The Cars debut album was a commercial and critical success. The pressure was on for a follow-up, and the band delivered big time with their 2nd album, “Candy-O“. The album was packed with more Cars classics, including the subject of this episode, “It’s All I Can Do”, a song that shows the strengths of each band member– everyone contributing something special top this great track.

“It’s All I Can Do” (Ric Ocasek) Copyright 1979 Lido Music Inc

…and check out this previous episode on The Cars:
lovethatsongpodcast.com/the-cars-just-what-i-needed/

TRANSCRIPT:

Time for another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m your host, Brad Page, sending these love letters to the music we cherish, care of the Pantheon podcast Network. Each episode I pick a favorite song and we look at it in detail, trying to understand what makes it a great song. You don’t have to be a musician or have any advanced knowledge, because we don’t get into music theory or technical stuff here. If you’re willing to listen, then this podcast is for you.

On this episode, we’re exploring a track from a band that came onto the scene as the 70’s were coming to a close, and their sound was critical in launching the sound of the 80’s. This is The Cars with “It’s All I Can Do”.

We talked about The Cars on this show once before, back in episode number 43, “Just What I Needed”. So you can check out that episode for an overview of the band’s history. This time, we’ll pick up where that episode left off.

They released that first album in June 1978. A year later, their second album, “Candy-O”, hit the shelves. That first album was considered one of the strongest debut albums of all time, and it still is. Rolling Stone ranks it in their Top 20 Greatest Debut Albums. So when it came time to record their second album, the pressure was on, and they delivered… no sophomore slump here.

“Candy-O” ended up charting higher than the debut album. It made it to #3 and would eventually sell over 4 million copies. There were three singles released off of “Candy-O”. “It’s All I Can Do” was the second single. The song features Rick Ocasek on rhythm guitar, Elliot Easton on lead guitar, Greg Hawks on keyboards, David Robinson on drums, and Benjamin Orr on bass and lead vocals.

The song begins with a bass drum hit and a quick open and close of the hi-hat. One guitar on the left with a slightly distorted tone is playing staccato, muted power chords. The bass in the center is duplicating that guitar part. On the right, there’s another guitar playing smoothly strummed, ringing chords. Sounds like there’s maybe some reverb, perhaps some chorus effect on that guitar. The rest of the tracks are pretty dry, and Greg Hawks is playing a simple but effective melody on the keyboards.

Rick Ocasek is universally acknowledged as the architect of The Cars’ sound, and he wrote all the songs on the album; but every member of the band contributed something special, and to me, the magic ingredient of the best Cars songs is the vocals of Benjamin Orr. He had a great voice and so perfectly suited to The Cars sound.

For the second half of the verse, the guitar that was playing those clean, ringing chords on the right is going to suddenly shift to playing heavy, distorted chords. Listen for the change.

Then David Robinson is going to do a short drum fill on the toms to launch us into the first chorus, and those toms are pretty high in the mix.

The instrumentation behind the chorus is pretty minimal, not a lot of overdubs, just the basic band performing, but each player is doing something just a little different enough that it sounds nice and full, with Greg Hawke’s melodic keyboard part just riding on top. Let’s bring the vocals back in and listen to that again.

Both The Cars’ first album and “Candy-O” were produced by Roy Thomas Baker, one of the most famous and successful producers of the 1970s. Baker is probably most known for working with Queen, including producing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, so he knew how to layer vocals. Though the cars kept the production tricks to a minimum on this album, there are moments where the Roy Thomas Baker effect shines through those rich backing vocals at the end of the chorus. Here is a good example.

That chorus leads immediately into the second verse, and notice that clean, ringing guitar is back.

That’s one of my favorite lines in the song—“When I was crazy, I thought you were great.” We’ve probably all had a time in our lives where we were so crazy in love that we couldn’t see just how bad that person was for us.

And the distorted guitar returns.

Greg Hawkes is playing pretty much the same keyboard part that he played on the first chorus, but he’s using a different sound this time. Here’s the sound again from the first chorus. And here’s the keyboard sound on this second chorus. They add an extra six beats in there to lead us into the guitar solo.

