I heard the news today, oh boy

Prince: Purple RainTHIS IS A POST about those songs that use phrases you almost always associate with a different song. Like that purple rain song. Oh, you mean there’s another one? America famously sang about purple rain in “Ventura Highway” (1972) more than a decade before Prince even more famously capitalized on the phrase and all things purple with the song (covered by Tom Jones and David Gilmour below), album, and movie of the same name in 1984. (And Janet Jackson went on to sample the America song’s opening guitar riff for her groovy 2001 hit “Someone to Call My Lover,” but we’ll talk about sampling another day.)

Sometimes a phrase gets reused in a way that feels like homage — it’s a conscious reusing of someone else’s phrase, maybe altered slightly, as in the Beatles’ I read the news today, oh boy from “A Day in the Life,” which was recycled by David Bowie as I heard the news today, oh boy in 1975’s “Young Americans.”

There were a few of these instances of songs sharing unusual phrases in 1975 (the year being about more than just fandangos, apparently). ABBA recorded “Mamma Mia” that year only to compete with Queen’s famous mama mias in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (As luck would have it, the two songs were consecutive #1 hits on the British charts, according to our friends at Wikipedia.)

That one feels like a coincidence, as does Freddy Fender’s crooning We may never pass this way again in “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends” (also 1975, the only year Freddy Fender was popular); that line was, of course, sung repeatedly by Seals and Crofts in their 1973 hit of the same name. “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” always struck me as a very strange use of parenthesis in a song title.

Seals and Crofts: Diamond GirlThat was also the theme song to my junior prom. I never connected the two things until just now, but I went to my first real concert — seeing Peter, Paul & Mary as a child with with my dad doesn’t count — that same year: Seals and Crofts at the Providence Civic Center. It was 1976, and I went with with my prom date. I don’t think either of us was particularly obsessed with Seals and Crofts (really, was anyone?), and I don’t think I’d blame them for the relationship’s failure. There were plenty of other good reasons for that. No, it was just another of those crazy mid-1970s coincidences.

(As a side note, when I did a multiple-choice trivia contest about myself a few years back on Facebook, the question, What was my first concert?, was the only one not a single person got right.)

Where was I? Oh yes, those phrases you associate with one song but they show up in another. One is a lonely number in the Grass Roots’ “Two Divided by Love” (1971) was clearly inspired by Three Dog Night’s One is the loneliest number (1969). The two groups shared a record label and were a lot alike, so maybe they had worked out a deal.

“Da Doo Ron Ron” hit #1 in 2 different decades by 2 different artists, the Crystals (1963) and Shaun Cassidy (1977) — nothing so strange about that, since everyone was reviving something in those days. But, to get back to the theme of this post (which seems to keep slipping away from me), in another #1 hit, none other than Neil Sedaka, a recording artist famous for being popular during the time of both “Da Doo Ron Ron”s (or is the proper plural Da Doos Ron Ron?), but not for most of the time in-between, sings loads of da doo ron rons, or something very similar, along with Elton John in “Bad Blood” (also 1975).

Who would have thought back in 1963 we’d find those lyrics at the top of the charts again a generation later, much less twice again, much less in a brand new song by a recording artist we thought we’d heard the last from? (…and in the same old song by an aging teen idol’s half-brother who I swear sounds a lot like Boy George. Has there ever been a public sighting of Shaun Cassidy since Boy George came on the scene in 1982? Interesting. But I digress yet again.)

I’m sure there are many, many more instances of this phenomenon. I mean, not that exact phenomenon — I think it’s safe to say there are no other instances of what happened with “Da Doo Ron Ron” — but you know what I mean: unlikely phrases showing up in more than one song. What are your favorites? The more unlikely, the better!


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