- Category: Uncategorised
These 110 vinyl recordings have been voted Legendary Michigan Songs during the past ten years. Each listing contains a brief song history as well as a link to a youtube video that features a performance of the recording. Ten more songs will be added to the list in 2017.
01.) Runaway - Del Shannon
02.) Rock Around The Clock - Bill Haley And His Comets
03.) Respect - Aretha Franklin
04.) 96 Tears - ? And The Mysterians
05.) Do You Love Me - The Contours
06.) My Girl - The Temptations
07.) Night Moves - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
08.) I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye
09.) Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
10.) What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
11.) Journey To The Center Of The Mind - Amboy Dukes
12.) Kick Out The Jams - MC5
13.) Eighteen - Alice Cooper
14.) Little Boy Blue - Tonto & The Renegades
15.) The Tracks Of My Tears - The Miracles
16.) Dancing In The Street - Martha & The Vandellas
17.) Keep Searchin' - Del Shannon
18.) Who Do You Love - The Woolies
19.) We're An American Band - Grand Funk
20.) Money - Barrett Strong
21.) Higher And Higher - Jackie Wilson
22.) Where You Gonna Go - The Unrelated Segments
23.) 2 + 2 = ? - Bob Seger System
24.) Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly - Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
25.) Hot Rod Lincoln - Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen
26.) Closer To Home/I'm Your Captain - Grand Funk Railroad
27.) Shake, Rattle And Roll - Bill Haley And His Comets
28.) Smokin' In The Boy's Room - Brownsville Station
29.) My Guy - Mary Wells
30.) School's Out - Alice Cooper
31.) Ramblin' Gamblin' Man - Bob Seger System
32.) Let's Stay Together - Al Green
33.) Hats Off To Larry - Del Shannon
34.) House Of The Rising Sun - Frijid Pink
35.) What I Like About You - The Romantics
36.) Old Time Rock & Roll - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
37.) War - Edwin Starr
38.) Some Kind Of Wonderful - Grand Funk
39.) Baby I Need Your Loving - The Four Tops
40.) Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Diana Ross
41.) Mystery Man - The Frost
42.) Shotgun - Jr. Walker & The All Stars
43.) Against The Wind - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
44.) Superstition - Stevie Wonder
45.) In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett
46.) Crimson And Clover - Tommy James & The Shondells
47.) Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes
48.) Heat Wave - Martha & The Vandellas
49.) Chain Of Fools - Aretha Franklin
50.) The Way I Walk - Jack Scott
51.) Hanky Panky - Tommy James & The Shondells
52.) Lonely Teardrops - Jackie Wilson
53.) Baby Love - The Supremes
54.) I Think We're Alone Now - Tommy James & The Shondells
55.) Ain't No Mountain High Enough (duet) - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
56.) Get Ready - Rare Earth
57.) Mony Mony - Tommy James & The Shondells
58.) Sock It To Me-Baby! - Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
59.) I Wanna Be Your Dog - The Stooges
60.) I Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops
61.) Any Time You Want Some Lovin' - Tonto & The Renegades
62.) The Easy Way Out - Tonto & The Renegades
63.) Misery - The Dynamics
64.) Rock And Roll Music - The Frost
65.) I Cannot Stop You - The Cherry Slush
66.) Turn The Page - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
67.) Cat Scratch Fever - Ted Nugent
68.) You've Really Got A Hold On Me - The Miracles
69.) Beautiful Loser - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
70.) Day Don't Come - The Cherry Slush
71.) This Is The Time - The Sixth Generation
72.) Crystal Blue Persuasion - Tommy James & The Shondells
73.) I Just Want To Celebrate - Rare Earth
74.) Ain't Too Proud To Beg - The Temptations
75.) Baby I'm Yours - Barbara Lewis
76.) Hollywood Nights - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
77.) Stop! In The Name Of Love - The Supremes
78.) Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye
79.) You Are The Sunshine Of My Life - Stevie Wonder
80.) The Tears Of A Clown - Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
81,) Flamingo Express - The Royaltones
82.) Talking In Your Sleep - The Romantics
83.) One In A Million - The Romantics
84.) East Side Story - Bob Seger & The Last Heard
85.) Baby Please Don't Go - Amboy Dukes
86.) Heavy Music Pt. 1 - Bob Seger & The Last Heard
87.) Village Of Love - Nathaniel Mayer
88.) 1969 - The Stooges
89.) What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted - Jimmy Ruffin
90.) (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet - The Reflections
91.) Be My Lover - Alice Cooper
92.) Papa Was A Rollin' Stone - The Temptations
93.) Higher Ground - Stevie Wonder
94.) A Natural Woman - Aretha Franklin
95.) Better Man Than I - Terry Knight & The Pack
96.) Rock 'N Roll - Detroit featuring Mitch Ryder
97.) Bad Time - Grand Funk
98.) Mainstreet - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
99.) No More Mr. Nice Guy - Alice Cooper
100.) You Keep Me Hangin' On - The Supremes
101.) Boom Boom - John Lee Hooker
102.) Respect - The Rationals
103.) Jenny Take A Ride - Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels
104.) Black Sheep - SRC
105.) Reach Out I'll Be There - The Four Tops
106.) City Slang - Sonic's Rendezvous Band
107.) Roll Me Away - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
108.) Farmer John - The Tidal Waves
109.) Mind Over Matter - Nolan Strong
110.) True Blue - Madonna
01. "Runaway" (D. Shannon, M. Crook) - Del Shannon; Big Top label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 3 Billboard R&B - 1961. Inducted in 2007.
Del's biggest hit was the result of a jam with keyboard player Max Crook at the Hi-Lo nightclub in Battle Creek, Michigan. The chord changes were loosely based on a song called "Kaw-Liga", written by Hank Williams - one of Del's early influences when he was growing up in Coopersville, Michigan.
The distinctive solo on "Runaway" is played on a musitron, an electronic keyboard invented by Max Crook. "Runaway" was on the charts for 17 weeks and was Billboard's Song of the Year for 1961. Shannon released a "live" version of "Runaway" in 1967 but it was only a minor hit.
In 1986, Del re-recorded "Runaway" with new lyrics for use as the theme for the television drama Crime Story. Shannon's original recording of "Runaway" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
"Runaway" has been covered by numerous artists over the years including the Small Faces, Bonnie Raitt, the Shirelles, and Elvis Presley.
Watch Del perform "Runaway" on David Letterman at http://youtu.be/nSkV9pdzLgo
02. "Rock Around The Clock" (M. Freedman, J. Myers) - Bill Haley And His Comets; Decca label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 3 Billboard R&B - 1955. Inducted in 2007.
Bill Haley's biggest hit didn't sell when it was first issued in 1954 as the b-side of "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town)". "Rock Around The Clock" was re-released as the a-side the following year, however, after it was used on the soundtrack of Blackboard Jungle, a movie about high school juvenile delinquents. It became the first rock and roll song ever to reach # 1 in the summer of 1955. "Rock Around The Clock" also had the distinction of becoming a Top 40 hit again in 1974 due to its use as the original opening theme of TV's Happy Days.
Haley, who was born in Highland Park, Michigan, was a featured performer in two early rock and roll movies (Rock Around The Clock and Don't Knock The Rock).
In 1957, Haley and the Comets became the first American rock and roll act to tour England. Bill Haley was even more popular in Great Britain than in the United States, and "Rock Around The Clock" re-entered the British charts seven times from 1955 through 1974.
"Rock Around The Clock" was the first rock and roll recording to be honored with induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1982.
Watch slides from the hit film American Graffiti and hear Bill Haley And His Comets perform the original version of "Rock Around The Clock" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud_JZcC0tHI&feature=related
03. "Respect" (O. Redding) - Aretha Franklin; Atlantic label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1967. Inducted in 2007.
Both Otis Redding, who wrote the song, and Michigan's Rationals had charting hits with "Respect" prior to Aretha. Franklin's version, however, became one of the greatest soul recordings of all time.
Her powerful, gospel-trained voice turned "Respect" into both a feminist call to action and an appeal for civil rights. The "sock-it-to me's" from the backing singers as well the clever spelling of the song's title in her vocal performance also helped Aretha claim the song as her own.
"Respect" was Aretha's first # 1 hit on the Hot 100, and it spent 8 weeks at the top of Billboard's R&B Chart while serving to establish her as the "Queen of Soul".
Aretha's version of "Respect" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. The song was # 5 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and was also listed as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
Watch a collage of Aretha performing her original version of "Respect" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FOUqQt3Kg0&list=RD6FOUqQt3Kg0
04. "96 Tears" (R. Martinez) - ? And The Mysterians; Pa-Go-Go and Cameo labels, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1966. Inducted in 2007.
"96 Tears" was recorded at the Art Schiell Recording Studio located at the rear of Schiell's home on Raymond Street in Bay City, Michigan. The melody grew out of a jam session between guitarist Bobby Balderrama and keyboard player Frank Rodriguez in the Rodriguez family basement built around a song idea that Rudy (?) Martinez had with the working title of "Too Many Teardrops".
Drummer Eddie Serrato suggested the title "69 Tears"; but the band wisely decided to reverse the numbers to avoid the sexual connotation and increase the chances of radio airplay. Originally released on the small Pa-Go-Go label, it was picked up for national distribution by Cameo Records.
"96 Tears" and "Hanky Panky" are the only garage rock singles to ever reach # 1 on Billboard's Hot 100. Driven by the instantly identifiable organ riffs of Frankie Rodriguez and ?'s compelling vocal, "96 Tears" has been recognized by both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest rock and roll songs of all time.
Because "96 Tears" was recorded in the Schiell Recording Studio, it was proclaimed 'Bay City's Official Rock and Roll Song' by Mayor Chris Shannon on August 14, 2014.
Watch a new MRRL slide show video featuring rare photos of ? And The Mysterians' along with the original 1966 recording of "96 Tears"at
05. "Do You Love Me" (B. Gordy) - Contours; Gordy label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 3 Billboard Hot 100 - 1962. Inducted in 2007.
Berry Gordy Jr. wrote "Do You Love Me" for the Temptations, but when they were unavailable, the song was passed to the Contours. The Contours might never have been signed to Motown if Jackie Wilson had not phoned Berry Gordy on their behalf. Wilson's cousin, Hubert Johnson, was a member of the group and Gordy changed his mind about the Contours as a result of the call.
"Do You Love Me" would become the Contours only Top Ten hit, although they did chart seven more singles in the Hot 100. "Do You Love Me" also spent three weeks at # 1 on the R&B chart in 1962.
The original version of the song became a big hit all over again in 1988 after it was featured in the soundtrack of the hit movie Dirty Dancing.
Listen to the original recording of "Do You Love Me" by the Contours in a video from the film Dirty Dancing at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRVMTX-PDyw
06. "My Girl" (W. Robinson, R. White) - The Temptations; Gordy label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1965. Inducted in 2007.
The first three hits that Smokey Robinson wrote for the Temptations featured Eddie Kendricks as the lead singer. Robinson wrote "My Girl", along with fellow Miracle Ronnie White, with David Ruffin's vocal specifically in mind.
The song came together when the Miracles and Temptations were on the same week-long bill at the Apollo in New York City. In between shows, Smokey dragged Ruffin down to the piano and showed him the song, which was kind of a follow-up to "My Guy", his hit for Mary Wells.
The Temptations recorded the classic tune when they returned to Detroit. "My Girl" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Watch the classic Temptations line-up perform "My Girl" during the 60's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltRwmgYEUr8
07. "Night Moves" (B. Seger) - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 - 1977. Inducted in 2007.
Seger's most famous composition was about the freedom and looseness we feel when we're young, and how it can be lost as we grow older. "Night Moves" evokes memories of growing up in Michigan in the 60's with grassers in farm fields and young lovers parking in deserted rural areas. The song was loosely based on real events in Bob's life.
After eleven years of being a popular regional act, "Night Moves" provided Seger with his first national Top Ten hit. The song became the springboard to a series of memorable singles and albums that established him as a major force in rock music.
The photograph of Seger that graces the cover of his "Night Moves" album was shot by Tom Bert, the first honorary inductee to the MRRL online Hall of Fame.
Watch Bob Seger's great video for "Night Moves" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgOA24hAe60
08. "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" (N. Whitfield, B. Strong) - Marvin Gaye; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1968. Inducted in 2007.
Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", and Whitfield produced it with Marvin Gaye in early 1967. Berry Gordy rejected the song, however, and released Gaye's "Your Unchanging Love" instead.
Whitfield then re-recorded a different version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" with Gladys Knight & The Pips, and it was a # 2 Pop hit in the fall of 1967.
Despite having that hit, Whitfield kept bugging Berry Gordy to release Marvin's version, and he finally did in the fall of 1968. Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" spent 7 weeks at # 1 on both the Pop and R&B charts, and it turned out to be Motown's biggest-selling single of the 1960's.
Marvin's version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Watch Marvin's live performance of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" at http://youtu.be/Y7dGdrP3pms
09. "Mustang Sally" (M. Rice) - Wilson Pickett; Atlantic label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 23 Billboard Hot 100 - 1966. Inducted in 2007.
"Mustang Sally" was written and originally recorded by Sir Mack Rice in 1965 on the Blue Rock label. Rice had a # 15 R&B hit with the song. Sir Mack and Wilson Pickett had sung together from 1961 to 1963 in the Detroit vocal group, the Falcons, before pursuing solo careers.
When Wilson was looking for a follow-up to his 1966 hit single, "Land Of 1,000 Dances", he recorded a cover of "Mustang Sally".
Pickett's version was recorded at the Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and produced by Jerry Wexler. "Mustang Sally" was also a substantial R&B hit for Wilson, spending 12 weeks on the chart and peaking at # 6.
Wilson Pickett's version of "Mustang Sally" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000.
Watch Wilson's live performance of "Mustang Sally" in the 60's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfuHgzu1Cjg
10. "What's Going On" (A. Cleveland, R. Benson, M. Gaye) - Marvin Gaye; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 2 Billboard Hot 100 - 1971. Inducted in 2007.
The title song from Marvin Gaye's greatest album was written from the point of view of his brother Frankie, a Vietnam veteran sickened by an unjust war and returning to the confusion of American life in the late 60's.
Although written from a black man's point of view, "What's Going On" also displays Marvin's identification with the era's hippies who he admired for having the guts to stand up to the establishment.
Because it was so unlike Gaye's previous hits, Berry Gordy was at first reluctant to release it. As the lead song from the "What's Going On" album, it began the transformation of Marvin Gaye into an artist whose albums were just as important as his singles, maybe more so.
Marvin Gaye's groundbreaking "What's Going On" album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Watch Marvin's performance of "What's Going On" along with a spoken introduction at www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4xQ6StnIFg
11. "Journey To The Center Of The Mind" (S. Farmer, T. Nugent) - The Amboy Dukes; Mainstream label, # 16 Billboard Hot 100 - 1968. Inducted in 2008.
Led by the howling guitar of Ted Nugent, the Amboy Dukes set the bar for high-energy Michigan rock and roll. "Journey To The Center Of The Mind" blasted out of car radios across the land to help define the psychedelic movement during the summer of 1968. But the two co-writers of the song, Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer, couldn't have been more different.
Nugent claims to have never done a drug in his life, and that he didn't even drink or smoke cigarettes. He described Farmer, the other main creative force in the Amboy Dukes, as a brilliant thinker who was often "so high and so irresponsible you couldn't get from point A to point B with him."
This creative odd couple kept it together for three albums and a handful of singles before the original Amboy Dukes disintegrated. "Journey To The Center Of The Mind" would be their only significant hit.
Watch a 1968 performance of "Journey To The Center Of The Mind" by the Amboy Dukes at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN2VNFpiGWo
12. "Kick Out The Jams" (R. Tyner, W. Kramer, F. Smith, M. Davis, D. Thompson) - The MC5; Elektra label, # 82 Billboard Hot 100 - 1969. Inducted in 2008.
With the release of the MC5's "Kick Out The Jams" album, recorded live at Detroit's Grande Ballroom, Elektra Records became the first major company to issue a rock and roll recording containing the dreaded "F-bomb".
In order to get "Kick Out The Jams" played on Top 40 radio stations, the MC5 had recorded a different version of the song on the 45 rpm single which substituted "Brothers and Sisters" for the offensive expletive. The single was a major hit in the Detroit area, and showing signs of doing the same nationally, when Elektra released the album with the uncensored version.
The wave of controversy from the release resulted in the record being banned in many stores and radio stations. Some clerks who sold the album in record stores were arrested on obscenity charges.
The censorship issues and radical politics swirling around the MC5 unfortunately obscured the fact that they were a great band, and "Kick Out The Jams" would be their only charting record.
