This song is about a guy who falls in lust with his downstairs neighbor. She doesn't know him, but he obsesses over her and leaves her a note one day with an elaborate plan to pursue a relationship: she is instructed to knock three times on the ceiling if she wants him, and to bang twice on the pipe if not. We don't find out how she responds, but he would probably have better luck if he just talked to her.
There was no "Dawn" when this song was recorded. Two producers, Hank Medress and Dave Appell, recorded the song "Candida" with an artist they were working with named Frankie Paris for Bell Records. Label boss Larry Utell didn't like Paris' vocal, so the producers persuaded their old friend Tony Orlando (then working for the publishing arm of CBS Records) to record it.
Orlando, who had hits "Halfway to Paradise" (#39) and "Bless You" (#15) in 1961 as a 16-year-old, had retired from singing but reluctantly recorded the song. When it was released in June 1970, Orlando insisted his name be kept off of it, since it could be a conflict with his employer, do the single was issued as Dawn (there are at least three different stories of whose daughter the group was named after). Orlando didn't think much of it, but "Candida" became a big hit, rising to #3 in October. This convinced him to revive his singing career.
Medress and Appell scrambled to record an entire album with Orlando and find a follow-up single. That single was "Knock Three Times," written by "Candida" co-writer Irwin Levine and the lyricist L. Russell "Larry" Brown. Both the album and single were released under the name Dawn, which became Tony Orlando & Dawn when he cut ties with CBS. The song rose to #1 in January 1971.
Backup singers on the Candida album included Toni Wine (who co-wrote the song "Candida"), Jay Siegel (from The Tokens), Robin Grean and Linda November. These were all behind-the-scenes writers and performers; Orlando needed a new group to back him up live and on future recordings. That job went to Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent, who became "Dawn" (the name had a nature connotation; at least three guys involved with the project claimed that it was named after their daughters). The combination worked very well, in part because Hopkins and Vincent were great on camera, as was Orlando. The trio had another #1 hit in 1973 with "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree," and the following year got their own variety show, which ran through 1977. Hopkins landed roles on the TV series Bosom Buddies, Gimme A Break and Family Matters. (For more, check out our interview with Toni Wine.)
Seventhmist from 7th HeavenA friend of mine lived in an apartment and got numerous complaints from the tenant below him about his partying. He liked my spin on the lyrics: "Oh my darling, knock three times on the ceiling if I'm noisy. Twice on the pipe means the cops have been called."
Philippa from Newcastle Under Lyme, United KingdomThis song was not actually written by or for Dawn it was written by a british man, who was dating the woman in the apartment below he wrote it in the 1940's the only reason i know this is he is my mums god parent, he gave it to the record label for £25 as thought it was worthless, he did not want any fame from the song when it became a big hit so he is not mentioned ever however he was a talented man who deserves to be accredited for this amazing song
Jorge from Bronx, NyCamille,Back the days and still now tenement buildings have pipes running outside the walls,,especially the steam pipes for heating,My moms hit that same pipe to alert the Superintendent of the building,there was no heat going up,lmao
Camille from Toronto, OhThis was one of the first songs I'd loaded onto my new ipod over 2 years ago, and it was amazing how much better it sounded than thru an AM transistor radio over 30 years ago! I was 12 when this was popular. This was the kind of song labeled "bubblegum" music which I guess means: not to be taken seriously. But it was & is an extremely catchy tune. As for the guy wanting some kind of answer in a semi-Morse code, that's because he's too shy to speak to her in person about his true feelings. As for exposed pipes, that just tells you he's living in a dump. So his life is kind of miserable & his one true solace is dreaming about getting together with this chick who lives "one floor below" him. I'm surprised a sit-com never evolved from this song!
Joe from Monroe, NyBack in 1971 when this was a smash hit, I was singing it at work one day. An older co-worker asked me how a young kid like me knew such an old song. He claimed it was from the 1930's....that might explain the "twice on the pipes" bit.
Kent from Lodi, CaAt the second part of the second chorus (~1:48), if you listen carefully at the end of Tony's line "Knock three times on the ceiling...", you'll hear a tsshh sound. Tony was hitting the ceiling tiles in the booth for added percussion while he sang. The sound is one of the tiles falling.
Darrell from EugeneIf I were the neighbor of the dude in this song and I was trying to sleep or file my income taxes when he was banging on the pipes, I would get some neighbors together, we would get some pipes of our own, and we would bang on HIM.
David from Youngstown, OhThe funny thing about this song is it assumes the two people in the song lives in apartments with exposed pipes, something that was highly unusual in the 1970s. Tony Orlando years later made a comment about the ridiculousness of that aspect of this song (which is damn catchy). The music on this song sounds very similar to Candida.
Dave from Denver, CoSupposedly you can hear ceiling tiles and plaster crashing down on the drumset as the song fades out ... due to a studio hand banging on the pipes for sound effects all night.
Jeff from Hendersonville , UtThis songs was written by Larry Brown & Irwin Levine. They also wrote "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree", among other huge hits!
Keith from Slc, UtTheir other hit at the same general time as K3T was "Candida," which used the same basic riff.