This week I decided to step off the edge of “normal” (whatever “normal” is) and go a little crazy with my music selections. There have been so many Crazy songs recorded, however, I will just highlight a few.
Let’s start in 1955 with a song by a band called The Hollywood Flames, titled “Crazy”. Crazy was the “B” side to “Buzz Buzz Buzz”. The Flames formed at a talent show in Watts, Los Angeles in 1949. Early in their career they released two songs written by Murry Wilson (father of The Beach Boys), “Tabarin” and “I’ll Hide My Tears”. Original lead singer, Bobby Byrd eventually left The Flames and recorded “Rockin’ Robin” under the name Bobby Day, which went on to reach #2 on the charts in 1958.
Patsy Cline – Crazy (1961) *written by Willie Nelson – Crazy (1992)
This was the song that gave Willie Nelson his big break when Patsy Cline recorded it. Willie covered crazy on his own debut album in 1962.
According to VH1’s Storytellers, Willie revealed that this song was originally titled “Stupid.” Crazy is the one of the most-played songs on jukeboxes in the United States. It’s been reported that when she first heard the song, Patsy Cline didn’t like it at all. It was her husband Charlie Dick and her producer Owen Bradley who loved the song and persuaded Patsy to record it.
Heart – Crazy on You (1976) (Video recorded live at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013). “Crazy on You” was Heart’s first single. From what I’ve read, the original band members were from Seattle and moved to Vancouver when some of the male members of the band would have been subject to the draft in the Vietnam War. When the concern of draft was no longer a threat, they moved back to Seattle. Ann and Nancy Wilson reportedly wrote this song about Mike Fisher, original guitarist for the band who eventually became their sound man.
Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years (Video recorded live in Philadelphia in 1976.) In a 1990 interview, Simon said the title phrase ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ came to him first as a line. Then, he had to create a story and a melody to go with it. On an episode of Saturday Night Live that Simon hosted (Thanksgiving weekend), he sang “Still Crazy” while wearing a turkey costume, stopped in mid song, walked backstage to complain to producer Lorne Michaels. Reportedly, it was Simon’s idea to do this as he wanted to show he had a sense of humor. “Still Crazy After All These Years” is a gentle, reflective song dwelling on middle age that many baby boomers could relate to. Karen Carpenter chose this song to cover for her debut solo album in 1980, but it wasn’t released until 1996.
Paul Davis – I Go Crazy (1978) Davis died of a heart attack one day after his 60th birthday in 2008. Davis had a career covering three decades as a singer/songwriter in pop, country and soul music from the late 1960s through the 1980s. I go crazy stayed in the Top 40 for 25 weeks, peaking at #7.
Queen – Crazy Little Thing Called Love (1980) #1 for 4 weeks. Freddy Mercury is reported to have written this song while taking a bubble bath. According to Peter Hince, the head of Queen’s road crew, the idea come to Mercury while in the bath. “He emerged, wrapped in a towel, I handed him the guitar and he worked out the chords there and then.” The song sounds more like Elvis Presley than Queen, but the fans loved it.
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train (1980) This was the first single Ozzy released after leaving Black Sabbath in 1978. Crazy Train was written by Ozzy, guitarist Randy Rhoads and bass player Bob Daisley. Before it had a title or lyrics, the trio noticed that the music had a “chugging” sound coming through the amp. Rhoads and Daisley were both into collecting trains and Daisley said “Randy, that sounds like a train. But it sounds nuts. A crazy train”, thus the title of the song. Although many believe this is a song about insanity (typical of Ozzy), it’s actually about the Cold War. Check out the lyrics. I found it interesting to discover that the trio was originally formed to be a band called “Blizzard of Ozz”. Rhoads, Daisley, and Ozzy wrote songs together, later adding drummer Lee Kerslake.
But their record label, Jet Records (owned by Ozzy’s future father-in-law) made the record look like a solo project by picturing Ozzy alone on the album cover and listing his name in big letters on top of the words “Blizzard of Ozz.”
Prince – Let’s Go Crazy (#1 song in 1984) In the beginning of this song Prince takes on the persona of a preacher with a church organ in the background as he appears to deliver a sermon about the challenges of life. Prince’s birth name is Prince Rogers Nelson. His nickname in school is reported to have been “Skipper.” He was apparently a very talented basketball player despite being only 5’2” tall.
Prince produces, arranges, and plays most of the instruments on his albums. He is considered to have been a child prodigy, learning to play over a dozen instruments before the age of 15. The first song he learned to play on the piano was the original “Batman” theme when he was 7 years old. Here’s an interview with Prince on the Arsenio Hall Show from 2014
Madonna – Crazy For You (1985) This song was recorded for the film Vision Quest, which featured an appearance of Madonna playing a singer at a restaurant. “Crazy for You” was co-written by John Bettis, who also wrote songs for the Carpenters, Pointer Sisters, Whitney Houston, and Vanessa Williams.
Madonna recorded her vocals for this song in one take and “Crazy For You” earned Madonna her first Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1986. However, she lost to Whitney Houston’s song “Saving All My Love For You.”
