January 26, 2020

What's the greatest pop recording written in the least possible time? The one to beat is "Wipe Out."

47 comments:

rcocean said...

So why didn't they write a whole bunch of great songs?

tcrosse said...

"Surfin' Bird" resulted from an ad lib of some stolen material.

Bay Area Guy said...

Great story! Always loved that song. I think, though, the cover version by The Ventures, is what I remembered hearing years later.

Annie C. said...

That damn song got me my first speeding ticket. Still love it though.

Mike Sylwester said...

"Wipeout" accompanies a wonderful scene in the movie Dirty Dancing.

The movie's producer Linda Gottlieb tells how the scene was filmed:

Those quick scenes when Jennifer [Grey, the actress who played the role of Baby] would come down and she was practicing by herself on the little bridge, and then she put her lipstick on -- that was an afterthought.

They had finished. They had wrapped.

I guess Eleanor [Bergstein, the screenwriter] or somebody got the idea. ... It was a Saturday morning. ... Jennifer didn't feel good at all. She was really sick.

Eleanor said, "I will give you anything you want if you can pull yourself together and do these fast scenes."

And she [Eleanor] said they had the clothes and everything right there, and they would change into the costumes quickly.

That is such a memorable part of the movie .... That was an afterthought done after they had supposedly wrapped the movie.

Fernandistein said...

IIRC Keef said he wrote Satisfaction in his sleep.

Darrell said...

Gary Glitter's Rock'n Roll Part 2 has to be on the list.

Wince said...

Following the 2001 death of television personality Morton Downey Jr., news reports, obituaries and Downey's official website incorrectly credited him as the composer of "Wipe Out".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wipe_Out_(instrumental)#In_popular_culture

rcocean said...

I like Green Onions better. Pipeline and tequila are good too.

Aunty Trump said...

I think Sweet Home Alabama was written pretty much that quickly. The guys were noodling on their guitars, Ronny Van Zandt said "keep going” and he came back with lyrics in pretty short order. Give Me Three Steps was written in a hotel room on the road after a run in with a guy downstairs in the bar. But written to recorded? That’s a tough one to beat.

Shane said...

Fantastic post

Big Mike said...

@Althouse, point of information. “Wipe Out” is two words.

gilbar said...

i like that it took him Longer to explain how they wrote it, than it did to write it

Mark said...

Wipe Out is a bit of a cop out. It's essentially all music.

traditionalguy said...


Linda Ronstadt’s “It’s So Easy To Fall in Love” must have been a quick song to write. Just keep repeating it.

Bay Area Guy said...

How many times did I drive down Pacific Coast Highwsy (PCH) through Malibu to Santa Monica in my 71' Dodge Charger with the windows down blasting "Wipe Out"?

Lots!

Aunty Trump said...

"Wipe Out is a bit of a cop out. It's essentially all music.”

And twelve bar blues, to boot. Which has been improvised to live probably millions of times. The big decision was the key, which he brought up, BTW.

Aunty Trump said...

It’s kind of obvious to say it, but it’s true nevertheless, that what makes the song is the energy of the drumming. In South Florida at holiday parades, the high point is always the drum corps of the predominantly black area high schools.

PJ said...

I don't necessarily believe Howard Kaylan's self-promotional stories, but he claims to have written one of my favorite Turtles songs, Elenore, in as little as half an hour. Not written in studio and immediately recorded, though, and I imagine that studio production took some time.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elenore

Mike Sylwester said...

“Wipe Out” is two words

It should be written Wipe-Out.

Cameron said...

Meh, a bog-standard 12-bar blues with no lyrics (ok, one lyric). I'd offer the proclaimers "I'm gonna be (500 miles)", which was written in 45 minutes, and became their biggest (arguably only) hit.

From wikipedia:

"The song was mainly written by Craig Reid in August 1987 while waiting to travel to a Hibernian Football Club match in Aberdeen. Reid recalled, "I can remember sitting at the piano wondering how many steps it would be to the new classroom (I originally thought 83) and the chords just came to me. I reckon I wrote the whole thing in 45 minutes. I knew that it was a good song, maybe even a single, but I had no idea how popular it would become."[6] Reid has said that the band's earnings from the song are about five times the rest of their catalogue combined."

Aunty Trump said...

I was gonna say Louie Louie, but it turns out that song has history, including a previous version called “Tie Up the Madman."

Ann Althouse said...

"@Althouse, point of information. “Wipe Out” is two words."

Thanks. Fixed.

Iman said...

"I'm So Glad" by Skip James

Ann Althouse said...

"Linda Ronstadt’s “It’s So Easy To Fall in Love” must have been a quick song to write. Just keep repeating it."

It's a Buddy Holly song.

Christy said...

Great story. I used the song, during my woman-of-few-words period, to break up with a guy.

