The radio reminds me of my home far away

Damn, I just LOVE foraging through my collection of vinyl (and CDs) from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and unearthing those hidden gems that have been all but forgotten as time has rolled on…

23415249_2036943229872411_622328307341983055_oFortunately, many of these great “lost classics” are available today to those who didn’t hang on to their old records, or are too young to have been exposed to them in the first place.  Online music services provide a wealth of decades-old music — in fact, so much of it that you can be overwhelmed.  Where to start?

That’s where Hack’s Back Pages comes in.  Every so often, whenever the mood strikes, I dive deep and come up with a dozen selections that made their mark on me back in the day, and that I still find worthy enough to bring to your attention today.

Feel free to follow along on the Spotify playlist I’ve included at the bottom of this post.  I hope you find these tracks as satisfying as I do.  Enjoy!


“Many a Mile to Freedom,” Traffic, 1971

traffic_lowfMusical wunderkind Steve Winwood and drummer Jim Capaldi formed Traffic as a quasi folk-jazz-rock hybrid outfit in 1967, with Dave Mason on guitar and Chris Wood on flute.  They earned praise in England for their first two records, but Mason soon left and Winwood spent several months in the hugely hyped side project called Blind Faith with his friend Eric Clapton.  Winwood then intended on unveiling his first solo LP but it turned into the reformation of Traffic (without Mason) and became the brilliant 1970 album “John Barleycorn Must Die.”  By 1971, the group chose to broaden its sound by adding Blind Faith’s Ric Grech on bass and violin, Derek and the Dominos’ Jim Gordon on drums and Rebop Kwaku Baah on percussion, and the result was their best selling album in the US, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.”  The epic, haunting title tune justifiably got most of the attention, but another solid deep track not to be ignored is “Many a Mile to Freedom,” a delicious piece Winwood co-wrote with Jim Capaldi’s wife Anna that’s peppered with Chris Wood’s fine flute work and carried by Winwood’s top-flight vocals.

“Running Hard,” Renaissance, 1974

cover_21171122122007Renaissance was born in 1969 when two ex-Yardbirds (Jim McCarty and Keith Relf) had tired of blues-based rock and wanted to experiment with a blend of classical, rock and folk forms.  A revolving door of musicians came and went as the group struggled during their first three years, but eventually Renaissance found a solid core revolving around the astonishing four-octave voice of Annie Haslam and the accomplished piano playing of John Tout.  With guitarist Michael Dunford and poet/lyricist Betty Thatcher-Newsinger collaborating on the composing duties, Renaissance began its rise in popularity, with albums like “Prologue” and “Ashes are Burning” getting airplay in Northeast US cities like Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.  The 1974 album “Turn of the Cards” displayed a more dark, lush, orchestral sound, and that showed up most noticeably on the superb, nine-minute opening track, “Running Hard.”  The group’s successful hybrid of classical music, folk and rock served them well for another three LPs (“Scheherazade,” “Novella” and “A Song For All Seasons”) before dissolving in the mid-’80s.

“Dawning is the Day,” The Moody Blues, 1970

220px-QuestionofbalanceThe impressive run of seven albums that established The Moodies as pioneers of the burgeoning progressive rock genre are a veritable treasure trove of lost classics.  From 1967’s “Days of Future Passed” through 1972’s “Seventh Sojourn,” for every hit single you instantly recognize (“Ride My Seesaw,” “The Story in Your Eyes,” “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band”) you’ll find another five or six songs well worth checking out.  The group boasted five musicians who each brought something intriguing to the mix, from Ray Thomas’s flute to Graeme Edge’s gentle poem-songs, from John Lodge’s rocking bass to Mike Pinder’s Mellotron/keyboard pieces.  The most recognizable element of The Moodies’ sound, though, has always been the vocals and melodic songs of guitarist Justin Hayward.  On the band’s 1970 LP “A Question of Balance,” you can hear his work most prominently on the hit “Question” and the excellent “It’s Up to You.”  Hidden on side two (remember album sides?) is another Hayward beauty, “Dawning is the Day.”