Watch a 1972 performance of "Kick Out The Jams" by the MC5 at http://youtu.be/8XhQRFO4M7A
13. "Eighteen" (A. Cooper, M. Bruce, G. Buxton, D. Dunaway, N. Smith) - Alice Cooper; Warner label, # 21 Billboard Hot 100 - 1971. Inducted in 2008.
Dismissed as "the worst band in L.A." when they were based in California, things changed completely when the group moved to lead singer Alice Cooper's hometown of Detroit and started recording with producer Bob Ezrin.
The hit single "Eighteen" addressed the awkwardness and uncertainty of teenagers moving into adulthood, and it was the band's first collaboration with Ezrin.
Spending 13 weeks in the Hot 100 and driven by guitars, harmonica, and a great vocal; "Eighteen" was Alice Cooper's first commercial success.
Supported with an outrageous stage show featuring snakes, beheadings, and other assorted acts of feigned mayhem, the Alice Cooper band's partnership with Ezrin resulted in 9 more hit singles and 5 Top 40 albums before the original group broke up in 1974.
Watch a live, in-color performance of "Eighteen" by the original Alice Cooper band at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXZcJojTucg
14. "Little Boy Blue" (T. Slocum) - Tonto And The Renegades; Sound of the Sceen label, Did not chart nationally - 1967. Inducted in 2008.
The band formed in the city of Grand Ledge, Michigan, located west of Lansing. Tonto And The Renegades was originally a quartet composed of Tom Kirby, Terry Slocum, Bill Ford, and Gary Richey. "Tonto" was Richey's nickname. They were the house band at a popular teen club in the area called 'The Sceen'.
The owner of the club financed their single, which was recorded at the Great Lakes Recording Studio (a.k.a. Fenton Studio) in Sparta, Michigan, and put it out on his own vanity label, 'Sound Of The Sceen'. By the time of the recording, the band had added keyboardist Jeff Keast to the line-up.
Slocum, who sang lead and played fuzz-tone guitar on the high octane tune, wrote "Little Boy Blue" about his girlfriend at the time. Inexplicably, Lansing-area AM radio stations pushed the single's b-side, "I Knew This Thing Would Happen", and it became a local hit for the band. Over the years, however, the far superior "Little Boy Blue" has grown in stature as one of Michigan's undiscovered garage rock classics.
Hear "Little Boy Blue" and see some vintage photos of Tonto & The Renegades at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkAjJhWCc3Y
15. "The Tracks Of My Tears" (W. Robinson, W. Moore, M. Tarplin) - The Miracles; Tamla label, # 2 Billboard R&B, # 16 Billboard Hot 100 - 1965. Inducted in 2008.
Marv Tarplin's classic lead guitar figure in the Miracles' "The Tracks Of My Tears" was inspired by his listening to Harry Belafonte's "The Banana Boat Song" at the wrong speed. Smokey Robinson and Pete Smith co-wrote the song with Tarplin, and it is a perfect match for Smokey's impassioned vocal and the Miracles' smooth backing.
"The Tracks Of My Tears" spent 12 weeks in the Hot 100, and it was an even bigger R&B hit, peaking at # 2 and spending 18 weeks on that chart.
The song also spawned three hit cover versions by Johnny Rivers, Aretha Franklin, and Linda Ronstadt. Incredibly, Rivers' cover version in 1967 charted higher on the Hot 100 than the Miracles' original. It is the Miracles' original recording of "The Tracks Of My Tears", however, that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
Watch the Miracles perform "The Tracks Of My Tears" in 1965 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCwkZrj2VT4
16. "Dancing In The Street" (M. Gaye, M. Stevenson, I. Hunter) - Martha & The Vandellas; Gordy label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 2 Billboard Hot 100 - 1964. Inducted in 2008.
Martha & The Vandellas' classic hit was written by Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, and Marvin Gaye. Stevenson, who discovered Martha Reeves for Motown, first offered the song to Kim Weston, who turned it down. Mickey then brought it to Martha and had her sing on a demo of "Dancing In The Street" with Stevenson, Hunter, and Gaye singing background.
Although Reeves didn't like the song at first, her recording of "Dancing In The Street" with the Vandellas became not only their biggest hit but also their signature song.
Released in the summer of 1964, it spent two weeks at # 2 on the Hot 100 and a total of fourteen weeks on the chart. "Dancing In The Street" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch Martha & The Vandellas perform "Dancing In The Street" in 1964 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdvITn5cAVc
17. "Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun)" (D. Shannon) - Del Shannon; Amy label, # 9 Billboard Hot 100 - 1965. Inducted in 2008.
Del recorded "Keep Searchin'" in 1964 at the height of 'Beatlemania' in the United States. Like almost all of his biggest hits, the song is an Del Shannon original. Shannon, who was an inspiration to many of the British Invasion bands, used the same basic formula that he first employed on "Runaway" in 1961 - building tension and darkness by using minor chords before the song explodes into a major chord crescendo.
Featuring his trademark falsetto and a keyboard solo, "Keep Searchin'" spent fourteen weeks in the the Hot 100 (one more than "Runaway"), but it would be Shannon's last big hit single.
Del would go on to chart only four more songs before his untimely death in 1990.
Watch Del Shannon sing "Keep Searchin' (We'll Follow The Sun)" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrni2UAlFI
18. "Who Do You Love" (E. McDaniel) - The Woolies; Dunhill/ABC label, # 95 Billboard Hot 100 - 1967. Inducted in 2008.
The Woolies' fabulous cover of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" was the band's only charting hit. The original group was formed in Dearborn, Michigan. The story of how they got to make that recording is unusual.
The Woolies had won a "Best Band in the World" contest sponsored by Vox amplifiers. The first prize was advertised to be a recording contract. Although that never materialized, the band did get plane tickets to Los Angeles.
They took their demo recording of "Who Do You Love", recorded with Dave Kalmbach at the Great Lakes Recording Studio in Sparta, Michigan, and several other songs to a number of record companies in L.A.; and they managed to land a recording deal with Lou Adler at ABC-Dunhill.
Originally released as the b-side to "Hey Girl", it was "Who Do You Love" that became the big hit in Detroit and later spread across the nation. The new version of the song was recorded at United Western Studio 3, the same studio where the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, and the Mamas and the Papas produced some of their biggest hits. The Woolies flew Ron English to California from Lansing to play lead guitar, and he joined together with Bob and Jeff Baldori, "Bee" Metros, and Stormy Rice to record a classic Michigan garage rock single.
19. "We're An American Band" (D. Brewer) - Grand Funk; Capitol label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1973. Inducted in 2008.
Grand Funk's first # 1 single in the summer of 1973 marked the emergence of drummer Don Brewer as a lead singer and a songwriter for the group. "We're An American Band" spent 17 weeks on the Hot 100.
The song was a chronicle of a rock band on the road, and it was based on Grand Funk's own experiences. They did play poker with blues guitarist Freddie King, there were four young 'chichitas' in Omaha who did take care of them while they were in the city, and apparently "sweet, sweet Connie", the groupie with legendary oral skills, demonstrated her talents on the band members.
"We're An American Band" was the first of six consecutive Top Ten singles for Grand Funk, and the song quickly became the band's anthem.
Watch a 1974 live performance of "We're An American Band" by Grand Funk at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMsIrKjSM6Y
20. "Money (That's What I Want)" (J. Bradford, B. Gordy) - Barrett Strong; Anna label, # 2 Billboard R&B, # 23 Billboard Hot 100 - 1960. Inducted in 2008.
"Money" was just the second hit issued on the fledgling Tamla label. It was written by Berry Gordy, Janie Bradford, and Barrett Strong late in 1959. Because Gordy didn't have enough money at this time to distribute the record nationally, he released it on his sister Gwen's Anna label that had a national distribution deal with Chess Records in Chicago.
"Money" became a # 2 hit on the R&B chart as well as a # 23 hit on the Hot 100 early in 1960. As a result of its success, Berry Gordy soon took the plunge and began distributing his own records later that year.
Barrett Strong never really wanted to sing, however, and "Money" would be his only hit recording. Strong's real talents were as both a piano player and a songwriter. Barrett would go on to co-write many classic Motown hits during the 60's and 70's including "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", "War", and "Cloud Nine".
You can hear Barrett Strong's original version of "Money (That's What I Want)" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijEgfnJuirA
21. "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher" (G. Jackson, R. Miner, C. Smith) - Jackie Wilson; Brunswick label, # 6 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1967. Inducted in 2008.
In 1966, Jackie Wilson started recording with producer Carl Davis in Chicago. "Higher And Higher" was their second hit single together, and it served to end a nearly three-year slump on the charts for Jackie.
The song was originally reorded by the Dells, but it was the perfect vehicle for Wilson's amazing vocal talents. Jackie's hit version was recorded with members of Motown's famous house band, the Funk Brothers. Bassist James Jamerson, guitarist Robert White, keyboardist Johnny Griffith, and drummer "Pistol" Allen all played on "Higher And Higher".
The song spent 12 weeks on the Hot 100 in the summer and early fall of 1967. Although he would continue to chart records into the 1970's, "Higher And Higher" would be Jackie Wilson's last # 1 R&B hit single. Jackie's original version of "Higher And Higher" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch Jackie Wilson performing "Higher And Higher" live at www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1odvp-_bhk
22. "Where You Gonna Go" (R. Mackavich, R. Stults) - The Unrelated Segments; Liberty label, Did not chart nationally - 1967. Inducted in 2008.
The members of the Unrelated Segments were from the downriver suburbs of Detroit: Taylor, Allen Park, Melvindale, and Lincoln Park, respectively. The band name came from an economics term that one of the band members had heard during a class he was taking.
"Where You Gonna Go" was the driving follow-up single to their Detroit chart debut, the excellent "Story Of My Life". With its propulsive beat and compelling vocals, it's almost shocking that "Where You Gonna Go" was not a smash hit for the Unrelated Segments.
The record had the unfortunate luck of being released the same month as the Detroit race riots in the summer of 1967, however. In the turbulence and its aftermath, record sales in the Motor City suffered. That could be the only possible explanation as to why this quintessential slab of Michigan rock and roll did not break nationally.
Watch a "Where You Gonna Go" video that includes a tour of Detroit in the late 60's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=fF8Jv1mQp0U
23. "2 + 2 = ?" (B. Seger) - The Bob Seger System; Capitol label, Did not chart nationally - 1968. Inducted in 2008.
Bob Seger was signed to Capitol Records in 1968 mainly because of his songwriting ability. His first single for the label, "2 + 2 = ?", demonstrated that skill in spades. Seger managed to perfectly articulate the feelings of young men facing the draft and the possibility of death in the jungles of Vietnam while fighting in what many of them felt was a corrupt and unjust war.
Released in April of 1968, "2 + 2 = ?" was the first and the greatest of the rock and roll anti-war songs. The record starts ominously with just Don Hornaker's bass and Seger's low vocal before putting the pedal to the metal and blasting into high gear.
The original version of the song had a dramatic five-second pause near the end. The 45 rpm single, however, inserted a guitar chord to cover it for AM radio stations intolerant of silence, no matter how dramatic it might be.
Listen to the 45 rpm single version of the incredible "2 + 2 = ?" and see a video collage of photos of Bob Seger from the late 60's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=l110qVhale0
24. "Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly" (F. Long, M. Stevenson, J. Marascalco, R. Blackwell) - Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels; New Voice label, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 - 1966. Inducted in 2008.
Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels used the same approach on their biggest hit single as they did on their debut smash, "Jenny Take A Ride". This time they combined Motown artist Shorty Long's "Devil With A Blue Dress On" with another Little Richard hit, "Good Golly Miss Molly".
Drummer John Badanjek shares the spotlight with Mitch Ryder on this great tune as his bass drum triggers the roll that kicks off the song and provides the ecstatic beat that literally compels you onto the dance floor.
"Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly" spent 16 weeks in the Hot 100, but there would only be two more hits for Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels, as Ryder's manager would soon jettison the Detroit Wheels and push Mitch into a solo career.
Watch a reunion performance by Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels of "Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dd9qjHUyHQ&feature=related
25. "Hot Rod Lincoln" (C. Ryan, W. Stevenson) - Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen; Paramount label, # 9 Billboard Hot 100 - 1972. Inducted in 2008.
Although they were sometimes called the first hippie country band, Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen embraced a number of different styles as well, including rockabilly, western swing, boogie-woogie, and novelty tunes. The band's biggest hit, "Hot Rod Lincoln", would probably fall into the latter category. The humorous song originally provided Top 40 hits for both Johnny Bond and Charlie Ryan in 1960.
When the band started out, Commander Cody (a.k.a. George Frayne) was not one of the main singers in the group. He performed "Hot Rod Lincoln" in a fast-talking style reminiscent of comedian and recording artist Phil Harris.
When the song became a surprise hit, the band's Paramount label as well as much of the record-buying public expected more vocals from the Commander. In a recent interview, Cody claims that the fact that the real singers in the group weren't getting any hits was a major reason for the original band breaking up in 1976.
Listen to the Commander and the original line-up of the band perform "Hot Rod Lincoln" at http://youtu.be/F9QpDvhshOQ
26. "Closer To Home/I'm Your Captain" (M. Farner) - Grand Funk Railroad; Capitol label, # 22 Billboard Hot 100 - 1970. Inducted in 2009.
Grand Funk Railroad's first Top 40 single came to Mark Farner in his sleep. He awoke with the words to "I'm Your Captain" in his head, and he had the presence of mind to write them down before falling back to sleep. Mark had forgotten about them the next morning when he picked up his guitar and started strumming music that was different from his previous compositions. Farner then remembered the lyrics he wrote down the previous night, and a Grand Funk classic was born.
"I'm You Captain/Closer To Home" would be Terry Knight's finest production with the band. Inspired by the Moody Blues' recent use of orchestration on their recordings, Knight and the band brought in strings to enhance the drama and impact of the song.
Written during the Vietnam War, "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home" also became something of an anthem to many servicemen and women involved in the conflict overseas.
Watch a live performance by Grand Funk Railroad of "Closer To Home/I'm Your Captain" from their legendary concert at Shea Stadium at www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyF5J7au1jE
27. "Shake, Rattle And Roll" (J. Stone) - Bill Haley And His Comets; Decca label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100 - 1954. Inducted in 2009.
"Shake, Rattle & Roll" was not only Bill Haley And His Comets' first Top Ten record, but it was also the first ever rock and roll record to reach that Billboard chart position. Haley, who started out as a country singer, had been experimenting with R&B songs for a couple of years on the Essex label before signing with Decca Records in 1954.
His first record for the label, "Rock Around The Clock", failed to sell when it was first released in May of 1954, but its follow-up, "Shake, Rattle And Roll" helped make Bill Haley And His Comets the first big rock and roll stars.
The song was a cover of Big Joe Turner's original but with some of the more suggestive lyrics changed. Turner had a # 1 R&B hit with his version, and it also reached # 22 on the Hot 100, a remarkable feat for a black artist in 1954.
Listen to "Shake, Rattle And Roll" by Bill Haley And His Comets and see some vintage photos of Haley and the band at www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKl2FIesuOc
28. "Smokin' In The Boy's Room" (C. Koda, M. Lutz) - Brownsville Station; Big Tree label, # 3 Billboard Hot 100 - 1974. Inducted in 2009.
Michael Lutz and Cub Koda co-wrote the ode to an act of rebellion common to all high schools, and it became Brownsville Station's biggest hit in early 1974. Koda reportedly got the idea for the song from his own experience with childhood friends of smoking cigarettes in the restroom of a local movie theatre in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He and Lutz then switched the setting to a high school.
The song was recorded quickly - the basic track was completed in just two hours. Michael Lutz remembered the session in an interview: "It was recorded the way it was written - fast, which is a good sign; it means we were comfortable with it. We knew we had a good song, but we didn't expect it to blow up the way it did".
"Smokin' In The Boy's Room" earned Brownsville Station its first Gold Record and helped blast off a tour that would see the band play 347 dates that year.
Watch a 1974 performance of "Smokin' In The Boy's Room" along with "Barefootin'" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxBbmoUdEac
29. "My Guy" (W. Robinson) - Mary Wells; Motown label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1964. Inducted in 2009.
Mary Wells was the first female star on the Motown label. Mary and writer/producer Smokey Robinson combined for seven Top 40 hits from 1962 to 1964. The last of these was "My Guy", Mary's only # 1 hit. Smokey Robinson had a great deal of success writing songs for Wells that featured a calypso-based rhythm, amd "My Guy" fits into that general pattern.
Robinson adapted the opening notes of the song from "Canadian Sunset", a 1956 instrumental by Eddie Heywood, and the song is anchored by some incredible playing by the Funk Brothers' bassist, James Jamerson. The backing vocals on "My Guy" are by the Andantes who's "What you say?" responses are a perfect match with Mary's declarations of undying love.
