The White Stripes - "Seven nation army"

Probably one of the easiest but most efficient riffs heard recently. Jack White (vocals & guitars) : "I wrote that riff in a soundcheck in Australia at a show that we played down there”.

Many people wrongly think that the riff was recorded with a bass guitar [The Whites Stripes don’t have a bass player], and that the vocals were recorded with a vocoder. Jack : "That's not a bass at the start but my guitar with an octave pedal”. Concerning the vocals : “I think it's the only time I used two takes of my voice - I doubled it. It said in the NME I used a vocoder, which is a complete insult to me”.

Jack explains where the title comes from : "It was a phrase that I used to say. When I was younger, there was a thrift store around called Salvation Army. I thought it was called Seven Nation Army, at least that's what I called it. That's where the phrase came from and I was building off from that when I was writing the lyrics”. Meg White (drums) : "Jack basically wrote the song around the idea of this guy who comes into town and all his friends are gossiping about him. It gets so bad, he wants to leave town and then he decides not to".

Jack : "The song felt strong when we mixed the album down. It felt like it should be the first track on the album. It just felt like an opening, explosive thing. I thought it would be interesting to release that at first. Also, I thought that if I got offered to write the next James Bond soundtrack that would be the riff for it. I don't think I'm going to get the chance though".

As for the video, it is considered to be one of the most effective motion-sickness-inducing devices.

Available on the album “Elephant”


Paul McCartney - "Waiting for your friends"

Paul McCartney claims he wrote this song with the help of George Harrison - even though his former Beatles bandmate died from cancer in 2001. Macca felt Harrison's presence with him so strongly that he still doesn't feel like he wrote the track by himself.

McCartney : "I just got this feeling, ‘this is George’. I was like George - writing one of his songs. It just wrote itself very easily because it wasn't even me writing it. It was funny, particularly the second verse - 'I've been sliding down a slippy slope, I've been climbing up a slowly burning rope'. I just thought - it's a George song".

Available on the forthcoming album “Chaos And Creation In The Backyard” due next autumn


Ani DiFranco - "You had time"

The song describes the emotions associated with the breakup of a long-term relationship. The originality of the song lies in the acoustic piano intro of over two minutes.

Writer Nick Hornby featured the song in his work “31 Songs” [also known as “Songbook”, it is a must-read !]. He attributes the two-minute solo to a depiction of the creative process behind the song.

Indeed, the song begins as you would imagine the writer began her process of creating the tune : a simple fiddling around on the piano, then it slowly moves into the body. The chords find their order, then become notes as the melody is laid down. Finally, the piano gives way to guitar strings, and the song starts properly. Without the beginning, you probably wouldn’t hear or feel the emotion and delicate nature of the lyrics.

So it's a song about breaking up. But it's also a song about writing a song about the break up.

Available on the album “Out Of Range”


Keane - "This is the last time"

The song "This is the last time" is the oldest track on Keane’s debut album "Hopes and Fears".

Tim Rice-Oxley (piano): "In 2000, I fell in love with the Smiths. At the time, as usual with us, we were feeling down. Tom [Chaplin, vocals] and I were humping boxes around in London and Richard [Hughes, drums] was temping at the BBC. Then suddenly I was introduced to the music of the Smiths. I’d been into Morrissey’s early stuff although, to be honest, I hadn’t realised that Morrissey had even been in the Smiths. I remember being really impressed by how they packed so much into a three-minute pop song. Not just all the hooks and melodies but the pathos and humour as well. They seemed to get everything right and in a concise way. That was a big moment for me — that’s when my songwriting went up a level. And the first song to emerge from that was "This Is the Last Time" — it’s a Smiths facsimile, basically !"

Keane are famous for being a 3-piece pop band with no guitar or bass player. Although Keane have successfully replaced the role of the guitar with their piano arrangements, you can still hear bass on the record. Andy Green (producer) : "Sometimes, Tim played real bass, but if the structure of the song was the same as the demo we found that we could often use bits of the more interesting synth bass [that had been written and played by Rice-Oxley on the demos]. On the track "This is the last time", the verses are demo bass from recordings three years earlier, and the choruses were replayed by Tim on a real bass guitar".

Available on their debut (and to this day only) album "Hopes and Fears"


"Happy birthday to you"

"Happy birthday to you" is [quite obviously] a song which is sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person's birth.

The melody of "Happy birthday to you" was written by two sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill, in Louisville, Kentucky. One day, in 1893, while Mildred was teaching at the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School where her sister served as principal, she came up with the modest melody. Patty added some simple lyrics and completed the creation of "Good Morning to All," which was originally intended as a simple greeting song for teachers to use in welcoming students to class each day.
But nobody really knows who wrote the words to "Happy birthday to you" and put them together with the sister Hills' melody, or when it happened.

