Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Isn't it Romantic?!

I'm FINALLY compiling my first list. I'm a little excited because this is one of the reasons I started a blog in the first place. When I was nine, one of my favorite books was Irving Wallace's "Book of Lists" and I would never have become the music geek that I am if I hadn't bought Dave Marsh's "Rock Lists" when I was 13 and then spent the whole Summer of '82 memorizing the darn thing (or near-memorizing it, heck it was 500 pages with something like 2,000 lists).

In honor of February 14th, I'm putting together a list of 20 of the most romantic songs of all time. I want to emphasize that these are not necessarily THE 20 most romantic songs of all time but just 20 that I felt made a nice compilation. There are plenty of great ones left for another list next year. Hence, these songs are not being ranked. Rather, I've listed them in a manner that I felt gave the order a nice flow. One that could be taken and played and the progression of songs would resonate with the ear of the listener.

Now I've been planning this post for weeks, but then earlier today I got my weekly copy of Entertainment Weekly in the mail and they decided to list what they felt were the 50 Greatest Love Songs of all time. I'll stick with my 20 for right now. People actually read lists of 20 items, but at 50 they're glancing and browsing at best. I also prefer to use the word "romantic" over "love" when discussing music. Romance describes an atmosphere or mood. Love is an emotion. Music can set the mood, but in the end the emotion needs to come from the heart. In the end our lists had two songs in common and a few others on their list just missed making mine. So, the next time that you need the perfect song to set the moment just right, consider one of these:

1) "Never My Love"----The Association

There's a reason why it's still the third most played song in the history of radio at nearly 7 million spins (surpassed by only "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "Yesterday"). The Association's 1967 recording of The Addrissi Brothers' tune is as relevant and refreshing as ever in 2005. My buddy Dave wondered how I could have chosen "Never" for my list over "Cherish." Well "Cherish" would have been a good choice (it made the Entertainment Weekly list) and it would have allowed me to tell my anecdote about meeting The Association and having them autograph my 45 of Cherish (see, I just managed to get that anecdote in anyway). "Cherish" could pop up on a future list, but in the meantime ask yourself the following question: If you were with your ideal mate, in the ideal romantic location, at the ideal romantic moment and you had to choose between hearing "Never" or "Cherish" at that moment, which would it be? Thought so.

2) "I Love How You Love Me"----Bobby Vinton

The Paris Sisters may have had the original and bigger hit with this tune, but it was Bobby who sang it like he meant it. There aren't too many guys who can seriously pull off a line like, "I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me." Bobby did and the women swooned.

3) "We've Only Just Begun"----The Carpenters

Many couples have chosen this one for their wedding song. If I were making a movie, it would be the song playing the instant after the groom carried the bride over the threshold and closed the door.

4) "When You Say Nothing At All"----Alison Krauss

My friend Annemarie has a great story on this one. She had never really been into country music until one night when she was in a bar and this one came on over the loudspeaker. As the song played on, one of the couples dancing had their eyes lovingly glued to each other and were singing each word in unison. Needless to say, she's been hooked on the genre since.

5) "5-10-15-20 (25-30) Years Of Love"----The Presidents

For better or for worse, there are many more romantic songs about falling in love then there are about having stayed in love for a lengthy period of time ("Still The One" by Orleans is fun, but not what I would call romantic). When my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary on May 29, 1996, this was the one song I wanted to hear on the radio. Back then, WPLJ was still big on 70's music and I tried to get Scott and Todd to play "5-10-15-20 (25-30) Years of Love" for them. They didn't play the record, but they did wish my parents a happy anniversary on the air and then proceeded to make fun of me for another four minutes. Off the air, Scott Shannon and I dueted on a few bars of the song. Hey, I thought we sounded great.

6) "Sharing The Night Together"----Dr. Hook

This one gets into your senses even before the vocals start and, ever so subtly, becomes more intoxicating as it progresses. By the time the song hits the "We can bring in the morning light" part, your face definitely needs a splash of water.

7) "Here, There & Everywhere"----The Beatles

Might not even rank among The Beatles 100 biggest hits, but all-around this was probably their best love song.

8) "La-La Means I Love You"----The Delfonics

Here's one of the two songs that my list shared with Entertainment Weekly's. You can feel the yearning in the singer's voice all the way through until the final fade-out.

9) "On The Wings Of Love"----Jeffrey Osbourne

So soulful, yet so optimistic. Even on days that you feel unlucky in love, this one still sounds great.

10) "Faithfully"----Journey

Written by Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain as an anniversary present for his then-wife Tane. The fact that they later divorced in no way diminishes this immensely moving musical love letter.

