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Songs That Document Rock History


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We've done things similar to this in a variety of formats, but I was hoping for a little more detail and explanation. I'm curious about songs that discuss, depict and celebrate events or non-events in rock history. It might be as simple as Tom Petty singing about him and Del Shannon singing "Runaway" from Running Down A Dream. It might be elaborate as in American Pie or Creeque Alley. (Is that spelled right?).

So many rock songs honor rockers, concerts, movements, etc. that came before. Neil Young sings " I'm a million miles away from the helicopter day", referring to Woodstock in his "Roll Another Number For The Road".

I'll start with Creeque Alley by The Mamas and Papas because it always fascinated me. John Phillips documents the struggles of the group to survive as starving musicians as well as the booming folk music scene. "John and Denny, working for a penny, trying to get a fish on the line. In a coffee house Sebastian sat, and after every number, they'd pass the hat. McGuinn and Maguire, still a-getting high, and LA, you know where that's at. And nobody's gettin fat except Mama Cass".

That's a slice of rock history there. BTW, Phillips also wrote about Michelle and Denny having an affair right under his nose. He wrote "I Saw Her Again Last Night". wouldn't you know it became a hit and every night, with Denny, Michelle, and John on stage, Denny had to sing the words John wrote him..."I saw her again last night, and i know that I shouldn't..to string her along, is just not right"

The perfect punishment.

Anything you have would be lot's of fun to read and think about.

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I Love the Mamas and Papas...they had so much talent, and the band had a very interesting history behind them also...great harmony, I listen to the greatest hits cd all the time especially when I just want to mellow out. Im going to recommend them again...for list 13 :beatnik:

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I also heard that mama Cass was in love with Denny since the beginning but she had to accept they would be just friends, so when they used to sing "I saw her today" on stage everybody´s was feeling a little uncomfortable.

The Ramones did a very short review of rock in this one:

"Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?"

Rock'n, rock'n'roll radio Let's go

Rock'n, rock'n'roll radio Let's go

Rock'n, rock'n'roll radio Let's go

Rock'n, rock'n'roll radio Let's go

Do you remember Hullabaloo,

Upbeat, Shinding and Ed Sullivan too?

Do you remember rock'n'roll radio?

Do you remember rock'n'roll radio?

Do you remember Murray the K,

Alan Freed, and high energy?

It's the end, the end of the 70's

It's the end, the end of the century

Do you remember lying in bed

With your covers pulled up over your head?

Radio playin' so no one can see

We need change, we need it fast

Before rock's just part of the past

'Cause lately it all sounds the same to me

Oh oh oh oh, oh oh

Will you remember Jerry Lee,

John Lennon, T. Rex and OI Moulty?

It's the end, the end of the 70's

It's the end, the end of the century

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I love both those songs! I am actually listening to 'I Saw Her Again Last Night' right now!

Edna, I think that 'Do You Remember Rock & Roll Radio?' totally sums up Joey Ramone, it's what he was all about: rock n' roll purity, Phil Spector, 50's & 60's girl groups and bubblegum pop. Totally different to the other members of the Ramones.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I am surprised Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water" hasn't been included here yet. It tells in depth what the band was experiencing, and what was happening around them. And it tells it with those three fantastic chords, too!

We all came out to Montreaux

On the Lake Geneva shoreline

To make records with a mobile

We didn’t have much time

Frank Zappa and the Mother's

Were at the best place around

But some stupid with a flare gun

Burned the place to the ground

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

They burned down the gambling house

It died with an awful sound

Funky Claude was running in and out

Pulling kids out the ground

When it all was over

We had to find another place

But Swiss time was running out

It seemed that we would lose the race

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

We ended up at the Grand Hotel

It was empty cold and bare

But with the Rolling truck Stones thing parked outside making our music there

With a few red lights and a few old beds

We make a place to sweat

No matter what we get out of this

I know, I know, we'll never forget...

Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

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From Do You Remember? by The Beach Boys:

Little Richard sang it

And Dick Clark brought it to life

Danny & The Juniors hit a groove

Stuck it sharp as a knife

Well now do you remember

All the guys that gave us Rock 'n' Roll

Chuck Berry's got to be

The greatest thing that came along

He made the guitar beats

And wrote the all-time greatest song ...

Elvis Presley is The King

He's the giant of the day

Paved the way for the Rock 'n' Roll Star

The critics kept a knockin'

But the Stars kept on rockin'

and the choppin' didn't get very far

Goodness Gracious Great Balls of Fire ...

They gave us Rock 'n' Roll

They gave us Rock 'n' Roll

They gave us Rock 'n' Roll

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I always liked "City Of New Orleans"...with all that's goin on now, that song popped into my head...I love the story it tells also...Songfacts has a great write up on it, if you wanna check it out...here are the lyrics...love these lyrics...

