time signature of common time, with a tempo of 146 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of D harmonic minor with Knopfler’s vocal range spanning from G3 to D5. The song has a basic sequence of Dm–C–B–A as its chord progression for the verses, and F–C–Bfor the choruses. The song’s riff makes use of triads, particularly second inversions. The song is in the andalusian cadence or diatonic phrygian tetrachord.  Knopfler would later use similar triads on “Lady Writer”.

Critical reception to the track was universally positive. Ken Tucker of Rolling Stone singled out “Sultans of Swing” as a highlight of the album for its “inescapable hook” and compared Knopfler’s vocal stylings to that of Bob Dylan.  The New Rolling Stone Album Guide called the song “an insinuating bit of bar-band mythmaking” whose lyrics “paint a vivid picture of an overlooked and underappreciated pub combo”. The Spokane Chronicle‘s Jim Kershner wrote that “Sultans of Swing” is “remarkable, both for its lyrics that made fun of hip young Londoners and the phenomenal guitar sound of Knopfler”, which “sounded like no other guitar on radio”. Jon Marlowe of The Palm Beach Post called it “an infectious, sounds-damn-good-on-the-car-radio ode to every bar band who has ever done four sets a night, seven nights a week”. Georgiy Starostin praised the “breathtaking arpeggios on the fade-out”.

Writing in 2013 on the impact of the song, Rick Moore of American Songwriter reflected:

With “Sultans of Swing” a breath of fresh air was exhaled into the airwaves in the late ’70s. Sure, Donald Fagen and Tom Waitswere writing great lyrics about characters you’d love to meet and Jeff Beck and Eddie Van Halen were great guitar players. But Knopfler, he could do both things as well or better than anybody out there in his own way, and didn’t seem to have any obvious rock influences unless you try to include Dylan. Like his contemporary and future duet partner Sting, Knopfler’s ideas were intellectually and musically stimulating, but were also accessible to the average listener. It was almost like jazz for the layman. “Sultans of Swing” was a lesson in prosody and tasty guitar playing that has seldom been equaled since. If you aren’t familiar with “Sultans of Swing” or haven’t listened to it in a while, you should definitely check it out.

Record Mirror ranked the song tenth in its end-of-year countdown of the best songs of the year. In 1992, Life named “Sultans of Swing” one of the top five songs of 1979. In 1993, Paul Williams included “Sultans of Swing” in his book “Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles”. The song is on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list, Dire Straits’ only appearance. In 2006, Mojo included “Sultans of Swing” in its list of the 50 best British songs. The song’s guitar solo reached #22 on Guitar World‍ ’​s list of the greatest guitar solos and #32 on Rolling Stone‍ ’​s list of greatest guitar songs.

Sultans of Swing – Knopfler

You get a shiver in the dark
It’s raining in the park but meantime
South of the river you stop and you hold everything
A band is blowin’ Dixie double four time
You feel alright when you hear that music ring

And now you step inside but you don’t see too many faces
Comin’ in out of the rain you hear the jazz go down
Competition in other places
Oh but the horns they blowin’ that sound
Way on down south, way on down south London town

You check out Guitar George, he knows all the chords
Mind he’s strictly rhythm he doesn’t wanna make it cry or sing
Yes and an old guitar is all he can afford
When he gets up under the lights to play his thing

And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doin’ alright
He can play the honky tonk like anything
Savin’ it up for Friday night
With the Sultans… with the Sultans of Swing

And a crowd of young boys they’re fooling around in the corner
Drunk and dressed in their best brown baggies and their platform soles
They don’t give a damn about any trumpet playing band
It ain’t what they call rock and roll
And the Sultans… yeah the Sultans play Creole

And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
‘Goodnight, now it’s time to go home’
And he makes it fast with one more thing
‘We are the Sultans… We are the Sultans of Swing’

  • Audio from the 1978 album, Dire Straits:

dire-straits

Play Sultans of Swing - by Dire Straits

Billion Dollar Babies ~ Alice Cooper

alice_cooper___cia_by_nadineballantyne-d5j0ay4Alice Cooper was an American rock band led by Vincent Furnier, who later changed his legal name to Alice Cooper. The band was famous for their elaborate, theatrical shock rock stage shows.

