Time to sharpen your pencils and test your memory banks about classic rock music!
Some of you who struggle to recall the words to even your most favorite songs may be relieved to hear this is NOT a lyrics quiz. It’s a rock trivia quiz, where I ask you 10 multiple-choice questions about bands, solo artists, singles, albums and other information from the classic rock of a half-century ago. Even if you weren’t around back then, or weren’t all that into the details of the music you listened to, the music has lived on, and I find it entertaining to see what we know about those days.
Study the choices for each question, mark your best guess on a piece of paper, then scroll down to find out the right answer and learn more about the subject under consideration.
1 Which of these four rock groups does NOT have a Canadian member?
The Mamas and the Papas
The Doobie Brothers
2 Which of these four Beatles hits was not written by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, or Starr?
Who was the first of these female artists to have a #1 single in the U.S.?
“I Feel Fine”
“Twist and Shout”
“Love Me Do”
3 These four artists all had big hit singles in the 1970s. Three of them also scored a second Top 40 hit, but one artist failed to make a return appearance and therefore became a “One-Hit Wonder.” Which one?
Five Man Electrical Band
4 Which of these is Meat Loaf’s real name?
5 Which of these early Elton John singles failed to reach the Top 40 upon initial release?
6 Which hit single was written by the composer when he was only 12 years old?
“My Generation” by Pete Townshend of The Who
“Lucky Man” by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer
“Proud Mary” by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival
“You Really Got Me” by Ray Davies of The Kinks
7 Of these four hugely popular double albums, which is the only one to reach #1 on the U.S. charts?
“Tommy,” The Who (1969)
“Tusk,” Fleetwood Mac (1979)
“Exile on Main Street,” The Rolling Stones (1972)
“Eat a Peach,” The Allman Brothers Band (1972)
8 Only one of these lead singers was an original member of the band that made them famous. Which one?
Steve Perry of Journey
Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues
Jon Anderson of Yes
Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane
9 Which artist did NOT die of a gunshot wound?
10 Which band’s album cover includes a reference to a different rock band?
“Axis Bold as Love,” Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Physical Graffiti,” Led Zeppelin
“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles
“Stand Up,” Jethro Tull
1 The Doobie Brothers
The Doobies were a bar band formed in San Jose, California. Their two guitarists (Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons) and bassist Tiran Porter were from the West Coast, and their two drummers (John Hartman and Michael Hossack) were from Virginia and New Jersey. Even the later members to join the group (Jeff Baxter, Keith Knudsen, Michael McDonald, John McFee) were all from the U.S.
The Mamas and Papas came to symbolize the California sound, and while Michele Phillips came from Long Beach, Cass Elliot was actually from Maryland and John Phillips from South Carolina. Denny Doherty, however, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and sang in bands there until moving to Hollywood at age 23.
Buffalo Springfield had three Canadians on their roster: Neil Young from Toronto, Bruce Palmer from Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and Dewey Martin from Chesterville, Ontario. (Stephen Stills and Richie Furay were from Texas and Ohio, respectively.)
The Band was 80% Canadian: Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Rick Danko all hailed from various cities in Ontario, while drummer Levon Helm was the lone American, born in Arkansas.
2 “Twist and Shout”
This iconic rocker was co-written in 1961 by Phil Medley and Bert Berns, who also wrote other hits like “Hang On Sloopy,” “Piece of My Heart” and “A Million to One.” It was first recorded that year by a vocal group called The Top Notes as “a Latin-tinged raveup,” as one critic put it, but it failed to chart. The Isley Brothers’ recording in 1962 offered a better R&B groove and added the ascending vocal parts that made it so memorable, helping it reach #17 on the U.S. pop charts (and #2 on the R&B charts). The Beatles used almost the same arrangement as The Isley Brothers’ version when they recorded “Twist and Shout” in 1963 for their debut LP, “Please Please Me.” It was not released as a single in the UK, but in the US, the single reached #2 in early 1964, held from the top spot by another Beatles song, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
“I Feel Fine” was written mostly by Lennon with help from McCartney.
“Love Me Do” was one of the earliest Lennon-McCartney songs, and the first ever to chart in the UK.
“Yellow Submarine” was another Lennon-McCartney collaboration, written as a children’s song for Ringo Starr to sing on the “Revolver” album.
3 Norman Greenbaum
Upon hearing country artist Porter Wagoner sing a gospel song on TV, Greenbaum thought to himself, “I can do that,” and within 15 minutes, he’d written the lyrics and basic chords to “Spirit in the Sky.” Greenbaum had been in an unsuccessful psychedelic jug band in the late ’60s but somehow won a solo contract, and when he recorded songs in a San Francisco studio, he employed friends who were in other bands. When the record became an unexpected international #1 hit, Greenbaum had no band available to go on tour, and subsequent attempts at follow-up singles fell short. So he reverted to his previous calling as a pig farmer.
Redbone was a California-based band comprised of musicians of Native-American and Mexican heritage. I always loved their #5 hit from 1974, “Come and Get Your Love,” but I hadn’t realized they were the group that already had a minor hit with “The Witch Queen of New Orleans,” which peaked at #21 in early 1972.
Five Man Electrical Band was a Canadian pop rock group that scored eight hit singles in the Top 20 on the Canadian charts between 1965 and 1975. In the US, they had their breakthrough with “Signs,” which not only reached #3 here in the summer of 1971, it was also #1 in Australia for nearly two months. Later in 1971, the group did modestly well here with the spirited rocker “Absolutely Right,” which peaked at #28.
