They say there’s always magic in the air

I’ve always been fascinated by magic tricks, magicians and magic shows. It’s a tradition that’s been around for centuries. Unlike some folks, I’m not interested in finding out how a magic trick works. I might say, “How’d he do that?”, but I don’t really want to know. For me, that spoils the fun of it. It shatters the illusion that makes it so entertaining in the first place.

When we say “there’s magic in the air” or “it was a magical day,” we’re buying into the idea that something truly special is present, something unknown, or unknowable, something mystical, supernatural, otherworldly. It’s exciting to contemplate!

It’s a great topic for songwriters too. I found a couple dozen songs with magic in the title in the classic rock realm, and I’ve selected 15 to examine more closely. My Spotify playlist at the end includes these 15 selections plus another eight as “honorable mentions.”

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“Do You Believe in Magic,” The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1965

Singer-songwriter John Sebastian and his band made a dramatic debut in mid-1965 with this effervescent tune about the seemingly magical power of music to bring happiness to those who make it as well as to those who listen to it. It reached #9 on US charts and became something of an anthem for the burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll community: “It’s magic if the music is groovy, it makes you feel happy like an old-time movie, /I’ll tell you about the magic, it’ll free your soul, but it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll, /If you believe in magic, don’t bother to choose, if it’s jug band music or rhythm and blues, /Just go and listen, and it’ll start with a smile that won’t wipe off your face no matter how hard you try…”

“Magic,” The Cars, 1984

The Cars’ chief songwriter Ric Ocasek wrote this fun tune about how relationships can sometimes survive and thrive if they have just a touch of something undefinable, something…well, magical: “Uh oh, it’s magic when I’m with you, uh oh, it’s magic, just a little bit of magic pulls me through, /Uh oh, it’s magic, just a little magic inside of you…” The song, the second of five Top 40 singles from the group’s “Heartbeat City” LP, reached #12 in 1984. The band released a popular music video for “Magic” as well, featuring a cast of comically eccentric characters gathered around a swimming pool marveling at Ocasek, who seemed to be walking on the surface of the water. When some tried to walk on water, they fell in, but Ocasek remains standing and dry because…it’s magic!

“Magic Man,” Heart, 1976

When Ann and Nancy Wilson co-wrote this early hit for their band Heart, Ann explained it was autobiographical in nature. At the time, she was mesmerized by her new boyfriend and his alluring ways, referring to him as a “magic man” with strong charms: “I could not run away, it seemed we’d seen each other in a dream, /It seemed like he knew me, he looked right through me…” She said her mother was concerned, but Ann replied, “Try try try to understand, he’s a magic man, mama, aww yeah, he got the magic hands…” “Magic Man” was Heart’s first Top Ten hit, peaking at #9 in 1976. The album version was more than two minutes longer than the edited single, thanks to lengthy guitar and synthesizer solos.

“Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” The Police, 1981

Sting wrote this tune back in 1976 before The Police had formed, and made a demo of it by himself. Several years later, as the band was recording their fourth LP, “Ghosts in the Machine,” Sting resurrected this song “even though it seemed a bit soft for the band at first, but still, it sounded like a No. 1 song to me.” The trio tried recording it anew with a different arrangement more like typical Police material, but in the end, they used Sting’s demo and grafted new drums and guitar parts on top, as well as a new piano track by Jean Roussel. The song, which reached #3 in the US in 1981, explores the feelings of a shy man hesitant to approach the woman he admires: “Every time that I come near her, I just lose my nerve as I’ve done from the start, /Every little thing she does is magic, everything she do just turns me on…”