The ownership of the song has swapped hands many times : the copyright is currently owned by Time Warner but is scheduled to expire in 2030. For more information regarding the copyright issue, see : http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/birthday.htm.

Though the song is copyrighted, you do have the right to sing it your friends or family, in a private home.
One of the most famous performances of "Happy birthday to you" was Marilyn Monroe's rendition to U.S. President John F. Kennedy in May 1962. Did she engage in copyright infringement by doing that ?
Available in your head : who doesn't know that song ?


The Killers - "Mr Brightside"

The song is the first Killers song ever. Half of the current line-up wasn't even part of the band when it was written.
David Keuning (guitars) one day placed an add in the local Vegas Weekly looking for a singer who was into Oasis and Bowie. Keuning : "Brandon [Flowers, vocals] was the only person to reply to my ad who wasn’t a complete freak. He came over with his keyboard and we started going through song ideas straight away. I had the verse to "Mr Brightside" and he went away and wrote the chorus. That was the first song we wrote together and remains the only song that we’ve played at every single Killers show".
Mark Stoermer (bass) and Ronnie Vannucci (drums) then met the two guys at a gig they were doing with a different rhythms section. After being tried out for the band, they joined, and the Killers were born.
Available on the album "Hot Fuss"


Bruce Springsteen - "Born in the U.S.A."

The title track, "Born in the U.S.A." is one of Springsteen's best known songs. Many have misinterpreted the song as a simple nationalistic anthem, while in reality, it cast a shameful eye on how America treated its Vietnam veterans. In spite of this, many politicians (notably including Ronald Reagan) have used the song without permission in their campaigns.

The fact that the song is so often misinterpreted is probably due to the fact that is an anthemic rocker. Which it wasn’t at the beginning…

"Born in the U.S.A." was the first song Springsteen wrote for the album that would have the same name (his 7th). But he first recorded it on January 3, 1982 on a tape that became his album "Nebraska" later that year (his 6th album). The original version of the song had the same "no frills vibe" as the songs on the "Nebraska" album, and could have been an acoustic protest song. But Springsteen didn't really consider "Nebraska" an album. He released it without hardly any embellisment or elaboration- an uncharacteristic move for the Boss - and held back just a few songs, including "Born in the U.S.A.," for further experimentation. In his notes to his manager Jon Landau, he said he wanted to flesh out "Born in the U.S.A." with the full band.

It happened a few months later. Springsteen was jamming alone with a riff, and when the band turned up they joined in and the song came together very quickly. Springsteen : "I said, 'Roy [Bittan, synth player], get this riff !'. He just pulled out that sound on the synthesizer [the opening fanfare]. We played it two times and our second take is the record". Springsteen also instructed drummer Max Weinberg to keep the drums going after the vocal was finished. He did, and the band improvised the end of the song in the studio.

Springsteen : "At the same time I recorded "Nebraska", I was recording the album "Born In The U.S.A." in the studio in New York, so I had these two extremely different recording experiences going". Many people feel that "Born in the U.S.A." [the song] would have been better understood if it had appeared on the acoustic-driven album "Nebraska". But would we still be talking about the song today ?

Available on the album "Born In The U.S.A."


The Rembrandts - "I'll be there for you"

The song titled “I'll be there for you”, performed by The Rembrandts, is, of course, the famous theme song to the hit American sitcom Friends which began airing in 1994. Shortly after completing work and releasing their third album “L.P.”, came this then little-known TV show on the NBC-TV network. Danny Wilde (one half of The Rembrandts) : "Kevin Bright [Friends executive producer] was a Rembrandts fan and didn't want a generic house band to record the theme for the show. He called our management and asked us if we'd be interested. So we watched the tape and thought it was very good for its genre and it had all the right people working on it. We thought it would be fun to do, no-one would even know it was us, and during the first season of the show, we weren't even listed on the credits as performers."

Unusually for a duo that always wrote its own stuff, the Rembrandts weren't even listed as writers on the song, either. Wilde : "To this day, we only get performance royalties, not publishing splits for the TV version of the song. It wasn't actually a song Phil [Solem, the other half of the band] and I even wrote. We had credit on it, but Michael Skloff, musical director for the show, came up with the tune and Allee Willis [plus others such as show creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane] came up with the lyrics. All they had was a 30-second verse and a chorus, so we tweaked the lyrics a little bit, and Phil came up with the signature riff at the start of the song".

It wasn't long before the catchy opening ditty for the show was generating a huge buzz at radio. Stations were inundated with calls after they began playing the 30-second clip of the song. One Nashville DJ in particular even looped the 30 second clip into a 3 minute song. Pressure grew for a full-length version of the song to be cut. Solem : “Our record label said we had to finish the song and record it. There was no way to get out of it".