“St. Charles,” Jefferson Starship, 1976

71rJXf0y2VL._SX355_The Jefferson Airplane didn’t so much crash and burn as peter out, but founder Paul Kantner always had his eye on reimagining the Jefferson name to further explore his passion for science fiction and fantasy.  First came his solo LP “Blows Against the Empire” in 1970, where the loose crew of musicians who participated was first referred to as Jefferson Starship.  On the 1974 LP “Dragonfly,” with guitarist Craig Chaquico, bassist Pete Sears, keyboardist David Freiberg, violinist Papa John Kreach and drummer Johnny Barbata joining Kantner and rock icon Grace Slick, Jefferson Starship was officially launched with stellar material like “Ride the Tiger,” “All Fly Away” and “Caroline.”  Airplane founder Marty Balin joined the lineup full-time on the #1 LP “Red Octopus” in 1975, which included the huge hit single “Miracles.”  The band played to sold-out arenas in 1976 when it toured in support of the follow-up LP, “Spitfire.”  My favorite track from that LP is the soaring “St. Charles,” featuring the vocal blend of Kantner and Slick.

“Angel Lady (Come Just in Time),” Boz Scaggs, 1974

scaggs_boz~_slowdance_101bScaggs got his start in the late ’60s as a guitarist in San Francisco as part of the original lineup of the Steve Miller Band, and by 1969, he was testing the waters with a self-titled solo LP that included the incredible “Loan Me a Dime” with Duane Allman guesting on lead guitar.   It wasn’t until 1976 when he had his commercial breakthrough with the outstanding “Silk Degrees” LP, a catchy collection of slick “blue-eyed soul” that got plenty of airplay (particularly “It’s Over,” “What Can I Say,” “Lido Shuffle” and the #3 hit “Lowdown”) in the age of disco’s rise in popularity.  Before that fame arrived, Scaggs released a strong but overlooked album of R&B-laced songs in 1974 called “Slow Dancer,” produced by Motown great Johnny Bristol.  “You Make It So Hard to Say No” and “Pain of Love” have Bristol’s soul imprint on them, but the finest moment here is “Angel Lady (Come Just in Time),” which compels you to get up and dance to its mid-tempo groove.

“Chestnut Mare,” The Byrds, 1970

THeByrdsUntitledThrough every phase of The Byrds’ recording career, it was Roger McGuinn’s plaintive vocals and songs that dominated the proceedings.  In 1969, following the pioneering country rock LP “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” McGuinn began a collaboration with Broadway impresario Jacques Levy for a country-rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt,” to be entitled “Gene Tryp” (an anagram of the title of Ibsen’s play).  Ultimately, the stage production was abandoned, but among the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project, four ended up on the Byrds’ next album, curiously entitled “(Untitled) due to a misunderstanding by the record company.  It’s a double album, with one live disc and one with new studio tracks.  The best one, to my ears, is “Chestnut Mare,” a fine tune about an uncooperative horse who defiantly resists attempts to tame her.  McGuinn’s trademark electric 12-string and Clarence White’s country-style acoustic picking dominate the arrangement.

“Pretty Princess,” Loggins and Messina, 1976

R-2294733-1361926349-7879.jpegMany people may not be aware that Jim Messina was a staff producer at Columbia Records in 1970 when he was brought in to help mold an untested new talent named Kenny Loggins.  Messina contributed so much to Loggins’ debut (songwriting, singing, playing, arranging and producing) that it ended up being called “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In.”  That, in turn, resulted in the two men officially embarking on a six-year career as a duo, marked by five successful studio LPs, two live albums and a huge hit single (“Your Mama Don’t Dance”).  There’s so much great material to be found there, but I want to focus on “Pretty Princess,” a brilliant track from their final LP, “Native Sons.”  I’ve always been very fond of it, not as much for its musical beauty as for its lyrics, which tell a story that seemed to closely mirror a relationship I had shortly after the album’s release.  A man and a woman who had been merely friends found themselves growing into much more than that, despite the fact that she was beholden to someone else.

“Rosie,” Tom Waits, 1973

220px-Tom_Waits_-_Closing_Time-1Waits, with his gravelly voice and gritty songs about the underbelly of American society, has been around now for many decades but has never seen much in the way of sales or chart success.  He has a loyal cult following and has been widely admired by all kinds of musical icons like Bob Dylan and the late David Bowie.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011 and is on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.  If you know nothing about Waits or his music, I urge you to spend some time perusing his catalog, and I would start with the album that started him on his way, the 1973 debut called “Closing Time.”  This is an album I love to put on when it’s a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon and I’m feeling a bit blue.  It’s hard to pick a favorite here, but I guess I’ll go with “Rosie,” full of angst and raw emotion about the girl who got away.

