Neil Sedaka and Carole King went to high school together, and even dated for a time, becoming the basis for one of Neil’s first hit songs, “Oh! Carol”, which made the top 10 in 1959. But the song’s success wasn’t finished. Carole King had married Gerry Goffin, and they were trying to make a name for themselves as a songwriting duo. They needed a hit. What King and Goffin did was write a playful response to the original song called “Oh! Neil” which helped push Sedaka’s song back into the spotlight and get the team of King and Goffin a job writing songs at the Brill building hit factory, where they became among the most famous songwriting teams in America. Among their hits were “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”, “It’s Too Late”, “I Feel the Earth Move”, and “The Loco-Motion”.
Neil Sedaka has been one of the most popular performers and songwriters since the 1950s. Just when you think you’ve heard the last of him, he stages yet another comeback. Among his most popular songs, in addition to “Oh! Carol”, are “Calendar Girl”, “Breaking Up is Hard to Do”, “Love Will Keep Us Together”, and “(Is This the Way to) Amarillo”, a number one hit single for Tony Christie in 2005.
“Lola” by The Kinks
The slightly creepy but undeniably infectious song “Lola” tells the story of an innocent young man’s unexpected romance with a transvestite. But who is the man, and who is the trans woman in real life? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Rolling Stone says that the woman was Candy Darling, a popular actress in Andy Warhol’s circle of artists and one of the inspirations behind Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”, and that she and Kinks frontman Ray Davies had dated. Davies claims that while he and Darling had gone to dinner a few times, he was never under any misapprehension as to her true identity. Davies claims that the song was inspired by his manager’s drunken romance with a trans woman at a bar one night. They had danced the night away, with the manager never realizing that his partner was not the woman he thought she was. She had, as the song would later say, “walked like a woman and talked like a man”.
The Kinks, along with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, were at the forefront of the British Invasion in the 1960s. And they’re still going strong to the present day. Among their best-known songs, in addition to “Lola”, are “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, “You Really Got Me”, and “Come Dancing”.
“Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual was one of the most successful debuts in pop music history, and her first number one hit single was the deep and moving ballad “Time After Time”. It was obviously a love song, and the inspiration was the man behind the music in more ways than one. At the time her debut album was getting recorded and she was at the beginning of her career, her boyfriend David Wolff was also her manager. He even appears in that role in the video. Aside from that, Lauper claims that the reference in the song to the ticking clock was about an actual loud clock that he had given her.
Arriving out of nowhere like a bolt out of the blue and like a breath of fresh air, Cyndi Lauper conquered America and the world in 1983 with her debut album. Her first single, the smash hit “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” set the tone for things to come. All four of the first singles off the album hit the top five, a record at the time.
“God Save The Queen” by The Sex Pistols
It was the early days of punk music, and it was a scary time for the music establishment, and the establishment in general. The Sex Pistols did nothing to allay their fears when they released this blatantly anti-monarchy and anti-establishment anthem. Cheekily and ironically taking its title from the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen” is all about criticizing the monarchy and the whole system for its perceived injustice and its treatment of the poor. Oh, and the cover art for the single was none too respectful of Her Royal Highness either.
Unsurprisingly, both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority banned “God Save the Queen”. That didn’t stop it from being a huge hit, though. It was the number two single on the official charts, leading to speculation and accusation that it was really number one, and was purposely kept off the top spot as a form of punishment.
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
It’s a bit of a mystery to try to unravel how much of this song is a joke and how much represents Paul Simon’s actual frustrations after his recent divorce from his first wife Peggy Harper and his new relationship with actress Carrie Fisher. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is a comedic chronicle of all the ways a person can sabotage his romantic relationship. Simon and Fisher finally got married in 1983 after years and years of on-again-off-again romance, but then got divorced after just a year before starting to date again! Perhaps Simon was taking too much of his own advice from this song!
One of the most acclaimed songwriters of the 20th century, Paul Simon achieved the heights of fame as half of the classic duo Simon and Garfunkel before achieving enormous success as a solo artist in his own right. And every once in a while, he’ll wink at the audience with just the briefest hint of a deep comedic side to his nature.