The things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand

I get a lot of positive feedback here at Hack’s Back Pages when I publish a Rock Lyrics Quiz or a Rock Trivia Quiz. Let’s face it, most of us love to test our knowledge when magazines and websites publish quizzes on various topics. So here I go again, gauging my readers’ abilities at recalling and/or guessing the answers to 15 quiz questions about rock artists and music from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s!

Hand completing a multiple choice exam.

You needn’t feel bad if some of this stuff is too obscure. I’m a self-professed classic rock nerd, and I go deeper than your average music fan in ferreting out what I consider interesting factoids about the albums and the songs, and the people who made them.

If you scroll down a bit below the questions, you’ll find the answers and some back-story information that might shed some light on the subject matter.



1. Which mid-’70s classic rock album did Todd Rundgren produce?

“Toys in the Attic,” Aerosmith

“Welcome to My Nightmare,” Alice Cooper

“Bat Out of Hell,” Meat Loaf

“Run With the Pack,” Bad Company

2. What job did Art Garfunkel hold before joining Paul Simon to become pop stars?

Newspaper reporter

Algebra teacher

Park ranger

Advertising copywriter

3. Stevie Wonder won the Album of the Year Grammy three times in the 1970s. Which album was NOT a Grammy winner for him?

“Talking Book” (1972)

“Innervisions” (1973)

“Fulfillingness’ First Finale” (1974)

“Songs in the Key of Life” (1976)

4. What is the meaning behind the band name Lynyrd Skynyrd?

It’s a fictitious name

It was the name of a high school gym teacher

It was the name of a popular local head shop proprietor

It was the name of a modestly successful welterweight boxer

5. What was the original title of The Beatles second film, “Help!”?

“Ticket to Ride”

“Eight Arms to Hold You”

“Save Ringo!”

“The Night Before”

6. Which group’s debut was a double album?

The Doors


Emerson, Lake and Palmer


7. When Brian Wilson quit touring with The Beach Boys in 1964, who briefly took his place?

David Crosby

Glen Campbell

Neil Diamond

John Denver

8. When The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones died in 1969, where was his body found?

in the band’s tour bus

in his swimming pool

in the VIP Room of a London club

in his girlfriend’s bed

9. Which legendary blues artist successfully sued Led Zeppelin for partial credit and royalties related to their unauthorized use of his songs on two tracks from the “Led Zeppelin II” album?

Muddy Waters

Willie Dixon

John Lee Hooker

B.B. King

10. Which city is NOT mentioned in the lyrics of the Huey Lewis & The News hit “The Heart of Rock and Roll”?



San Francisco


11. In 1985, which rock musician performed at Live Aid in London, then flew across the pond on the Concorde in time to perform on Live Aid’s Philadelphia stage later the same day?


Freddie Mercury

Phil Collins

Eric Clapton

12. Which of these four James Taylor hit singles is the only one he composed?

“You’ve Got a Friend”

“Handy Man”

“Your Smiling Face”

“How Sweet It Is to Be Loved By You”

13. Four members of The Band are Canadian. Who is the only American?

Robbie Robertson

Garth Hudson

Levon Helm

Rick Danko

Richard Manuel

14. Which of these musicians did NOT participate in the recording sessions for George Harrison’s 1970 solo debut LP “All Things Must Pass”?

Billy Preston

Steve Winwood

Gary Wright

Dave Mason

15. What is the only Joni Mitchell album to win a Grammy?

“Court and Spark” (1974)

“Blue” (1971)

“Turbulent Indigo” (1994)

“The Hissing of Summer Lawns” (1975)

















1. “Bat Out of Hell,” Meat Loaf

Rundgren, a formidable recording artist and songwriter, was also highly sought after as a producer during his long career. Although he never worked with Aerosmith, Alice Cooper nor Bad Company, he manned the boards for albums by many other bands, including Grand Funk, Badfinger, Hall and Oates, The Tubes and, most notably, Meat Loaf’s mega-platinum 1977 LP “Bat Out of Hell.” Once he heard songwriter Jim Steinman’s operatic songs and the way Meat Loaf sang them, he thought it could be recorded as a spoof on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” LP. The result was one of the biggest selling albums of the 1970s.