“All I Need,” Batdorf and Rodney, 1972

R-6138944-1532470854-7640.jpegAt the top my list of artists who should have been rewarded with much more commercial success is this duo of singer-guitarist talents.  John Batdorf wrote and sang most of the songs that appear on their two exemplary Atlantic LPs, 1971’s “Off the Shelf” and 1972’s “Batdorf and Rodney.”  Rodney provided the jazzy acoustic lead parts and chipped in on backing harmonies as well.   They were shepherded along by Atlantic guru Ahmet Ertegun, which makes their chart disappointment all the more puzzling.  Personally, I’d take the music of Batdorf and Rodney over many of the more commercially successful acts of that era.  “Can You See Him,” “Oh My Surprise,” “By Today,” “You Are the One,” “Home Again” — all of these tunes eclipse most of the work by Seals and Crofts or Bread, just to name two.  I’m particularly partial to “All I Need,” a thoughtful song from the second album.

“Buzzin’ Fly,” Tim Buckley, 1969

11420d188fd9a2be865c65756af9a104Born in New York state but raised in California, Tim Buckley was a singer-songwriter maverick, never fully comfortable with his talents nor the various genres with which he continually experimented.  His self-titled debut in 1966 and 1967 follow-up effort, “Goodbye and Hello,” showcased his early folk leanings, but for me, his best work can be found on the 1969 LP “Happy Sad,” which marked the beginning of his forays into jazz elements and freeform scat singing.  The 12-minute track “Gypsy Woman,” which became a mainstay of his live performances, is the best example of that style, which would become more pervasive over his next several albums, even though it seemed to alienate his original fan base.  Buckley’s recorded apex, in my view, is the dreamy “Buzzin’ Fly,” highlighted by the unusual vibraphone sounds of David Friedman and his friend Lee Underwood’s guitar.  Buckley died of a drug overdose in 1975.  His son Jeff was a highly acclaimed singer-songwriter too, until his drowning death in 1997.

“For You,” Bruce Springsteen, 1973

e94f4-6a0120a56c9e44970b019b051888b1970d-piBefore there was an E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen was signed by Columbia Records honcho John Hammond as a solo artist, in the Bob Dylan mold, largely because Springsteen’s earliest songs likewise featured an overabundance of lyrics, delivered over lively acoustic tunes.  Although he had his eye on becoming an all-out rocker with a full band, Springsteen relented and allowed his debut LP, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.,” to feature more subdued material like “Mary, Queen of Arkansas” and “The Angel.”  In turn, Hammond gave in and permitted Bruce to record two uptempo tracks — “Blinded By the Light” and “Spirits in the Night” — that included sax man Clarence Clemons and the rest of the soon-to-be E Street Band.  Riding the balance between these two approaches were the three songs I admire most, which became staples in his live repertoire for the next few years:  “Growin’ Up,” “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” and the piano-based “For You,” which was often played at a much slower tempo in concert.

“See My Way,” Blodwyn Pig, 1969

R-855032-1278625766.jpegThanks to Cream and others, most aspiring British musicians in the mid-to-late ’60s became aficionados of the blues, or at least the blues-based rock that Cream had developed after hearing the original music of American bluesmen like Albert King, Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson.  One of these ragtag groups was Jethro Tull, whose debut LP, the presciently named “This Was,” offered mostly blues stylings.  But when flutist-singer-songwriter Ian Anderson pushed the group in a more rock/folk direction, original guitarist Mick Abrahams left the band and went off to form Blodwyn Pig to continue his interest in blues music.  Their debut, “Ahead Rings Out,” reached the Top Ten in England, carried by Abrahams’ guitar and Jack Lancaster’s wailing sax on tracks like “Dear Jill” and “It’s Only Love.”  The best song, in my opinion, was “See My Way,” which appears on the US pressing of the album but was left off the UK album and held back until the group’s second album, 1970’s “Getting to This.”



There walks a lady we all know

I remember when I was young thinking how cool it would be to have a song named after me.  Well, not me personally, but a song that was entitled “Bruce.”  I quickly noticed, however, that while there many dozens, even hundreds of songs named after women, there are only a handful featuring men’s names.  Elton John’s “Daniel” comes immediately to mind, or that macabre tune from 1971 which features two boys who apparently ate their friend in order to survive being trapped in a mine (“Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?”).

