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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Behind the "Bus Stop"

One thing that fascinates me about music history is looking up information about what happened on a specific date. I think that was one of the motivations behind why I decided to come up with a Tuesday Timeline every week.

I'm sure that most of you have tried to look up what song was #1 on the day you were born, the day you got married, the day you graduated high school, etc. And, yes, I have done this for my own personal dates as well.

Okay, so as of right now, I don't have a wedding anniversary as I have never been married. But I do have a bit of an obsession over knowing what happened in the world of music on my birthday.

Like, for instance, did you know that the #1 song the day that I was born was “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes? And that it was a #1 hit for nine weeks total? These days, it almost seems unheard of for a song to top the charts for so long!

Other artists who have had #1 hits on my birthday in subsequent years have been Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (“Ebony & Ivory” - 1982), Simple Minds (“Don't You Forget About Me” – 1985), Paula Abdul (“Forever Your Girl” - 1989), Madonna (“Vogue” - 1990), Janet Jackson (“That's The Way Love Goes” - 1993), Mariah Carey (“My All” - 1998), Santana (“Maria Maria” - 2000), Gwen Stefani (“Hollaback Girl” - 2005), The Black Eyed Peas (“Boom Boom Pow” - 2009), and most recently, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (“Can't Hold Us” - 2013).

Mind you, I didn't list ALL the #1 hits that have charted since I was born. I would take up way too much space doing it that way.

Of course, it's not just chart history that fascinates me. I get interested in release date history as well. I may be the only one who has that much fascination with my birthdate and how it coincides with major music history.

Like, for instance, on my 18th birthday, the Backstreet Boys released their hit album “Millennium”, which included the hits “I Want It That Way”, “Larger Than Life”, and “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely”. Not that I really enjoyed the Backstreet Boys growing up at all, but given that the album sold thirty million copies worldwide, it is a fact that should be noted.

Another interesting note is that on my 13th birthday, Lisa Marie Presley tied the knot with...Michael Jackson! Yes, the much lampooned marriage between Elvis' daughter and the youngest member of the Jackson 5 was much lauded and lampooned in the media, and by 1996, the couple had called it quits. Still, it was one of the most talked about news stories of 1994...well, at least it was until O.J. Simpson's white Bronco chase just a month later.

And, then there are all of those artists who decided to record music and release singles on my birthday. Just take a look at the list of songs that were recorded on my date of birth.

1963 - “Louie Louie” - The Kingsmen
1964 - “House of the Rising Sun” - The Animals
1966 - “Got To Get You Into My Life – The Beatles
1967 - “We Love You” - The Rolling Stones

Now, those are some classic bands and songs right there!

But, there's also one more song that was recorded on my date of birth...and this one happens to be the featured song of the day for the Sunday Jukebox – recorded on May 18, 1966.

ARTIST: The Hollies
SONG: Bus Stop
ALBUM: Bus Stop
DATE RELEASED: June 17, 1966

The reason why I've chosen this song to spotlight is because of all the songs that were featured on the above list (which I found on a website listing the trivia for Oldies Music), this one is my favourite of the bunch. It's a perfect song for the summer months, and it takes people back to a time in which the pop charts weren't dominated by guys rapping about their “honeys” with their pants so low you can see what colour boxer shorts they're wearing and people spelling song titles with internet acronyms and random numbers.

(In case you haven't figured it out yet, I've largely ignored the Top 40 charts for the last ten years or so. Either I'm getting too old to understand what kids like these days, or I have more refined tastes when it comes to music.)

Anyway, “Bus Stop” was initially released as a 7-inch 45 rpm single in June 1966, and by September 1966, reached its peak position at #5. The song charted at the same position in the United Kingdom, #3 in Norway, and in Canada, the song was a #1 hit for the British based band. And because the song became such a hit in Canada and the United States, a special compilation album was released in October 1966 entitled “Bus Stop”. That album contained the hit single, plus some unreleased and lesser-known singles that the band released between 1963 and 1965.

The Hollies were founded by childhood friends Graham Nash and Allan Clarke. They first began performing as a duo in the late 1950s and by 1962 – after recruiting other band members Eric Haydock, Don Rathbone, and Vic Steele – and began dubbing themselves as The Hollies following a gig at Manchester's Oasis Club.

TRIVIA: The inspiration behind the band's name? The late Buddy Holly, who had died three years prior, in February 1959.

By the time the band was signed onto Parlophone Records in 1963, Rathbone and Steele had decided to move on to other projects, but they were replaced by two former members of The Dolphins, Terry Hicks and Bobby Elliott. And after the band released their own version of the song “Stay” - originally performed by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs – their popularity in the UK began to rise.

It took a little bit longer though for The Hollies to land onto the American charts. And, it wasn't until the band released “Bus Stop” that the band earned their first Top 10 hit there.

The song itself was written by a man named Graham Gouldman (who would later go on to become a member of the band 10cc). Gouldman had already earned a reputation for being a proflic songwriter back in the mid 1960s, having penned singles for Herman's Hermits and The Yardbirds. As well, he wrote an earlier single for The Hollies back in 1964 entitled “Look Through Any Window”.

But when it came time to write the lyrics for “Bus Stop”, it wasn't until 2006 that Gouldman finally revealed where the inspiration came from.

Gouldman claimed that he was inspired to write the song while riding in the bus as a passenger. And, one thing that you might not realize was that the opening lines of the song were not written by Gouldman, but by Gouldman's father!

Yes, Hyme Gouldman was a prolific writer in his own right. He was, after all, a playwright. But when Graham had told Hyme that he had come up with a title for a song (“Bus Stop”), Hyme immediately came up with the opening lines “Bus stop wet day, she's there I say, please share my umbrella”. With Graham already coming up with a brilliant opening riff to the song, it seemed to flow flawlessly, and soon enough, the younger Gouldman had the song completely written.

Of course, as Graham Gouldman later explained, Hyme was always offering up some advice on the song compositions his son wrote. It was Hyme who came up with the Herman's Hermits title “No Milk Today”, and it was Hyme who thought up the title for a 10cc hit, “Art for Art's Sake”. So, it was only natural that the partnership between father and son would lead to one of the biggest hits of The Hollies' career.

And, that's our look back on the song “Bus Stop”. It's a shorter than normal entry for today...but that's only because I have a lengthy blog post planned for the Monday Matinee. Besides, I'm sure some of you will appreciate the shorter blog entry.

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