Sunday, December 5, 2010
Simple Twist of Fate
What I would like long distance information to give me is the name of the song: According to the Chess box set I have, it's called "Memphis, Tennessee," but some Chuck Berry sets give the title as "Memphis." Johnny Rivers' 1964 version was called "Memphis," although Billboard notes that it was "first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1959 as 'Memphis, Tennessee.'" When Elvis Presley recorded it, he called it "Memphis, Tennessee." I have three different versions of this song on my iTunes, and iTunes styles it differently for each one: Chuck Berry's is given as "Memphis Tennessee [no comma]," Johnny Rivers' as "Memphis," and the Beatles' (from The Beatles at the BBC) as "Memphis, Tennessee."
Of course, no one would care if it weren't such a great song. What really cinches it is the twist ending: The lyrics are strong and detailed all the way through, but the last two lines completely recast their meaning. They make you want to go back and listen to the song over again, and isn't that really the aim of every pop song?
It got me thinking about other songs that have a twist ending, of which there aren't that many. There are plenty of songs where the twist comes in at the chorus, like the Temptations' "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)." But how many drop the hammer at the end? Jim Stafford's "My Girl Bill" does that, as well as, arguably, "We Gotta Got You a Woman" by Todd Rundgren's Runt. More than that I cannot add.
But I'm sure I'm missing some. Any others?