And I’ve mentioned before on this show that I love Elliot Easton’s guitar playing. And this is another great example of a tasteful, melodic, memorable guitar solo by Elliot Easton. Check it out.

One thing we haven’t looked at yet is David Robinson’s drum part on the verses. What he’s doing is pretty subtle, but it’s not just a straightforward drum beat. He’s put some pretty clever twists into it. Let’s listen.

Also on this final verse, Greg Hawkes has added a new keyboard part. You can imagine a string section playing this part. It really adds a new layer of drama to this last verse. Listen to how it builds through to the end of the verse.

And that’s another great line; “As soon as you get it, you want something new”.  How many of you have been on one end of that in a relationship?

Listen to the way the guitar and the keyboard are going to answer each other. It’s the guitar on the right, the keyboard on the left.

Like the way Benjamin sings this line here.

“It’s All I Can Do” by The Cars

The Cars released six albums between 1970 – 1987. Five of them were top 20 hits. Four of them reached the top ten. They split up in 1988.

Benjamin Orr died from cancer in 2000. The remaining members reformed for one more album in 2011. But without Benjamin Orr, it just wasn’t the same.

Rick Ocasek died in 2019. David Robinson has more or less retired from the music business and owns an art gallery in Rockport, Massachusetts. Elliot Easton is still active and has a number of musical projects that keep him busy, and Greg Hawkes does session and touring work, working frequently with Todd Rungren.

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to listen to this show. I always appreciate it. New episodes of the podcast come out on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back soon with another episode. You can keep in touch with the show on our Facebook page, or on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, where you’ll also find all of our previous episodes. And you can find the show on your favorite source of podcasts, whether it’s Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher– wherever you listen to podcasts, you’ll find this show. We are part of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, the place for music related podcasts, so be sure to check out some of the other shows, too.

Thanks again for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast featuring The Cars and “It’s All I Can Do”.

REFERENCES:

The Cars
https://www.thecars.org/

Candy-O (Album)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candy-O

Rolling Stone (Greatest Debut Albums)
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/best-debut-albums-of-all-time-143608/the-cars-1978-163377/

Roy Thomas Baker
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Thomas_Baker

Bohemian Rhapsody
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohemian_Rhapsody

David Robinson’s Art Gallery
http://www.rockportartassn.org/

Elliot Easton
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliot_Easton

Greg Hawkes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Hawkes

‘I’m in Love with that Song’ Podcast Facebook Page
https://www.facebook.com/lovethatsongpodcast

Pantheon Podcast Network
https://www.pantheonpodcasts.com/

TRANSCRIPT:

Introducing a new segment of the podcast – “Creation & Evolution“, where we explore songs that travelled a long & winding road before they reached their final version. In this episode, we trace the history of a song that started from a phone call with Farrah Fawcett and ended up as Gladys Knight’s biggest hit.

“Midnight Train To Georgia” (Jim Weatherly) Copyright 1971, 1973 Universal-PolyGram International Publishing, Inc

TRANSCRIPT:

There’s the telltale theme music… it means it must be time for another episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network.  My name is Brad Page, and I’m your musical tour guide, your geologist of another sort, as we explore the rock that made history.

This time, I’m introducing a new segment I’m calling “Creation and Evolution”, where we’ll take a look at both the birth and the journey a song takes before it ends up in its final form. Some songs have a rather short path from the writer’s pen to the final release, but some songs take the long way around, and that’s what we’re going to explore here on “Creation and Evolution”.

For example, what do airplanes, Houston Texas, and Farrah Fawcett have to do with “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight and the Pips? Let’s find out.

Jim Weatherly was a songwriter from Mississippi who had written a few songs for Dean Martin and Peggy Lee. No hits, though he hadn’t really made his mark yet. One day in 1970, Weatherly called his friend, a struggling actor named Lee Majors, who would find fame as TV’s “Six Million Dollar Man”.

Majors wasn’t around, but his girlfriend, a struggling actress named Farah Fawcett, picked up the phone. She, of course, would eventually star in “Charlie’s Angels”.