Men (and a few women) have been writing songs about the women in their lives for at least a century or two.  These tunes have come in the form of romantic ballads, bitter group-of-women-smiling.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartbreak-up songs, heartfelt tributes and bittersweet odes.

More often than not, songwriters don’t mention their women by name, perhaps to preserve anonymity, or because their manager urged them to keep it more generic so the song might have more universal appeal.  But sometimes a writer insisted on keeping it specific to pay homage, or to hold in contempt, or simply because the sound of the name fit nicely in the song’s meter.

There are several dozen pretty great examples of classic rock songs with women’s names as the title.  No modifiers, no extra words.  Just the name.

In searching for these titles, I came across many others that use women’s names with descriptors (“Judy in Disguise,” “Long Tall Sally”), verbs (“Come on Eileen,” “The Wind Cries Mary”) and other qualifiers (“Helen Wheels,” “Sara Smile”).  All perfectly good songs, but I limited my list to one-word titles.

Here are 20 for your consideration, with my usual Spotify playlist at the end.  Enjoy!


“Sara,” Fleetwood Mac, 1979

saraIt took a while, but in 2014, Stevie Nicks indeed confirmed what had been rumored for quite some time — that this 1979 song from Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” LP is about an aborted child she and lover Don Henley chose not to have.  “Had we gotten married and had that baby, and if it had been a girl, her name would have been Sara,” Nicks said.  “It’s a special name to me.  One of my very best lifelong friends is named Sara.”  The recording reached #7 as a single in early 1980, and Nicks still performs the song, both with the band and as a solo act.

“Roxanne,” The Police, 1978

220px-Roxanne_-_The_Police_(Original_UK_Release)In 1977, when The Police were performing in dive clubs around Europe, Sting was inspired by the prostitutes who worked outside the seedy hotel in Paris where the band was staying.  He wrote this sympathetic tune, urging the girl to give up the hard life she had chosen.  He decided to call her Roxanne after seeing a movie poster in the hotel lobby featuring the old film “Cyrano de Bergerac,” whose female lead is named Roxanne.   The song peaked at only #32 in the US in 1978, but it remains one of The Police’s signature songs.

“Gloria,” Them, 1964

220px-Gloria_(Them_song)_coverartVan Morrison said that he wrote “Gloria” in the summer of 1963 as he was turning 18.  The song is as simple as it gets, only three chords, and he would ad-lib lyrics as he performed, sometimes stretching the song to 15 or 20 minutes.  Gloria was a real person, a girl he was infatuated with, and his desire to seduce her made it harder for some ’60s radio programmers to include the song in Top 40 formats.  Indeed, when an obscure group called The Shadows of Knight had a Top 10 hit with their cover of “Gloria” in 1966, it eliminated the reference to “coming up to my room.”

“Victoria,” The Kinks, 1969

220px-Victoria_coverIn the leadoff song on The Kinks’ criminally underrated 1969 LP “Arthur,” Ray Davies’ satirical lyrics juxtapose the grim realities of life in Britain during the 19th century (“Sex was bad and obscene, and the rich were so mean”) with the empathetic hopes of the British Empire in the Victorian age (“From the West to the East, from the rich to the poor, Victoria loved them all”).  Throughout her reign, Queen Victoria was beloved even by the downtrodden working class (“Though I am poor, I am free, when I grow, I shall fight, for this land I shall die”).

“Beth,” Kiss, 1976

5561231359438eae423f7384b93bdeed.500x500x1How peculiar that one of the loudest and most bombastic of all Seventies heavy metal bands would have their biggest commercial success (#7 on the charts) with a ballad, sung by the drummer, with limited instrumental accompaniment.  “Beth” was actually born in 1971 as “Beck” (short for Becky) in reference to the girlfriend of a former band member who would nag him to leave rehearsal and come home.  Drummer Peter Criss later changed it to “Beth” at the suggestion of Kiss’s producer, and even though the rest of the group didn’t want to record it, it ended up boosting sales for the “Destroyer” LP.

“Jolene,” Dolly Parton, 1973

220px-Dolly_jolene_single_coverParton’s solo career was just gathering momentum when she penned this evocative song about a simple gal who pleads with a stunningly beautiful woman named Jolene to leave her man alone:  “Pretty girl, please don’t take my man just because you can.”   So many country music fans could relate to that woman’s desperate feeling that the song soared to #1 on the country charts (although only #60 on the pop charts).  It became one of Parton’s most loved tunes, and many cover versions have been recorded since, as well as a 2017 tune (“Diane”) that was crafted as a heartfelt apology from the beautiful woman.