Iman said...

Speaking of Buddy Holly, "Well Alright"...

Anthony said...

I'll throw out Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas:

The song was originally meant to be a B-side to "I Want to Give You My Everything" (written by Brooklyn songwriter Larry Weiss and sung by Carl Douglas. The producer Biddu originally hired Douglas to sing "I Want to Give You My Everything" but needed something to record for the B-side, and asked Douglas if he had any lyrics they could use. Douglas showed several, out of which Biddu chose the one that would later be called "Kung Fu Fighting" and worked out a melody for it without taking it too seriously.

After having spent over two hours recording the A-side and then taking a break, "Kung Fu Fighting" was recorded quickly in the last ten minutes of studio time,[3] in only two takes, due to a three-hour time constraint for the entire session.

khematite said...

Leonard Cohen on Bob Dylan:

"That [‘Hallelujah’] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write. Dylan and I were having coffee the day after his concert in Paris a few years ago and he was doing that song in concert. And he asked me how long it took to write it. And I told him a couple of years. I lied actually. It was more than a couple of years. Then I praise a song of his, ‘I and I,’ and asked him how long it had taken and he said, ‘Fifteen minutes.’ [Laughter]

J. Farmer said...

How long did it take Danny Flores to write Tequila?

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

Not being a music guy, maybe I'm wrong or too cynical but I don't believe this story. Why would a band go to a studio and have only one song ready?

I remember my grandparents having the old thick 78(?) Ragtime and tin pan Ally records with A and B sides.

M Jordan said...

My high school band drummer buddy Mike Myers (not the Mike Myers, but I digress) taught me how to table-play “Wipe Out” back in study hall circa 1970/71. That taught me great respect for drummers which I previously had not had. I still entertain the living room crowd occasionally with my rendition though I must admit, like juggling I don’t dare do it too long. It’s really hard to maintain the beat for very long.

Howard said...

Dick Dale was some brand of Arab and Wipe Out has a distinct middle eastern sound. Charlie don't surf

Bay Area Guy said...

In the opening sequence of the Wanderers (set in The Bronx 1963 -- where both my parents grew up), they have a chase scene set to "Pipeline" by the Chantays (1963), a British Band. Note the similarities (to my untrained ear) to Wipe Out.

hstad said...

Bill, Republic of Texas said...Not being a music guy, maybe I'm wrong or too cynical but I don't believe this story. Why would a band go to a studio and have only one song ready?...
1/26/20, 12:34 PM

Bill, sorry, but this was 1963 - the beginning of 45s [78s dominated the music scene] and the push toward kids who had disposable income to spend versus previous generations. This group's [Surfari's]experience, is typical of the beginning rock period. They had a real song (they thought) for one side and lacked another another song for the B side. Gees, this wasn't a recording session for RCA or Apple. This was a hole in the wall recording place. But their are a lot of other examples about the B side as an afterthought and it became the biggest hit.

Unknown said...

The Boys, Beach & Fat, managed a medium sized vocal/rap take on "Wipe Out" in the 80s. The lyrics managed to suggest The Beach Boys were the source of the original, which of course they weren't.

As far as Surfin' Bird and borrowings from The Rivingtons "Pappa-Ooh-Maw-Maw" (spelling?) goes, it's interesting that the song is probably now more associated with The Beach Boys who put it on their first live album, and who have been referencing it throughout their career. When I saw the incredible re-union show in 2012, they were dropping it into "Barbara Ann".

Iman said...

Kobe Bryant and 3 others killed in helicopter crash... that sucks

Unknown said...

"B" sides were a bit more loosey-goosey. For instance the "B" on "They're coming to take me away, ha ha!" was the "A" side played backwards, which was somehow appropriate.

Dean Torrence tells an amusing story where after Jan's accident, their label had no new materiel to put out and wanted to issue the Jan&Dean cover of "Norwegian Wood" as a single. Dean tried to talk them out of it with the argument of, basically: Hey, wasn't this just a hit for the most famous group in the world, and now somehow radio will want our album filler track of it?.

He didn't prevail, but pulled the Well, I'm just a poor guy who's partner is in the hospital, and I'm trying to keep us in the process here, at least let me pick the 'B' side! and got a "Sure kid". He picked "Popsicle" and then went down to the mail room, where he had made a point of making friends and got them to write "plug side" on "Popsicle" on the DJ copies, getting Jan&Dean their last chart hit

Bruce Hayden said...

“It’s kind of obvious to say it, but it’s true nevertheless, that what makes the song is the energy of the drumming. In South Florida at holiday parades, the high point is always the drum corps of the predominantly black area high schools.”

