For this “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “Music”. My family is one that really loves music, and can think back to where we were when we heard a certain song, etc. I can’t play music for anything, but my husband is a bass guitar player, and our son plays the piano. Lucky I don’t have to do anything but listen, otherwise, we’d be in trouble. :/
So starting on this beautiful Monday of the week, I’ll give you a little look into my life and past with “Things That Brings Back Memories” for me. This Starship song We Built This City is one that a lot of us remember. So many of us would give each other that “look” when this came on the radio and then start our rendition in karaoke mode!! 🙂 Apparently listeners loved it, sending it to the top of the Billboard charts. But since then it’s topped (or placed) in critics’ lists in publications like Blender and Rolling Stone as one of the worst popular tunes ever recorded. How sad! I never thought it was a bad one. Have you ever heard of this song? Check it out here:
About the We Built This City Song:
We Built This City is a 1985 song written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf, and originally recorded by US rock group Starship and released as their debut single on their album Knee Deep in the Hoopla.
Commercially, the single reached number one in Australia, Canada, and the United States, the top 10 in Germany, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland, the top 20 in Belgium, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and number 21 in Austria and the Netherlands. It has appeared on several “worst song” lists, topping a 2011 Rolling Stone poll of worst songs of the 1980’s by a wide margin.
What exists of a narrative in the song consists of an argument between the singers (Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick) and an unidentified “you”, presumably a music industry executive, who is marginalizing the band and ripping them off by “playing corporation games” (“who counts the money underneath the bar?”). In response to this injustice, the singers remind the villain of their importance and fame: “Listen to the radio! Don’t you remember? We built this city on rock and roll!” A spoken-word interlude explicitly mentions the Golden Gate Bridge and refers to “the city by the bay”, a common moniker for Starship’s hometown of San Francisco; Starship’s predecessors, Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, were prominent members of San Francisco’s psychedelic rock scene in the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s. However, the interlude then rapidly refers to the same city as “the city that rocks”, a reference to Cleveland, Ohio (home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum), and then “the city that never sleeps”, one of the nicknames for New York City. Capitalizing on the ambiguity, several radio stations added descriptions of their own local areas when they broadcast the song, or even simply added their own indent in its place.
More Info on Starship:
Mickey Thomas joined joined Jefferson Starship in 1979. Mickey’s voice had become legendary after recording “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” with the Elvin Bishop Band and he was planning to pursue a solo career. Jefferson Starship quickly proved to be the right decision as they recorded their first hit, “Jane”, almost immediately after getting together.
In 1985, Starship released the album that would come to define the eighties, Knee Deep in the Hoopla. Featuring two #1 hits – “We Built this City” and “Sara” – the album reached #7 on Billboard and went platinum.
Starship followed- up their initial success with another #1 single, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” featured on the soundtrack for Mannequin. As Starship continued to reach the top of the charts, MTV infiltrated pop culture and the band released videos for all of their hits that are still popular today. Starship music is featured in the soundtracks for “Rock of Ages,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Skeleton Twins,” and most recently on the popular TV series “Glee”.
Starship is on tour now, delighting audiences around the world.
Some Interesting Facts:
- This song came from an assemblage of top-tier songwriting and production talent. Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics, which he gave to Martin Page, who put music to the words and made a demo. Page, who later had a hit with “In the House of Stone and Light,” garnered attention after the Los Angeles radio station KROQ started playing “Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)” by Martin’s group Q-Feel. Taupin, who needed someone other than Elton John to write music for this lyric, asked Martin to do it.
- The disc jockey interlude was not part of the original demo. In that spot, the song’s co-writer Martin Page had put a police report broadcasting news of a riot in Los Angeles – something that came on when he turned on the radio looking for something to fill that part of the song.
- The police report made the song far more ominous and stuck to the original vision as written by Bernie Taupin. Starship’s producers replaced this part with a sunny announcer taking about “another gorgeous sunny Saturday” and delivering standard DJ patter (“the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps!”), changing the complexion of the song.
- So it’s an interesting thing. The song is such a commercial song and was made that way, and takes a lot of stick. But if you look at the lyrics deeply – and one day people will take it and listen to the demo we did – it has an ominous feel about it. As Bernie says, the song was jury-rigged to make the chorus come home, which I think was a very, very wise decision by the producers. I agree with what Peter Wolf did. He was a very good supporter of my music, and I think they really made ‘We Built This City’ a hit.
Connect With Starship:
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