“Amie,” Pure Prairie League, 1972

pure-prairie-league-amie-rca-2Craig Fuller was the chief singer-songwriter in the original lineup of the country rock group Pure Prairie League, and he wrote great down-home songs on those classic but largely overlooked first two albums in 1971 and 1972.  One song, “Amie,” didn’t do much at first but eventually earned listeners through FM and college radio stations, and by 1975, it was a #27 hit nationwide.  The narrator and Amie have one of those on-again, off-again relationships, and it’s never clear whether they end up together.  As Fuller said later, “The protagonist of the song is just laying it out and then it’s up to her.”

“Suzanne,” Leonard Cohen, 1967

271ad9f7fe1ea769f3f36624c01f06d0_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqkJnul-JUIdMoNycZiD7Zlp7R5crEcddDrAsWw9J7yjkCohen said “Suzanne” was inspired by his platonic relationship with a woman named Suzanne Verdal, who had been the girlfriend of one of his contemporaries, the famed sculptor Armand Vaillancourt.  The lyrics deftly describe the rituals they enjoyed in Montreal, where they lived near each other.  Contrary to some interpretations, Cohen insisted he and Suzanne were only friends, not lovers.  “I admit I imagined having sex with her, but there was neither the opportunity nor the inclination to actually go through with it,” he admitted.

“Martha,” Tom Waits, 1973

220px-Tom_Waits_-_Closing_TimeFrom the 1970s to the current day, Waits has been known for his distinctive deep, gravelly singing voice and song lyrics that focus on the underside of U.S. society.  Many of the characters who populate his music are unpleasant ne’er-do-wells and unsympathetic outliers, but a few reek of pathos, such as Tom Frost, the elderly guy who places a phone call to “Martha,” an old flame with whom he is meekly hoping to rekindle something.  It becomes clear that that’s not going to happen, but we listeners feel supportive of Tom’s wistful trip down memory lane to speak with her once again.

“Maybellene,” Chuck Berry, 1955

500x500-2Berry wrote and recorded this prototype rock and roll song as an adaptation of the Western swing fiddle tune “Ida Red,” recorded in 1938 by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.  Leonard Chess, owner of the legendary Chess Records label, loved Berry’s sprightly lyrics about a hot rod race and a broken romance, but told him he felt the woman’s name needed to be something less rural than Ida Red.  He spied a bottle of Maybelline mascara in the studio and said, “Well, hell, let’s name her Maybellene,” altering the spelling to avoid a potential suit by the cosmetic company.

“Cecilia,” Simon and Garfunkel, 1970

simon_garfunkel-cecilia_s_5This #4 hit single, among Simon and Garfunkel’s last, began life as a cacophony of rhythms pounded out on coffee tables and kitchen counters in Simon’s apartment.  He later wrote the lyrics as a lament about anguish and jubilation regarding an untrustworthy lover.  “Cecilia,” Simon has noted, refers to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music in the Catholic tradition, and he conceded that the song also refers to the frustrations and joy he has experienced in the songwriting process, as musical inspiration comes and goes quickly.

“Josie,” Emily Hackett, 2014

81aTG2tEc1L._SS500_Almost everyone can recall the difficulties one faces during the early teenage years, when friendships and first encounters with the opposite sex seem fraught with uncertainty and insecurity.  My daughter Emily’s song “Josie,” based loosely on the challenges her cousin was facing at the time, offers tender words of encouragement on how best to be true to yourself while navigating the rocky waters of young love.  “It’s about slowing down, enjoying your youth, and knowing that, in time, the person meant to be in your life will find their way to you.”

“Julia,” The Beatles, 1968

JuliaDuring the sessions for The Beatles’ “White Album,” John Lennon was burning with a desire to write a song about his mother, Julia Baird.  “I lost her twice,” he said, “once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie, and then again when she physically died when I was 17.  Her borrowed phrasings from Kahlil Gibran’s “Sand and Foam” in which the original verse reads, “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so the other half may reach you.”  Lennon performed the song alone on acoustic guitar with none of the other Beatles present.