"My Guy" was the first big Motown hit in England, and Mary Wells became the first Motown artist to perform there when she opened for the Beatles on their tour of the United Kingdom in 1964. Mary's recording of "My Guy" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch Mary perform "My Guy" on Shindig in 1964 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1M5eEJeT38
30. "School's Out" (A. Cooper, M. Bruce, G. Buxton, D. Dunaway, N. Smith) - Alice Cooper; Warner label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100 - 1972. Inducted in 2009.
"The two most intense and joyous times of the year are Christmas morning and the end of school. The few minutes waiting for that final school bell to ring are so intense that when it happens, it's almost orgasmic. I think we captured that feeling with this anthem, it was certainly our signature song." That was Alice Cooper describing his band's biggest hit. "School's Out" was also the title cut of the band's third album with producer Bob Ezrin, and the first to employ a concept that loosely united its eight songs.
"School's Out" deals with teenage defiance by combining great guitar riffs with some amusing puns; "We've got not class, and we've got no principles", and ending the stanza with, "We can't even think of a word that rhymes".
The album cover of "School's Out" depicts a wooden desk cover with either the band members' names or their initials carved on it. The "desk" opens to find a slingshot, marbles, a pocket knife, a comic book, various school supplies, and the album credits in the form of a written test. "School's Out" was also the first Alice Cooper record to feature fellow Michigan legend Dick Wagner on guitar.
Watch Alice perform "School's Out" at a recent concert by clicking on www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbNEOJMGFAo&NR=18feature=fvwp
31. "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" (B. Seger) - The Bob Seger System; Capitol label, # 17 Billboard Hot 100 - 1969. Inducted in 2009.
Seven seconds of Pep Perrine's pounding drums kick off "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man", the Bob Seger System's first Top 40 hit. The organ riff that also drives the song was not played by Seger, who was proficient on the instrument, but by keyboardist Bob Schultz who was a member of the band at the time of the recording. Also sitting in on the session to sing backing vocals was Seger's friend and fellow Michigan artist, Glenn Frey.
"Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" was Bob's second single for his new label, Capitol Records. After the controversial "2 + 2 = ?" failed to chart nationally, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" justified Capitol's faith in the Bob Seger System by spending 14 weeks in the Hot 100.
The success of the single enabled the band to tour California for the first time, and it prompted Seger and Capitol to change the title of his first album from "Tales Of Lucy Blue" to "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". The song would be a concert staple for Bob until the early 80's. He did not play it live again until his Face The Promise tour in the fall of 2006.
Watch the Bob Seger System perform "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" on television in early 1969 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2aBOTNGWMY
32. "Let's Stay Together" (A. Green, W. Mitchell, A. Jackson) - Al Green; Hi label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1972. Inducted in 2009.
"Let's Stay Together" established Al Green as a major soul music star. The basic music track was put together by producer Willie Mitchell and Al Jackson. Jackson, who was the drummer for Booker T. & The MG's as well as Mitchell's session band, was an important collaborator on Al Green's early 70's recordings. Once the pair gave the music to Green, he completed the lyrics to "Let's Stay Together" in fifteen minutes.
Recording the track, however, was another matter entirely. Mitchell claims they spent over one hundred hours working on the song. The problem was that Mitchell felt that Green was trying to overpower the song. Willie said that he wanted Al to "let the the song happen, let it ooze out".
Mitchell's less is more approach with Green helped turn soul music in a new direction in the 1970's and moved it away from the shouting style of the 1960's. Green's "Let's Stay Together" was an even bigger R&B hit, spending nine weeks at # 1. In 1984, Tina Turner would begin her successful comeback with a hit cover version of "Let's Stay Together". Al Green's original recording of "Let's Stay Together" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch Al Green perform "Let's Stay Together" in 1972 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVzYxqG9N1c
33. "Hats Off To Larry" (D. Shannon) - Del Shannon; Big Top label, # 5 Billboard Hot 100 - 1961. Inducted in 2009.
"Hats Off To Larry" was Del Shannon's all-important follow-up single to his debut smash, "Runaway". As a result of "Runaway", Shannon had been added to a series of big rock and roll shows in the spring of 1961 at Brooklyn's Paramount Theatre, headlined by Jackie Wilson, Dion, and Bobby Vee. Del wrote "Hats Off To Larry" in his dressing room between shows in the presence of both Dion and Bobby Vee. Shannon returned to New York on May 11th with keyboardist Max Crook and recorded the song in one day.
Released in June 1961, "Hats Off To Larry" was a big summer hit for Del, spending 13 weeks in the Hot 100. It was another song about a romantic break-up and sounded similar to "Runaway". Shannon once again employed his falsetto, only this time it was "Cry, cry, cry" rather than "Why, why, why".
"Hats Off To Larry" differed from its predecessor in some ways, however. The song starts slowly with a 13-second introduction before kicking into gear. Sax and piano play a lesser role on "Hats Off To Larry" than on "Runaway". Max Crook is again featured prominently throughout with keyboard flourishes at the line of each line and another musitron solo mid-song.
Both Runaway" and "Hats Off To Larry" established Del Shannon as a major star in England. Nine of his next ten singles charted higher in Great Britain than in the United States.
Watch Del perform "Hats Off To Larry" on an Australian television show in the 1980's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=0otse5mGmgU
34. "House Of The Rising Sun" (Traditional) - Frijid Pink; Parrot label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100 - 1970. Inducted in 2009.
Although Frijid Pink may not immediately come to mind when the subject of Detroit rock and roll is brought up, the band had a bigger hit single and a bigger hit album than most of its better-known Motor City brethern. The band was formed in 1967, and they were originally called the Detroit Vibrations.
After changing their name to Frijid Pink, the band signed with Parrot Records in 1969. Following the release of two singles that were minor regional hits, Parrot to put out "House Of The Rising Sun" as a single on the advice of Paul Cannon, program director of Detroit's powerful radio station WKNR.
Frijid Pink's rousing, guitar-drenched version of the Animals' 1964 hit, "House Of The Rising Sun", was recorded in just one take and was at first considered just filler for their eponymous LP, "Frijid Pink". The song got such a strong response from both AM and FM radio, however, that it became the band's only Top Ten hit after Parrot released it as a single early in 1970.
"House Of The Rising Sun" was an even bigger smash for the band in Germany where it reached # 1 and stayed at the top of that country's chart for 11 weeks. It was also a hit in Canada at # 3 and in Great Britain, where it peaked at # 4. The presence of the song on their debut LP also helped push "Frijid Pink" to # 11 on the Billboard Pop Album chart.
Watch Frijid Pink perform "House Of The Rising Sun" on a television show in 1971 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=t40INnb6DnY
35. "What I Like About You" (W. Palmar, M. Skill, J. Marinos) - The Romantics; Nemperor label, # 49 Billboard Hot 100 - 1980. Inducted in 2009.
The Romantics (Wally Palmar, Mike Skill, Jimmy Marinos, and Rich Cole) formed in East Detroit in early 1977. They were nfluenced by early Motor City rockers like Bob Seger & The Last Heard, the Underdogs, the Rationals, Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels as well as the 60's British Invasion bands. The Romantics combined these sources into a modern high energy sound that didn't quite fit into either the 'punk rock' or 'new wave' categories.
The band signed with Nemperor Records in 1979 and recorded their debut album, "The Romantics", in just three weeks. The first single from the album was the impossibly catchy and hard-driving "What I Like About You". It became the Romantics' first hit single, peaking at # 49 in early 1980.
Strangely enough, the Romantics' gritty anthem of young romance has grown in popularity over the years due to its airplay on oldies radio and use in a variety of television commercials. In 2007, the band sued Guitar Heroes Encore: Rocks The 80's over a cover version of "What I Like About You" used in the game. The case was dismissed in 2008.
Watch the Romantics perform the original version of "What I Like About You" at http://youtu.be/Rqnw5IfbZOU
36. "Old Time Rock & Roll" (G. Jackson, T. Jones, B. Seger) - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label, # 28 Billboard Hot 100 - 1979. Inducted in 2009.
"Old Time Rock & Roll" was the fouth single released from Bob Seger's "Stranger In Town" album. Although it was far from being one of his biggest hit singles, it has become one of Bob's most popular songs over the past thirty years.
"Old Time Rock & Roll" has been used effectively in both movies and television commercials. You cannot go to a wedding reception without the deejay playing the song, and it seems like every bar band on earth has got the song in its repertoire. Years after its release, "Old Time Rock & Roll" was designated the 'most played jukebox song in history' by the Amusement Operators of America.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Seger stated that the members of the Silver Bullet Band hated the song at first, but learned to accept it after it got great crowd reactions every time they played it live.
The song is not a Seger original, but Bob did rewrite some of the verses before recording it. He declined to take writer's credit on "Old Time Rock & Roll", however, a decision that turned out to be quite costly considering the amount of airplay the song has gotten and its use in any number of creative and commercial projects including the 1983 hit film Risky Business.
Watch Bob perform "Old Time Rock & Roll" live in 1983 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQswfILThsY
37. "War" (N. Whitfield, B. Strong) - Edwin Starr; Gordy label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 3 Billboard R&B - 1970. Inducted in 2009.
"War" was written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong and was first recorded by the Temptations on their "Psychedelic Shack" album. Motown received hundreds of letters asking that the song be released as a single, but the Temptations already had "Ball Of Confusion" scheduled as their next record. Instead, Norman Whitfield asked Edwin Starr if he would be interested in cutting a version of "War".
Starr had come to Motown after Berry Gordy purchased Golden World Records and its subsidiaries in 1968. Starr had four charting singles on the company's Ric-Tic label, including "Agent Double-O-Soul", before signing with Motown. Edwin had a Top Ten single with "Twenty-Five Miles" the previous year for Motown before hitting the top spot in the Hot 100 with "War".
Starr's biggest hit spent three weeks at # 1 in the summer of 1970 as more and more people began to turn against the United States' involvement in the war in Vietnam.
Edwin won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance for his outstanding recording of "War" - the only anti-war song to ever reach # 1. Edwin Starr's recording of "War" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
You can watch a Motown Time Capsule video of wartime events in 1970 and hear Edwin Starr's classic recording of "War" at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_d8C4AIFgUg
38. "Some Kind Of Wonderful" (J. Ellison) - Grand Funk; Capitol label, # 3 Billboard Hot 100, # 85 Billboard R&B - 1975. Inducted in 2009.
Growing up in and around Flint, Michigan in the 1960's, all of the members of Grand Funk were exposed to, and inspired by the soul music hits on the local AM radio stations. "Some Kind Of Wonderful" by the Soul Brothers Six got a lot of airplay on Flint's WTAC in 1967. The guys in Grand Funk always loved the song and would often sing it as a warm-up in their limo on the way to concerts.
The band finally recorded it for their 1975 album, "All The Girls In The World". Producer Jimmy Ienner wanted Grand Funk to make their cover version of "Some Kind Of Wonderful" sound as basic as possible - almost like a demo recording. The cut has Mark Farner and Don Brewer singing together to a musical backing that is mostly just bass and drums.
"Some Kind Of Wonderful" was a very different sounding single for Grand Funk in that it had very little guitar; but it became their fifth consecutive Top Ten hit, and spent 13 weeks in the Hot 100 in early 1975.
You can hear Grand Funk's recording of "Some Kind Of Wonderful" and view a photo collage from throughout their career by clicking on www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bz7fMRBIxpU
39. "Baby I Need Your Loving" (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) - The Four Tops; Motown label, # 11 Billboard Hot 100 - 1964. Inducted in 2009.
The Four Tops signed with Motown in 1963, but their first recording for the label was an album of jazz standards. In 1964, they were teamed with the songwriting and production team of Brian and Eddie Holland and Lamont Dozier. H-D-H provided the Four Tops with "Baby I Need Your Loving", which spent 12 weeks in the Hot 100.
The secret ingedient for almost all of Motown's great hits, however, were the label's great session musicians, the Funk Brothers. According to Earl Van Dyke, the leader of Motown's great house band, they would sometimes get called to the studio to cut rhythm tracks for songs that hadn't even been written yet. A lot of these tracks wound up as parts of melodies and even vocal backgrounds on the label's hit songs.
On "Baby I Need Your Loving", the background that the Four Tops sang actually came from the melodic lines that Van Dyke played on his piano for one of those rhythm tracks. H-D-H took Earl's piano out of the mix and had the Four Tops sing the melody he created instead. Holland, Dozier, and Holland then added strings and the female backing vocals of the Andantes to the group's pristine harmonies and Levi Stubbs' powerful lead vocals to produce one of Motown's classic singles.
You can watch a television performance of "Baby I Need Your Loving" by the Four Tops at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUOntQocGWk
40. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (N. Ashford, V. Simpson) - Diana Ross; Motown label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1970. Inducted in 2009.
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was the first duet hit for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in 1967. The lyrics were written by Nick Ashford shortly after he first moved to New York City. Determined not to let the Big Apple get the best of him, the title just popped into his head as he was walking down a Manhattan street. Nick rushed back to his apartment and finished the song with his partner, Valerie Simpson.
The big differences in the version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" that they produced for Diana Ross were: a spoken section in the song that took advantage of Diana's sexy speaking voice, and the rearrangement of the song so that the chorus is not sung until the end in order to add drama and suspense to the recording.
Their original production was six minutes long, but Motown edited down to three minutes and fifteen seconds for the 45 rpm single. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was the first # 1 hit for Diana Ross as a solo artist following her astounding career as the lead singer of the Supremes.
Watch Diana Ross perform "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" at her 1983 concert in Central Park at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMu8u7En6dw&feature=related
41. “Mystery Man” (D. Wagner) – The Frost; Vanguard label; Did not chart nationally - 1969. Inducted in 2010.
“Mystery Man” was the first single from The Frost’s debut album, “Frost Music”. Released in early 1969, “Mystery Man” was a monster hit in Detroit but it stalled nationally as Vanguard Records totally dropped the ball when it failed to adequately distribute and promote what could have been the band’s breakout single.
Dick Wagner, who was heavily influenced by the songwriting of Lennon and McCartney, penned the song while on vacation in Houghton Lake, Michigan. He had just returned from a trip to New York and a failed audition for Blood, Sweat & Tears. Wagner claims that he asked his wife for a divorce after writing the song.
“Mystery Man” was also the first song Wagner wrote for The Frost’s classic line-up that included Dick, fellow guitarist Donny Hartman, drummer Bobby Riggs, and new bassist Gordy Garris. In a recent interview, Wagner stated that “Mystery Man” remains his favorite Frost composition to this day.
Listen to the original unreleased version of “Mystery Man” by The Frost recorded at Jeep Holland's A-Square Records by clicking on http://youtu.be/rygrz8q7Aj4
42. “Shotgun” (A. DeWalt) – Jr. Walker & The All Stars; Soul label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 - 1965. Inducted in 2010.
Jr. Walker & The All Stars were playing the El Grotto nightclub in Battle Creek, Michigan, when they got the inspiration for what would become their biggest hit on Berry Gordy’s Soul label, a new Motown subsidiary.
One night at the club, Walker became intrigued by a dance where the participants were employing moves that imitated shooting a gun. When he asked one of the girls on the dance floor what it was called, she said it was the ‘shotgun’ and that he should write a tune for it.
In 1964, Motown was still a small enough company that an artist could call Berry Gordy directly to discuss a recording. After Walker wrote “Shotgun”, he called Gordy and told him he had written a new dance tune. Berry like the idea and had the band drive over to Detroit to record it in late 1964.
Jr. Walker was reluctantly pressed into doing the lead vocal when the original singer failed to show up for the session. “Shotgun” was an immediate hit when it was released in early 1965. The song spent four weeks at # 1 on the R&B charts peaked at # 4 on the Hot 100. Jr. Walker would sing the lead vocals on all of The All Stars’ charting hits from that point onward.
Watch Jr. Walker & The All Stars perform “Shotgun” in 1966 on the Hullabaloo TV show at www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnhI_ECOAK4&feature=related
43. “Against The Wind” (B. Seger) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label, # 5 Billboard Hot 100 - 1980. Inducted in 2010.
The title song from Bob Seger’s first # 1 LP was the second Top Ten single released from the album.(“Fire Lake” was the first.) In a 1980 Rolling Stone interview, Seger said that “Against The Wind” is about trying to move ahead, keeping your sanity and integrity at the same time.
He went on to say in the interview that “Knowing the difference between when people are using you and when people truly care about you, that’s what “Against The Wind” is also about. The people in the song have weathered the storm, and it’s made them much better that they’ve been able to do it and maintain whatever relationship. To get through is a real victory”.
