My friends on Facebook know I enjoy posting a “daily lyrical puzzler” every morning, just as a fun diversion from all the BS and nonsense that’s often posted on that social media platform.
Here at Hack’s Back Pages, I have occasionally expanded on that idea and generated a Lyrics Quiz, using various themes and eras, just so readers can test their ability at recognizing the words to popular classic rock/pop songs. Remembering lyrics comes as second nature to me, but many people tell me they struggle not only to recognize the songs but also to come up with the titles and/or the artists.
This week, on Lyrics Quiz #15, I have selected 15 Top Ten singles, one each from the 15 years in the 1965-1979 period. If you’re of my generation, you’ll probably find this reasonably easy; younger readers may not know some of my selections. But once you see the answers and listen to the Spotify playlist at the end, I’m confident you’ll find them very familiar indeed.
Give it a try!
1965: “Well, I told you once and I told you twice, /But you never listen to my advice…”
1966: “Stopped into a church I passed along the way, /Well, I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray…”
1967: “I was born in Little Rock, had a childhood sweetheart, we were always hand in hand…”
1968: “Yeah, I gotta go make it happen, take the world in a love embrace…”
1969: “You love me, you hate me, you know me and then, you can’t figure out the bag I’m in…”
1970: “It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker, /It’s got one friend, that’s the undertaker…”
1971: “Long ago and oh so far away, I fell in love with you before the second show…”
1972: “And there’s a girl in this harbor town, and she works layin’ whiskey down…”
1973: “When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?…”
1974: “Jimi gave us rainbows, and Janis took a piece of our hearts, and Otis brought us all to the dock of a bay…”
1975: “She gets up and pours herself a strong one, and stares out at the stars up in the sky…”
1976: “Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas, /You know, he knows just exactly what the facts is…”
1977: “Going through security, I held her for so long, /She finally looked at me in love, and she was gone…”
1978: “My Maserati does 185, /I lost my license, now I don’t drive…”
1979: “When the morning cries and you don’t know why, it’s hard to bear, with no one beside you, you’re goin’ nowhere…”
(Scroll down for answers)
1965: “The Last Time,” The Rolling Stones
It’s a misconception that “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was The Stones’ first US hit single. Mick and Keith and the boys had two prior Top Ten hits here — “Time Is On My Side” (in ’64) and “The Last Time,” which reached #9 in early 1965. It was largely based on a gospel song called “This May Be the Last Time,” recorded by The Staple Singers in the ’50s, although the guitar riff and some of the lyrics were developed by The Stones.
1966: “California Dreamin’,” The Mamas and The Papas
During a cold winter in New York City in 1964, John Phillips wrote this legendary song for his California-born wife Michelle, who was homesick for the warmer climate of her home town. Within two years, The Mamas and The Papas had relocated to L.A., signed with Dunhill Records, and recorded their first album, which included not only the #4 chart rendition of “California Dreamin'” but their first #1, “Monday, Monday,” and the foursome became among the hottest acts of the ’60s.
1967: “I Was Made to Love Her,” Stevie Wonder
Wonder was only 17 when he co-wrote and recorded this magnificent slice of Motown, which reached #2 in the summer of ’67. It’s a thrilling arrangement and production, featuring James Jamerson’s indelible bass line and Wonder’s distinctive harmonica and vocals. His mother, Lula Mae Hardaway, helped write it, helping with the passionate lyrics of young love. I consider the track one of the very best songs in his enviable catalog of great R&B music.
1968: “Born To Be Wild,” Steppenwolf
Some people cite the line “I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal, thunder” from this iconic song as the first use of the term “heavy metal,” presaging the actual genre by a few years. “Born To Be Wild” was written by Dennis Edmonton, who was inspired by a billboard showing motorcycles racing down the highway. It has been often used as a biker anthem, making a dramatic appearance in the counterculture film “Easy Rider.” It reached #2 in the summer of 1968.
1969: “Everyday People,” Sly and The Family Stone
This tune by Sly Stone was an overt plea for peace and equality among the races, and it sat perched at #1 for four weeks in February-March of 1969. Sly & The Family Stone was the first bi-racial co-ed band in pop history, and Stone used that status to write several songs that promoted racial harmony during a time marked by considerable black-white strife. The fact that it was written as an easygoing, singalong pop song gave it near-universal appeal.
