500 greatest songs of all time
Hanspostcard has a song draft challenge. This is my Round One pick. I will be posting these per decade. This will be my only submission for the 1950s.
Having grown up on the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic, one thing my state is known for is shagging (for the Brits, no, that is not what it means). While my grandparents did the Jitterbug as youths, my parents shagged (a descendant of the Jitterbug), as did my classmates and I. This song, in particular, was my favorite to shag to, though I enjoyed many beach music songs. ~Vic
Released either in May (per Rolling Stone Magazine) or April 24, 1959 (per Wikipedia), it was written by Benjamin Nelson (Ben E. King), Lover Patterson and George Treadwell. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the song hit #1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart (July) and, #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (August).
This is the second version of The Drifters under Treadwell’s management, crafted from the Five Crowns: Ben E. King, Charlie Thomas, Doc Green and Elsbeary Hobbs with James “Poppa” Clark being rejected for alcohol issues. With this line-up, There Goes My Baby was their first single and King’s debut as lead singer. It was unusual for its time, being the first commercial R&B/Soul recording with strings, arranged by Stan Applebaum, and a Brazilian Baiãon groove. Phil Spector studied the production style under Leiber & Stoller.
Ben E. King and The Drifters (The Vocal Group Hall of Fame Foundation/Inducted 2000)
John Gilliland’s Pop Chronicles (The Drifters & Ritchie Valens/Track 2/University of North Texas Digital Library)
There Goes My Baby (The Art of Rock Music Listening Guide/University of Albany/PDF)
Things You Didn’t Know About The Drifters (Pop, Rock & Doo Wopp/Joe Mirrione/April 10, 2020)
Forty years ago, today, the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart was Heart of Glass by Blondie. Written by Harry and Stein in 1974-75, its working title was Once I Had A Love. The inspiration for its writing came from The Hues Corporation‘s song Rock the Boat.
From The Guardian:
Heart of Glass was one of the first songs Blondie wrote but, it was years before we recorded it properly. We’d tried it as a ballad, as reggae but, it never quite worked. At that point, it had no title. We just called it “the disco song”. Back then, it was very unusual for a guitar band to be using computerised sound. People got nervous and angry about us bringing different influences into rock. Although we’d covered Lady Marmalade and I Feel Love at gigs, lots of people were mad at us for “going disco” with Heart of Glass. There was the Disco Sucks! movement, and there had even been a riot in Chicago, with people burning disco records. Clem Burke, our drummer, refused to play the song live at first. When it became a hit, he said: “I guess I’ll have to.” The lyrics weren’t about anyone. They were just a plaintive moan about lost love. At first, the song kept saying: “Once I had a love, it was a gas. Soon turned out, it was a pain in the ass.” We couldn’t keep saying that, so we came up with: “Soon turned out, had a heart of glass.” We kept one “pain in the ass” in – and the BBC bleeped it out for radio. ~Debbie Harry
As far as I was concerned, disco was part of R&B, which I’d always liked. The Ramones went on about us “going disco” but, it was tongue-in-cheek. They were our friends. In the video, there’s a shot of the legendary Studio 54, so everyone thought we shot the video there but, it was actually in a short-lived club called the Copa or something. I came up with the phrase “heart of glass” without knowing anything about Werner Herzog or his movie of the same name, which is a great, weird film. It’s nice people now use the song to identify the period in films and documentaries. I never had an inkling it would be such a big hit, or become the song we’d be most remembered for. It’s very gratifying. ~Chris Stein
In season one, DJ Johnny Fever not only plays Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” on his broadcast but, home audiences actually hear him announce the band’s, and the song’s, names. It was fantastic promotion for the up-and-coming Blondie, whose huge breakthrough album, Parallel Lines (with other seminal singles like Hanging on the Telephone and One Way or Another), came out the same month WKRP in Cincinnati debuted. The band reportedly gave the show a Gold record plaque celebrating the album’s major sales numbers as a “Thank You” card. It can be seen in the background as set design on several episodes in later seasons.
Unlike many DJs from that era, Fever played punk as well as rock and soul. The range of music on the show gave this fictional radio station a better playlist than most of the era’s real ones. […] although the show helped break Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” big, the exception, in Fever’s case, was disco. “I asked him to play one disco record and he threatened to throw himself in front of Donna Summer‘s tour bus,” Travis complains in “Baby, If You’ve Ever Wondered,” from season two.
As of April 20, 2011, Heart of Glass is #259 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.