“Magic Dance,” David Bowie, 1986

For “Labyrinth,” the 1986 musical fantasy film by Jim Henson (in which Bowie starred as Jareth, king of the goblins), Bowie wrote and recorded five songs, the best of which was “Magic Dance,” sometimes called “Dance Magic.” It’s a crazy-fun uptempo tune that was used in a scene where Jareth and his goblins try to entertain a crying baby. Critics have called it “one of Bowie’s most playful and underrated songs” that “has the ability to reinvigorate a dying party nearly 40 years later.” The lyrics overtly refer to magic spells but retain a lighthearted touch: “What kind of magic spell to use?, /Slime and snails or puppy dogs’ tails, thunder or lightning, something frightening, /Then baby said, dance magic dance, put that baby spell on me, jump magic jump…”

“Magic Carpet Ride,” Steppenwolf, 1968

This may come as a surprise to many who have regarded this classic rock song as a stoner anthem, but Steppenwolf singer-lyricist John Kay claims that’s not the case. He said he was merely writing about his brand new high-quality stereo system (“Close your eyes, girl, look inside, girl, let the sound take you away…”) and how the music could magically transport him and his new wife as if they were on Aladdin’s magic carpet: “Last night I held Aladdin’s lamp,
and so I wished that I could stay… Well, you don’t know what we can find, why don’t you come with me, little girl, on a magic carpet ride…”
Thanks to an undeniably catchy riff and strong vocals, “Magic Carpet Ride” reached #3 and proved to be a worthy follow-up to Steppenwolf’s iconic debut, “Born To Be Wild.”

“Spanish Castle Magic,” Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1967

Hendrix grew up in Seattle, and one of the things he enjoyed doing during his high school years in the late ’50s was driving out to a roadhouse an hour south of the city, where he could sneak in under age to watch great live music. The place he recalled fondly was called The Spanish Castle, and he ended up writing about it (somewhat cryptically) in “Spanish Castle Magic,” a track that appeared on his second album with The Experience, “Axis: Bold As Love,” released in late 1967. “It’s very far away, it takes about half a day to get there, if we travel by my dragonfly, /No it’s not in Spain, but all the same, you know, it’s a groovy name, /Hang on my darling, yeah, hang on if you want to go, /It puts everything else on the shelf, with just a little bit of Spanish castle magic, yeah baby…”

“This Magic Moment,” Jay and The Americans, 1968

Lyricist Doc Pomus and pianist Mort Shulman were songwriting collaborators on two dozen Top 40 hits in the late ’50s and early ’60s, including The Drifters’ #1 smash “Save the Last Dance for Me,” Dion & The Belmonts’ “A Teenager in Love,” and “Surrender,” “Little Sister” and “Viva Las Vegas” for Elvis Presley. Another hit for The Drifters was “This Magic Moment,” which charted even higher when recorded in 1968 by Jay and The Americans, reaching #6. The song’s lyric does a fine job of describing the special feeling when you experience a first kiss with someone: “Sweeter than wine, softer than the summer night, /Everything I want I have, whenever I hold you tight, /This magic moment while your lips are close to mine will last forever, forever ’til the end of time…”

“Magic Bus,” The Who, 1968

Pete Townshend wrote this madcap rocker in 1965 but cut only a demo of it. The Who would perform it live occasionally, but they didn’t record it until 1968 when they released it as a single, reaching #25 in the US. Townshend wrote it as a lark about a fellow who traveled by bus every day to visit his girlfriend, which sparked the idea that he ought to buy the bus so he could drive himself. Negotiations ensued until the bus driver gave in. So there wasn’t much that was magical about the bus, but it’s still a fun little track from one of Britain’s best-ever bands: “I don’t care how much I pay, /Too much, Magic Bus, I wanna drive my bus to my baby each day, /Too much, Magic Bus, /I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it, /You can’t have it!…Every day you’ll see the dust, as I drive my baby in my Magic Bus…”

“Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen,” Santana, 1970

Peter Green, blues guitarist/singer/songwriter who founded Fleetwood Mac back in 1968, wrote “Black Magic Woman” as a blues tune fashioned after the Otis Rush song “All Your Love.” It became modestly popular in the UK and was often featured in live performances even after Green left the group. In 1970, Carlos Santana and his band recorded a cover of the song as a blues/rock/jazz thing with congas, timbales and other Latin-based percussion, plus organ and piano, giving a voodoo feel to it. That version reached #4 in the US, propelling Santana’s second LP, “Abraxas,” to #1 in early 1971. The lyrics already gave Green’s song a black magic vibe: “Got your spell on me, baby, yes you got your spell on me, baby, turning my heart into stone, /I need you so bad, magic woman, I can’t leave you alone…”

“Magic,” Bruce Springsteen, 2007

Critics hailed The Boss’s LP “Magic” as high-energy rock in the tradition of Springsteen’s early albums with The E Street Band, and yet lyrically, there was a liberal dose of societal concern and melancholy, from “Your Own Worst Enemy” and “Radio Nowhere” to “Long Walk Home” and “Last to Die.” The title track offers examples of how magic tricks (illusion) are, like political maneuvering, just shiny diversions from the uncomfortable truth (reality): “Trust none of what you hear, and less of what you see, /This is what will be… /I got a shiny saw blade, all I need’s a volunteer, /I’ll cut you in half while you’re smilin’ ear to ear, /And the freedom that you sought’s drifting like a ghost amongst the trees, /This is what will be…”

“Little Miss Magic,” Jimmy Buffett, 1981

As the Seventies turned into the Eighties, party animal Buffett mellowed a bit and, with his second wife, had two daughters. For their first, named Savannah, he wrote the gentle, whimsical ballad “Little Miss Magic,” which appears as the final track on his 1981 LP “Coconut Telegraph.” He observes how his young daughter stares at things and might someday go on to do wondrous things. As any parent can tell you, babies are indeed magical, and Buffett wholeheartedly agrees: “Sometimes I catch her dreaming and wonder where that little mind meanders, /Is she down along the shore or strolling cross the broad Savannahs? /I see a little more of me every day, I catch a little more moustache turning grey, /Your mother is the only other woman for me, Little Miss Magic, what you gonna be?…”

“Puff, the Magic Dragon,” Peter, Paul & Mary, 1962

Based on a 1958 poem by Peter Yarrow’s college roommate, “Puff” was written by Yarrow in 1962 and became a #2 song on US charts in 1963. When overreachers claimed the song was about smoking weed, Yarrow said, “Oh, come on, people. It’s a children’s story about a boy and his friend the dragon. It’s about the loss of innocence when we grow up and move on from childhood concerns.” He added that Puff was a magic dragon to the boy because “to a young boy, everything is magical, especially dragons.” “Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea, and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah-Lee, /Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail, Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail…”

“I Was Made to Love Magic,” Nick Drake, 1969

Extremely talented but severely introverted, Drake released three albums in his short life and recorded additional tracks that were released posthumously, including this one called “I Was Made to Love Magic,” or more familiarly, just “Magic.” It had been intended for his debut LP in 1969 but was left off and later re-recorded twice with different orchestral string sections, finally seeing release on a 1987 compilation. His crippling depression that ultimately contributed to his death at only 26 was evident in the lyrics to several of his sad songs including “Magic”: “I was born to love no one, no one to love me, /Only the wind in the long green grass, the frost in a broken tree, /I was made to love magic, all its wonder to know, /But you all lost that magic many many years ago…”

“That Old Black Magic,” Sammy Davis Jr., 1955

“The Wizard of Oz” songwriter Harold Arlen teamed up with the great Johnny Mercer to write “That Old Black Magic” in 1942 for a flimsy musical wartime morale booster called “Star Spangled Rhythm.” The movie was nothing much, but the musical score and the Arlen/Mercer song were nominated for Oscars that year. It went on to become a standard, sung by numerous stars over the years like Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Rydell and, more recently, Rod Stewart. To my ears, the best arrangement was by Sammy Davis Jr., who had a #16 hit in 1955. Here’s a sample of the lyrics: “That old black magic has me in its spell, that old black magic that you weave so well, /Icy fingers up and down my spine, that same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine…”

