A couple of Sundays ago I played Alison Krauss’ lovely version of Down In The River To Pray for Song Lyric Sunday, and in his comment Keith suggested that river might be a good theme for a Tuesday Tunes post, and mentioned a couple of songs to get me started. I thought about this for ages, at least two nanoseconds, and realised what a good idea this was. So, thank you, Keith, for a great suggestion, though I hope you don’t mind if I only play one of the two songs that you gave me! Here is my selection of songs with river in their title – as usual, I have far more than I can fit into one post, so this theme may return!
For someone whose musical tastes were formed in the Sixties, there is only one song I could play to get things off to a rousing start:
Although the video, like many I found, credits that just to Tina, the song was released under the name of Ike & Tina Turner. Then again, you’d be hard pressed to find Ike anywhere in the mix, wouldn’t you! River Deep – Mountain High was released as a single in May 1966 and to my great surprise I found that it only reached #88 in the US. Here in the UK it was massive, peaking at #3, and for a few weeks it was on the radio whenever I switched it on. Those were the halcyon days of the pirate radio stations which provided wall to wall pop music for youngsters like me, unlike the stuffy old BBC who had to be dragged screaming and kicking into the 20th century by the government outlawing the pirates. Those were happy days, and if you want to get a feel for the organised chaos that prevailed you could do worse than watch the movie The Boat That Rocked, which is a lot of fun and has an amazing soundtrack.
My next tune is one of Keith’s suggestions. It feels like I play this guy every week, but that is probably because he is so good:
Bruce Springsteen released his double album The River in October 1980: this video is taken from the tour undertaken to promote it. This was his fifth album, and it got to #1 in the US and Canada and reached #2 in the UK. I bought it as soon as it was released and played it to bits: it is a great record, with some fabulous tracks. It sold over 5m copies in the US and 300k in the UK: both are impressive when you consider there was a premium price to pay for it being two discs. This song was released as a single in Europe in May 1981, though not in the US. It peaked at #35 in the UK, but still sold more than 200k copies: enough to earn it a silver disc.
Continuing my American selections, here’s another I’ve always liked:
That video is great, and it makes me happy just watching it again. Billy Joel released his album River of Dreams in August 1993, and it got to #1 in the US, Australia, and New Zealand, and to #3 in the UK. It has to date sold more than 5m copies in the US and a further 5m across Europe. As well as being the title track this was the lead single from the album, released in July 1993 in the UK and September in the US, reaching #3 in both countries – his final top ten hit in both of them. This was his last rock album: the only one he has released since then comprised classical instrumental tunes, though there have been several live albums too.
This next one is another that I have always loved:
America is a British-American band formed in London in 1970 by Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley, all Americans. The trio met as sons of US Airforce personnel stationed in London, where they began performing live. This led to their first recording contract, and to their career taking off here before they hit the big time in the US. You may remember their song Horse With No Name, which was a big hit both sides of the pond (US #1, UK #3). Don’t Cross The River was a track on their second album, Homecoming, which was released in November 1972 and formed a large part of the background to my uni years: I played it to bits! It reached #9 in the US and #21 here in the UK, and this was the second single taken from it, reaching #35 in the US but not making the UK chart. It is a lovely album, and one to which I still return more than fifty years later.
This next one might come as a surprise to some, as you may be familiar with a different version of it:
Yellow River was originally a pop hit for the band Christie in May 1970, when it reached #1 in the UK and #23 in the US. It was written by Jeff Christie and was recorded by The Tremeloes, who then decided not to release it as a single. That’s what you call a mistake, which was compounded when the song they put out instead only just made the top forty here. This version by R.E.M. was the B-side to their single release of All The Way To Reno, in July 2001, which got to #24 in the UK but didn’t make the US chart. It was never on a studio album and to the best of my knowledge has only featured on one compilation – Complete Rarities: Warner Bros. 1988–2011 – so it counts as a bit of a novelty, which explains why videos for it are few and far between!
This next song is from someone making his first appearance on my blog:
Hold Back The River was a track on James Bay’s debut album, Chaos and the Calm, which was released in December 2014. It topped the UK Albums chart and made #15 in the US, where it also reached #1 in the Folk Albums listings. To date it has sold more than 1m copies in the US and 800k in the UK. This track was released as a single in November 2014, just before the album came out, and peaked at #2 in the UK. It wasn’t a chart hit in the US, though it did make #1 in their ‘Bubbling Under’ chart: it has sold more than 2.4m in the UK and 1m in the US. This was one of those songs that came out of nowhere and just grabbed hold of me: that slow, quiet build up leading to a chorus that just makes me want to sing along.
I like to throw the occasional flanker into the mix with these posts, and have played this band several times before to do just that. I have become a big fan of theirs over recent years, and this video is typical of them:
I think I’ve set that so that the English subtitles show automatically, but if not just hit the ‘CC’ button. Otava Yo are a folk band from Russia, and this charming little video is one of my favourites of theirs. It was filmed in St Petersburg in autumn 2017, ahead of By The River being included on their most recent album, Do You Love? which was released the following year. As I said, I’ve played some of their songs before and they always enjoy a good response, so I’m hoping for more of the same this time!
I began today with a run of five songs from the US, and having deviated slightly for one each from the UK and Russia I’m going back where I started for today’s closing tune. This is still one of my all time favourite bands, and I never tire of hearing them:
Creedence Clearwater Revival released Green River as their third album, in August 1969, and it got to #1 in the US and #20 in the UK. The song had been released as a single the previous month, reaching #2 in the US and #19 in the UK. It was the second single taken from the album, and over here it rather trailed in the wake of the first one, a certain little number called Bad Moon Rising, which made #1 here as well as getting to #2 in the US. I have always loved this band, who for me are one of the best rock bands there has ever been.
That’s all for this week, and as I said earlier there may be some more of these to come: I seem to be in ‘water’ mode at present. For anyone wondering why I chose that cartoon at the top, it is a comment on our government’s total failure to make and enforce meaningful legislation to protect our rivers from pollution, so the culprits carry on doing what they do. I guess when they have bought the government they think it gives them the right to do that – we really do need to get this lot out!
Mini rant over! I’ll see you again soon, and I hope you have a great week. 😊