I am often asked by my partner whether I can play the song. I of course claim that I can. And, of course, I can’t. Both her brother and her son (his namesake) were/are drummers who went through college on music scholarships. And both showed their talent for drumming in junior high playing Wipe Out. Her son possibly does it better than the original, if that is possible. He got his Masters in music performance in percussion, specializing in Steel Drum, started the marching band at his previous job, now around 40 still teaches drumming, but moved from teaching music to IT in the school district he works in several years years ago, where he can make a lot more money. So, no, I can’t do the song justice, being compared to her brother and son. Not even close. So, when she presses, I demur with some completely BS excuse.

He was naturally interested in playing drums professionally. He very likely was good enough. His mother didn’t think much of the idea (her first boyfriend had tried to make it singing in Las Vegas, with the best voice coaches they could find there, but ultimately ending up bailing, and becoming a lawyer like his brothers, where he could live a normal life and raise kids on a steady income). Not a job you want if you want a normal life. So she and her ex got him a gig at a club in Scottsdale. He was supposed to sell tickets to his performance. Didn’t sell enough though, and the club owner came back to him demanding that he pay several hundred dollars for the tickets he hadn’t sold. It was in the contract, of course. Being a good kid, he started spending every spare minute earning the money, mowing lawns, etc, until his parents caught wind of it. At which point, his 6’3” 240 lb step father went down to the club, and explained that what he had done was very illegal, putting a 15 year old kid in a bar late at night with alcohol available, etc. I would have added that any contract signed by the kid was not enforceable against him due to his minority. He got his money back. Nevertheless, it worked. He, then and there, decided that he didn’t want to spend his life playing in smoky bars late into the night, for little pay, and the people he was working for always trying to screw him financially.

Iman said...

I contend that Love’s “7 and 7 Is” may be the most difficult (read: intense) rock song for a drummer...

https://youtu.be/6An7KGK6U3c

Bill Peschel said...

Tom Petty's "Free Falling" was writting to make Jeff Lynne laugh."

They didn't give a time, but it was in less than a day, with another day to record it.

“Free Fallin'”: “Jeff Lynne and I were sitting around with the idea of writing a song and I was playing the keyboard and I just happened to hit on that main riff, the intro of the song, and I think Jeff said something like, ‘That’s a really good riff but there’s one chord too many,’ so I think I cut it back a chord and then, really just to amuse Jeff, honestly, I just sang that first verse. Then he starts laughing. Honestly, I thought I was just amusing Jeff but then I got to the chorus of the song and he leaned over to me and said the word, ‘freefalling.’ And I went to sing that and he said, ‘No, take your voice up and see how that feels.’ So I took my voice up an octave or two, but I couldn’t get the whole word in. So I sang ‘freeee,’ then ‘free falling.’ And we both knew at that moment that I’d hit on something pretty good. It was that fast.

"He had to go somewhere, and I wrote the last verse and kind of just polished the rest of the song and when I saw him the next day I played him the song and he was like, ‘Wow, you did that last night?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And he said. ‘We’ve got to go cut this,’ and we just took off to Mike Campbell’s studio where we knew we could get in and get it done that day. So we went in and made the record that day.”

Iman said...

I saw them in the Spring of ‘68 with HS classmates for $2 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Outstanding!!!

Francisco D said...

"That [‘Hallelujah’] was a song that took me [Leonard Cohen] a long time to write.

My understanding is that the original version of "Hallelujah" languished because it was way too long and complex. John Cale and Jeff Buckley made it popular by shortening it and punching it up.

Given that Leonard was a poet before he started writing music, one can see that he really worked hard at getting his thoughts and feelings out.

OT, Cohen said that kd lang did the best cover. I would make it a four or five-way tie to include Cohen, Buckley, Pentonix, lang and maybe Cale or Bon Jovi.

svlc said...

Apparently RunDMC wrote "Christmas in Hollis" in 15 mins. Joseph “Run” Simmons said that he was rolling a joint when his manager called and asked him to write a Christmas song. Simmonds called him back 15 mins later with the lyrics for the song. The music was taken from Clarence Carter's "Backdoor Santa". The song was completed just in time for inclusion in the best Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard.

MadTownGuy said...

According to Freddie Mercury:

"'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' took me five or ten minutes. I did that on the guitar, which I can't play for nuts, and in one way it was quite a good thing because I was restricted, knowing only a few chords. It's a good discipline because I simply had to write within a small framework. I couldn't work through too many chords and because of that restriction I wrote a good song, I think."

Mark Nielsen said...

I believe Stevie Nicks wrote the Fleetwood Mac hit "Dreams" in about 10 minutes. But again, studio time probably took a bit more than the Wipe Out story.

~ Gordon Pasha said...

Went to Glendora HS, Bob Berryhill and Pat Conneley were the core of the group, and had been together as guitarists since 7th grade where they played at Sellers JH. Berryhill owned a pet shop on Route 66 until he caught on with the rock nostalgia tour.