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Honorable mentions:

Magical Mystery Tour,” The Beatles, 1967; “Magic Time,” Van Morrison, 2007; “Strange Magic,” Electric Light Orchestra, 1975; “You Can Do Magic,” America, 1981; “If It’s Magic,” Stevie Wonder, 1976; “Magic Woman Touch,” The Hollies, 1973; “Magic,” Pilot, 1975; “Me Wise Magic,” Van Halen, 1996; “Games of Magic,” Bread, 1972.

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How much, how much do you really know?

In recent months, I’ve been testing my readers’ skills at recalling the words to well-known classic rock songs by offering a series of Lyrics Quiz posts, and I’ll continue to do so periodically.

With this week’s post, I’ll begin branching out into the broader area of classic rock trivia. I came across an old “special edition” of a Rolling Stone Rock Trivia Quiz and decided it was high time I put together my own set of multiple-choice questions for you all to answer.

So here it is: My first Hack’s Back Pages Rock Trivia Quiz! Peruse the 15 questions and multiple-choice possible answers, then scroll down to find the answers and learn more about the topics raised. At the end, there’s also a Spotify playlist of the songs being discussed here.

I hope you get a kick out of this one!

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Van Morrison, 1971

1. “Brown-Eyed Girl” may get more airplay than any other Van Morrison song, but which of his singles charted higher on the US Top 40 listings?

“Moondance”; “Tupelo Honey”; “Domino”; “Wild Night”

(L-R) Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood. Who played bass with them?

2. Blind Faith was comprised of superstars Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker…and a fourth, much lesser known musician on bass. Who was it?

Trevor Bolder; Ric Grech; Clive Chaman; John Glascock

3. Which of these four songs does NOT feature mandolin?

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M.; “The Battle of Evermore,” Led Zeppelin; “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones; “Friend of the Devil,” The Grateful Dead

David Bowie as Major Tom in “Space Oddity”

4. Major Tom is the main character in David Bowie’s 1969 debut single “Space Oddity.” In which Bowie song does Major Tom make a return appearance?

“Fame”; “Let’s Dance”; “Ashes to Ashes”; “Heroes”

Mark Knopfler

5. On which Steely Dan single does Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler make a guest appearance on guitar?

“Peg”; “Time Out of Mind”; “FM”; “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

Ringo Starr on vocals

6. Of these four songs Ringo Starr sang in The Beatles catalog, which one did he write?

“Yellow Submarine”; “Act Naturally”; “Good Night”; “Octopus’s Garden”

Rod Stewart in the 1970s

7. On which song does Rod Stewart encourage you to “spread your wings and let me come inside”?

“Maggie May”; “Hot Legs”; “Tonight’s the Night”; “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

8. Which Paul Simon album was originally intended to be a Simon and Garfunkel reunion album?

“Still Crazy After All These Years”
“Hearts and Bones”
“You’re the One”
“The Rhythm of the Saints”

9. Of these lengthy classic rock tracks that occupy an entire album side, which one clocks in as the longest?

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly
“Echoes” from “Meddle,” Pink Floyd
“Close to the Edge,” Yes
“Supper’s Ready” from “Foxtrot,” Genesis

10. Which of these four artists did not record a song with Paul McCartney?

Elvis Costello
Stevie Wonder
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson

11. Which one of these pairs of artists did NOT record a song together?

Joni Mitchell and Michael McDonald; Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash; Phil Collins and Philip Bailey; Elton John and Freddie Mercury

12. Which album cover from the 1970s was designed by pop artist Andy Warhol?

“Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd
“Aladdin Sane,” David Bowie
“Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones
“Imagine,” John Lennon

13. Which one of these talented women sings harmony vocals with Neil Young on his hit singles “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”?