Farah and Weatherly got to talking, and she told him she was just about to head out of LA to visit her family, leaving on a midnight plane to Houston. That phrase, “midnight plane to Houston”, stuck in his head. And as soon as he got off the phone, he sat down and in about 40 minutes, he wrote a whole song.

He based the song loosely on Fawcett and Majors. It was about a girl who went to LA to make it big, but when it doesn’t work out, she goes back home and her boyfriend follows her back. Weatherly recorded the song and included it on his 1972 solo album called Weatherly.

It’s a pretty modern country song, but the publisher had some faith in it and sent it around, hoping to find other artists to cover it. They even offered it to Gladys Knight.

But at this point, she passed on it.

They pitched it to another artist, singer Sissy Houston, Whitney Houston’s mom. She liked the song, but not the title. She said, “my people are from Georgia, and they didn’t take planes to Houston or anywhere else”. They took trains. And this is just a guess, but I think she might have been concerned about some confusion since her name was Houston and the song was about the city of Houston. Either way, Weatherly agreed to change the lyrics to “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

And besides the title change, this version also changes the genders. Now it’s the man who has failed and is going back home, and it’s the woman who follows him.

Sissy Houston released her version in February 1973.

Meanwhile, in 1973, Gladys Knight and the Pips had left Motown Records and signed a deal with Buddha Records, which gave her more freedom to pick her own material. By this time, Gladys had already had a hit with another Jim Weatherly song, “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye” in 1972.

And when Gladys heard Sissy Houston’s version of “Midnight Train to Georgia”, she knew she could make it work.  She envisioned it as an Al green style soul number.

Producer Tony Camillo had worked with everyone from Diane Warwick to Grand Funk Railroad. It was his job to record the instrumental tracks for “Midnight Train” for Gladys. But she wasn’t happy with what he came up with. Too polished, too orchestrated. She wanted something more stripped down. So he cut another version– and she rejected that one, too.

So working with engineer Ed Stasium, who would later become a legendary producer in his own right, working with The Ramones, Talking Heads, Motorhead and Living Color, just to name a few, they put together a small band: Jeff Mirinoff on guitar, Bob Babbitt on bass, Andrew Smith on drums, and Tony Camillo himself on piano. They banged out a simple backing track in an hour and sent it to Gladys, and that was exactly what she was looking for. They overdubbed horns and some strings, but for the most part, they kept it straightforward.

Gladys recorded her vocal in almost one take. No warm up, no run through, no punch-ins. She was well rehearsed and she knew what she wanted. She stepped up to the mic and four minutes later it was almost done. Except for some ad libs at the end, which we’ll get to later.

I love how she’s singing pretty softly there– she’s holding back, but then she lets loose a bit for the next part.

And here’s the first chorus.

Now, notice how the backing vocals by William Guest, Edward Patton, and Bubba Knight, along with Gladys herself, aren’t just singing harmonies or repeating lines from the lead vocal, they’re actually adding commentary. They’re in dialogue with the lead vocal. That’s something that Gladys and The Pips brought to the song. None of the other versions do that.

Here’s the second verse, and let’s bring up the vocals again so we can hear more of that interaction between the lead and the backing vocals.

I love this part.

And check out the backing vocals here.

James Jamerson is the bass player most associated with the Motown sound, and he’s a legend. But Bob Babbitt also played on many Motown classics, too, and he’s a phenomenal player as well. Let’s listen to some of Bob Babbitt’s bass work here.

You gotta love those woo-woos.

Now, I mentioned before how Gladys recorded her vocal in one take, and that’s true, right up until this point in the song. They wanted to have Gladys do some ad-libbing during the final choruses, some of those inspired, energetic interjections that can really add some emotional weight to a song.

The problem was that Gladys didn’t feel like she was a natural at that kind of thing, at least not at this point in her career. She didn’t feel comfortable and kind of froze up at the mic.

Merald Knight, who everyone called “Bubba”, was not only one of the pips, he was also Gladys’ brother.  He took a mic into the control room, and with the backing track playing, he fed Gladys some lines into her headphones, and she sang them back as the tape rolled.

Now picture Bubba Knight in that control room looking at Gladys through the glass, singing these lines to her like, “my world, his world, our world”. And she’s singing them back and putting her own spin on them.

