I’ve played piano since I was four. Not to brag, or anything, but my mom says that I’m really good. I am aware that my mom is probably lying about my level of musical talent, because she tells my sister that she can sing. My sister cannot sing. So, I don’t always play pianos, but when I do I play “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Elton John songs…badly. I also played clarinet for nine years, and I was a solid 40th in state.
You do not need to be good at playing music to appreciate it. I have a weird taste. I love classic rock. Most college students who like classic rock seem to shun all other kinds of music, but I also love Britney and *NSYNC. However, this post is mostly focused on classic rock, because the book I’m talking about is Classic Rock Stories: The Stories Behind the Greatest Songs of All Time by Tim Morse.
The descriptions of each song are really short. I haven’t read it the entire way through, but use it more as a reference, when I’m listening to a song, and wondering how it was written. There’s an index in the back, if you want to see if Morse has included a specific song. The author has divided the songs into the following categories:
- Accidents Will Happen (Studio Incidents That Led to Award-Winning Songs)
- Cocaine (Songs About or Written on Drugs)
- Meanwhile, Back in the Studio… (Inspiration in the Workplace)
- A Quick One (Songs that Seem to Write Themselves)
- Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (Controversial Lyrics over the Years)
- Really Deep Thoughts (Songwriters Contemplate Life, Music, War, etc.)
- Love and Lust (Passion That Resulted in Hits)
- Protest Songs (Rock ‘n’ Roll at Its Rebellious Best)
- Writing a Stairway to Heaven (The Greatest Rock Anthems)
Morse also lists the 25 best classic rock albums of all time.
A great aspect of this book is that the stories about the songs are from the artists, themselves. For example, my favorite Led Zeppelin song is “Misty Mountain Hop”, Robert Plant describes it as “about a bunch of hippies getting busted… about the problems you can come across when you have a simple walk in the park on a nice sunny afternoon. In England it’s understandable, because wherever you go to enjoy yourself “Big Brother” is not far behind” (31). We also learn that “Rock and Roll” just came out in the studio randomly. I love stories like that because it feels like that song was just meant to come into existence.
We also learn that “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, my favorite band, ever, initially “sounded like a folk song” according to my idol, Sir Mick Jagger. Keith Richards wrote the song, but did not like it as much as Mick.
I did not know that “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles was considered misogynist. I never got that vibe from that song, Don Henley calls the idea “ridiculous”, but he shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. I’ve listened to the song repeatedly, and still don’t understand where the idea of misogyny came from, but if any of you know, you should let me know. Nevertheless, the guitar riffs in that song are all brilliant.
The last song I’m going to talk about is “Bohemian Rhapsody” because of my attempts to cover it on piano. I found two things interesting in this section:
- Mercury said “A lot of people slammed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’” (149). What!? Freddie was still sure that it was going to be a hit.
- The song was not recorded in one go, but in the three sections: the first part, the middle and then the rock section. “we just hit some drums now and then, after which it was basically edits” said the producer, Roy Thomas Baker (149).