Bonnie Raitt
Linda Ronstadt
Joni Mitchell
Carly Simon

14. Which lead guitarist was never a member of The Yardbirds?

Jeff Beck
Peter Green
Eric Clapton
Jimmy Page

Kris Kristofferson with Barbra Streisand

15. Who was Barbra Streisand’s first choice to be her co-star in the 1976 film “A Star is Born”?

Neil Diamond
Elvis Presley
Rick Nelson
Jerry Lee Lewis

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ANSWERS:

1. “Domino”

Morrison had an acrimonious relationship with his late ’60s label, Bang Records, for whom he recorded “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Although royalties from that tune have padded his bank account every day since its release, he claims to hate it and rarely will play it anymore in concert. It reached #10 in 1967, but his upbeat song “Domino” from the 1970 LP “His Band and the Street Choir” actually reached one rung higher on the charts at #9. “Moondance,” from the 1970 album of the same name, is well-known but wasn’t released as a single in 1970 and performed poorly upon release as a single in 1977, stalling at #92. “Tupelo Honey” and “Wild Night” from the 1971 “Tupelo Honey” album managed only #47 and #28, respectively.

2. Ric Grech

Grech was a multi-instrumentalist who had written songs and played bass and violin for Family, a relatively obscure British progressive rock group known for a diversity of styles and lineups. He was tapped to fill out the ranks of Blind Faith, which lasted for less than six months, one brief tour and one album before disbanding. Winwood later invited Grech to join the reconvened Traffic in time for their popular LP “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” The other names mentioned above: Trevor Bolder became bassist in David Bowie’s backup band, The Spiders From Mars; Clive Chaman was the bass player for The Jeff Beck Group for a spell; and John Glascock was Jethro Tull’s bassist from 1976-1979.

3. “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones

While this is one of the handful of songs in the Stones catalog that has a strong country music influence, “Wild Horses” does not include mandolin in the instrumental arrangement. There’s plenty of pedal steel guitar, and slide guitar, and Jagger’s vocals have a bit of Southern drawl, all a result of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons hanging out with the band during the 1969-1972 years. On Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones picks up a mandolin to complement Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck uses mandolin as the primary instrument as Michael Stipe sings “Losing My Religion”; and guest mandolinist David Grisman’s flourishes on mandolin become increasingly prominent with each successive verse of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”

4. “Ashes to Ashes”

“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie, /Strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low…” These are lyrics from the chorus of the hit single from Bowie’s 1980 LP “Scary Monsters.” Bowie himself acknowledged in 1990 that the words reflect his own struggles with drug addiction throughout the 1970s. He said he wrote “Ashes to Ashes” as a confrontation with his past: “You have to accommodate your pasts within your persona. You have to understand why you went through them. You cannot just ignore them, put them out of your mind or pretend they didn’t happen, or just say, ‘Oh, I was different then.'”

5. “Time Out of Mind”

Although Steely Dan first recorded and performed as a six-man band when they debuted in 1972, they soon became sort of a studio laboratory run by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who brought in a wide array of session guitarists, drummers, bassists and background singers to play on the various album tracks. Particularly on their albums “The Royal Scam” (1976), “Aja” (1977) and “Gaucho” (1980), Fagen and Becker tried out as many as a dozen guitarists to play solos before finding the one they were looking for. On the “Gaucho” track “Time Out of Mind,” Mark Knopfler’s spare, fluid style was just what the songwriters were seeking. It was a modest hit, reaching #22 in early 1981. You can also hear Michael McDonald providing guest vocals behind Fagen on this one.