In a TV interview with Bob Costas, Seger revealed that he almost didn’t include the song’s most famous line, “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then”. Seger explained: “I thought it was bad grammar. My manager, my tour manager, and my band said ‘That’s a great line’”. Thus, the classic lyric remained.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band won a Grammy in the category “Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” for “Against The Wind”.
Watch a 2006 live performance by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band of “Against The Wind” at http://youtu.be/hydTdZ9Au7c
44. “Superstition” (S. Wonder) – Stevie Wonder; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1973. Inducted in 2010.
Stevie Wonder was the opening act on the Rolling Stones' massive 1972 tour and, as a result, gained valuable exposure to large white rock audiences who might not normally have seen him in concert. Following the Stones tour, Wonder released “Talking Book”, his first Top Ten album since 1963.
Stevie’s first choice for a single from the album was “Big Brother”, but Motown executives were adamant that “Superstition” was the stronger choice. A year earlier, Wonder had worked with guitarist Jeff Beck and had written “Superstition” with Beck in mind. When the guitarist didn’t record the song promptly, Motown put out the song as the new Stevie Wonder single in late 1972 in advance of the release of “Talking Book”.
In the early Seventies, ‘Soul’ music was evolving into ‘Funk’, a bass-driven, percussive form of black music. “Superstition” with its irresistible dance groove established Wonder as a leader of this new genre and it would be the first of five # 1 singles that he would enjoy during the decade.
Jeff Beck’s recording of “Superstition” would come out later in 1973 as part of the album “Beck, Bogart, Appice”. “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Watch Stevie Wonder perform “Superstition” live on Sesame Street at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ul7X5js1vE
45. “In The Midnight Hour” (W. Pickett, S. Cropper) – Wilson Pickett; Atlantic label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 21 Billboard Hot 100 - 1965. Inducted in 2010.
After his first two Atlantic singles failed to chart, producer Jerry Wexler brought Wilson Pickett to Memphis in 1965 to record with the multi-racial soul music band, Booker T. & The MG’s.
Pickett and the white guitarist from the MG’s, Steve Cropper, wrote and recorded “In The Midnight Hour” at the first session they worked together.
Cropper had listened to some of Pickett’s early recordings before the session began and he noticed that Wilson had sung the phrase, “In the midnight hour”, at the end of several of them.
When the two sat down to write some new songs, Cropper suggested that Pickett use the phrase. Within and hour, the pair had written the soul music classic that would make Wilson Pickett a star.
“In The Midnight Hour” had a delayed backbeat that made it perfect for a brand new dance that was sweeping the country called ‘the jerk’. It would not only become Pickett’s first Top 40 hit, but also his first of five # 1 R&B hits during his illustrious career.
“In The Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch Wilson Pickett perform “In The Midnight Hour” on television in color at http://youtu.be/mhOy1wt5lDc
46. “Crimson And Clover” (T. James, P, Lucia) - Tommy James & The Shondells; Roulette label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1969. Inducted in 2010.
Following three months on the road with Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential campaign, Tommy James decided to end his successful association with producers Bo Gentry and Ritchie Cordell. The pair had been co-writers with James on the Top Ten singles: “I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mirage”, and “Mony Mony”.
James first big success as both writer and producer came in 1969 with “Crimson And Clover”, the group’s first # 1 single since “Hanky Panky”. In an interview for The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, James said that “‘crimson’ and ‘clover’ were two of my favorite words and I just put them together. We had the title before we had the song. When I wrote with the Shondells, it was different than when I wrote with Bo and Ritchie – a different energy flow. “Crimson And Clover” was part of the psychedelia of the late 1960’s”.
In another interview James said said of the recording; “I had a kind of historical sense of the record right from the beginning. I really felt like we were cutting something special”.
The single sold over 5.5 million copies, and it remains the Tommy James & The Shondells’ best selling single of all time. It was also the title song of the multi-platinum album, “Crimson & Clover”, released in early 1969 with liner notes by Hubert Humphrey. In 1982, “Crimson And Clover” was covered by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who had a # 7 hit single with the song.
Watch Tommy James & The Shondells perform “Crimson And Clover” in a vintage 1968 video at http://youtu.be/VfeCgMo-Kao
47. “Please Mr. Postman” (G. Dobbins, W. Garrett, F. Gorman, B. Holland, R. Bateman) – The Marvelettes; Tamla label, #1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1961. Inducted in 2010.
“Please Mr. Postman’ was Motown’s first # 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, but its success seemed very unlikely in 1961. The girls who became known as The Marvelettes first came together in the Inkster High School Glee Club to participate in a talent show at the school with the prize being an audition at Berry Gordy’s Tamla Records in Detroit.
The girls only finished fourth at the talent show, but two of their teachers were so impressed with their performance that they prevailed upon the school principal give the girls a shot at the audition with Motown producers, Robert Bateman and Brian Holland. Bateman and Holland liked the girls’ singing, but told them to come back with some original material. Group member Georgia Dobbins asked a songwriter friend for a song, and he gave her a blues tune called “Please Mr. Postman”. Dobbins got his permission to work on it, and she completely changed the song, keeping only the title. Before taking the new song to Motown, however, Dobbins decided to leave the group to take care of her ill mother.
Lead singer Gladys Horton, along with Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and new member Wanda Young, performed the song for Bateman and Holland who loved it. “Please Mr. Postman” was then recorded by the newly-named Marvelettes with a young Marvin Gaye playing the drums.
“Please Mr. Postman” was covered by The Beatles in 1963, and also by The Carpenters who would have a # 1 single in 1975 with their recording of the song.
Watch The Marvelettes perform “Please Mr. Postman” on television in the 1960's at http://youtu.be/KseUrBSRBDA
48. “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) – Martha & The Vandellas: Gordy label, #1 Billboard R&B, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 - 1963. Inducted in 2010.
“Heat Wave” was the second single and the first Top Ten hit written for Martha & The Vandellas by Motown’s new writing and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.
Produced with a gospel-like fervor, the song opens with a 27-second instrumental passage featuring handclaps, Joe Hunter’s piano, Thomas “Beans” Bowles sax, and the drumming of “Pistol” Allen. “Heat Wave” is often credited as being one of the first songs to exemplify the style of music that would later be called the “Motown Sound”.
"Heat Wave" is probably Martha Reeves greatest vocal performance, and it helped Martha & The Vandellas become the first Motown group to receive a Grammy Award Nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Martha Reeves remembered watching the network news during the summer of 1963. “I was in my mom’s living room when the anchorman said, ‘There’s a heat wave in Los Angeles,’ it was a hundred and something and then they played “Heat Wave”. I jumped all over the floor. My mom told me to sit down and shut up! I screamed, ‘We’re on network TV! They’re playing our song!”
“Heat Wave” has been recorded by many artists over the years. Linda Ronstadt had a # 5 hit single in 1975 with her cover of the song.
Watch Martha & The Vandellas perform “Heat Wave” on TV in the 60’s at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE2fnYpwrng
49. “Chain Of Fools” (D. Covay) – Aretha Franklin; Atlantic label, # 1 Billboard R&B, # 2 Billboard Hot 100 - 1968. Inducted in 2010.
Aretha Franklin’s recordings on Atlantic in 1967 and 1968 firmly established her as the 'Queen Of Soul'. “Chain Of Fools” was her fifth consecutive Top Ten hit produced by Jerry Wexler. Employing memorable tremolo guitar licks by Joe South in its introduction, “Chain Of Fools” features Franklin’s trademark powerhouse vocal and a great gospel-style call-and –response chorus provided by her sister Carolyn along with the Sweet Inspiration and the great songwriter Ellie Greenwich.
Written by R&B singer Don Covay, “Chain Of Fools” was released as a single in late 1967. Although she did not write the hit, her sister Carolyn said: "She might as well have. It was her story." Aretha felt trapped in an abusive marriage to her manager Ted White. She was unhappy but was afraid that leaving him would have an adverse effect on her career.
The song spent four weeks at # 1 on the R&B charts in late ‘67 and early ‘68, while peaking at #2 on the Hot 100. Aretha won a Grammy Award for “Chain of Fools” for Best R&B Vocal Performance. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
Listen to Aretha Franklin perform "Chain Of Fools" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BloxxEFwibo
50. “The Way I Walk” (J. Scott) – Jack Scott; Carlton label, # 35 Billboard Hot 100 - 1959. Inducted in 2010.
Jack Scott’s career was flying high in late 1958 with the release of his third consecutive two-sided hit single, “Goodbye Baby/Save My Soul”. Things came to a screeching halt, however, when he received an induction notice from the U. S. Army in December of that same year.
In May of 1959, after only five months in the service, Scott was discharged from the Army on medical grounds because of a peptic ulcer. Carlton Records, which had very little material in the can when Scott went in the service, pulled “The Way I Walk” from Jack’s 1st album and released it as a single a week before his discharge.
“The Way I Walk” is a classic cut with its powerful ‘walking’ bass and menacing vocal. It is regarded by some as the last of the authentic rockabilly hits of the 50’s as softer pop sounds began to engulf the charts in the wake of the ‘Payola Scandal’.
Scott talked about “The Way I Walk” in a recent interview. “When we cut it, I’d only half-finished it, and I didn’t have all the words, just two verses.
Since his producer was anxious to take the song back to New York for the album, Jack told the Chantones, his vocal backing group, to fill in the gap with “Oo-wee, oo-wee, oo-wee, oo-wee…”
At first, Scott complained when the song was released because he thought “The Way I Walk” needed more work. Looking back, however, he now says, “It’s kinda neat the way it is”
Watch Jack Scott perform “The Way I Walk” in 1988 at Little Darlin’s nightclub in Florida at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxhHtqMHbbM
51. “Hanky Panky” (J. Barry, E. Greenwich) – Tommy James and The Shondells; Roulette label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 39 Billboard R&B - 1966. I nducted in 2011.
“Hanky Panky” was written and first recorded by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich as the B-side of a single for their group The Raindrops in 1963.
Tommy James’ cover version was first released on the tiny Snap label in Niles, Michigan, in the fall of 1964. Although it was a regional hit, “Hanky Panky” didn’t become a national smash until 1966 when it was discovered in a used record bin by a Pittsburgh dance promoter. It became the # 1 song in the city after he pressed up a batch of bootleg copies of song on the local Red Fox label.
The Shondells had broken up by this time, and Tommy was considering giving up music and getting a "real job" when he got word that his recording of "Hanky Panky" had become a surprise hit. After failing to reunite the original Shondells, Tommy made several appearances in the Pittsburgh area with a make-shift band, and then traveled to New York where he signed with Morris Levy’s Roulette Records.
James recruited a Pittsburgh band called The Raconteurs to be the “new” Shondells and took to the road to promote “Hanky Panky”. The song reached # 1 in the summer of 1966, the first 'garage rock' single to do so. It also kicked off a string of 19 charting hits enjoyed by Tommy James and The Shondells from 1966 to 1970.
Watch a recent performance of "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James at the Bitter End in New York City by clicking below.
52. “Lonely Teardrops” (B. Gordy, R. Davis, G. Gordy) – Jackie Wilson; Brunswick label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1959. Inducted in 2011.
“Lonely Teardrops” was Jackie Wilson’s first Top Ten single. It was the fourth consecutive charting record written for him by the team of Berry Gordy Jr. and Tyran Carlo. The pair would contribute two more hit singles for Wilson in 1959 before leaving in a dispute over the material being issued as the B-sides on the singer’s recordings.
“Lonely Teardrops” was released late in 1958 and would become the first of Jackie Wilson’s six # 1 hits on the R&B chart early in 1959. The song helped launch Wilson into superstar status and led to television appearances on American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show, as well as the early rock and roll movies, Go Johnny Go! and Teen-age Millionaire.
In a strange twist of fate, Jackie suffered a massive heart attack while singing “Lonely Teardrops” in 1975 while appearing with Dick Clark’s Good Ol’ Rock ‘N Roll Revue in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He also suffered a serious head injury when he fell to the stage. The effects of the tragic incident left Jackie Wilson in a near vegetative state, and he lived the remainder of his life in a nursing home until his death in 1984.
“Lonely Teardrops” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch a Jackie Wilson television performance of "Lonely Teardrops" by clicking on:
53. “Baby Love” (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) – The Supremes; Motown label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100 - 1964. Inducted in 2011.
With “Baby Love”, The Supremes became the first Motown artist, and the first girl group, to have two consecutive # 1 singles. But this was just the beginning. The Detroit trio would go on to record a total of twelve # 1 singles during the 1960’s. “Baby Love” was the biggest of these hits, spending 4 weeks at the top of the charts during the fall of 1964.
“Baby Love” was the follow-up single to the group’s first # 1 hit, “Where Did Our Love Go”. The song again featured the Funk Brothers’ instrumental backing, but the main focus of the recording was on Diana Ross’ sexy, cooing vocal. Although both Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson had brief solo ad-libs at the end of the song, Ross would continue to take center stage on both group recordings and live performances.
Berry Gordy had felt that Diana Ross’ unique voice would set The Supremes apart from the many girl groups of the time, and his decision to team them with the writing and production team of brothers Eddie and Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier turned out to be the perfect combination. The pairing would go on to produce 19 charting hits, including 10 of the # 1 singles recorded by The Supremes.
Watch The Supremes perform "Baby Love" on England's Top Of The Pops 60'stelevision show by clicking below.
54. “I Think We’re Alone Now” (R. Cordell, B. Gentry) – Tommy James and The Shondells; Roulette label, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 - 1967. Inducted in 2011.
“I Think We’re Alone Now” marked the beginning of a successful partnership between Tommy James and the songwriting team of Ritchie Cordell and Bo Gentry. Cordell and Gentry had originally written the song as a mid-tempo ballad, but James insisted that they speed up the arrangement.
Jimmy Wisner’s original production of “I Think We’re Alone Now” included a small symphony orchestra complete with cellos, chimes, and the whole works. After eight takes, Cordell, Gentry, and James felt it sounded “too big” and sent the musicians home. They then proceeded to strip down what they had created in order to find the ingredients that they liked.
Tommy James laid down the final vocal on Christmas Eve in 1966. Without realizing it at the time, James, Cordell, and Gentry’s recording of “I Think We’re Alone Now” invented what later became known as “bubblegum music”.
The song even provided a follow-up hit for Tommy James and The Shondells when the tape of “I Think We’re Alone Now” was accidentally put on a reel-to-reel upside down. When it was played, it came out backward, but the chord progression in reverse sounded just as good as it did forward. Cordell and Gentry wrote a new set of lyrics, called the song “Mirage”, and had a # 10 hit with it in the spring of 1967.
Listen to the original recording of "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James and The Shondells by clicking below.
55. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (N. Ashford, V. Simpson) – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell; Tamla label, # 19 Billboard Hot 100, # 3 Billboard R&B - 1967. Inducted in 2011.
The song was written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson in 1966. It was the first hit for Marvin Gaye and his new duet partner, Tammi Terrell in the spring of 1967. Gaye had previously teamed with Mary Wells and Kim Weston for hit singles, but Terrell proved to be his ideal singing partner.
According to producers Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, Tammi Terrell was both nervous and a little intimidated during the recording because she hadn’t rehearsed the lyrics. As a result, she recorded her vocals alone. Marvin Gaye added his vocal at a later date, but there was no denying the magic produced by the blending of their voices
Because of the subject matter of their duets, there were rumors of a romantic relationship between Gaye and Terrell. Both singers denied it, however, with Gaye claiming at a later date that they had a brother and sister relationship. The duo paired up for several more hits: “Your Precious Love”, “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You”, “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, and “You’re All I Need To Get By” before Tammi was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after collapsing into Marvin’s arms during a performance in Virginia.
Tammi Terrell died in 1970 at the age of 24 from the brain tumor that put an end to her career. In 1970, Diana Ross had her first # 1 hit as a solo artist with her cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, but it was the recording by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch the original 1967 Motown video of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell performing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by clicking below.
56. “Get Ready” (W. Robinson) – Rare Earth; Rare Earth label, # 4 Billboard Hot 100, # 20 Billboard R&B - 1970. Inducted in 2011.
Rare Earth was the first act that Motown vice president Barney Ales signed for the company’s newest label that would concentrate on album-oriented progressive rock played by self-contained bands. Ales liked the band’s moniker so much that he ended up using it as the name for the subsidiary label.
The band released its first album in the summer of 1969. It was titled after the song “Get Ready”, a 21-minute extended jam of the 1966 Temptations’ single that took up one whole side of the LP.
In order to get airplay, “Get Ready” was edited down to around 3 minutes, and it promptly soared to # 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The success of the single also pushed the “Get Ready” album to hit status, reaching # 12 on the LP chart.