Wilde and Solem sensed that the song would surely overshadow an album they had taken two years to write and record. But despite their protestations, EastWest label head Sylvia Rhone ordered the duo to record a full-length version of the song or face the axe. So to avoid a scenario where the Rembrandts' future was jeopardized, Wilde and Solem agreed. In the studio they wrote more lyrics, added a bridge and completed the song. Wilde : "That's when we became known as 'the band who sang the Friends theme'".

For most bands, a number one hit for 11 consecutive weeks and massive commercial exposure is everything they dream of. It was certainly manna from heaven for the record label. Recognizing the exploitative potential of the situation, EastWest never released "I'll be there for you" as a single. Instead, they tagged the song onto a re-released edition of “L.P.” and sat back as sales of the album far surpassed anything else the Rembrandts had achieved thus far.

Without the song, The Rembrandts may not have sold as many albums. But the song's success and two million-plus sales of the repackaged album sat uncomfortably with them. Wilde : "I guess we sold out, maybe we did. But everyone does it now. It's more acceptable in today's hit-orientated industry. It was hard to swallow at the time, as the alternative pop vibe we spent six years developing took a back seat. I guess it was our old school attitude, but we weren't proud of the song. It wasn't what we wanted to be remembered for”. An unrepresentative legacy [and the loss of hardcore original fans] wasn't the only result of the song's impact : it broke up the band in 1997, as the strain of such massive exposure proved too great.

Between 1997 and 2000 though, enough years passed for Wilde and Solem to regain a sense of perspective on old events and to start the process of making new music together again. After hooking up via the producer John Fields, a mutual friend of the duo, writing started almost immediately for a new album that was called “Lost Together”.

Available (unfortunately ?) on the album « LP »


The Bee Gees - "Stayin' alive"

Robin Gibb : "Ahh yes, "Saturday Night Fever". I remember it well. We thought up the name for that movie".

"Stayin' Alive" is one of The Bee Gees most popular and recognizable songs, in part because it was played in the opening scene of a popular disco film, Saturday Night Fever. The producer of the soundtrack for the movie, Robert Stigwood (who also doubled as the Bee Gees' manager) called them up one day and asked them to write a few songs for a soundtrack to a film he was planning. At this point, the film was in very early stages and it didn't even have a title yet. Robin recalls : "He rang us up and said, 'Would you like to do the soundtrack for a film ?’ We said, 'What film?' He said, 'A film I'm making. I haven't even got a title for it yet. Maybe you could think of that, too [which they did, indeed].' 'How many songs?' 'Oh, about six or seven.' I said, 'Well, that's about one a day. When will you send us a script?' He said, 'Well, I don't have a script. You'll just have to get on with the soundtrack.' 'Well, I said, 'You haven't got a script, and we haven't got any songs, so we're equal, we're even.' I put down the phone, and we went to work".

Barry Gibb recalls other details : "Robert wanted a scene that was eight minutes long, where Travolta was dancing with this girl. It would have a nice dance tempo, then a romantic interlude, and all hell breaking loose at the end. I said, 'Robert, we don't think the rhythm should break. It should go from beginning to end with the same rhythm, and get stronger all the way. To go into a lilting ballad just doesn't make sense.' The film got changed." Robin : "When we saw the film we were surprised that it fit so well. It just amazed us, since we'd never even seen the script."

The Bee Gees wrote "Stayin' Alive" over the course of a few days while sprawled on the staircase at the Chateau D'Herouville studio in Paris. Later, the group learned that many porno films were shot in those studios. Barry : "The staircase where we wrote 'How Deep Is Your Love', 'Stayin' Alive', all those songs, was the same staircase where there've been six classic lesbian porno scenes filmed !”.

The song was not originally supposed to be released as a single, but fans called radio stations and RSO Records immediately after seeing trailers for "Saturday Night Fever", in which the introductory scene featuring the song was played.

Available, of course, on the soundtrack for the movie "Saturday Night Fever"


System Of A Down - "Chop suey"

Chop Suey is a Chinese stew (hence the name) made with meat or fish, plus bamboo sprouts, onions, rice and water chestnuts. The title of the song does not appear anywhere in the lyrics. And the reason is because the original name of the song is "Suicide” (there’s a bit of a play on words - "Suey-cide"). System Of A Down had to change the name to make it radio friendly. In the beginning of the song, you hear Serj Tankian (vocals) say "We're rolling suicide".

The song is based on a poem by Father Armeni about the Armenian Genocide (all of the band members are Armenian or of Armenian heritage), especially in honor of those who were valiant enough to risk their lives in order to bring peace to the world and freedom to their people.

The video was shot in the parking lot of a cheap hotel near where the band grew up in Los Angeles. Before the shoot, System posted a note on their website inviting fans to come down and participate. Since they were not well known, they thought they would get about 500, but instead 1500 fans showed up.

Avril Lavigne did a cover of this that didn't go over well with System Of A Down fans. It was described as being "Choplicated".
Available on the album "Toxicity"