6. “Octopus’s Garden”

From their very first album onward, The Beatles made a point of featuring Ringo on vocals on at least one track. It was sometimes a cover of an earlier rock hit — The Shirrelles’ “Boys,” the Carl Perkins tunes “Matchbox” and “Honey Don’t,” or the Buck Owens hit “Act Naturally.” More often, it was a Lennon-McCartney original they wrote with Starr in mind: “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “What Goes On,” “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Ringo tried in vain to write songs, but they ended up being little more than rewrites of someone else’s tune. He came up with the simple country ditty “Don’t Pass Me By” which appears on Side 2 of “The White Album,” and then, during the sessions for “Abbey Road,” he wrote “Octopus’s Garden,” which he regarded as “a sequel to ‘Yellow Submarine.'” George Harrison helped out with a marvelous guitar intro, and John, Paul and George all added harmonies.

7. “Tonight’s the Night”

Almost from the beginning, Stewart projected a playfully naughty image as a lovable rascal who’d love to take you to bed. He hung out with — and sometimes married — attractive, much younger women, and the lyrics of the songs he chose to record and release as singles were fairly obvious in their sexual overtures. “Maggie May” (1971) tells the tale of a young man’s first sexual experience with a much older woman; “Hot Legs” (1978) is about a young woman who drops by only for spirited, casual sex; and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (1978) is about a couple of strangers who lust for each other and are at first too shy to make a move but end up doing the deed. “Tonight’s the Night,” though, is the one that features the lyric in question, which was boldly blatant about what he wanted from the young lady.

8. “Hearts and Bones”

When Simon made the daring decision in 1970 to end his enormously successful partnership with Art Garfunkel, it was because he wanted to explore new musical territories that he felt weren’t a good match for the Simon-Garfunkel tight harmonies. In 1975, the duo reunited, but for only one song, “My Little Town,” which appeared on his “Still Crazy After All These Years” album AND Garfunkel’s “Breakaway” LP. In 1983, following a spectacularly successful reunion concert, video and album in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel did a reunion tour, and started work on a full S&G album, but the pair had a falling out, and Simon actually erased Garfunkel’s vocal parts and made the album a solo work called “Hearts and Bones.” The other two albums listed, 1991’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” and 2000’s “You’re the One,” had no involvement from Garfunkel.

Pink Floyd’s “Meddle” LP, 1971

9. “Echoes,” Pink Floyd

From the late ’60s through the mid-’70s, progressive rock bands were eager to push the boundaries of rock music, not only in format and influences but in length as well. British artists like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Yes wrote songs that lasted more than 15 or 20 minutes. American and Canadian acts from Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan to Rush and Styx got in the act as well. In 1968, California’s Iron Butterfly was one of the first bands to take up a whole album side, releasing the stoner classic “In-A-Gadda-da-Vida,” but it lasted just 17:05. Yes released “Close to the Edge” in 1972, and its title track was 18:43 in length. Genesis, with Peter Gabriel still firmly in charge, released the 23:06-long “Supper’s Ready” in 1972. The winner, though, is Pink Floyds “Echoes,” from their 1971 album “Meddle,” which edges out “Supper’s ready” by a half minute at 23:31.

10. Billy Joel

You can look at the accessible pop songcraft of Joel from his earliest work onward and assume he’d be a perfect match for McCartney’s similar vein of highly melodic material… but no, they never worked together. In 1982, McCartney teamed up with Stevie Wonder for the massive hit “Ebony and Ivory” and also “What’s That You’re Doing,” both from his “Tug of War” LP. In the 1982-83 period, McCartney collaborated successfully with Michael Jackson on three hits: “The Girl is Mine” from Jackson’s “Thriller” album, and “Say Say Say” and “The Man” from McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” LP. In 1989, following poor sales of his previous album “Press to Play,” McCartney struck an alliance with Elvis Costello on four of the 12 songs on “Flowers in the Dirt,” as well as Costello’s hit “Veronica” the same year.