The band consisted of members, all from the previous 60s garage rock band, the Spiders. They created everything as a group and wrote virtually the lion’s share of what was to become the classic Alice Cooper canon.  Neal Smith’s sister Cindy Smith Dunaway (Dennis Dunaway’s wife) designed the bands costumes and also performed in the stage show (she was the “dancing tooth” during the band’s Billion Dollar Babies tour). 

The Alice Cooper band was the subject of media criticism after Furnier (Alice Cooper) threw a live chicken into the audience during the 1969 Toronto Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival Festival. The audience ripped the chicken to shreds.

The band was featured on a Warner Bros sampler album Zapped of bands produced by Frank Zappa for the label, and then went on to release several chart-topping albums and headlining major tours before breaking up in 1975.  Vincent Furnier took “Alice Cooper” as his own name and carried on with a new group of musicians.,   the original band becoming officially defunct.

Bruce, Dunaway and Smith would go on to form the short-lived band Billion Dollar Babies, producing one album – Battle Axe – in 1977. While occasionally performing with one another and Glen Buxton, they would not reunite with Alice until October 23, 1999, at the second Glen Buxton Memorial Weekend for a show at CoopersTown in Phoenix (Buxton having died in 1997). They reunited for another show, with Steve Hunter on guitar, on December 16, 2010, at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix.  This lineup would perform together again (televised) on March 14, 2011, at the induction of the original Alice Cooper group into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as on May 11, 2011, at London’s Battersea Power Station at the Jagermiester Ice Cold 4D event (webcast). Bruce, Dunaway and Smith appeared on three tracks they co-wrote on Alice’s 2011 album Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

A documentary about the Alice Cooper band entitled Super Duper Alice Cooper premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17, 2014, and was scheduled to be screened at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival a week later.

On October 6, 2015, a surprise reunion show took place in Dallas at Dunaway’s book signing session where he was joined by Bruce, Smith, Cooper and Ryan Roxie, who replaced the late Glen Buxton

Billion Dollar Babies

Billion Dollar Babies” is a popular 1973 single by rock group Alice Cooper, taken from the album Billion Dollar Babies. It was released in July 1973, months after the album had been released. The track is a duet between Alice Cooper and Donovan, who provides the falsetto vocals.  BMI lists  the composers of “Billion Dollar Babies” as Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce and Reggie Vinson (a session guitarist who had worked with the Alice Cooper band previously.). Some sources list the composers as Cooper, Bruce, drummer Neal Smith, and “R. Reggie,” the latter being an allusion to Vinson’s nickname “Rockin’ Reggie Vinson.”. The chorus has the same melody asThe Hollies’ 1966 song “Tell Me to My Face.”

Billion Dollar Babies also became the name of a band which descended from the Alice Cooper band that recorded the song. The Billion Dollar Babies album was one of the last recorded by the Alice Cooper band, before singer Alice Cooper went solo. Legal complications ensued; all five Alice Cooper band members had shared ownership of the band’s name. The original band never again recorded under the name Alice Cooper, but former Alice Cooper Band members Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith, along with additions Bob Dolin, Stu Daye and Mike Marconi, recorded as Billion Dollar Babies.  The band Billion Dollar Babies only released one album, 1977’s Battle Axe, before disbanding.

Billion Dollar Babies – Cooper, Bruce, Vinson

Billion dollar baby
Rubber little lady, slicker than a weasel,
Grimy as an alley
Loves me like no other lover.

Billion dollar baby
Rotten little monster, baby, I adore you.
Man or woman living couldn’t love me like you, baby.

We go dancing nightly in the attic
While the moon is rising in the sky.
If I’m too rough, tell me,
I’m so scared your little head will come off in my hands.

Yeah, billion dollar baby
I got you in the dimestore,
No other little girl could ever hold you
Any tighter, any tighter than me, baby.
Billion dollar baby
Reckless like a gambler, million dollar maybe
Foamin’ like dog that’s been infected by the rabies.

We go dancing nightly in the attic
While the moon is rising in the sky.
If I’m too rough, tell me,
I’m so scared your little head will come off in my hands.

Million dollar baby,
Billion dollar baby,
Trillion dollar baby,
Zillion dollar baby.

  • Audio from the 1973 album, Billion Dollar Babies:

alice_cooper-billion_dollar_babies-frontal

Play Billion Dollar Babies - by Alice Cooper
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