Gladys Knight and the Pips – “Midnight Train To Georgia”.

Buddha Records issued “Midnight Train to Georgia” as a single in August 1973, and eventually it worked its way to number one. It won the Grammy for best R&B vocal performance, and it would become Gladys Knight and The Pips calling card for the rest of their career.

Of the original Pips, Edward Patton passed away in February 2005; William Guest died in December of 2015, but Merald Bubba Knight, Gladys’s brother, is still with us, and Gladys herself, as of this recording, is still alive and well.  She released her last album in 2014.

Jim Weatherly passed away in February 2021. He was 77.

Thank you for joining me for this episode. We’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, you can binge on all of our past episodes, they’re all on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com.

You can find us on Facebook to share your thoughts and feelings, just look for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, and you’ll find us. You can also send me email at lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com.

This show is one of many great podcasts on the Pantheon Podcast Network, so be sure to seek out all those other great shows.

To listen to the song again, complete and uninterrupted, stream it, download it, or buy it and support the music you love. Thanks again for joining me for this “Creation And Evolution” episode on Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia”.

Creedence Clearwater Revival were quite the phenomenon from 1967 to 1972. During that short period– only 5 years– they racked up ten songs in the Top 20, 5 of them making it to #2. In the middle of that run, they released “Run Through The Jungle” in April 1970. The song is often identified with the Viet Nam war, but we explore the true roots of the song and listen to the individual elements that make up this great track.

“Run Through The Jungle” (John Fogerty) Copyright 1970 Jondora Music

TRANSCRIPT:

Hey, friends, it’s Brad Page, host of the ““I’m In Love With That Song”” podcast here on the Pantheon Network. It’s time to put on your explorer helmet and spelunking boots one more time, because we’re about to explore another song and see what we discover. As always, no prior musical knowledge or experience is required; we don’t get technical here. If you’re willing to just listen a little more intently, and want to learn more about what goes into making a great song, you’ve come to the right place.

This time, we are heading back to 1970 to cross paths with Creedence Clearwater Revival and explore one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Run Through The Jungle”.

The band that we know as Creedence Clearwater Revival began in El Cerrito, California, sometime around 1959. Back then, they were known as the Blue Velvets: John Fogerty on guitar, his brother Tom also on guitar, and both of them shared lead vocals back then, with Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums. Here’s a single recorded by the Blue Velvets in 1961 called “Come On Baby”. It was written by Tom Fogerty, and it’s Tom singing lead.

In 1964, they signed a contract with Fantasy Records. The record company changed their name to the Gollywogs– which they hated. Blue Velvets wasn’t a great name, but I don’t know why the label thought Gollywogs was any better. I’d hate that name, too.

Anyway, the Gollywogs recorded quite a few singles. Here’s one from 1965 called, “You Got Nothing On Me”.

In 1967, the band changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Their first single as CCR, a song called “Porterville”, didn’t chart. But their second single, their version of “Susie Q”, that was a hit.

“Susie Q” would be their only Top 40 hit that was not written by John Fogerty. By now, John had become the driving force in the band. He was writing the songs, he was singing the songs, he was producing the records. Creedence Clearwater Revival was now essentially John Fogarty’s band.

A boatload of hit singles would follow. We may revisit a couple of them on the show in the future, you never know. But today, we’re going to focus on the song “Run Through The Jungle”.

Originally released as a single in April 1970, it was what they used to call a “Double A-sided” single, because both sides of the 45 record were earmarked for potential hits and radio play. The other side of this single was “Up Around The Bend”, which was indeed a hit, too. Both songs were included on their album “Cosmos Factory”. Released in the summer of 1970, “Cosmos Factory” was their fifth studio album. Creedence would eventually release seven studio albums; six of them became platinum albums, selling over a million copies each. In fact, “Cosmos Factory” would go on to sell 4 million copies. It’s their biggest selling album, and in my opinion, it’s their best.

“Run Through The Jungle” was the song that closed out Side One of the album. The song opens with a pretty psychedelic effect. Sounds to me like a piano in the middle with guitars panned left and right, heavy with echo. The guitar in the right channel begins to oscillate. That’s when the echo feeds back on itself. This is an ominous way to start the song.

