Fun Music Facts I Learned While Looking Up Other Things



This post was inspired by the late journalist Sydney J. Harris who would occasionally write a column he called “Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things,” in which he included bits of trivia that just didn’t fit into any other column he was writing.

Of course, this was in the days when the Internet wasn’t a thing yet and such factoids weren’t readily available with a few keystrokes. Nowadays, on my computer, I’m bombarded by information every day. In this post, I’m going to list a few fun music facts I discovered while researching other things.

  • Record albums produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange include many of my all-time favorite albums. Back in Black (AC/DC), as well as For Those About to Rock We Salute You, Who Made Who and Highway to Hell; Hysteria and Pyromania (Def Leppard). He also wrote the song “Do You Believe in Love?” which was a hit for Huey Lewis & The News, and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It,” recorded by Loverboy. Along with Michael Kamen and Bryan Adams, he also wrote “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” which spent a lot of time at the top of the charts and was nominated for an Academy Award (losing to “Beauty and the Beast”). And, not for nothing, even if it’s not really my jam, he produced Shania Twain’s debut (as well as being married to her for a while) and Lady Ga Ga’s Born This Way. In addition, he’s produced individual tracks for just about every artist out there. I’m thinking this dude should be talked about more often.
  • Joe Cocker’s 1968 cover of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends” featured Jimmy Page—pre-Led Zeppelin—-on guitar.
  • More Trek trivia: Gene Roddenberry earned half of the royalties for Alexander Courage’s theme music for TOS because he wrote lyrics for the music. It doesn’t matter that the lyrics were never used. It doesn’t even matter that the lyrics sucked (look them up: they do). Courage claimed he was hoodwinked by Roddenberry into this deal, which seems to be true, and scored only a few episodes of the first season before leaving the series.
  • The theme song for the television series The Jeffersons, “Movin’ on Up,” was co-written and sung by actress Ja’Net DuBois, who played Willona Woods, the Evans’ family friend on the series Good Times. I don’t know if she wrote any other songs, but I do know that fish don’t fry in the kitchen and beans don’t burn on the grill.
  • The theme music for Alfred Hitchcock Presents was “Funeral March of a Marionette,” by Charles Gounod. Gounod is perhaps best known for his opera, Faust.
  • I’ve been watching the Matt Leblanc Showtime series Episodes. The actor John Pankow plays the role of Merc Lepidas, a network president, on the series. He used to be Ira Buchanan on the TV show Mad About You. I thought he looked familiar, which is why I looked him up. Turns out, his brother is Jimmy Pankow, one of the founding members of the group Chicago, and the composer of “Colour My World,” “Make Me Smile,” “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long,” among others. He also played on several Toto albums, including Toto IV. He even played trombone on “Rosanna.”
  • Timothy B. Schmit, of the groups Poco and The Eagles, replaced Randy Meisner in each band. He also performed on the Toto song “Africa.” And, he toured with Jimmy Buffett. In fact, he is credited with coining the word “Parrothead” to describe Buffett’s fans.
  • Baker Street” is one of those songs you know, even if you don’t know you know it. For some reason, I was Googling “famous saxophone solos” and this Gerry Rafferty song came up, along with other expected entries such as Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Men at Work’s “Who Can It Be Now?,” and towards the end of INXS’ “Never Tear Us Apart.” I didn’t think I knew “Baker Street.” I listened to it, and found out I did. Lisa Simpson even covered the sax solo part on an episode of The Simpsons.
  • Turns out I knew Gerry Rafferty, too. There is a strong inclination to call him a One-Hit Wonder, but he’s at least a Two-Hit, maybe Three-Hit Wonder. With Stealers Wheel, he had “Stuck in the Middle with You,” made famous in Quentin Tarentino’s Reservoir Dogs (although a staple on classic rock radio long before that). As a solo act, he had “Baker Street,” which was a bigger hit than “Stuck,” if you can believe that, and another lite-rock fave (and mine) “Right Down the Line.”
  • More on “Baker Street”: Foo Fighters recorded a cover version of “Baker Street,” with guitars doing the sax solo part. It’s not bad, but I prefer the original version.
  • Even more on “Baker Street”: Saxophonist Raphael Ravenscroft, who played the solo on the “Baker Street” recording, claimed to have come up with the riff on his own. An earlier demo of the song had Gerry Rafferty playing the melody line on guitar, so that is certainly not true. However, the 1968 track “Half a Heart” by jazz saxophonist Steve Marcus contains a sax riff that is remarkably similar, and on saxophone, no less. So maybe the riff wasn’t that original, but “Baker Street” is certainly better known.

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