“Angie,” The Rolling Stones, 1973

the_stones-angieWhen the Stones reached #1 on the charts yet again with the ballad “Angie” in the fall of 1973, speculation was rampant about the identity of the woman in question.  Some said Jagger and Richards were writing about David Bowie’s first wife Angela, with whom they had been spending time during that period.  Others assumed it was a tribute to Richards’ newborn daughter, Dandelion Angela.  In his 2010 autobiography “Life,” Richards said that he had chosen the name at random when writing the song, before he knew that his daughter would be named Angela or even knew that the baby would be a girl.

“Rosanna,” Toto, 1982

R-1882925-1544979774-7688.jpegThis Song of the Year Grammy winner in early 1983 was written by Toto keyboard player David Paich, who said it was a composite of several girls he had known.  During recording sessions, Toto band members initially played along with the assumption that the song was based on actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time.  Arquette herself played along with the joke, commenting in an interview that year, “that song was about my showing up at 4 a.m. at the studio to bring them juice and beer.”

“Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly, 1957

Layout 1“Peggy Sue,” perhaps Holly’s best known song, was originally entitled “Cindy Lou,” named after his niece, the daughter of his sister Pat.  The title was later changed to “Peggy Sue” in reference to Peggy Sue Gerron, girlfriend and future wife of Jerry Allison, drummer for Holly’s band The Crickets, after the couple had temporarily broken up.  Allison asked Holly if perhaps he could rename the song after her in an attempt to woo her back.  “And it worked,” Allison recalled, though Holly’s premature death not long after the song’s release overshadowed that romantic anecdotal story.

“Emily,” Elton John, 1992

Elton_John_-_The_One_coverJohn’s longtime lyricist partner Bernie Taupin penned one of the most poignant character studies in his catalog on this deep track from the 1992 album “The One.”  Taupin recalled writing the lyrics to “Emily” after an afternoon walk through the streets and cemeteries of Paris, France, where he couldn’t help but notice an elderly woman paying respects at various gravesites as she walked haltingly among the headstones.  “Elton wrote such a glorious melody to accompany this one,” Taupin said.  “It’s one of my favorites”:  “The old girl hobbles, nylons sagging, talks to her sisters in the ground…”

“Jane,” Jefferson Starship, 1979

janeVocalist figurehead Grace Slick had temporarily left the band in 1978 when the Jefferson Starship brought in singer Mickey Thomas for the “Freedom at Point Zero” LP.  Bassist David Freiberg wrote most of the music and lyrics for what would become the album’s single, “Jane.”  He said, “She’s no one in particular, just the kind of girl who’s insincere and manipulative in the way she behaves in a relationship.  I think we’ve all know women — and men — like that”:  “You’re playing a game called ‘hard to get’ by its real name, you’re playing a game you can never win, girl…”

“Aubrey,” Bread, 1972

BreadaubreyOf the many hit singles David Gates wrote in the early ’70s as chief songwriter for the soft-rock band Bread, “Aubrey” came across as one of the most sad and heartfelt.  One interpretation had it that Aubrey was the name of a baby girl who died at birth; another said she was a woman the narrator was infatuated with but was too shy to approach.  In the booklet accompanying Bread’s 2006 anthology collection, Gates said the truth behind “Aubrey” was less interesting — it was inspired by an Audrey Hepburn film he saw but never fully understood.

“Peg,” Steely Dan, 1977

220px-Peg_-_Steely_DanSongwriters Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker have typically been tight-lipped about the meaning behind their often puzzling lyrics, but Fagen once conceded in an interview that “Peg,” a #11 hit in 1978 from their platinum LP “Aja,” referred to Peg Entwistle, a star of Broadway theater in the 1920s and 1930s.  Fagen and Becker found her to be a suitable entry in the Steely Dan cast of offbeat characters because, in 1932, she jumped to her dead off the famous Hollywood sign (when it was “Hollywoodland,” an advertisement for a new housing development) before her first film was ever released.


Honorable mention:

Michelle,” The Beatles, 1965;  “Clarice,” America, 1971;  “Wendy,” The Beach Boys, 1964;  “Valleri,” The Monkees, 1968;  “Amanda,” Boston, 1983;  “Carol,” Al Stewart, 1975;  “Jessie,” Joshua Kadison, 1992;  “Carrie Anne,” The Hollies, 1967;  “Rachel,” Seals and Crofts, 1974;  “Diana,” Paul Anka, 1958;  “Nanci,” Toad the Wet Sprocket, 1994;  “Barbara Ann,” The Beach Boys, 1966.