11. Elton John and Freddie Mercury

These two bombastic Brits were both prone to big, splashy theatrics in their performances, and they were good friends, so you’d think a duet would’ve been a natural for them, but it never happened. On the other hand, the other three pairs of artists found great results pooling their talents on various recordings. For her “Dog Eat Dog” album in 1985, Joni Mitchell invited ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald to perform a duet with her on “Good Friends,” which stiffed as a single at #85 but reached #28 on Mainstream Rock charts. In 1984, for his third solo LP, “Chinese Wall,” Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire collaborated with Phil Collins, who produced the album, played drums throughout, and co-wrote and sang on the international #1 hit “Easy Lover.” Back in 1969, Johnny Cash sang a duet with Bob Dylan on his “Nashville Skyline” album on a re-recording of Dylan’s 1963 tune “Girl From the North Country.”

12. “Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones

One of the earliest examples of a controversial album cover design that made it into production was the infamous tight jeans close-up on The Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP, courtesy of Andy Warhol. Although members of his design collaborative, The Factory, actually implemented the design and photography, Warhol conceived of the idea, which Mick Jagger enthusiastically endorsed. The actual working zipper on the original pressing was later removed because it tended to damage albums during shipping. Hipgnosis, a British graphic design group that created album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Alan Parsons Project and more, came up with the award-winning “Dark Side of the Moon” cover art. Famed fashion and portrait photographer Brian Duffy, who worked often with David Bowie, shot and created the cover for Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album. Warhol was rumored to have shot the polaroid photo of John Lennon for his “Imagine” cover, but it was instead taken by Yoko Ono.

13. Linda Ronstadt

Young went to Nashville in 1971 to appear on a taping of the ABC musical variety show “The Johnny Cash Show,” where Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor were also scheduled to appear. Immediately following the taping, Young invited Ronstadt and Taylor to a nearby studio, where he had assembled some country musicians to record some tracks for a new project that would become the chart-topping “Harvest” LP. It’s difficult to make out Taylor’s voice in the mix of either “Heart of Gold” or “Old Man,” but Ronstadt’s voice is easily identifiable. Young has shared the stage with Joni Mitchell, notably for The Band’s “The Last Waltz” album and concert film. Young performed with Bonnie Raitt at least once, at the Bay Area Music Awards ceremony in 1990. As far as I can tell from online research, Young and Carly Simon have never performed or recorded together.

14. Peter Green

Peter Green was a brilliant blues guitarist who played first with John Mayall and then formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967. He never served with The Yardbirds, a blues-based band later noted for their “rave-up” instrumental breaks. Tony “Top” Topham was the group’s original lead guitarist, but he lasted only a few months and was replaced by hot new blues guitar sensation Eric Clapton. He remained for a year and a half but, as a blues purist, he was turned off by their pop single “For Your Love” and left to join Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (and then Cream). Clapton recommended prominent session guitarist Jimmy Page, who said no and suggested Jeff Beck instead, who was instrumental in their most fertile period on such Yardbirds hits as “Shapes of Things” and “Heart Full of Soul.” Page ended up joining later on bass, then played guitar alongside Beck for several months before Beck grew disillusioned and split. Page stayed on until the group’s disbanding in 1968, turning it into first The New Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin.

A mock-up album cover of what might’ve been

15. Elvis Presley

In the 1927 and 1945 versions of “A Star is Born,” the story centered on an aspiring actress and declining actor, but in 1975, Streisand was interested in reviving the film by making it about the music business instead. Consequently, when she went looking for a co-star to play the part of the singer on his way down, she wanted someone who could both sing and act. Neil Diamond made the short list as a possible candidate. Rick Nelson might’ve worked, and Jerry Lee Lewis as well, but neither were ever under consideration. (The studio mentioned Marlon Brando, who was ruled out because he wasn’t a singer.). Streisand was eager to get Elvis Presley, who met with them and was interested in taking the part, but imperious manager “Colonel” Tom Parker demanded top billing for Elvis and asked for too much money. He also objected to Elvis portraying someone whose career was in decline. Filmmakers instead settled on Kris Kristofferson, an acclaimed songwriter and actor.

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