Lyrics for: City Of New Orleans

Riding on the City of New Orleans,

Illinois Central Monday morning rail

Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,

Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.

All along the southbound odyssey

The train pulls out at Kankakee

Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.

Passin' trains that have no names,

Freight yards full of old black men

And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.


Good morning America how are you?

Don't you know me I'm your native son,

I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,

I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' card games with the old men in the club car.

Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.

Pass the paper bag that holds the bottle

Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.

And the sons of pullman porters

And the sons of engineers

Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.

Mothers with their babes asleep,

Are rockin' to the gentle beat

And the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,

Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.

Half way home, we'll be there by morning

Through the Mississippi darkness

Rolling down to the sea.

And all the towns and people seem

To fade into a bad dream

And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.

The conductor sings his song again,

The passengers will please refrain

This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?

Don't you know me I'm your native son,

I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,

I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

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I always liked "Down On The Corner" by Creedence Clearwater Revival...I know it's about a fictional band, but they did portray the part on the cover of the album...I thought that was pretty cool


In the early 70s, I worked for a while at an upholstery supply/foam cutting plant in east Oakland. The warehouse was just two or three blocks from Duck Kee Market, and my friends and I got our lunches there often (They made pretty good deli sandwiches).

I hadn't noticed, but a few years later, after we had all moved on to more rewarding jobs elsewhere, one of these friends pointed out to me that Duck Kee Market is "the corner" pictured on the Willie And The Poor Boys album cover.

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  • 3 years later...

I know we have talked about this subject more recently, but how fun, digging this thread up from four (!) years ago! :D

I Dig Rock and Roll Music - Peter, Paul & Mary

I dig Rock and Roll music

And I love to get the chance to play. (and sing it)

I figure it's about the happiest sound goin' down today.

The message may not move me,

Or mean a great deal to me,

But hey! it feels so groovy to say:

I dig the Mamas and the Papas at "The Trip,"

Sunset Strip in L.A.

And they got a good thing goin'

When the words don't get in the way.

And when they're really wailing,

Michelle and Cass are sailin'.

Hey! they really nail me to the wall.

I dig Donovan in a dream-like, tripped out way

His crystal images tell you 'bout a brighter day

And when the Beatles tell you

They've got a word "love" to sell you

They mean exactly what they say

I dig Rock and Roll music

I could really get it on in that scene.

I think I could say somethin' if you know what I mean

But if I really say it, the radio won't play it

Unless I lay it between the lines

It's so funny that Peter, Paul & Mary are singing about Rock & Roll in their simple folk form, and including psychedelic Donovan & The Beatles .... Rock & Roll has come a long long way from the music they were singing about. ;)

Edited by Guest
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"Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)" was a #8 hit in 1974 for RCA

studio group "Reunion". The lead singer was Joey Levine who used to be in

Ohio Express (the sixties bubblegum group that did "Yummy Yummy Yummy").

B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers

Lonnie Mack and twangin' Eddy, here's my ring we're goin' steady

Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire

Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction

Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin' hotter

Sammy's cookin', Lesley Gore and Ritchie Valens, end of story

Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama

Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry

Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin'

FM, AM, hits are clickin' while the clock is tock-a-tickin'

Friends and Romans, salutations, Brenda and the Tabulations

Carly Simon, I behold her, Rolling Stones and centerfoldin'

Johnny Cash and Johnny Rivers, can't stop now, I got the shivers

Mungo Jerry, Peter Peter Paul and Paul and Mary Mary

Dr. John the nightly tripper, Doris Day and Jack the Ripper

Gotta go Sir, gotta swelter, Leon Russell, Gimme Shelter

Miracles in smokey places, slide guitars and Fender basses

Mushroom omelet, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, stop and kick it

Arthur Janov's primal screamin', Hawkins, Jay and

Dale and Ronnie, Kukla, Fran and Norma Okla

Denver, John and Osmond, Donny

JJ Cale and ZZ Top and LL Bean and De De Dinah

David Bowie, Steely Dan and sing me prouder, CC Rider

Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders

Eric Clapton, pedal wah-wah, Stephen Foster, do-dah do-dah

Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl and Little Honda

Tighter, tighter, honey, honey, sugar, sugar, yummy, yummy

CBS and Warner Brothers, RCA and all the others

Extended fade-out (with chorus singing in counterpoint):

(musical intro to "Baby I Need Your Loving")

(spoken: Listen--remember, they're playing our song!)

Rock it, sock it, Alan Freed me, Murray Kaufman, try to leave me

Fish, and Swim, and Boston Monkey,

Make it bad and play it funky.

(Wanna take you higher!)

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