2. Algebra teacher

Garfunkel and Simon met in their Queens middle school, formed a duo named Tom and Jerry, and had one modest hit in 1957 with “Hey Schoolgirl.” They went their separate ways but reunited as Simon and Garfunkel in 1964 to record their first full LP, “Wednesday Morning 3 AM,” which included an acoustic version of “The Sound of Silence.” The album stiffed, so again they parted, and while Simon headed to England to write songs and play small clubs, Garfunkel earned a degree in math education and then taught high school algebra…until “The Sound of Silence” became a #1 hit in early 1966.

3. “Talking Book”

In 1971, Wonder turned 21 and won his freedom to cut a new contract with Motown Records that gave him total control over his records. After a couple of false starts, he hit pay dirt in 1972 with the critically acclaimed “Talking Book,” which yielded two #1 hit singles, “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” It won him his first Grammys in minor categories but wasn’t nominated in the Best Album category. His next three LPs, “Innervisions,” “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and “Songs in the Key of Life” all won Album of the Year in a four-year span, an unsurpassed Grammy achievement.

Leonard Skinner

4. a high school gym teacher

Singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Gary Rossington and drummer Bob Burns all attended the same Jacksonville high school in the late ’60s where a strict gym teacher named Leonard Skinner rigidly enforced the school’s policy regarding long hair on boys. When the guys decided their fledgling band, The One Percent, needed a new name, they decided to name themselves Lynyrd Skynyrd in mocking tribute to their rigid P.E. teacher. Skinner was none too pleased about it, but as the band became national rock stars, he grew to appreciate the attention. They even invited him on stage once to introduce them at a concert.

Mock-up of original film soundtrack

5. “Eight Arms to Hold You”

(Note the fine print)

When the movie eventually titled “Help!” was first being discussed, director Richard Lester, who had also directed “A Hard Day’s Night,” wasn’t sure what the film’s title ought to be. “Beatles Phase II” was suggested. Producer Walter Shenson proposed “The Day the Clowns Collapsed.” George Harrison offered “Who’s Been Sleeping in My Porridge?” Lester instead chose “Eight Arms to Hold You,” which alluded to the eight-armed bronze idol used as a backdrop in several scenes. Pressings of the 45 single “Ticket to Ride,” released a month earlier, said “from the UA film “Eight Arms to Hold You” on the label. At the last minute, Lester decided “Help!” was more marketable. John Lennon then wrote the song the same night.

6. Chicago

It was incredibly bold for a recently discovered band to insist that Columbia Records let them release a double album right out of the gate, but “Chicago Transit Authority” became Chicago’s stunning debut in 1969. Even more daring was that their compelling second LP, “Chicago,” was also a double album…and so was “Chicago III,” although their luck ran out with that one. The Doors , Santana, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer all eventually released double albums in their careers, but their debut LPs (all superb, by the way) were the more traditional single albums.

Campbell on tour as one of The Beach Boys

7. Glen Campbell

Wilson always preferring writing and recording songs, not performing them. Once the band started touring internationally in 1964, he had a breakdown and declared he would no longer go on the road, remaining in the studio. With tour dates already scheduled, the group had to act fast to fill the void on stage, and were lucky to have Campbell at the ready, who had been playing guitar and singing on several Beach Boys recordings. At that time, Crosby was in The Byrds, still waiting for their big break; Diamond was a Brill Building songwriter, hoping for his first single; and Denver had just joined The Mitchell Trio.

8. in his swimming pool

Frankly, any of the four choices listed would be a plausible answer. We’ve all read about rock stars and the excesses that might occur in luxury coach buses, backstage parlors, ladies’ bedrooms and the like. But Jones was, at the end, more reclusive, depressed about his diminishing influence in The Stones’ juggernaut. He preferred staying home at his estate with just a friend or two, partying to his heart’s content. He ended up in the pool on July 2, 1969, where the coroner said Jones drowned, labeling the cause as “death by misadventure,” a phrase British authorities employed to describe fatally risky behavior involving drugs.

