Song of the Week – Running Scared, Roy Orbison; Beck’s Bolero, Jeff Beck; White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane; The Bomber: Closet Queen / Bolero / Cast Your Fate to the Wind, James Gang

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

In 1927, Joseph Ravel was commissioned to compose his final and most famous piece – Boléro.  Though most people know Bolero as a musical composition, the commission was originally to provide a score for Ida Rubinstein’s ballet company.  But Boléro has become most famous as the score to a different dance.  (More on that later.)

Is the SotW venturing into classical music?  Hell no!  There are quite a few notable rock songs that reference Boléro, and that’s today’s topic.

Roy Orbison (aka “Lefty Wilbury”) is often credited as the first rock musician to use the Boléro theme in a rock song – “Running Scared” (1961).

“… Scared” opens with a simple guitar strumming, then builds with each verse, much like Ravel’s piece.  All of the instruments are layered on, piece by piece, building to an immense climax.  It is also notable that the song has no chorus.

In 1966 Jeff Beck, soon after leaving the Yardbirds, decided to record his first single and called on his old friend Jimmy Page to help out.  They proceeded to lay down “Beck’s Boléro,” which would become the b-side to the “Hi Ho Silver Lining” single.

They called on John Paul Jones to play bass and Keith Moon for drums.  Page agreed to play 12-string electric rhythm so Beck could take on lead guitar responsibilities.

The Jefferson Airplane hired Grace Slick to replace Signe Anderson as their lead singer in 1966. Slick brought a couple of her own songs to the group, including the Boléro based classic, “White Rabbit.”

“White Rabbit” reached #8 on the Billboard pop chart in 1967.  The military march that ties back to Ravel’s Bolero is immediately recognizable.  The song is currently featured in an ad for a cruise line!  Ugh!!!

Joe Walsh, of the James Gang (and later Eagles), was also influenced by Boléro.  The Gang’s second album, Rides Again (1970), included a suite — “The Bomber: Closet Queen”/ “Bolero”/ “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.”

The rights holders to Ravel’s Boléro objected to the James Gang’s use of the composition in their recording and forced the band to delete that section from future pressings of the album, instantly creating a collector’s item.

Ravel’s Bolero received a boost in popularity in 1979 when it was featured in the movie 10.  In the movie, Bo Derek’s character (physically a perfect “10”) tells Dudley Moore’s character “Boléro was the most descriptive sex music ever written” and asks “Did you ever do it to Ravel’s Boléro?”  Millions of copies of Boléro were sold following the commercial success of 10.

In 2012, London based music psychologist Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen analyzed the results of a Spotify survey of songs in “music to make love to” playlists.  The winner?  Marvin Gaye for “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On.”  But Ravel’s Boléro was next in line.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Bluebird, Buffalo Springfield, The James Gang, Hookfoot


Today’s post is another entry in the Evolution Series. This time focused on Stephen Stills’ “Bluebird.”

“Bluebird” was originally recorded when Stills was with the Buffalo Springfield. Another song supposedly written for Judy Collins (Suite: Judy Blue Eyes being the other), it was released in multiple versions. The first was on Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) and ran about 4½ minutes. It was also released as the follow up single to their big hit “For What It’s Worth” in a version edited down to 2 minutes. In 1973, the band released a 2 disc “greatest hits” compilation simply titled Buffalo Springfield that contained a longer 9 minute version. That’s the first SotW.

This is a vinyl rip because this version has never been released on CD and is currently out of print. The psychedelic Technicolor extended jam, and Stills and Young guitar solos (a preview of what would come from CSNY) begins right about where you would expect the banjo ending to start in the standard album version.

A couple of years later, in 1969, Joe Walsh’s James Gang released their first album, Yer’ Album. This disc contained a slowed down, dreamy 6 minute version of “Bluebird.”

As proof that you can’t keep a good song down, it was recorded again by Hookfoot and chosen as the lead off cut for their 1971 self-titled album. Hookfoot was a band featuring members of Elton John’s earliest touring band – guitarist Caleb Quaye, Ian Duck, Roger Pope and David Glover — all of whom also played on John’s Tumbleweed Connection, one of his best albums.

Their version is a little peppier, funkier and more guitar driven.

Other versions are also available for you to check out. Bonnie Raitt included it on her debut record and Stills, who has been known to recycle his own songs, closed Stephen Stills 2 with “Bluebird Revisited.”

One more thing… For kicks and giggles you should check out this YouTube video of a 1967 episode of the CBS detective show Mannix that features Buffalo Springfield playing “Bluebird” in a “hippy” nightclub scene.

Enjoy… until next week.