Although Rare Earth would go on to chart eight more singles, including the Top Ten hits, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” and “I Just Want To Celebrate”, their version of “Get Ready” would prove to be the band’s biggest success.
Watch a performance of "Get Ready" by Rare Earth from 1973 by clicking below.
57. “Mony Mony” (T. James, R. Cordell, B. Gentry, B. Bloom) – Tommy James and The Shondells; Roulette label, # 3 Billboard Hot 100 - 1968. Inducted in 2011.
After two successive single failed to crack the Top 40, Tommy James went into Century Sound Studios to work on a track for a proposed party rock song inspired by past hits by Gary (U.S.) Bonds and Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. The song started as a basic rhythm track. James and Ritchie Cordell then took the original tape and began a process of reassembling what they had, adding snippets of organ, piano, and background voices until they had a catchy melody with a verse and irresistible hook.
The night before they were supposed to finish the record, the pair convened in James’ New York apartment to write the lyrics. They assembled a list of nonsensical one-liners but could not come up with a suitable title. They wanted to use a two-syllable girl’s name, but every real name they came up with didn’t sound right.
Around midnight they decided to take a cigarette break on the terrace while looking at the Manhattan skyline. Tommy James noticed the Mutual of New York Insurance Company building a couple of blocks away. It had a flashing neon sign on top of it with the company logo: MONY. Just like that, they had their name, and a rock and roll party classic was born.
Although it only reached # 3 in the U.S., Tommy James and The Shondell’s “Mony Mony” was # 1 hit in England. In 1987, Billy Idol had a # 1 hit in the U.S. with a live version of the song.
Watch a 60's psychedelic television performance of "Mony Mony" by Tommy James and the Shondells in color by clicking here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkMgs3lFwkQ
58. “Sock It To Me-Baby!” (Crewe, Brown) – Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels; New Voice label, # 6 Billboard Hot 100 - 1967. Inducted in 2011.
In early 1967, Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels followed up their first Top Ten single, “Devil With A Blue Dress On & Good Golly Miss Molly”, with the prototypical riff-rockin’ “Sock It To Me-Baby!”. Co-written by band producer and New Voice label head Bob Crewe, the song was a party rock classic that kept pace with earlier band workouts like “Jenny Take A Ride!” and “Little Latin Lupe Lu”.
“Sock It To Me-Baby!” became the band’s second and last Top Ten single when it peaked at # 6 in the Billboard Hot 100 early in 1967, even though it was banned on several radio stations for being “too sexually suggestive”. In spite of this initial flap, the term ‘sock it to me’ ended up becoming a national catch-phrase when it appeared both on Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and after it began to be used on a weekly basis on the hit TV comedy show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
Unfortunately, Bob Crewe’s contract gave him full control over Mitch Ryder’s career. After one last single, he dismissed The Detroit Wheels and began concentrating on turning Mitch into a mainstream singing star. Ryder went on to minor chart success as a solo act, and the “Sock It To Me” LP, released in the spring of 1967, became the last official release by Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels.
Watch a 2010 performance of "Sock It To Be-Baby!" by Mitch Ryder by clicking below.
59 . “I Wanna Be Your Dog” (D. Alexander, R. Asheton, I. Pop, S. Asheton) – The Stooges; Elektra label, Did not chart nationally - 1969. Inducted in 2011.
One of The Stooges' most famous songs, “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, appeared on the band’s self-titled debut album on Elektra Records. It was also released as the B-side to “1969” on the first Stooges’ single.
Ron Asheton’s relentless guitar riffs and producer John Cale’s pounding piano set the stage for Iggy Pop’s snarling vocals. It’s not exactly clear what the song is about, but no matter. “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, as well as most of the songs on their debut, set the stage for both the punk rock movement of the 70’s and the grunge rock movement of the 90’s.
Although both the single and the album sold modestly at best, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” has achieved an exalted status over the years. The song has been covered by a multitude of artists including Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and The White Stripes. In 2007, R.E.M. performed the song with Patti Smith during their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The song has also been featured on the soundtrack of several movies including The Crow: City Of Angels, Sid and Nancy, Transporter 3, and The Runaways.
Watch a live performance by The Stooges of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" from a 2004 concert in Serbia by clicking below.
60. “I Can’t Help Myself” (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) – The Four Tops; Motown label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1965. Inducted in 2011.
The Four Tops began working with Motown’s songwriting/production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland in 1964. After three charting singles in a row, the combination really hit its stride in the summer of 1965 with “I Can’t Help Myself”. The song had the distinction of holding down the # 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks – June 12 to June 19th, and again from June 26th to July 3rd.
As on most of the group’s big hits, “I Can’t Help Myself” is powered by Levi Stubbs baritone lead vocal over an irresistible dance groove powered by Motown’s crack session band, the Funk Brothers. Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote the majority of Stubbs’ vocals in the range of a tenor so that his voice took on a gospel-tinged urgency as he strained to hit the high notes.
With their simple yet distinctive melodies and rhymes, Levi Stubbs powerful lead vocals, and the smooth backing of Duke Fakir, Lawrence Payton, and Obie Benson, the recordings of H-D-H songs by The Four Tops often epitomized what became known as the Motown Sound.
“I Can’t Help Myself” has been covered by a diverse group of artists over the years. These include The Supremes, Johnny Rivers, and Dolly Parton.
Listen to the classic performance of "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops by clicking here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z59EVHU8MjI
61. "Anytime You Want Some Lovin'" (D. Wagner) – Tonto and The Renegades; Sound Of The Sceen label, Did not chart nationally -1968. Inducted in 2012.
Grand Ledge's Tonto and The Renegades employed an all-star Michigan cast for the recording of their second single. The song was written and produced by Dick Wagner formerly of The Bossmen and featured harmonica by Donny Hartman of Wagner's new group, The Frost. In addition, the recording was done at Dave Kalmbach's Great Lakes Recording Studio in Sparta, Michigan, with Kalmbach serving as sound engineer.
The band had become acquainted with Dick Wagner after The Bossmen had played at The Sceen, a teen dance club where Tonto and The Renegades were often booked. Knowing the quality of Wagner's songwriting, they asked him about the availability of some of his material for their next single. Wagner brought his acoustic guitar to Gary "Tonto" Richey's house, where the band practiced, and he performed a number of his unrecorded songs.
According to drummer Tom Kirby, "Anytime You Want Some Lovin'" stood out immediately, and was everyone's first choice for the A-side of their second 45. The finished recording would be a quite a departure from the driving garage rock of "Little Boy Blue", their debut single. Wagner's production of "Anytime You Want Some Lovin'" was a very polished mid-tempo pop rock ballad, featuring some fine group harmonies from the band members, and even a horn section composed of two students from the Grand Ledge High School band.
The recording was financed by Don Trefry, owner of The Sceen and the booking agent for Tonto and The Renegades. Kalmbach's studio offered the chance to release records on your own vanity label, so Trefry chose one that would advertise his teen club. Unfortunately, the tiny label's limited distribution hurt the record's chances of becoming something more than a regional hit.
Listen to "Anytime You Want Some Lovin'" by clicking below.
62. "The Easy Way Out" (D. Wagner) – Tonto and The Renegades; Sound Of The Sceen label, Did not chart nationally - 1968. Inducted in 2012.
"Anytime You Want Some Lovin'" b/w "The Easy Way Out" is the only 45 single to have both sides voted Legendary Michigan Songs.
Tonto and the Renegades first choice for the B-side of the single was another Dick Wagner composition called "First Day of May". After Considering it, Wagner decided to save the song for The Frost's debut album instead. The band then went with their second pick, a Wagner-penned rocker called "The Easy Way Out".
It turned out to be an excellent choice. Like the A-side, the session for "The Easy Way Out" was produced by Dick Wagner in Dave Kalmbach's Great Lakes Studio, located in the Sparta Theater. Drummer Tom Kirby remembered that several rows of the old theater seats were removed in front of the movie screen so that there was enough room for the band's equipment, and that Kalmbach erected a three-sided partition around the drum kit. the studio's recording equipment was situated behind a large glass window inside the theater's projection booth. Since Wagner was producing the session, Kalmbach worked in the booth while the band recorded.
Tonto and The Renegades were firing on all cylinders during the recording, and Wagner once again used the horn section of Grand Ledge High band students Jim Hall and Ernie Morrow to good effect. In addition, the producer added a special personal touch to the song by contributing the controlled guitar feedback that helped give "The Easy Way Out" its unique sound.
Listen to "The Easy Way Out" by clicking below.
63. "Misery" (F. Baker, W. Tippett) – The Dynamics; Big Top label, # 44 Billboard's Hot 100 - 1963. Inducted in 2012.
The classic R&B dance hit "Misery" was the biggest hit on Billboard's Hot 100 by The Dynamics, a black vocal group from Detroit. At that time, the group was a quintet made up of Fred "Sonny" Baker, Starling Schafer, Lorenzo Campbell, Samuel Stevenson, and George White. The terrific instrumental backing was provided by an all-white combo from Dearborn called The Royal Playboys, featuring guest artists Joe Cyers on drums and MRRL Inductee Cliff Bramlett on guitar.
The song was recorded at the United Sound studio for Fox Records, a small independent Detroit label, but the master tape was sold to Big Top Records out of New York and distributed nationally. "Misery" was a big hit in the Motor City, spending most of the fall of 1963 in WKNR's Top Ten on the popular AM station's Classic Top 30 Survey. The song also did well nationally lasting 10 weeks on the Hot 100 and peaking at # 44.
The song would become the subject of a still unresolved controversy in 1964 when Pete Meaden, then manager/publicist of The Who, rewrote the lyrics to the song as "Zoot Suit" for The Who's first single, released in England as by The High Numbers. Meaden claimed sole songwriting credit for the melody he stole. The truth is in the grooves, however, as The Dynamics' recording of "Misery" completely blows "Zoot Suit" off the turntable when the songs are played back-to-back.
Listen to the Dynamics' original recording of "Misery" by clicking below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_1WVDVSxN0
64. "Rock And Roll Music" (D. Wagner, D. Hartman) – The Frost; Vanguard label, # 105 Billboard's Bubbling Under Singles - 1970. Inducted in 2012.
"Rock And Roll Music" was recorded live at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit in 1969. According to producer Sam Charters, the vocals were re-done in the studio in order to clean up the sound, but that fact takes nothing away from this blast of Motor City rock that quickly became the band's anthem.
In his book, Not Only Women Bleed, Dick Wagner reveals that the genesis of the song came from a one-line rock song from the Frost's other guitarist, Donny Hartman. Hartman wanted Wagner to finish the song for him, and Wagner produced a finished product that combined lyric simplicity with an intensity that literally leaped off the turntable.
"Rock And Roll Music" was the lead track and title of The Frost's second album, and the only song the band charted nationally when it was released as a single. Although Wagner and Hartman shared the lead vocals, Dick Wagner was listed as the sole songwriter on the song.
In his book, Wagner wrote that for many years he believed that he had totally written the song, but now claims it was really a Hartman-Wagner collaboration. Wagner has tried to make it right in recent years by giving Hartman credit for his contributions whenever he performs "Rock And Roll Music" live.
Listen to the original recording of "Rock And Roll Music" by clicking below.
65. "I Cannot Stop You" (D. Wagner) - The Cherry Slush; U.S.A. label, # 119 Billboard's Bubbling Under Singles - 1968. Inducted in 2012.
“I Cannot Stop You” was originally intended to be the second single for a Saginaw, Michigan, teen band called The Bells Of Rhymny. The tune was written by Dick Wagner of The Bossmen and was recorded at the tiny Audio Sound studio, located in the basement of an office building in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
By the time the record was released on the small Coconut Groove label based in Mt. Morris, Michigan, the band had lost one original and added two new members, and changed its name to The Cherry Slush. The radio-friendly “I Cannot Stop You” was a big regional hit, and was quickly in heavy rotation on Top 40 AM stations like WKNX, WSAM, and the highly influential WTAC out of Flint.
In order to get the record distributed nationally, the band signed and the master tape was leased to U.S.A., a small Chicago label that had a # 1 hit in 1967 with “Kind Of A Drag” by The Buckinghams. “I Cannot Stop You” also had all the signs of also being a national hit upon its release. It got airplay in major markets, was a pick hit in both Billboard and Cashbox magazines, and entered Record World magazine as # 93 in the nation.
Quite unexpectedly, however, the record stalled and failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100. The Cherry Slush would go on to record one more single for the U.S.A. label before the company filed for bankruptcy.
Watch a slideshow video of "I Cannot Stop You" by clicking below.
66. "Turn The Page" (B. Seger) – Bob Seger and Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, From "Back In '72" LP, Palladium label - 1973; and "Live Bullet" 2 LP; Capitol label - 1976. Inducted in 2012.
Despite never being released as a single, "Turn The Page" has emerged as one of Bob Seger's most popular songs over the years. Many fans may be unfamiliar with the original studio version released on the "Back In '72" album since it has never been released on CD. Although it does not contain the Alto Reed sax solo that was such as distinctive part of the "Live Bullet" version, it is still a great vocal performance with the keyboard leading the song and the sax only coming in at the very end.
The song's lyrics describe life on the road for a regional rock and roll band trying to hit the big time, and were partly based on an incident that occurred when Seger was touring with Teegarden and Van Winkle. In a 1975 radio interview Seger stated; "You have a lot of dark days on the road...you have a lot of good days too, but basically we're in a dog-eat-dog business, and you can get pretty dark sometimes, and if you're able to translate that, which I think "Turn The Page" does more effectively than anything else I've done before."
As Scott Sparling rightly observes on his Seger File site, "The lyrics are only part of the song's success. The live performance, the plaintive sax, the vocals and the simplicity of the song all come together to create its power. And as the first Seger ballad to achieve mass popularity, it's also an important, maybe even pivotal song in his career."
Watch a great video of "Turn The Page" by clicking below.
67. "Cat Scratch Fever" (T. Nugent) – Ted Nugent; Epic label, # 30 Billboard's Hot 100 - 1977. Inducted in 2012.
"Cat Scratch Fever" was the song that helped turn Ted Nugent into a major arena rock act in 1977. Nugent reportedly got the title from an antique medical journal that his wife was reading that mentioned 'cat scratch fever', and he mated it with what is arguably his most infectious guitar riff to produce his classic hit.
The song's lyrics may be somewhat autobiographical, and they have Nugent chronicling his long history of promiscuous sex, as well as lamenting his inability to control both himself and his female partners. Despite its lyrical content, "Cat Scratch Fever" has been used by the Detroit Tigers, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, the San Jose SabreCats, and the Carolina Panthers to fire up fans before sporting events.
"Cat Scratch Fever" was Ted Nugent's only Top 40 single. Over the years it has been covered by a number of different artists, and it has appeared on the film soundtracks of Lords Of Dogtown, EDtv, and Stoned Age. In 2009, VH1 named it # 32 on its list of the Best Hard Rock Songs of All Time.
Watch Ted Nugent perform "Cat Scratch Fever" on the Midnight SpecialTV show in the 70's by clicking below.
68. "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" (W. Robinson) – The Miracles; Tamla label, # 8 Billboard's Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B - 1963. Inducted in 2012.
"You've Really Got A Hold On Me" was the second # 1 R&B hit for The Miracles as well as their second Top Ten Hit on the Hot 100. In 1998, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and it was also selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Smokey Robinson wrote the song and sings lead while second tenor Bobby Rogers is featured on harmony co-lead. "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" was originally slated to be the B-side to "Happy Landing" on the single that was released in the winter of 1962, but DJs and record buyers across the nation preferred the song on the flipside that explored the feelings of a man so in love with a woman that he can't leave her despite the fact that she treats him badly.
The song has been covered by a wide variety of artists over the years. The most famous cover was by The Beatles, who recorded "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" for "With The Beatles", their second U.K album released in 1963.
Listen to The Miracles' original hit recording of "You've Really Got A Hold One Me" by clicking below.
69. "Beautiful Loser" (B. Seger) – Bob Seger; Capitol label, # 103 Billboard's Bubbling Under Singles - 1975. Inducted in 2012.
"Beautiful Loser" was the title cut and first single from the 1975 album that marked Seger's return to Capitol Records. Seger has said that the song was inspired by the epilogue of a novel by Leonard Cohen titled Beautiful Losers, and that the original concept came from one of Cohen's lines; 'He's reaching for the sky just to surrender'. Seger took that thought and transformed it into a song about a person who sets his goals so low that he will never be disappointed.
