Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)

Album: single release (1974)
Charted: 33 8
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Songfacts®:

  • Reunion was founded by songwriters Paul DiFranco and Norman Dolph; they had little success with the group until they tapped bubblegum pop veteran Joey Levine to revamp a song they had shelved called "Life Is A Rock."

    "I loved it, thought it was great," Levine said of the original tune. "But I told 'em that the record they cut with it was really missing the mark. I'd love to just spruce it up." The resulting demo, recorded at the Hit Factory in New York City, is a celebration of all things music. Levine rattles off a list of iconic musicians and beloved songs, interrupted by a soaring chorus about the magic of radio.

    "The machine-gun vocal delivery," DiFranco told Billboard, "is a result of no rehearsing whatsoever. The key was to read the lines rapidly and not to memorize them at all."
  • Levine's co-writing credits on upbeat hits like Ohio Express's "Chewy, Chewy" and "Yummy Yummy Yummy" fit in with Reunion's philosophy. DiFranco told Rolling Stone, "We're in the business to make happy, funny records, and I think right now it's important for music to stay happy."

    Thanks to "Life Is A Rock," Reunion was a one-hit-wonder. RCA tried to convince the makeshift group to record an album and go on tour, but Levine reasoned the associated costs would eat into the royalties from their Top 10 hit. "I figured it was just a novelty idea," he explained.
  • Musicians and songwriters mentioned by name (in order of appearance) are: B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers, Lonnie Mack, Twangin' Eddy (Duane Eddy), Poco, Deep Purple, Sam Cooke, Lesley Gore, Ritchie Valens, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Richard Perry, Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, The Righteous Brothers, The Archies, Harry Nilsson, Fats Is Back (Fats Domino), Brenda & the Tabulations, Carly Simon, Noddy Holder, Johnny Cash, Johnny Rivers, Mungo Jerry, Peter, Paul and Mary, Dr. John, Doris Day, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Dale Hawkins, Ronnie Hawkins, John Denver, Donny Osmond, J. J. Cale, ZZ Top, David Bowie, Steely Dan, Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders, Eric Clapton, and Stephen Foster. Legendary disc jockeys Alan Freed and Murray the K also earn nods.
  • Song references include Elvis Presley's "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck," the Eagles' "Take It Easy," Sly & the Family Stone's "I Want To Take You Higher," The Castaways' "Liar, Liar," Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion," The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," Wanda Jackson's "Fujiyama," The Edsels' "Rama Lama Ding Dong," Little Anthony & The Imperials' "Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop," Hank Ballard's "Finger Poppin' Time," The Monkees' "Mary, Mary," The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter," Frankie Avalon's "DeDe Dinah," Ma Rainey's "CC Rider" (a hit for The Animals in the '60s), Stephen Foster's "Camptown Races," The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Surfer Girl" and "Little Honda," Alive N Kickin's "Tighter, Tighter," ABBA's "Honey, Honey," The Archies' "Sugar, Sugar," Ohio Express' "Yummy Yummy Yummy," The Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walking in the Sand)," Les Cooper's "The Boston Monkey," The Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving," Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," and Three Dog Night's "Celebrate."

    The lyrics also mention record labels Kama Sutra, CBS, Warner Bros., RCA ("and all the others"), dance crazes like The Fish and The Swim, and tools of the rock trade like slide guitar, Fender bass, and the wah-wah pedal.
  • The initial wave of bubblegum music hit in the mid-'60s when sunshiny tunes from the Lemon Pipers ("Green Tambourine"), 1910 Fruitgum Company ("Simon Says"), The Archies ("Sugar Sugar") and Tommy James and the Shondells ("Mony Mony") populated the charts. While many of the catchy tunes remain pop classics, Levine says the genre is misunderstood, that there was more to bubblegum than sweet melodies and saccharine harmonies.

    "People missed it, bubblegum was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek 'cause the lyrics were risqué," says Levine, who went on to write and commercial jingles (that's his vocal on the "Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't" jingle for Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars). "That's how I got into the business I'm in now. They told me the stuff I wrote sounded like commercials."
  • McDonald's borrowed the melody for its 1988 "$1,000,000 Menu Song" campaign. Instead of music figures, the lyrics listed menu items.
  • Tracey Ullman recorded this for her 1984 album, You Broke My Heart In 17 Places.
  • Other catalog-style songs include "Do You Remember These" (1972) a collection of references to 1950s pop culture by the Statler Brothers, and "We Didn't Start The Fire" (1989), which has Billy Joel denying responsibility for a laundry list of historical events on behalf of his generation.

Comments: 5

  • George Pope from Vancouver - CanadaPaul Mcintier from Austin: I like that, too -- they're saying Aretha stands on her own, without loud noise & fanfare, I'm thinking. (maybe not their intention, but it's how it inspired me to think)
  • George Pope from Vancouver - CanadaI'd give this credit as an early rap, later scat bit o' pop. Catchy, indeed, & I love that it's an homage to all things relating to hit music of the time.
  • Paul Mcintier from AustinJlrake from Wisconsin: I always thought the “Honey Honey” was in reference to the second line to The Archies’ “Sugar Sugar”: “Sugar...., ah honey honey...you are my candy girl, and you’ve got me wanting you.” However, according to Wikipedia, ABBA’s “Honey Honey” was recorded in January of ‘74 and released inApril of ‘74. “Life is a Rock is listed as being released in September of that same year, so it still could be a reference. However, I choose to stick with the line from “Sugar Sugar.”
  • Jlrake from WisconsinAccording to this weekend's American Top 40 '70's rebroadcast, ABBA's "Honey Honey" was in the 40 at the same time this song was, so might the "honey honey" in "Life Is A Rock" be from another song? Or were Levine, Dolph and DiFranco r e a l l y presciet?
  • Jeff70sdj from TexasAt the very end of the song under the ongoing melody, the bass references Aretha Franklin with just her first name, Aretha. It's very subtly done, but listen closely and you'll hear her name. It's a wonderful touch.
see more comments

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