Maria Muldaur had a big hit with the sexually suggestive “Midnight at the Oasis,” which reached #6 in the spring of 1974. I wasn’t aware until recently that she had a second hit less than a year later when “I’m a Woman,” a gritty blues tune that sounds like something Bonnie Raitt might record, reached #12.
4 Marvin Aday
A Texas woman named Wilma Oday gave birth in 1947 to “nine pounds of ground chuck,” as Wilma’s husband Orvis described the infant’s reddish appearance. For most of his childhood, Marvin went by “M.L.” which stood for “Meat Loaf,” and the name stuck as he became a bruising football player, then an actor and singer of international fame, thanks to his delivery of the dramatic rock songs of Jim Steinman on the multi-platinum “Bat Out of Hell” in 1977 and its much-delayed follow-up, “Bat Out of Hell II” in 1993. Oday died in January 2022.
Vincent Furnier is the real name of shock rocker Alice Cooper.
Reginald Dwight is the real name of Elton John.
Melvin Houser, well, that’s just a name I made up. Apologies to any real Melvin Housers out there.
5 “Tiny Dancer”
Originally released as the leadoff track on Elton’s fourth studio LP, “Madman Across the Water,” this gorgeous song ran over six minutes, which hurt its chances as a Top 40 single. In fact, it stalled in the U.S. at #41 and wasn’t even released as a single in the UK, although it reached #19 in Canada and #13 in Australia. Over the years, the song slowly became one of John’s most popular songs on American rock radio stations, and got a big boost of popularity after having been prominently featured in the 2000 film “Almost Famous.”
“Daniel,” released in 1973 as the second single from “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player,” reached #2 that spring.
“Honky Cat,” the second single released from his 1972 LP “Honky Chateau,” peaked at #8.
“Levon,” the first single from “Madman Across the Water,” did modestly well, topping out at #24.
6 “Lucky Man” by Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer
Lake’s mother, a pianist, influenced his early musical leanings, and bought him a modest guitar when he turned 12. Once he’d mastered his first four chords (Am, Em, G and D), he wrote his first song, which he called “Lucky Man,” which he described as “sort of a medieval folk song” when played on acoustic guitar. The lyrics describe a privileged man who went off to battle and died, but for Lake, it referred to himself. “My mother bought me the guitar when she couldn’t really afford it, and I felt that I was a lucky boy, a lucky man indeed,” he recalled. It became ELP’s breakthrough hit in 1970.
“My Generation” sounds like it could have been written by a defiant 12-year-old Pete Townshend, but he was actually 19 or 20.
“Proud Mary” was written by John Fogerty shortly after he was discharged from the Army Reserve in 1968 when he was 23.
“You Really Got Me” was the fourth or fifth song Ray Davies ever wrote, in the spring of 1964 at age 20.
7 “Exile on Main Street,” The Rolling Stones
Although the Stones were more of a singles band during their first eight years, every one of their albums released in the 1960s reached the Top Five on U.S. album charts. Beginning with “Sticky Fingers” in 1971, they put together a string of nine consecutive #1 LPs, some of which, in my opinion, didn’t deserve it, and 1972’s “Exile on Main Street” is one of them. It’s a double album with a lot of filler, the production is muddy and the performances substandard, but The Stones were on a roll throughout the ’70s as far as the U.S. record buyers were concerned.
“Tommy” was certainly consistently strong enough to be a #1 album for The Who, but it peaked at #4.
“Tusk” was a strange collection of songs, and a step down from the appeal of “Rumours,” but it still managed to reach #4 for Fleetwood Mac.
“Eat a Peach,” which is half studio and half live, was the first released following the death of Duane Allman. It, too, topped out at #4.
8 Jon Anderson of Yes
Anderson and his school chum Chris Squire were the founding members of Yes in 1968. They recruited guitarist Peter Banks, drummer Bill Bruford and keyboardist Tony Kaye, and were off and running in the progressive rock sweepstakes fashionable in the UK at the time. Yes had a virtual revolving door of members come in and out over the years, but Anderson’s ethereal vocals are perhaps the defining element of the group’s sound.
Steve Perry didn’t join Journey as their lead vocalist until 1978, five years and three albums after they were founded by keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon, formerly with Santana.
Justin Hayward joined The Moody Blues in 1967 when they recorded the landmark “Days of Future Passed,” but the band had been around since 1964.
Grace Slick brought Jefferson Airplane their biggest success with two 1967 singles, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” but she was preceded as lead vocalist by Signe Anderson in 1965-1966.
9 Keith Moon
Moon was notorious for excessive and destructive behavior, which made him a phenomenal drummer but eventually a danger to himself. He drank and drugged too much, and when he tried to quit, he was prescribed a powerful sedative, on which he overdosed and died in 1978.
Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his father in 1984.
Terry Kath died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot in 1978.
Sam Cooke was shot and killed in an altercation with a motel manager in 1964.
10 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles
This 1967 album cover has been scrutinized and interpreted more than probably any other rock album in history. In addition to the 50-odd likenesses pictured behind the Fab Four, several props appear in front of and next to them, one of which is a doll propped up on a chair. The doll, a gift to Mick Jagger from the winner of a contest on Memphis radio station WMPS-AM in 1964, was brought to the photo session by photographer Robert Fraser, a friend of Jagger. If you look closely, the sweater the doll is wearing says, “THE WMPS GOOD GUYS WELCOME THE ROLLING STONES.”
Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” featured a tenement building with various faces peeking out, including those of Hollywood icons and the Zeppelin band members themselves, but no one from different rock bands. Jimi’s “Axis: Bold as Love” and Tull’s “Stand Up” included all sorts of nooks and crannies within the designs for them to hide words or images of other bands, and you can search all you want, but you won’t find any.