1970: “War,” Edwin Starr
The powerhouse songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong came up with this powerful anti-war anthem for The Temptations to sing, who recorded it, but Motown chief Berry Gordy chose not to release it as a single lest they alienate some of the group’s more conservative fan base. Whitfield and Strong re-recorded it in a more intense James Brown-type arrangement with lesser Motown artist Edwin Starr at the microphone, and it rocketed to #1.
1971: “Superstar,” The Carpenters
Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett collaborated with Leon Russell to write this ode to rock groupies. Singer Rita Coolidge, who suggested that the groupie scene would make a provocative subject for a song lyric, sang the song as part of the 1970 “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour she did with Russell and Joe Cocker’s band. The following year, Karen Carpenter wrapped her sultry voice around the song for The Carpenters’ third LP, and the song reached #2 in the autumn of 1971.
1972: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl),” Looking Glass
Elliot Lurie, guitarist/vocalist of the Jersey-based band Looking Glass, wrote this tale of a hard-working barmaid who fought off the advances of many men because she still pined for a man from her past who couldn’t commit because “my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.” It became an enormous hit in the summer/fall of ’72, and years later, it enjoyed new life when it was used in the soundtracks of “Charlie’s Angels” (2000) and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).”
1973: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Elton John
Said lyricist Bernie Taupin about this classic, “The lyrics are saying that sometimes I want to leave Oz and get back to the farm. I wasn’t turning my back on success or saying I didn’t want it. I think I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium, a way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting.” It’s one of Elton & Bernie’s favorite songs in their entire catalog, and as the title track of their solid double album, it reached the Top five in eight countries, including #2 in the US.
1974: “Rock and Roll Heaven,” The Righteous Brothers
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield struck gold in the mid-’60s with the Phil Spector-produced hits “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” and “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” then broke up for a spell before reuniting in 1974. They scored a big single with “Rock and Roll Heaven,” a song by Alan O’Day that paid tribute to some of the rock stars who had left us by that point (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, Jim Croce, Bobby Darin). The song reached #3 on US charts.
1975: “Lyin’ Eyes,” The Eagles
Glenn Frey and Don Henley were in a Hollywood bar one night, watching beautiful young women cozying up to older wealthy men, and Frey noted, “She can’t even hide those lyin’ eyes.” It became a huge Eagles hit about those who cheat on their romantic partners as they lied to them, their conquests and themselves. As the second single from their chart-topping LP “One Of These Nights,” it reached #2 on US charts.
1976: “Take the Money and Run,” Steve Miller Band
There have been many dozens, maybe hundreds, of examples in classic rock songs of horrible attempts at writing rhyming lyrics. I submit that this line by Steve Miller on one of the singles from his “Fly Like an Eagle” LP, is among the most cringeworthy. Rhyming “Texas” with “facts is” fails on two different levels (shouldn’t it be “facts are”? Yes, it should). But correct grammar has never been rock and roll’s strong suit, and the song reached #11.
1977: “Just a Song Before I Go,” Crosby, Stills and Nash
Graham Nash had been staying with a friend in Hawaii, and as he was preparing to leave for the airport, his friend bet him that he couldn’t write a song in the short time he had left. In 20 minutes, Nash came up with this ditty about a musician leaving loved ones behind to go out on a concert tour, but it’s written so that it could be about anyone who must depart unwillingly. It was a return to the Top Ten for the original trio, reaching #7 as the single from their celebrated reunion LP, “CSN.”
1978: “Life’s Been Good,” Joe Walsh
By this point in his career, Walsh had made Cleveland’s The James Gang a national act, forged a successful solo career and become a member of the high-flying Eagles. Along the way, he developed a notorious reputation as a major partier and a trasher of hotel rooms, which he good-naturedly wrote about in this big hit from his solo LP “But Seriously Folks…” The track rose to #12 on US charts.
1979: “Tragedy,” The Bee Gees
The Brothers Gibb sang together for multiple decades and albums, but they combined forces as songwriters only occasionally, most notably on this sizzling #1 tune for their “Spirits Having Flown” LP, the follow-up to the stratospheric success of their “Saturday Night Fever” material. The description of a romantic breakup as a “tragedy” is perhaps exaggerated, but the listening public didn’t mind, as it became the vocal group’s fifth of six consecutive chart-toppers in the late Seventies.
That was fun—I got 8 right so better than half but a little disappointing! Thanks Bruce!!