11) "Truly Madly Deeply"----Savage Garden

I was being to think that the sweet pop song had become extinct when this one came out in 1997. It shook me from the first time I heard it and within a couple of days it seemed that everyone had discovered the record. I remember walking past a row of cubicles in the office when the song was playing and one of my co-workers was glowing, as if she had never heard a song that made her so happy.

12) "What You Won't Do For Love"----Bobby Caldwell

The first time I ever went to a karaoke bar was in Washington, DC on New Year's Weekend 1995-96. My turns at the mike were less than memorable, but towards the end of the night a guy got up and tried his hand at "What You Won't Do For Love." The hostess noted that the number of women in the room doubled during the course of his performance. I would pay good money for voice lessons if the teacher could guarantee me that I'd sound half-decent singing this one by the end.

13) "Love Is"----Vanessa Williams & Brian McKnight

We always knew Heather Locklear was sexy, but we never realized how much we ached and longed for her until that night in January, 1993. It was the middle of Season 1 of Melrose Place and Billy and Amanda were to about to make love for the first time. The scene wouldn't have hit home like it did without the then just-released "Love Is" playing in the background. It wasn't the first time I wanted Heather, but it was the first time I cried at the sight of someone else kissing her.

14) "All I Know"----Art Garfunkle

An all-around beautiful tune written by Jimmy Webb ("MacArthur Park," "Galveston," "Worst That Can Happen," "Wichita Lineman"), that gave Art Garfunkle his first major hit as a solo artist. Just a few years earlier, Art had sung about how love calms all in "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The message and tone of "All I Know" was almost a complete U-Turn. Love hurts and has more than its share of disturbing moments, but in the end the reward is worth the pain....usually.

15) "It's Your Love"----Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

It seems that most die-hard country music fans have a great story on how they became attached to the genre (see #4 above). Here's mine. I was flying SwissAir to Israel in the Spring of 1998. There was no movie on the Zurich-Tel Aviv leg, so I checked out the various music-listening options. One of the channels was offering an eclectic mix of mellow tunes including some I hadn't heard in quite awhile. I was especially excited to hear Linda Rondstadt's "Heartbeats Accelerating" and a few songs that were following shortly thereafter in the program. But I was also curious about the tune that was scheduled immediately after "Heartbeats Accelerating." I knew who both Tim McGraw and Faith Hill were (Tim's father, Tug "Quick Draw" McGraw had been the star closer of my beloved Phillie teams in the late 70's and early 80's), but I didn't think I had ever heard any of their songs in entirety to that point. I didn't even know they were married until hearing it from that program's emcee. I never expected to be blown away by the song like I was. I was actually hoping that the flight would be long enough for the program to wrap around to the song again (it was). Eight days later, I got the same program again on the Zurich-New York leg and I made sure to catch "It's Your Love" everytime it came up in the program. I also knew that if even a fraction of country music could affect me even a fraction of the way "It's Your Love" had, I was going to be listening to a lot more of it when I got back to New York.

16) "You're The Only Woman"----Ambrosia

Ambrosia's blue-eyed soul never quite reached the popularity of The Doobie Brothers or Hall and Oates, but their tunes had a sweetness to them that was unmatched by their more prominent counterparts. What makes this song so extra special is that it's so well thought out. Limited backing vocals on the first chorus, only to be added later on. The sensual "Don't speak....Shhhhhhhhhhh," at the start of what would be the third verse. The intrumental that follows with the volume fluctuating ever so slightly up and down. One of the last great songs to come from The Golden Age of Lite Rock.

17) "Baby, I Need Your Lovin' "----Johnny Rivers

Originally a #11 hit for The Four Tops, it was Johnny Rivers who took the song into the Top 5 three years later and made it the romantic masterpiece that it is. My friend Ivan who's written with the best of them, said that one time Jimmy Webb (see song #14 above) was in a car when this song came on the radio and he had to pull to the side just to compose himself.

18) "Follow You, Follow Me"----Genesis

One moment Genesis and Phil Collins would be dark and deep, the next sappy and sweet. Rarely were they able to mold the two together into a truly romantic song that at the same time wasn't whiny. They got the balance just right with "Follow You, Follow Me." One time, back on Dave Herman's morning show on WNEW over a decade ago, they were bemoaning the fact that so many couples were using Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" as their wedding song. "Follow You, Follow Me," was the one they pushed for as the more appropriate choice.

19) "I'll Never Break Your Heart"----The Backstreet Boys

Put all your biases about The Backstreet Boys aside, they did just fine on this one. I wouldn't have smirked if someone included "More Than That" on one of their lists either.

20) "When A Man Loves A Woman"-----Percy Sledge

This was the other song to appear on both mine and Entertainment Weekly's lists. Simply too obvious to be left off.



Anonymous said...