Seger confided in a Rolling Stone interview in 1976 that the song took a long over a year to put together, and that he wrote five different versions of "Beautiful Loser", including a blues and a ballad, before coming up with the one he finally settled on. He credits his friend, and fellow MRRL inductee, Glenn Frey for giving him some sound advice. Frey was the first person to hear the song, and he loved it. That positive feedback encouraged Seger to stick with it until he had pieced together another classic track.
Possibly because of Seger's long journey to national stardom and Tom Bert's poignant album cover photo, many people have believed that "Beautiful Loser" was autobiographical. Seger has given conflicting answers over the years when asked if the song was about him. In a Rolling Stone interview he stated; "To a degree. Well I say that now, but back then I didn't believe it". During a Creem interview in 1987, however, Seger said "The song was about underachievers in general. I rarely write about myself that much. I'm not like my songs at all. I'm a lot more 'up' person than what I write."
Listen to Bob Seger's recording of "Beautiful Loser" by clicking below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xWVRE9FskQ
70. "Day Don't Come" (Barkam, Adams) – The Cherry Slush, U.S.A. label, Did not chart nationally - 1968. Inducted in 2012.
"Day Don't Come" was recorded as "I Cannot Stop You" was climbing the national charts. Their record company brought The Cherry Slush to Chicago to record it at the famous Chess Studio although the song was a far cry from the countless classic blues recordings that had been made there. The engineer on the session was Ron Malo, who had also been behind the boards on the Rolling Stones' recording of "Satisfaction" which had been done in the same studio three years before.
The Cherry Slush recorded the basic instrumental track during the first session then returned back home in Michigan where the band members were still attending high school. Bassist Art Hauffe claims that when they returned the following week to do the vocals, they were surprised to find that their record label had added the Chicago Symphony to the track at a cost of $5,000; and that the hefty sum would be taken out of the band's royalties for "I Cannot Stop You".
The results were impressive, however, and "Day Don't Come" ranks as one of the biggest and brightest productions ever recorded by a Michigan garage rock band. Sounding much like a radio-friendly single tailored for The Buckinghams, the single was selected by Billboard magazine as a top pick hit when it was released, and it raced to the top of the charts in the band's hometown of Saginaw and in other cities across the country. Unfortunately, "Day Don't Come" did not reach its potential nationally because U.S.A. Records filed for bankruptcy shortly after its release.
Listen to "Day Don't Come" by clicking below.
71. “This Is The Time” (F. Bachman, R. Hamrick) - The Sixth Generation; GMA label, Did not chart nationally – 1967. Inducted in 2013.
In need of an original song for their first recording session, lead singer Fred Bachman came up with a melody on his guitar in his bedroom. Stuck for lyrics, his mother suggested the line “this is the time” and that seemed to jump-start the rest of the song. Inspired by the progressive recording of the Beatles, keyboard player Ron Hamrick made a few musical changes; and the pair ended up with 14 different chords for the song, compared to the typical 3-5 chords in most pop-rock songs of the 1960’s.
Since all of the members of the Sixth Generation were still in high school, they had to get permission to miss school on the day of their scheduled session in Chicago. The band recorded their debut single at Sound Studios, the site of previous hits by the Buckinghams and the Cryan’ Shames, under the watchful eye of veteran studio engineer Stu Black.
After criticizing Dave Walenga’s drums as sounding like “garbage cans” and scolding band members for bringing soft drinks into his console room, the no-nonsense Black warmed to the young band and helped them produce two strong tracks intended for the Sixth Generation’s first single. Unfortunately, band manager Marie Needham did not know how to obtain a release for their cover of “Glitter And Gold”, resulting in the unusual situation of “This Is The Time” ultimately being released as both the a-side and the b-side of the 45, issued on the tiny GMA record label.
Although the song was a regional success, the band’s inexperienced management didn’t know how to pursue a major label for national distribution, relegating “This Is The Time” to one of Michgan’s many highly-regarded, but little-heard, singles of the late 1960’s.
Watch a slideshow video for "This Is The Time" by clicking below: http://youtu.be/2XPqVOiS1gE
72. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (E. Gray, T. James, M. Vale) – Tommy James & The Shondells; Roulette label, # 2 Billboard Hot 100 – 1969. Inducted in 2013.
Tommy James & The Shondells were a continuous chart presence in the latter half of the 1960’s. “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was the band’s third-biggest single of their career, and their 15th hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in a four-year span from 1966 to 1969.
Contrary to writings that the song was an allegory about Tommy James’ involvement with amphetamines or that the song was about LSD, the title and lyrical concept for the gently grooving song came to James after reading passages from the Bible. According to Tommy’s manager, the singer was inspired by both the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Revelation which tell of a future brotherhood of mankind, living in peace and harmony.
Although the song is not religious, its sentiments fit in nicely with the popular hippie-based “peace, love, and understanding” philosophy of the times. James claims that “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is the favorite of all of his recordings and one of the band’s most requested numbers.
To promote the single, a rather primitive non-performance music video was produced in 1969 that contrasted scenes of turbulent political events and cultural unrest with imagery of love and peace.
Watch the 1969 video for "Crystal Blue Persuasion" by clicking below: http://youtu.be/XDl8ZPm3GrU
73. “I Just Want To Celebrate” (D. Fekaris, N. Zesses) – Rare Earth; Rare Earth label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100 – 1971. Inducted in 2013.
Rare Earth was not the first all-white act to be signed to Motown, but they were the first to enjoy major hits. 1970 and 1971 were the two biggest years in the band’s recording career as they placed five recordings on the Billboard Hot 100. “I Just Want To Celebrate” was the band’s third, and final, Top Ten single in 1971.
The single was edited down to 2 minutes 52 seconds from the longer track on the band’s “One World” album to increase the song’s chances for radio play. “I Just Want To Celebrate was also the opening track on the band’s Rare Earth In Concert LP, issued later in 1971.
That year also saw the start of several personnel changes in Rare Earth. The new line-up was only able to produce one more Top 20 hit, “Hey Big Brother in early 1972. Things were never quite the same for Rare Earth after they followed Motown to Los Angeles later in the year, and they lost the most identifiable member of the band when lead singer/drummer Peter Rivera left the band in 1974.
Watch a video of Rare Earth performing "I Just Want To Celebrate" by clicking below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLwkT5vAzCE
74. “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (N. Whitfield, E. Holland) – The Temptations; Gordy label, #1 Billboard R&B, # 13 Billboard Hot 100 – 1966. Inducted in 2013.
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” marked the beginning of the Norman Whitfield era in the recording career of the Temptations. Whitfield got his big opportunity when Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready” failed to make the Top 20 for the group in early 1966 after writing and producing four big hits for them in 1965.
Whitfield had composed a great instrumental track for the single and then recruited Eddie Holland to write lyrics for the song. David Ruffin’s terrific lead vocal was partly the result of Whitfield’s arrangement which was placed slightly above his actual vocal range. Ruffin’s straining to hit the high notes of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” put an element of pain and desperation in his delivery that perfectly matched Holland’s lyrics.
Whitfield’s success with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” began an association with the Temptations that would last through 1974. During that time the group charted 32 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, including three # 1 hits.
The Rolling Stones covered three Temptations’ songs on albums, but only “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” was released as a single. The Stones’ version of the song also became a Top 20 hit, reaching # 17 on the Hot 100 in 1974.
Watch The Temptations perform "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" by clicking below: http://youtu.be/RfyFI-4ZsaE
75. “Baby I’m Yours” (V. McCoy) – Barbara Lewis; Atlantic label, # 11 Billboard Hot 100, # 5 Billboard R&B – 1965. Inducted in 2013.
Barbara Lewis enjoyed her second-biggest single with the romantic ballad “Baby I’m Yours” in 1965. Although it might be her best-known hit, Lewis reportedly didn’t care for the song when she first heard it and had to be persuaded to record it. It was written by Van McCoy who had previously worked with the Shirelles at Scepter Records and would later have a # 1 disco-era hit of his own with “The Hustle” in 1975.
“Baby I’m Yours” was produced in New York by Bert Berns. This marked a change from Ollie McLaughlin, the Ann Arbor DJ who discovered her and produced her first charting singles. The new combination worked beautifully as the hit single returned Lewis to both the Pop and R&B charts after an eighteen month absence.
Barbara Lewis has been somewhat underappreciated for her recorded output and is rarely listed among the top female vocalists of the 60’s. This is hard to understand in light of the quality of Lewis’ vocals. In one critic’s words, “Lewis’ voice radiates sophistication and warmth, sounding both familiar and no one else you’ve ever heard.”
“Baby I’m Yours” has been covered by many artists over the years including Cher, Peter and Gordon, Mama Cass Elliot, Debby Boone, Petula Clark, Tanya Tucker, and Bobby Vee to name just a few. But Barbara Lewis’ original is still the definitive version of the song.
Watch a video of Barbara Lewis performing "Baby I'm Yours" by clicking below: http://youtu.be/RHfMFCOpJtc
76. “Hollywood Nights” (B. Seger) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label, # 12 Billboard Hot 100 – 1978. Inducted in 2013.
Released as the second single from Seger’s 1978 LP, “Stranger In Town”, “Hollywood Nights” was one of the last songs written for Seger’s important follow-up to “Night Moves”, his certified platinum album released in 1976. According to the Seger File web site, the cover photo for “Stranger In Town” was shot on the lawn of the house that Seger rented while recording the album in Los Angeles. The house was in the Hollywood Hills and helped provide the inspiration for “Hollywood Nights”.
In a radio interview Seger explained, “I had to stay in LA for 2 and 1/2 months while recording the album. I rented a house for the second month and a half. It was up in the Hollywood Hills, and every night when we’d get back from the studio I would look out and there would be all the lights of the city. I was just sitting there with an electric guitar, and I started bashing it out.”
Seger explained some of the lyrics to the Detroit Free Press: “The chorus just came into my head. I was driving around in the Hollywood Hills and I started singing “Hollywood nights, Hollywood hills, Above all the lights, Hollywood nights”.
“I went back to my rented house, and there was a Time magazine with Cheryl Tiegs on the cover”, Seger recalled. I said “Let’s write a song about a guy from the Midwest who runs into someone like this and gets caught up in the whole bizzaro thing.”
Watch Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band perform "Hollywood Nights" by clicking here: http://youtu.be/_D4eUWBAE_A
77. “Stop! In The Name Of Love” (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) – The Supremes; Motown label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 2 Billboard R&B – 1965. Inducted in 2013.
“Stop! In The Name of Love” was the fourth consecutive # 1 single written and produced for The Supremes by Motown’s most successful production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Prior to this impressive string of hits by the Supremes during the height of Beatlemania, no other Motown artist had enjoyed more than one # 1 hit on the Hot 100.
The Supremes' choreography for this song, with one hand on the hip and the other outstretched in a "stop" gesture, is equally legendary. Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin of The Temptations taught the girls the routine backstage in London, before the Supremes' first televised performance of the single on the Ready Steady Go! Special, The Sound of Motown, hosted by Motown enthusiast Dusty Springfield They also performed the song on an episode of the ABC variety program Shindig! that aired on Wednesday, February 25, 1965.
The song was nominated for the 1966 Grammy award for Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Vocal Performance but inexplicably lost out to “Flowers On The Wall” by the Statler Brothers. “Stop! In The Name Of Love” was later honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s permanent collection of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Watch The Supremes perform "Stop! In The name Of Love" on the Hollywood Palace TV show by clicking here: http://youtu.be/iDPjYZxi0n8
78. “Let’s Get It On” (M. Gaye, E. Townshend) – Marvin Gaye; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B – 1973. Inducted in 2013.
Marvin Gaye’s second # 1 single and biggest hit of the 1970’s was the title track and the first song recorded for his acclaimed album “Let’s Get It On”. Gaye’s music during the decade had moved away from the Motown sound that he had helped popularize with his many classic recordings during the 1960’s.
“Let’s Get It On” was originally composed as a religious ode to life, but with the help of co-writer Ed Townshend, the lyrics were changed to better reflect Gaye’s views on love and sex. Marvin expounded on his forward thinking views on those two subjects in the album’s liner notes: “I can’t see anything wrong with sex between consenting anybodies. After all, one’s genitals are just one part of the magnificent human body. I contend that SEX IS SEX and LOVE IS LOVE. When combined, they work well together, if two people are of about the same mind. But they are really two discrete needs and should be treated as such.”
The song features soulful, passionate vocals and multi-tracked background singing, both done by Gaye. Inspired by Marvin’s infatuation with a young lady named Janis Hunter, “Let’s Get It One” has an almost 1950’s-styled melody built around an eccentric rhythm pattern and the distinctive guitar of session musician Don Peake.
The explicit content of “Let’s Get It On” cemented Gaye’s reputation as Motown’s sex icon. In 2004, the song was included on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was ranked at # 32 on Billboard’s Hot 100 All Time Top Songs list in 2008.
Watch Marvin Gaye perform "Let's Get It On" by clicking here: http://youtu.be/s7eTOnNBwYU
79. “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” (S. Wonder) – Stevie Wonder; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 3 Billboard R&B – 1973. Inducted in 2013.
Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” was taken from “Talking Book”, the second album issued after his new Motown contract gave him full creative control over the songs he recorded for the label. Shortly before the release of the single, Wonder completed a tour as the opening act for the Rolling Stones which exposed his music to the vast white rock audience and helped alleviate his being pigeon-holed as an artist who only appealed to black R&B listeners.
As a result, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” not only became Wonder’s third # 1 on the Hot 100, but it also became his first # 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart in 1973. The single’s relaxed groove was a major departure from its predecessor, the rocking # 1 hit “Superstition”, a song that Wonder had originally written for Jeff Beck. In addition, the first two lines of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” are sung, not by Wonder, but by Jim Gilstrip with Lani Groves singing the next two lines. The single version differs from the album version of the song with the addition of horns to the mix.
Wonder was presented with the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his recording of the song. “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Watch Stevie Wonder perform "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" at the White House by clicking here: http://youtu.be/gZXjFV8nT4E
80. The Tears Of A Clown” (S. Wonder, H. Cosby, W. Robinson) – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles; Tamla label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B – 1970. Inducted in 2013.
“The Tears of A Clown” has to be the most unusual # 1 hit in the long and storied history of the Motown record label. Stevie Wonder and his producer hank Cosby had composed the music in 1966, but couldn’t come up with a lyric to match the instrumental. Wonder played it to Smokey Robinson who said the tune reminded him of the circus. Smokey wrote the lyrics, and sang lead on the song that became part of the Miracles’ 1967 album, “Make It Happen”.
By the end of 1969, Robinson had informed the other Miracles that he was tired of touring and would be retiring from the act to spend more time in Detroit with his family and concentrate on his duties as vice-president of Motown Records. Because of a lack of new material from the Miracles, the division of Motown in Britain selected “The Tears Of A Clown” from the group’s catalogue for a single release in that country. A new mix was made of the song, and by September of 1970, the single was # 1 in Great Britain.
The success of the song overseas prompted Motown to release the single in the United States, where it quickly became a # 1 hit on both the Hot 100 and the R&B charts. The Miracles had sold millions of records during their long career at Motown, but “The Tears Of A Clown” was the group’s first and only # 1 hit with Smokey Robinson as the lead singer.
Because of the success of the single, Robinson delayed his decision to leave the Miracles for two more years. “The Tears Of A Clown” remains the biggest hit of the 46 recordings that the Miracles placed on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2002, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Watch Smokey Robinson & The Miracles perform "The Tears Of A Clown" by clicking here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaMX0Cs5Bc4
81. “Flamingo Express” (G. Katakis, M. Popoff, G. Popoff) – The Royaltones; Goldisc label, # 82 Billboard Hot 100 – 1961. Inducted in 2014.
The Royaltones formed in Dearborn, Michigan, in 1957 while they were still in high school. Originally called The Paragons, the band was renamed ‘The Royaltones’ when their original composition of “Poor Boy” was leased by Jubilee Records. The instrumental became a # 17 hit in the fall of 1958.
In 1960, original members George Katsakis – sax, and identical twins Mike Popoff – drums and Greg Popoff – keyboards, added guitarist Karl Kaminski and signed with George Goldner’s Goldisc label. “Flamingo Express was recorded at the first session produced by Goldner in New York. The song was originally called “Wiggle, Wiggle” but was renamed in honor of The Flamingos, George Goldner’s highly successful vocal group.
“Flamingo Express” was released in late 1960 and peaked at # 82 in early 1961. It would prove to be the last charting hit for the Royaltones. Future Funk Brother Bob Babbitt played bass on the hit instrumental and would officially join the band a few months later. Guitarist Dennis Coffey also joined the band in 1961.
Listen to The Roylatones' original recording of "Flamingo Express":
82. “Talking In Your Sleep” (C. Canler, W. Palmar, M. Skill, J. Marinos, P. Solley) – The Romantics; Nemperor label, # 3 Billboard Hot 100 – 1984. Inducted in 2014.
