“American Pie” was written as a paean to the sudden demise of Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in 1959. At that time, McLean was a boy, delivering newspapers, hence the line, “February made me shiver/with every paper I’d deliver”. Otherwise, he’s been remarkably cryptic about the exact meaning of the lyrics, but has said he will finally reveal their true meaning when the original manuscript for the song goes on auction next month.
1. Don Mclean – “American Pie”:
The song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” from their self-titled debut album, Looking Glass, relates the tale of a young woman who falls in love with a sailor, to realize that he’s never around (and all she has is a locket bearing his name). The supposition is the song is based on one Mary Ellis (1750–1828), a spinster from New Jersey.
2. Looking Glass – “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”:
Originally, music execs at A&M thought “Outa Space” would not be popular, and released it as the “B” side of “I wrote a Simple Song.” However, DJs across the country began flipping it over – “Simple Song” only reached 77 on the charts, while “Outa Space” achieved number 2. It was also used as the theme for the 1990s Intel commercial for their MMX-enabled processors.
3. Billy Preston – “Outa Space”:
Heavy on the synthesizers! While performing “Frankenstein”, Edgar Winter became the first musician to strap a keyboard around his neck, allowing him to move around, have a stage presence, and interact with the guitar players.
4. The Edgar Winter Group – “Frankenstein”:
“Me and Mrs. Jones” describes an extra-marital affair between a man and his lover, “Mrs. Jones.” It became Billy Paul’s only number 1 hit.
5. Billy Paul – “Me and Mrs. Jones”:
Wonder states that he wrote and recorded “Higher Ground” in a three-hour burst of frenetic energy. With overdubbing, he played every instrument on the song, including drums.
6. Stevie Wonder – “Higher Ground”:
With lead vocals by Gerry Rafferty, “Stuck in the Middle With You” was originally written as a parody of Bob Dylan’s distinctive nasal vocal style. The band didn’t think much of the song, and were very surprised when it achieved number 6 in the charts.
7. Stealer’s Wheel – “Stuck in the Middle With You”:
Written by Dickie Betts, the song “Jessica” is a tribute to guitarist Django Reinhardt, in that it is designed to be played with only two fingers.
8. Allman Brothers – “Jessica”:
“Ballad of the Uneasy Rider” features Daniels at his snarky best. “You may not know it but this man’s a spy, he was sent here undercover by the FBI…” Classic.
9. Charlie Daniels Jr. – “Ballad of the Uneasy Rider”:
This Elton John classic tells the tale of a fictional rock band, “Bennie and the Jets,” as told by a fan being interviewed. When he would perform it, John rarely stuck verbatim to the studio lyrics, subtly or even blatantly altering them as he went along.