Hi Efrem:

Great discussion topic. I’ll comment on your rather interesting choices and also intertwine them with my own personal favorites. I have compiled and am constantly updating my list of my 500 personal songs. Much more on that later.

Your #1 “romantic” song, “Never My Love” is on my list of 500 (#357). You asked the question “…choose between hearing "Never" or "Cherish" at that moment, which would it be?” As great a song as “Never My Love” is, “Cherish” (#22) is a much better song. Not just one of the greatest love songs, but one of the greatest songs ever. The harmonies are stronger and yes, the passion and depths of the love described is greater.” One is describing a love that is (Never…); the other is a longing for a love that they hope will happen.

Truth be told, the Association did not make a bad record. “Windy”, not a love song is #7 on my list. “Along Comes Mary” really not a love song and might be a drug song is #361 and “Everything that Touches You”, a top ten song from 1968 song that does not get the air play it deserves on oldies radio, comes in at #100 on my personal all-time favorites.

“Everything that Touches You” holds a very personal connection for my wife and I. We got married 4.5 years ago in Las Vegas. As part of the ceremony at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel we were allowed to include four songs. The first is when the wedding party came down the aisle. The second for when the bride came down the aisle. The third is what was called a “musical interlude.” A time to reflect somewhere in the middle of the ceremony. Looking back Sue and I called it a time for everyone to stare at each other. The fourth was immediately following the ceremony.

We picked “I Got You Babe” a Sonny and Cher love classic for the ages for the 1st song. “Till” a 1961 ballad made popular by the Angels was chosen for Sue’s entrance and “Everything that Touches You” for the “musical interlude.” We also danced to “Viva Las Vegas” seconds after I broke the glass. I ask this rhetorical question Can one do a wedding ceremony in Vegas without an Elvis song.

Back to your list, I could comment on all of them, but I will not. They are all subjective choices. I will narrow my commentary to #6 “Sharing the Night Together” by Dr. Hook. Amazingly of the tens of thousands of songs that I have ever heard you pick another from my Top 500. At #210 there is no doubting that this is a terrific song. Everything you say about it is true except for the fact that there is no romance and no love involved in this song whatsoever. It is a song about lust, lust and more lust. Still a terrific song, but it does not belong on this list.

Below is a list of my 20 favorite “romantic songs” for you and others to agree, disagree or just comment on.

1. I Want You Back – Jackson 5 – 1969/1970 (#1 overall)
It is number on the entire list. Think what you will of Mr. Jackson because of his current legal/moral predicament, you can feel the pain in his voice as he finally realizes that he has thrown away the one person he truly wants to be with.

2. Bus Stop – Hollies – 1966 (#2 overall)
They meet at a bus stop using an umbrella as the excuse to begin their romance. “All that Summer we enjoyed it, wind and rain and shine. That umbrella we employed it, by August she was mine.” All the people stared as if we were both quite insane, someday my name and hers are going to be the same.” “Nice to think that that umbrella lead me to a vow.” It doesn’t get any simpler or romantic.

3. Right Here Waiting – Richard Marx - 1989 (#6 overall)
Like I Want You Back, the pain is evident. Unlike #1, there is an obvious relationship currently taking place, but there is physical separation. “I wonder how we can survive this romance, but if in the end I’m with you, I’ll take the chance,” is one of the more powerful lines in this hauntingly romantic ballad.

4. Precious and Few – Climax – 1972 (#9 overall)
I’ve listen to this song thousands of times. I’m not sure if they have just met, are in the middle of a relationship, if they’ve broken up or if they are temporarily separated, it doesn’t matter. The music is so powerful, it could be one or all of those things and all you can think about is love.”

5. Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend.” – Lobo - 1973 (#10 overall)
A platonic relationship was not in the plan when he sang “I love you too much to ever start liking you,” and “Introduce me to your latest lover, that’s when I feel the wall start crashing in.” Ouch!

6. Until You Back to Me – Aretha Franklin – 1974 (#11 overall)
She isn’t doesn’t anything until he comes back around. She was dumped by her love and now “she’s going to walk by herself, just to prove that her love is true.” She’s gonna “rap on his door, tap on your window pane”, bordering on stalking. Now that persistence. Sounds scary, but Aretha pulls it off so well, that you can’t help but love it.

7. Right Thing to Do – Carly Simon – 1973 (#16 overall)
“There’s nothing you can do to turn me away” and “I know what I think I’ve known all along, loving you is the right thing to do,” are two of the very positive sentiments express by Ms. Simon in this revelation of a song where she finally realizes that this is the person she wants to spends the rest of her life with.” Nice to know that Bus Stop will not be the only songs with a positive note on this list.

8. Do Wah Diddy Diddy –Manfred Mann - 1964 (#20 overall)
A simple, little song with such a simple little message and a great beat. “There she was, just a-walking down the street.” Not even an umbrella or any other prop to get the romance going, just, there she was.