The Romantics formed in Detroit in 1977. “Talking In Your Sleep” was the first single released for the band’s fourth album, “In Heat”. The song became the band’s biggest chart hit, reaching # 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1984 and staying at that position for three weeks.
“Talking In Your Sleep” garnered a great deal of radio airplay and eventually sold over one million copies of the 45 rpm single in the United States. The song’s music video, in which the Romantics were shown performing while surrounded by standing, but supposedly sleeping young women in lingerie, pajamas, and other sleepwear, received heavy rotation on MTV and helped boost sales.
The song went # 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play charts and also topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. Although the single was unsuccessful in England, “Talking In Your Sleep” reached # 14 on the Australian Singles Chart and was a # 5 hit in Sweden.
Listen to The Romantics' recording of "Talking In Your Sleep" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcN_AEOQv4s
83. “One In A Million” (C. Canler, W. Palmar, M. Skill, J. Marinos) – The Romantics; Nemperor label, # 37 Billboard Hot 100 – 1984. Inducted in 2014.
“One In A Million” was the third and final single taken from the Romantics’ most successful album, “In Heat”. After the single “Rock You Up” failed to keep up the momentum started with the success of “Talking In Your Sleep”, “One In A Million” got the band back in the Top 40 when it peaked at # 37 in 1984. It also reached # 22 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.
Despite achieving their commercial breakthrough in 1984, the Romantics had begun to splinter. “One In A Million” would prove to be the band’s last big hit. Disagreements with the Romantics’ management, and also between band members, resulted in Jimmy Marinos leaving the band later in the year. He was replaced by drummer Dave Petratos.
The band recorded one more album, “Rhythm Romance” before becoming entangled in legal matters that caused undue hardships for the band, rendered them unable to record for a seven-year period, and effectively torpedoed the Romantics’ career.
Watch the Romantics perform "One In A Million" on American Bandstand in 1984. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfHMyrZVpS0
84. “East Side Story” (B. Seger) – Bob Seger & The Last Heard; Hideout and Cameo labels, Did not chart nationally– 1966. Inducted in 2014.
According to Scott Sparling’s Seger Files; “East Side Story” is the defining song of Seger’s early years. It is the song that captures the full power of his voice, his promise, his songwriting ability. More than anything, it is probably the song that launched his career and sustained it during the dry periods that followed.
"East Side Story" became a huge hit in Detroit, a #3 record on Detroit radio, which was rare for a local band. Forty-eight years later, the song has not lost one iota of energy -- it still has the same raw, pulsing urgency of a rock classic. Only in this case, it's a rock classic that most people have never heard.
In an interview with Roy Trakin for Creem magazine in 1987, Seger recalled; "I was trying to write something for this band called the Underdogs. I did not write that for me to do. I might have been a little derivative at that point just because I didn't think it would be my song. I do remember losing some sleep over the fact that it sounded an awful lot like ‘Gloria’, though, if you put them side by side, they're not really all that alike. There are a lot more chords in 'East Side Story’ than there are in ‘Gloria.’"
Watch Bob Seger & The Last Heard perform "East Side Story" on Swinging Time with Robin Seymour. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JL_N-Dly-Q
85. “Baby Please Don’t Go” (J. Williams) – The Amboy Dukes; Mainstream label, # 106 Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 – 1968. Inducted in 2014.
Detroit-born Ted Nugent formed the Amboy Dukes following his father’s transfer to Chicago. Named after a defunct Detroit R&B band, Nugent claimed to have never heard of the street gang from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, whose name was made famous as the title of a 1950’s novel.
After making a name in Chicago, Nugent relocated the band to Detroit and, along with lead vocalist John Drake, put together a new lineup that quickly became one of the Motor City’s top bands. They signed with Mainstream Records in 1967 and recorded their self-titled debut album in just one night.
Their scalding version of “Baby Please Don’t Go” was released as the first single, and his propulsive beat and howling guitar sound raised the bar for Detroit rock and roll. The song was a big local hit and even made the national charts, reaching # 106 in Billboard in early 1968.
Listen to "Baby Please Don't Go" by the Amboy Dukes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8h9_KgFpc
86. “Heavy Music Pt. 1” (B. Seger) – Bob Seger & The Last Heard; Cameo-Parkway label, # 103 Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 – 1967. Inducted in 2014.
From the Seger File; “This is the song that changed everything. This is the song that, ten years later, remained the focal point of Seger's live performance as captured on the “Live Bullet” LP. It is the first song, on vinyl anyway, that really captured his ability to combine the raw power of rock with the punch and rhythm of the James Brown style soul music he loved.”
“Heavy Music” grew out of a jam at a bar in Columbus, Ohio, and they just happened to be taping the performance that night. Seger really dug the ‘deeper’ part of the jam and wrote a song around it after he went home. It's not an exaggeration to say that this was a new sound. He wasn't following anyone here (the way that he was arguably following Van Morrison with "East Side Story," the first landmark song of his career.) Instead, he was combining two styles into a something new.
“When that happens, worlds can explode, as they did for Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry or the Beatles. In a lesser but still potent way, "Heavy Music" might have exploded for Seger, too, except for the ultimate bad luck with Cameo-Parkway, which went out of business just as the song hit. Still, "Heavy Music" cracked open the door of stardom and became Bob Seger’s first charting single when it reached # 103 on Billboard in 1967.”
Listen to "Heavy Music Pt .1" by Bob Seger & The Last Heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-W52Kt_ocqw
87. “Village Of Love” (N. Mayer, D. Brown) – Nathaniel Mayer and the Fabulous Twilights; Fortune and United Artists labels, # 22 Billboard Hot 100, # 16 Billboard R&B – 1962. Inducted in 2014.
According to author David A. Carson, Nathaniel Mayer recorded his own composition of “Village Of Love” for Detroit’s Fortune Records at the age of 18 in 1962. It would go on to become Fortune’s biggest hit after it was leased to United Artist for national distribution and peaked at # 22 on the Hot 100.
Although label owner Devora Brown received songwriting credit along with Mayer, it is doubtful that she contributed anything to the song beyond running the recording session in the Fortune building. Mayer’s raw brand of doo-wop was very different from the smooth tones of his Fortune label mates, Nolan Strong & The Diablos, but it is an unquestioned Motor City classic.
The prominent bass voice at the beginning and end of “Village Of Love” was that of the Diablos’ bass singer, Jay Johnson. After the song became a national hit, Nathaniel Mayer played the best clubs in Detroit including the Gay Haven and the 20 Grand, and then went on to headline a tour around the country fronting his own revue.
Listen to "Viilage Of Love" by Nathaniel Mayer & The Fabulous Twilights. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpA5Ljxuxl4
88. “1969” (D. Alexander, R. Asheton, S. Asheton, I. Pop) – The Stooges; Elektra label, Did not chart nationally – 1969. Inducted in 2014.
Listed among Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time, “1969” was the first single issued from the Stooges debut album released in the summer of 1969. The song was recorded with John Cale of the Velvet Underground at the Hit Factory in New York, but conflicts arose immediately when the band turned their amps up to 10 in the recording studio.
According to author David A Carson, the Stooges practically had to stage a sit-down strike over the issue before they reached a compromise, and the band recorded with their amps on 9. The attitude expressed by Iggy Pop in “1969”, the lead track on the album, provided the blueprint for the punk rock movement in the 1970’s in both England and the United States: “Another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do”.
“1969” was paired with another Stooges’ classic, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” for the first single after the Cale sessions were remixed by Elektra Records president Jac Holzman and Iggy Pop. Elektra put Steve Harris in charge of the Stooges marketing project, but there were few Top 40 stations outside of Michigan willing to play either side.
Listen to "1969" by The Stooges along with some rare footage of the band in concert that was shot by Leni Sinclair. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeQ2r1HLALE
89. “What Becomes Of the Brokenhearted” (W. Weatherspoon, P. Riser, J. Dean) – Jimmy Ruffin; Soul label, # 7 Billboard Hot 100, # 6 Billboard R&B – 1966. Inducted in 2014.
Jimmy Ruffin was encouraged to come to Detroit by his younger brother David Ruffin. He signed with Motown in 1961 and his first recording was on Berry Gordy’s short-lived Miracle label.
“What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” was originally intended for the Spinners. But Jimmy convinced the producers to let him record the ballad; and it became his only Top Ten hit in 1966. The song originally featured a spoken introduction by Ruffin, but it was removed in the final mix resulting in in the rather long instrumental intro in the released version.
Ruffin’s lead vocal is ably supported by Motown’s famous studio band, the Funk Brothers, and the backing voices are by both the Originals and the Andantes. Besides being a big hit in the United States, “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” reached # 8 in England when it was originally released and then charted even higher at # 4 when it was reissued in the U. K. in 1974.
Watch a video of Jimmy Ruffin performing "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQU4sIn96M4
90. “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” (B. Hamilton, F. Gorman) – The Reflections; Golden World label, # 6 Billboard Hot 100 – 1964. Inducted in 2014.
The Reflections formed in Livonia, Michigan. After recording one single on the tiny Kayco label in 1963, they were signed to Ed Wingate’s Golden World record company. There, the group was presented with a song co-written by former Motown artist Freddie Gorman. The group members listened to Gorman sing “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” on a piano in an upstairs rehearsal room and were initially unimpressed with the song.
Several weeks later when the group was informed that the backing tracks had been completed, and that they needed to add their vocals, their opinion of the song changed dramatically. Several moonlighting members of the Funk Brothers had recorded the instrumental backing at the United Sound studios in Detroit and the Reflections were blown away by the sound.
The song was pushed hard on both CKLW and WKNR, and by the middle of March, 1964, it was # 1 in the Detroit market and eventually sold over one million copies nationwide. The Reflections’ success with “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” led to a spot on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars 1964 summer tour, a slot on James Brown’s revue (Brown loved the record), and a performance at the famed Apollo Theater in New York.
Watch the Reflections performing "(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet" on the 60's TV music show Shivaree. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycCZX-olchU
91. “Be My Lover” (M. Bruce) – Alice Cooper; Warner Bros. label, # 49 Billboard Hot 100 – 1972. Inducted in 2015.
“Be My Lover” was written by guitarist Mike Bruce and was the second single released from Alice Cooper’s “Killer” album. The album was reviewed in Rolling Stone by renowned rock writer Lester Bangs who had high praise for one of the album’s best songs: “Be My Lover” sets Stones-like lyrics dealing with a sexual situation to a bedrock guitar riff straight from Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”. This may be the best vocal Alice’s ever recorded, and Mike Bruce’s words reflect the strutting, smug feeling of the nascent Superstar perfectly: ‘And with a magnifyin’ glance I just sorta look her over/ We have a drink or two, well maybe three/ And then she starts tellin’ me her life story’.”
Bangs went on to write: “Later there is a great moment hilariously reminiscent, whether intended as parody or not, of “Honky Tonk Women”: ‘I told her that I came from Detroit City/ And I played guitar in a long-haired rock & roll band’ – and here Glenn Buxton’s guitar takes off in a great swooping flight set at reduced volume level so you don’t quite catch it at first – ‘She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice/ And I said, Listen baby, you really wouldn’t understand’. The name and the self-conscious sense of charisma will recur later, when he throws in a ‘This is Alice speakin!’, and even if you’ve never experienced the pandemonium of a live show you know that this man is a hero to countless American kids, and he knows it too.”
Alice Cooper was known for their controversial stage show, but the “Killer” albums two singles, “Be My Lover” and “Under My Wheels”, firmly established them as a top flight rock and roll band and a top concert draw in the early 70’s.
Listen to "Be My Lover" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46lHQT-_0Ig
92. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” (N. Whitfield, B. Strong) – The Temptations; Gordy label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 5 Billboard R&B – 1972. Inducted in 2015.
Although Norman Whitfield produced the original version of “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” for Motown’s Undisputed Truth in late 1971, the definitive recording of the song was done the following year by The Temptations.
Beginning with “Cloud Nine” in late 1968, Whitfield had produced a number of big hits for the Temptations in a style described as psychedelic soul. “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone”, a classic example of Whitfield’s production technique, was originally a 12-minute cut on the Tempts’ “One Direction” album but was edited down to just under 7 minutes for the single.
By 1972, the Temptations’ line-up had undergone some changes. Eddie Kendricks had left to go solo and his falsetto had been replaced by Damon Harris; and Richard Street was filling in for Paul Williams. The two new Tempts joined with regulars Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, and Otis Williams to perform the vocals in true ensemble style: alternating vocal lines, taking the role of siblings asking their mother about their now-deceased father and getting their mother’s repeated response: “Papa was a rollin’ stone/ wherever he laid his hat was his home/ and when he died, all he left us was alone”.
“Papa Was A Rollin Stone” won three Grammys in 1973 including Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. It’s b-side, an instrumental featuring the Funk Brothers without the Temptations’ vocals, won Best R&B Instrumental. Composers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong also won for Best R&B Song.
Watch a live performance by The Temptations from 1972 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDi2X
“Higher Ground” was the first single from Wonder’s 1973 hit album, “Innervisions”. He had recorded the song shortly before he was involved in a near-fatal accident in August of 1973 that left him in a coma. Early in his recovery, Wonder’s road manager Ira Tucker sang the song’s melody into the singer’s ear; Wonder responded by moving his fingers with the music and eventually playing the clavinet in the hospital. Strangely enough, the song’s lyrics address the issue of reincarnation.
“Innervisions” was released just three days before the accident. It was the third album since fully becoming his own man at Motown and taking over the production of his music. While Wonder was in recovery, his funk single, “Higher Ground” raced up the charts. Via overdubs, Stevie Wonder played all the instruments on the song. The unique wah-clavinet sound in the recording was achieved with a Mu-tron III envelope filter pedal. The bass line was provided by a Moog synthesizer.
In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine selected “Higher Ground” as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Wonder’s “Innervisions” album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Watch a live performance of "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder from 1974 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XV1DK9tSHio
94. “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (G. Goffin, C. King, J. Wexler) – Aretha Franklin; Atlantic label, # 8 Billboard Hot 100, # 2 Billboard R&B – 1967. Inducted in 2015.
Aretha Franklin’s fourth consecutive hit single on Atlantic Records was written by the crack songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin but was inspired by Franklin’s producer, Jerry Wexler. Wexler was a student of African-American musical culture and had been mulling over the concept of the “natural man” when he drove by King on the streets of New York City. In his autobiography he claims to have shouted out to her that he wanted a “natural woman” song for Aretha Franklin’s next album. In thanks for giving them the idea for what became a big hit, Goffin and King granted Wexler a co-writing credit.
“A Natural Woman” was the first single released from Franklin’s classic “Lady Soul” album from 1967. Aretha performed the song in a strong gospel style with able backing by the Sweet Inspirations, but Wexler’s use of strings and warm brass accents kept the song in the gospel-pop vein, thereby insuring crossover appeal.
In 1971, Carole King recorded a stripped-down and very different rendering of “A Natural Woman” on her hit album, “Tapestry”. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted Aretha Franklin’s version of “A Natural Woman” in 1999.
95. “Better Man Than I” (M. Hugg, B. Hugg) – Terry Knight & The Pack; Lucky Eleven label, # 125 Billboard Bubbling Under – 1966. Inducted in 2015.
Terry Knight & The Pack first heard “You’re A Better Man Than I” when they opened for The Yardbirds at the Flint IMA auditorium in December of 1965. The English band was riding a string of three consecutive Top 20 singles in the U.S. They had recently released their second LP, “Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds” and “You’re A Better Man Than I” was the album’s first track. The song had been recorded at the Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis in September and Phillips himself engineered the session.
Being an anglophile of the first order, and discovering that the Yardbirds had no plans to release “You’re A Better Man Than I” as a single, Terry Knight booked the band into the Audio Recording Studio in Cleveland on Valentine’s Day in 1966 to produce a cover of the song for their Lucky Eleven label out of Flint.
Released as “Better Man Than I”, the 45 became the first regional hit for Terry Knight & The Pack. It reached # 1 on Flint’s WTRX the week of March 18, 1966 and it also moved into the Top Ten on radio stations in Detroit and Cleveland. Knight, being a former DJ, had several good radio connections that undoubtedly helped the song, but in the final analysis Terry Knight & The Pack recorded an admirable version and it spent three weeks in the upper reaches of the Billboard charts in April of 1966.
Listen to "Better Man Than I" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsvY0M9U1QM
96. “Rock ‘N Roll” (L. Reed) – Detroit featuring Mitch Ryder; Paramount label, # 107 Billboard Bubbling Under – 1972. Inducted in 2015.