Sheet music giving partial credit to Willie Dixon

9. Willie Dixon

One of the architects of the Chicago Blues sound, Dixon was a bassist, songwriter and producer, working with virtually every major blues artist in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. He wrote “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Spoonful,” “Little Red Rooster” and many others. Lyrics and musical passages from Dixon’s “You Need Love” were prominent in Led Zep’s #4 hit “Whole Lotta Love,” and the band recorded an altered version of Dixon’s song “Bring It On Home” without giving even partial credit. Dixon won a 1987 judgment. Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King had a few unsuccessful plagiarism suits of their own.

10. Atlanta

Lewis and his band had just played a high-energy show for an enthusiastic Cleveland audience and were headed out of town when the lead singer, still buzzed from the vibe, told the band and crew, “You know what? The heart of rock and roll is in Cleveland!” He wrote a song about it, but he was persuaded to broaden its appeal by including other cities in the verses, ultimately focusing on New York and L.A., as usual. In addition to Cleveland, you can hear references to Austin, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Philly, D.C., San Antonio, Tulsa, Baton Rouge…but not Atlanta.

11. Phil Collins

In 1985, Collins was so omnipresent, you could barely swing a cat around by its tail without hitting him in the head. His solo material was in heavy rotation, duets with Marilyn Martin and Philip Bailey went to #1, and songs he sang with Genesis were always cropping up as well. So it’s not at all surprising that this triple threat overachiever would attempt this crazy feat: For the historic Live Aid concert in August, he performed four songs alone and/or with Sting at Wembley Stadium, then whisked off on the Concorde to Philadelphia, U.S.A., to perform two solo songs, and also play drums for Clapton’s and Led Zeppelin’s sets.

12. “Your Smiling Face”

Throughout his career, Taylor has made a habit of recording stirring, convincing covers of other people’s songs: Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” his only #1 hit; “Handy Man,” the 1959 Jimmy Jones tune that went to #4 for Taylor in 1977; “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” the Holland-Dozier-Holland classic popularized by Marvin Gaye. But Taylor is, of course, a mighty fine songwriter himself, composing great stuff like “Carolina In My Mind,” “Fire and Rain,” “You Can Close Your Eyes,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and his Top Twenty hit “Your Smiling Face,” from his wonderful “JT” album in 1977.

13. Levon Helm

The Band were originally The Hawks, a backup group for Toronto-based rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins, who had handpicked the best musicians from other Canadian bands to join him. That’s how guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, and keyboard players Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson first came together. Drummer/singer Levon Helm, on the other hand, was Arkansas-born, like Hawkins himself, and had migrated to Ontario with him in 1957. Ten years later, The Band went out on their own, recorded “Music From Big Pink” and “The Band,” and became a major musical influence.

Musician credits for the “All Things Must Pass” LP

14. Steve Winwood

When George Harrison was at last free to record his own songs without John Lennon and Paul McCartney around, he reached out to a broad spectrum of mostly British musicians to add their chops to various tracks on his sprawling “All Things Must Pass” triple album. Billy Preston provided piano parts on many songs; Gary Wright was invited to play organ on several sessions; and Dave Mason pitched in on acoustic guitar on a couple of tunes. Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Gary Brooker and others were there, too…but not Steve Winwood, who was busy recording the next Traffic LP at the time.

Joni Mitchell, 1994

15. “Turbulent Indigo”

How extraordinarily screwed up it is that a one-of-a-kind talent like Joni Mitchell had to wait until her 15th album, 25 years after her debut, before voters at The Grammys figured out she was worthy of a major award. Her magnificent confessional LPs like “Blue,” “For the Roses” and “Court and Spark” and bolder jazz excursions like “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” and “Hejira” were all more than worthy of such accolades, but in fact, it wasn’t until her return to introspection in 1994 with the subtle “Turbulent Indigo” LP that she won the “Pop Album of the Year” Grammy.



  1. newepicauthor · October 8, 2021

    Leonard Skinner was their high school gym teacher, but another reason that they chose this was because he is mentioned in the song Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter From Camp) by Allan Sherman.
    I went hiking with Joe Spivey
    He developed poison ivy
    You remember Leonard Skinner
    He got Ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner


  2. brucehhackett · October 8, 2021

    You’re right! I didn’t have room to get into that, but yes, guitarist Gary Rossington was a big fan of Allan Sherman’s comedy records and pointed that out as they were mulling over the idea of the name.


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