There’s that tambourine that sounds like a rattlesnake. And then the main guitar riff comes in, which is sitting primarily in the right channel. Tom fills and hand claps in the left channel.

The rest of the band joins in and we’re off.

And that’s pretty much it. Musically, the song stays with the same riff for the duration of the song. That repetition of the riff, it’s almost like a drone. It’s hypnotic. It sets such a mood to me, it never gets boring. Here’s the first verse.

The vocals are thick with a slapback echo. It’s very 1950s style sound. Let’s listen to John Fogarty’s vocal track.

Now, here’s something interesting. This song has often been interpreted as being about Vietnam. The song came out in 1970 when the war was still raging, and the song’s been used in movies and tv shows as a soundtrack to Vietnam era scenes. But when Fogerty wrote this song, he wasn’t thinking about the jungles of Vietnam. He was thinking about the urban jungles right here in America. Here’s a quote from John Fogerty from an interview he did with Dan Rather back in 2016. He said, “the thing I wanted to talk about was gun control and the proliferation of guns.” I think that puts a whole different spin on the imagery in the song. Let’s pick it up at the second verse.

I know gun control is a controversial issue, so I’m going to let John Fogerty speak for himself. Here’s a clip from that same interview”

“I think I remember reading around that time that there was one gun for every man, woman and child in America, which I found staggering. We’re talking about privately held guns. Um, and so at somewhere in the song, I think I say 200 million guns are loaded. Not that anyone else has the answer. I did not have the answer to the question. I just had the question. I just thought that it was disturbing that it was such a jungle for our citizens re to just to walk around in our own country, at least having to be aware that there are so many private guns, um, owned by some responsible and maybe many irresponsible people.”

Let’s hear the vocal track for this verse again. And the first line has one of those classic idiosyncratic fogey phrasings on the word “Heard”.

John Fogerty takes a harmonica solo here, but let’s check out some of the backing tracks here as well. Like all Creedence songs, they keep it pretty basic. Just a couple of guitars, bass and drums.

First, let’s check out those bass and drums. That’s a pretty gnarly bass sound. Let’s listen to a little bit of that for a while. Here’s the main electric guitar part. I think this is two separate guitar parts. One in the left, one in the right. The one on the right is louder, but it could just be one guitar. There’s so much tremolo effect on the guitars, it’s hard to tell. It’s a great riff though.

That harmonica part along with the other guitar part played by Tom Fogerty, plus some overdubbed percussion and some acoustic guitar accents.

The harmonica continues to play on in between the vocal lines.

Let’s listen to a little bit more of that harmonica’s unsettling effects from the opening of the song return some of it played backwards this time.

“Run Through The Jungle” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Here’s an interesting fun fact for you: According to the Billboard Hot 100, Creedence has the distinction of being the band with the most number two hits without any number one hits. Over the course of their career, Creedence had ten songs that made the top 25 of those made it all the way to number two, but none of them made it to number one. Just an interesting bit of trivia.

Thanks for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes of this show magically appear on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so we’ll see you back here in about two weeks. Until then, you can catch up with all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com or on Apple Podcasts, Google, Amazon, Spotify. Basically, anywhere you can find podcasts, you’ll find our show.

You can keep in touch with us on Facebook, just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast and you can write a review on Podchaser or wherever it is that you listen to the show. And if you have friends who love music as much as you do, share this show with them. I really appreciate that.

We are part of the Pantheon network of podcasts, where you’ll find a ton of other great music related shows, so check them out.

And thanks again for listening to this episode on Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Run Through The Jungle”.

RESOURCES:

Credence Clearwater Revival
https://www.creedence-online.net

John Fogerty
http://www.johnfogerty.com

Cosmos Factory Album
https://www.discogs.com/Credence-Clearwater-Revival-Cosmos-Factory/master/32142

Dan Rather Interview with John Fogerty
https://www.axs.tv/programming/dan-rather/

Facebook Page for the Podcast
https://www.facebook.com/lovethatsongpodcast

Podchaser
https://www.podchaser.com/