“Rock ‘N Roll” was written by Lou Reed and included on “Loaded”, his last studio album with the Velvet Underground. Mitch Ryder’s version of the song with his band Detroit was kicked off with a big guitar riff by Steve Hunter and prominent cowbell compliments of former Detroit Wheels’ drummer Johnny Badanjek. Lou Reed was impressed by the powerful performance and was quoted as saying that was how the song was supposed to sound. After Detroit broke up, Reed recruited Hunter to for his Rock N Roll Animal tour and two live albums.
Following a nasty parting of the ways with Bob Crewe, Mitch Ryder returned to Detroit and took on Barry Kramer, publisher of Creem magazine, as his manager. Kramer’s plan was to reunite the Detroit Wheels but he was only able to recruit Badanjek and guitarist Joey Kubert. The band then changed gears and morphed into Detroit but was plagued with numerous personnel changes, disagreements, and rampant drug abuse.
Somehow the band managed to produce an excellent album titled “Detroit”, but it fell through the cracks along with its two great singles, “Long Neck Goose” and especially the radio friendly “Rock ‘N Roll’. Despite sounding like a major hit, “Rock ‘N Roll” never found its audience and failed to reach the Hot 100, peaking at # 107 in early 1972.
Embittered by his experiences, Mitch Ryder would leave the music scene and head to Denver. There he worked a day job for five years while working on his songwriting skills at night before returning to Detroit and resuming his music career.
Listen to "Rock 'N Roll" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mag6jxiHXXk
97. “Bad Time” (M. Farner) – Grand Funk; Capitol label, # 4 Billboard Hot 100 – 1975. Inducted in 2015.
Grand Funk’s last big single, “Bad Time”, came from a particularly painful chapter in Mark Farner’s life. According to his biography, From Grand Funk To Grace, Farner and his girlfriend of several years, Cheri Chestnut, had been going through a breakup after he had discovered that she had been unfaithful while he was away of tour.
Following Chestnut’s attempted suicide, Farner’s family intervened and convinced him to forgive her. The couple then decided to marry in November of 1972 while in Fort Worth, Texas. Things seemed to go smoothly for a while, but after Farner learned of her continued infidelities, he started to take full advantage of the available females that were constantly surrounding the members of Grand Funk on the road.
His own indiscretions made it easier for Farner to seek a divorce from his wife in 1974. While she sat crying in the kitchen, Farner sat at the piano in the living room of their home and composed what become the hit song “Bad Time”.
The song became the second single released from Grand Funk’s ninth studio album, “All the Girls in the World Beware!!!”. The LP was produced by Jimmy Ienner, who had previously worked with three Dog Night, the Raspberries, and the Bay City Rollers. Sounding more pop than most of their previous releases, “Bad Time” became the band’s fourth single to reach the Top Ten, but it was also Grand Funk’s last Top 40 hit in the U.S.
Listen to "Bad Time" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exn11k4HOG0
98. “Mainstreet” (B.Seger) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label, # 24 Billboard Hot 100 – 1977. Inducted in 2015.
“Mainstreet” was the second 45 released from Seger’s hit album, “Night Moves”. It marked the first time that Seger released a ballad as the a-side of one of his singles; and like the album’s title track, which was his first Top Ten hit, “Mainstreet” was based on places and events in his early life.
Seger has stated that the street he was singing about was Ann Street, just off Main Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he grew up. There was a pool hall on Ann where they had girls dancing in the window and R&B bands playing on the weekends.
In a 1994 interview in the Detroit Free Press, Seger spoke about the song “Mainstreet” with writer Gary Graff: “Again, that’s going back to the “Night Moves” situation where I was writing about my high school years in Ann Arbor and what it was like – the discovery, the total naivete and fresh-faced openness that I went through. It was sort of an entire awakening of my life; before that, I was kind of a quiet, lonesome kid.”
Listen to a live performance of "Mainstreet" from 1977 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA764ch0rBk
99. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (A. Cooper, M. Bruce) – Alice Cooper; Warner Bros. label, # 25 Billboard Hot 100 – 1973. Inducted in 2015.
The third charting single from Alice Cooper’s # 1 album, “Billion Dollar Babies”, was built around The Who’s song “Substitute”. In the CD booklet for “The Best Of Alice Cooper”, Cooper recalled: “The funny part of this song was that we had all of this horrific publicity, and then we came out and declared, ‘All right, everyone…now it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy time. The gloves are off.’ People were going, ‘Huh?!? What? Now they’re going to get worse?!?’ Also, I wrote the lyrics out of anger because of how my parents were treated by some of the press. It was particularly hard because of my dad being a minister. Fact is, my parents were the only ones who knew I was a nice guy.”
Strangely enough, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” was a bigger hit in Great Britain, reaching # 10, than in the U.S. where it peaked at # 25.
The song has had an interesting history over the years. “No More Mr. Nice Guy” was played in the classic stoner film Dazed and Confused. The scene from the movie was later parodied on the Family Guy TV show in the episode titled Jungle Love.
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” was later re-recorded by Alice Cooper and used in the video game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and also used in The Simpsons’ episode Love Is A Many Strangled Thing. In addition, Cooper made a cameo appearance while performing the song in the film adaptation of the TV series Dark Shadows.
Listen to "No More Mr. Nice Guy" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyCAZOGjYD0
100. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (B. Holland, L. Dozier, E. Holland) – The Supremes; Motown label, # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B – 1966. Inducted in 2015.
No singing group was hotter than The Supremes in 1966. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” became the trio’s eighth # 1 single when it topped the charts for two week in November. The song’s signature guitar part originated from a Morse code-like radio sound effect, typically used before a news announcement, which caught Lamont Dozier’s ear. He later collaborated with Brian and Eddie Holland to integrate the idea into a song.
Many elements of the recording, including the guitars, the drums, and Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard’s vocals were multitracked, a production technique that was established and popularized by Holland-Dozier-Holland and other premier producers of the 1960s. H-D-H recorded “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in eight sessions with The Supremes and The Funk Brothers before settling on a version deemed suitable for release.
“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” was the first single taken from the Supremes’ album “The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland”. The song was selected as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 1999, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Listen to "You Keep Me Hangin' On" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phhwkbD1E2c
101. “Boom Boom” (J. Hooker) - John Lee Hooker; Vee Jay label, # 60 Billboard Hot 100, # 16 Billboard R&B – 1962. Inducted in 2016.
Hooker wrote “Boom Boom” during an extended engagement at the Apex Bar in Detroit in 1961. He was always a little tardy for his performances and got the idea for the song from the female bartender at the Apex who would say to him “Boom boom – you late again” on a nightly basis.
Although Hooker was primarily a solo performer or accompanied by only a second guitarist on his early recordings, he often recorded with a small band while on the Vee Jay label. On “Boom Boom”, Hooker used several of Motown’s Funk Brothers including pianist Joe Hunter, bassist James Jamerson, drummer Benny Benjamin, and sax players Hank Crosby and Andrew “Mike” Terry.
“Boom Boom” was John Lee Hooker’s only Hot 100 hit. In 1965, The Animals also charted with their cover of the song.
Watch a 1960's John Lee Hooker televison performance of "Boom Boom" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WS7_e9LdvDI
102. “Respect” (O. Redding) – The Rationals: Cameo label, # 92 Billboard Hot 100 – 1966. Inducted in 2016.
Otis Redding had a # 4 R&B hit with his composition of “Respect” in 1965. The Rationals’ version was issued in 1966, about a year before Aretha Franklin’s. The band given the song by their manager “Jeep” Holland and it was initially released on Holland’s A-Square label before he signed a deal for the Rationals with Cameo.
According to lead singer Scott Morgan, they worked out their version of “Respect” on the stage of Mother’s teen club in East Tawas. Holland did the arrangement on the recording which was produced by Les Cooley, and it was Holland’s idea for the instantly recognizable note at the beginning. Being from the Detroit area, the band grew up on Motown and R&B music came easily to them. The Rationals took just three tries in the studio to capture their classic version.
Shortly after the band was signed to Cameo, the Rationals broke big in Detroit at the ALSAC leukemia. Jerry Wexler wanted the band to sign with Atlantic but Jeep Holland couldn’t give up his control of the band’s recordings. It’s said that Wexler suggested that Aretha Franklin record “Respect” after hearing the Rationals’ version of the song.
Watch The Rationals perform "Respect" on television in 1966: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW9DDIfmDUk
103. “Jenny Take A Ride” (Crewe/Johnson/Penniman) – Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels; New Voice label, # 10 Billboard Hot 100 – 1966. Inducted in 2016.
Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels’ third single welded Chuck Willis’ “C. C. Rider” to Little Richard’s “Jenny, Jenny” and was the first of seven high energy chart hits by the group.
The group first came together in 1964 in Detroit as Billy Lee & The Rivieras with lead singer Billy Levise, lead guitarist Jim McCarty, drummer John Badanjek, bassist Earl Elliott, and rhythm guitarist Joey Kubert. By mid-summer they had attracted a fanatical local following. The band’s live performances were so potent that the unrecorded group was soon headlining over major Motown artists at clubs and casinos in the Detroit area.
The band changed its name to Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels after signing with Bob Crewe’s New Voice label. What followed was a wild two-year ride through the star-making machinery of the record industry that brought them fame but not fortune and tore the group apart in the process.
Watch Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels perform "Jenny Take A Ride" on Hullabaloo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrOvQ9JAf3g&list=RDTrOvQ9JAf3g
104. “Black Sheep” (SRC) – SRC; Capitol label. Did not chart nationally – 1968. Inducted in 2016.
SRC first came together under the guidance of Jeep Holland when Scott Richardson, lead singer of the Chosen Few, joined forces with Gary and Glenn Quackenbush, E.G. Clawson, Steve Lyman, and Robin Dale of The Fugitives to form a new band called the Scot Richard Case.
The band shortened its name to SRC after it left Holland and his A-Square label to sign with Capitol Records in 1968. “Black Sheep” was the single taken from the band’s self-titled debut album on Capitol, and it was a sterling example of SRC’s approach of combining poetry, Eastern philosophy, psychedelics, and a deep spiritual questing in a unique and heavy style of Motor City rock.
“Black Sheep” is in many ways the ultimate SRC song, featuring the doomy organ passages of Glenn Quackenbush, brother Gary’s sustained guitar notes, E.G. Clawson’s pounding drumbeats, and Scott Richardson’s yearning vocals. Although the song got a great deal of airplay in Michigan, it failed to chart nationally.
SRC was one of Michigan’s most popular and distinctive bands from 1967-1970. Although the group’s first two LPs made the Billboard album chart, they were never able to come up with the hit single that would have broken them nationally.
Listen to "Black Sheep" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUrLjD33Vyo
105. “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (Holland-Dozier-Holland) – The Four Tops; Motown label. # 1 Billboard Hot 100, # 1 Billboard R&B – 1966. Inducted in 2016.
The Four Tops’ biggest hit of 1966 was written and produced by Motown’s top production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. According to the Tops’ Duke Fakir, the trio realized that when lead singer Levi Stubbs hit the top of his vocal range, it sounded like someone hurting, so H-D-H liked him to sing up there so that you could hear the tears in his voice.
Stubbs delivered many of the lines in a tone that straddled the line between singing and shouting. The song features a dramatic, semi-operatic tension and release and contains a rock-solid groove compliments of the Funk Brothers.
“Reach Out I’ll Be There” is one of the most-well-known Motown songs of the 60s and is today considered to be the Four Tops’ signature song. It was # 1 on the Hot 100 for two weeks in October until it was replaced by “96 Tears” by ? and The Mysterians.
It also reached # 1 on the British charts in 1966 where it stayed for three weeks. At the time, it was only the second Motown song to reach # 1 in Great Britain.
Watch the Four Tops perform "Reach Out I'll Be There" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c56Sj7kMbLk
106. “City Slang” (F. Smith) – Sonic’s Rendezvous Band; Orchide label. Did not chart nationally 1978. Inducted in 2016.
Formed in Ann Arbor in 1975, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band was an all-star hard rock group formed out of the ashes of four great Michigan bands. Fred Smith was formerly of the MC5, Scott Morgan came from The Rationals, Scott Asheton the drummer for The Stooges and Gary Rasmussen played bass in The Up.
Despite their stellar lineup, the band remained virtually unknown outside of Michigan and only released one single during its career. Because they lacked finances, the band only had enough money to mix one song, “City Slang”, so it was pressed on both sides of the single (one side in stereo, one in mono).
Detroit’s Metro Times listed “City Slang” as one of Detroit’s 100 Greatest Songs a few years back. It’s music critic stated, “Living up to Smith’s nickname, ‘City Slang’ was a guitar-powered sonic assault, an anthem that reflected the Detroit notion of a guitar army. There was no promotion and the band barely ventured out of the state, but ‘City Slang’ reached international classic status totally via word-of-mouth.”
Listen to "City Slang" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtqTAvv2kDA
107. “Roll Me Away” (B. Seger) – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band; Capitol label. # 27 Billboard Hot 100 – 1983. Inducted in 2016.
“Roll Me Away” was the third single issued from Seger’s 1983 album, “The Distance”. Seger said to Gary Graff of the Detroit Free Press that the song was written about a motorcycle trip he took to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Seger told Graff: “I wanted to do that for a long time. It was fascinating being out. The first night it was 42 degrees in Northern Minnesota; the second day it was 106 degrees in South Dakota and all I had was my shorts, and my feet were up on the handlebars to keep them from boiling on the engine. It was just silence and feeling nature.”
The song has been used in several motion pictures. “Roll Me Away” is featured on the Armageddon soundtrack. In addition, the song is played in its entirety in the final scene and closing credits of the film Mask starring Cher and Eric Stoltz. It was also the closing song in the 1984 film Reckless, as Aidan Quinn and Darryl Hannah drive off on a motorcycle.
Watch a live performance of "Roll Me Away" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TEBwq4A1wsU
108. “Farmer John” (D. Harris, D. Terry) – The Tidal Waves; HBR label. # 123 on Billboard in 1966. Inducted in 2016.
The Tidal Waves formed in Roseville, Michigan in 1964, inspired by The Beatles’ appearances on Ed Sullivan. Their first single, “Farmer John” was released on the Detroit-based SVR label in early 1966 before being picked up for national distribution by the Hanna-Barbera Records (HBR). “Farmer John” was a huge hit in Michigan but did not do as well nationally. The Tidal Waves’ version charted at # 123 on Billboard but did much better on the Cashbox chart, peaking at # 79.
“Farmer John” was written and recorded in the late 1950s by the duo of Don & Dewey on Specialty Records. It did not become a hit, however, until 1964 when it was covered by The Premiers, a Hispanic rock group from California and reached # 19 on the Hot 100.
The Tidal Waves recorded two more singles after “Farmer John”, including the garage band classic “Action! (Speaks Louder Than Words)” before disbanding in 1967 over issues regarding the group’s royalties from their record sales.
Listen to "Farmer John" by the Tidal Waves at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWtvv6mQNLA
109. “Mind Over Matter (I’m Gonna Make You Mine)” (D. Brown) – Nolan Strong; Fortune label. # 112 Billboard – 1962. Inducted in 2016.
The Diablos with lead singer Nolan Strong was one of Detroit’s most successful early vocal groups. The group’s classic 1954 recording of “The Wind” would have probably been a national R&B hit were it not for the spotty distribution of the tiny Fortune label.
According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”
“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. “Berry Gordy thought it was such a great record that he took the guys in the Temptations and they recorded a version of ‘Mind Over Matter’ as the Pirates for Motown, but Nolan Strong had the bigger hit.”
Listen to "Mind Over Matter" by Nolan Strong at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGko6th_7ko
110. “True Blue” (Madonna, Steve Bray) – Madonna; Sire label. # 3 Billboard Hot 100 – 1986. Inducted in 2016.
“True Blue”, the title track of Madonna’s 1986 album, was the third of five hit singles released from the record. The song is a tribute to the girl groups, including those on Motown, that were popular when Madonna was growing up in Michigan and were a direct influence of her music.
According to Madonna, “True Blue” took its title from a favorite expression of her then husband Sean Penn and his very pure vision of love and was a direct tribute to him. When interviewed later, following her divorce for Penn, Madonna said of “True Blue”: “It’s a song about love. I didn’t know what I was talking about when I wrote it.”
Madonna’s video for “True Blue” was shot in the fall of 1986 in New York and was directed by James Foley who has also done the videos for “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Live To Tell”. Foley’s charming retro video features Madonna and three dancers and a 50s car in an all-blue diner. Madonna performs the song in choreographed moves backed her dancers in a direct tribute to the rock and roll culture of the 1950’s.
Watch Madonna's "True Blue" video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_U0vsmn2G3w