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The Story Behind the Song – “Runaround Sue” (1961)

“Runaround Sue” the rock classic that topped the charts in 1961, was Dion’s only #1 song (despite having 32 other records hit the charts) and has since gone on to become an enduring classic of the genre had its birth as a song Dion improvised at a friend’s birthday party.

The friend was named Ellen and at her birthday party in late 1960, the partygoers had turned off the record player and begun to make up songs on their own. When it came time for Dion, he basically invented the invented the doo-wop stuff you hear as back-up on the record – the “hey-hey-wom-de-heydy-hedy” part. He made up some lyrics about Ellen that he later confesses were pretty forgettable. But after leaving the party, he couldn’t get that catchy little doo-wop riff.

The next morning, he went down to the offices of his record label, Laurie Records in midtown Manhattan, and grabbed a rehearsal room. He called his friend Ernie Maresca to join him and see if they could pound Dion’s germ of a song into a full-fledged hit. By the time Maresca arrived, Dion had already decided to make the song about a girl who dated all kinds of boys and broke their hearts. He says he based it on an actual girl he knew, but to protect himself from unfavorable repercussions, he and Maresca didn’t use her real name. Instead, they picked the name Sue after a gorgeous girl they knew, but had been afraid to approach.

Dion actually found his backing group on the street, literally. He heard a group of guys harmonizing, liked what he heard and invited them to join the recording session. (Dion had already split from the Belmonts at this point.

Of course, the song became an immediate sensation and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002,

The original partygoers? When Dion played the recording for them, they were underwhelmed. They thought it had all sounded much better when he was just making it up at the party!

Supergroups of the Sixties - The Rascals

For two and half years, the Rascals were one of the biggest acts in rock. Then, towards the end of 1968, the hits just stopped coming. Why? Nobody knows.

The nucleus of the band started as members of The Starlighters, the house band that backed up Joey Dee at New York’s Starlight Lounge, where the elite came to pretend they were as hip as the kids, giving themselves side-aches dancing to the twist.

As the twist craze passed, Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish decided to form their own band. Practicing at Brigati’s and Cavaliere’s homes, they added Dino Danelli on drums. They wanted to call themselves the Rascals from the start, but another group, the Harmonica Rascals, threatened a lawsuit (like record buyers couldn’t tell the difference between “Dixie Shortnin’ Bread” and “Good Lovin’”). So, they added the “Young” to their name and started dressing up in schoolboy uniforms.

Their first single, “I Ain’t Gonna eat Out My Heart Anymore,” went nowhere in the U.S., but became a minor hit in Canada. Their next release, “Good Lovin’” took off like a rocket in both countries.

Read more: Supergroups of the Sixties - The Rascals

Superstars of the 60s: Johnny Rivers

Imagine it you had 9 top 10 records, 17 songs in the Top 40 and founded your own record label where you discovered such acts as the 5th Dimension. Now, imagine all that and you’re still not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!

Then you must be imagining that you’re Johnny Rivers.

Rivers is a New York boy who was born John Ramistella. While still a kid, his family moved to the Louisiana where Johnny took his last name from the Mississippi River. He struggled for years to get a foothold in the recording business, eventually traveling from Louisiana to L.A.

Nothing happened until Johnny was signed to a year’s contract at the Whiskey A-Go-Go nightclub. Johnny opened for the club’s traveling roster of headliners. Soon, Johnny was packing crowds in on his own. He finally achieved his breakthrough with a version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis.” Legend has it that Johnny stole the arrangement from Elvis Presley after Presley played him a demo of the song that King was planning on releasing. For that time forward, apparently, Rivers was persona non grata around Presley.

Rivers followed up his first hit with many more, most of them covers of rock & soul classics like “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’,” “Maybellene,” and “Midnight Special” interspersed with new tunes like “Poor Side of Town” and “Summer Rain.” He scored one of the biggest hits of his career when he was asked to sing the American theme song to a British spy TV series. When Danger Man starring Patrick McGoohan was imported into the U.S., producers decided to rename it Secret Agent. Most Baby Boomers can still sing the lyrics to that theme by heart.

Rivers then became one of the first rock stars to form his own label - Soul City Records. One of the first acts he signed became the labels biggest success - the 5th Dimension. Rivers also gave songwriter Jimmy Webb one of his first breaks by encouraging the 5th Dimension to record Webb's tune "Up, Up & Away."

Rivers had his final 2 hits in the early 70s – a cover of “Rockin’ Pneumonia & the Boogie Woogie Flu” and “Slow Dancing (Swayin’ to the Music).”

Rivers continued recording into the 1980s, but without much success. He still tours to this day – doing some 50 to 60 shows a year.
As for the reason he’s not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? You’ll have to ask the selection committee.

The Story Behind the Song – “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1983)

Most of us know the situation in Northern Ireland has been tense for decades.  That tension bubbled over into tragedy on January 30, 1972, when a group of unarmed civil rights activist, protesting Britain’s practice of imprisoning suspected Irish radicals without trial.

British troops opened fire on the crowd, killing 13. As you might expect, British investigators bought the soldiers’ claims of “self-defense” and exonerated them.

A little over 10 years later, the Irish rock band U2 wrote a song about it for their album War.

U2’s front man, Bono, claims the song is not meant to be partisan, just a simple plea for peace and calm.

BTW – In 2010, the British government finally accepted responsibility for the massacre, calling it “unjustifiable.”

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