9. Darlin’ – Beach Boys – 1968 (#21 overall)
“I’m gonna love you every single night, ‘cause I think you’re too out of sight.” Upbeat and doesn’t really sound like a love song, but the Beach Boys pull it off when they harmonize “Love to love your precious love.”

10. Cherish – Association - 1966 (#22 overall)
The aforementioned Cherish. “I’m beginning to think that man has never found the words that can make you want me.,” is just one of a dozen powerful lines that fill this song. Couple that with as nice a harmony that has ever been sung and you’ve got romance.

11. Last Kiss – J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers – 1964 (#23 overall)
An upbeat morbid teen age death song shouldn’t make this list, but there is no doubting that is real love.

12. Take Me With You –Prince – 1985 – (#26 overall)
From the monster soundtrack of that year, “Purple Rain,” Prince cries out, “I don’t care we go, I don’t care what we do, I don’t care pretty baby, just take me with you.”

13. It Might Be You –Stephen Bishop – 1982 (#28 overall)
Like Take Me With You this song is from a movie, the smash hit “Tootsie”. One look at Jessica Lange in that movie made you want to write your own love song. Stephen Bishop’s great tune is based on hope that finally this is the person. Lyrics like, “There’s so much more, no one’s ever heard before” make this song great.

14. Before My Heart Finds Out –Gene Cotton – 1978 (#31 overall)
A breakup song for the ages. When Cotton sings, “Don’t let you let your heart hear your footsteps walking out the door of my hopes and dreams” you can’t help but feel the emotion.

15. Love is the Answer – England Dan & John Ford Coley – 1979 (#32 overall)
More about Love in the spiritually more than the romantic sense. Nonetheless a super record that reminds us that above all love is the answer to all that ails us.

16. I’d Really Love to See You Tonight – England Dan & John Ford Coley
1976 (#36 overall)
Two songs in a row by this duo. This one of the more traditional variety of love songs. Even though he wants to take it slow, he tells her that “It’s been such a long time and I really do miss your smile.”

17. Groovy Situation- Gene Chandler – 1970 (#40 overall)
Better known for his “Duke of Earl” chart topper of a decade earlier, Gene really makes you believe in love at first sight. Unlike Dr. Hook’s “Sharing the Night Together”, it is a lot more innocent “ With the word groovy in the title did you think this song was from the 90’s?

18. I’ll Never Find Another You – Seekers – 1965 (#42 overall)
“I can search the whole world over until my life is through, but I know I’ll never find another you.” Can it get more romantic than that?

19. That’s the Way it Is – Celine Dion - 2000 (#46 overall)
From “The self proclaimed Greatest Singer in the World” comes another inspirational song ala “Love is the Answer.” “Don’t give up on your faith, love comes to those who believe it.” Even if you think that this song doesn’t belong on this list it is a great song nonetheless.”

20. Laughter in the Rain – Neil Sedaka – 1975 (#49 overall)
Sedaka’s comeback hit is familiar to anyone who has been in a budding relationship. The little things that make us love that other person. Neil chose rain as his backdrop. “After a while we run under a tree, I turn to her and she kisses me.” Bliss in a 2:51 package.

Ef said...

Hey Steve,

Thanks for your posting. Some interesting choices on your list. The one that I think has the best chance of cracking my list next year is "It Might Be You."

A few quick comments on your response to my post:

1) The songs are not in order of best to worst or favorite to least favorite (re-read my intro). I put them in an order that I thought would flow nicely as a mix or series of album sides.

2) One of the things I like about "Never" as opposed to "Cherish" is exactly what you touched on. "Never" is about mutual love. "Cherish" is one-sided and, perhaps unrequited. That's not to say that "Cherish" isn't romantic in its own way, but if ever I had to choose between the two for a special romantic moment, I would take "Never" without any hesitation.

3) Regarding "Sharing the Night Together." Yeah, I get it. The guy's just met the girl and wants to be alone with her. BUT, there does seem to be more to it than pure lust. Perhaps it's not true love, but there's definite emotional passion. Listen again and look at the lyrics. It's a much much diffrent song than The Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together." My litmus test is as follows: Would the song make good background music for a romantic moment? I say it passes that test, and therefore I stand by my decision to keep it on the list.

4) Speaking of Lobo, check out the July piece below on Jim Stafford.
I also have a whole piece planned for the future on performers I had seen at WTC (z"l) including both Lobo and The Association.

Thanks for your comments and PLEASE feel free to post again.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ef --

Loved your entries (although, as you know, I don't recognize some of these choices -- educate me!)-- and I especially loved your commentaries. Heather?!?!? Keep your site going. It's good.

Love -- Ima