David Lee Roth – Goin’ Crazy (1986)
In 1985, while David Lee Roth was still lead singer for Van Halen, he released his first solo EP, “Crazy from the Heat”, featuring the Beach Boys hit, “California Girls”, and “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t got Nobody” along with two other songs. One year later after leaving Van Halen, Roth released “Eat ‘Em and Smile” which included two lounge songs, “That’s Life” and “I’m Easy”, along with the 60s garage band classic “Tobacco Road”. Also included on the album was “Yankee Rose”, a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Statue of Liberty, and the song “Goin’ Crazy.” Although “Goin’ Crazy” only hovered near the middle of the Billboard Hot 100, it became a staple song on MTV.
The Van Halen album “5150” was released in 1986. It was the first of four albums to be recorded with new lead singer Sammy Hagar, who replaced David Lee Roth. “Section 5150 is a section of the California Welfare and Institutions Code which authorizes a qualified officer or clinician to involuntarily confine a person suspected to have a mental disorder that makes him or her a danger to themselves.” 5150 has become urban/Internet/police slang for crazy one on the loose. Danger to property, danger to others, and danger to themselves…you better call the cops before she (or he) goes 5150 on you. Although Van Halen doesn’t have any songs specifically with the word crazy on the album 5150, they do include the title track “5150”.
Dierks Bentley – 5-1-5-0 (2012) Bentley wrote this song with Brett and Jim Beavers. According to the website “The Boot”, The song started with a line Bentley had written for another song, “let’s get crazy, let’s get fifty-one-fifty”. Bentley is quoted as explaining “I was telling it to a friend of mine and he said, ‘What does that mean?’ And I told him it was Van Halen; it’s California police code for criminally insane. The next day, he was singing, ‘5-1-5-0, somebody call the po-po.’ I just started laughing because I thought that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. And he said, ‘I’m tellin’ ya, my kids cannot stop singing that.’ I said, ‘I don’t know, man.'”
A couple of days later, Bentley was writing the song with the Beavers Brothers and he still had the line stuck in his head so he said to them, “Let’s write it and be done with it.” So what does the title actually mean? Said Bentley to The Boot: “People don’t really know what it means but who really knew what ‘867-5309′ meant? I remember when that song was out [sings], ‘867-5309? Is that a real number? Is that an area code?’
Fine Young Cannibals – She Drives Me Crazy (#1 song in 1989) This was one of several songs the band provided for the soundtrack to the movie Tin Men. When lead singer Roland Gift used his original voice, the song was called “She’s My Baby”, but no one liked it. So, they revamped the lyrics and added a falsetto voice for the new version “She Drives Me Crazy” and everyone liked it.
Dolly Parton covered this song on her 2008 album Backwoods Barbie, Weird Al turned it into a parody called “She Drives Like Crazy”, Arsenio Hall recorded a spoof, under the name Chunky A, called “Ho is Crazy. But my favorite is a version done with Kermit the Frog & Miss. Piggy in 1994 featuring cameos by various celebrities.
Aerosmith – Crazy (1994) Steven Tyler and Joe Perry wrote this song with Desmond Child. Child is a songwriter who has also collaborated on hits with Kiss, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Joan Jett, Michael Bolton, Ricky Martin, and Katy Perry.
“Crazy” was written in the late ‘80s around the same time they wrote “Angel”, but the songs were considered too similar, so while “Angel” was released on the Permanent Vacation album, Crazy was introduced two albums later on Get A Grip.
Beyonce – Crazy in Love (#1 song in 2003) The horns in this song were sampled from the 1970 Chi-lites song “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)”. After playing the beat for Beonce, the verses and the hook for “Crazy In Love” were written by Rich Harrison in two hours while she took a break. He left the bridge for her to complete. Harrison was a fan of the Chi-lites sample long before he met Beyonce. Jay-Z and Beyonce were dating at the time the song was recorded, and he did the rap. The song was their first collaboration and when the couple were married in 2008, they shared their first dance together to “Crazy in Love”. Beyonce explained the song to writer Dennis Hensley this way, “The song talks about how, when you’re falling in love, you do things that are out of character and you don’t really care because you’re just open. The song came from me actually looking crazy one day in the studio.”
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (2009) Gnarls Barkley is comprised of producer Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) and vocalist Cee-Lo Green (Thomas Callaway). The name of the band is a play on Hall Of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley. Cee-Lo said the inspiration for the song came in 2004 when he was going through a divorce and some tough times. The music video is done in the style of the Rorschach test, where a patient describes to a psychiatrist what he/she sees in inkblot patterns, then the therapist uses this information to analyze the patient. Crazy was chosen by a panel of experts (including Yoko Ono) as Rolling Stone’s #1 song of the 2000s.
Jason Aldean – Crazy Town (2010) (The video is Aldean performing live on Letterman) Rodney Clawson and Brett Jones wrote this song about the music scene in Nashville as being a “crazy town.” In an interview, AOL asked Aldean if the song hit home. He replied: “If people want to know what it’s like to be an artist and move to this town, [this song] hits the nail on the head. There are a ton of singers in this town, and it’s all about finding what sets you apart from everybody else. Sometimes that takes years. You have to have thick skin. This town will chew you up in a heartbeat; you’ve got to be able to walk into a record label and have them not really care that you’re there, half-ass listen to the stuff that you’re playing and basically tell you to go home. I went through all that stuff.”
Eli Young Band – Crazy Girl (2011) The Eli Young Band formed in Denton, Texas in 2000 when Mike Eli and James Young met as freshman roommates at the University of North Texas. Together with Chris Thompson and Jon Jones, the band became local favorites. Crazy Girl was written by singer-songwriter Lee Brice and Liz Rose, who also co-wrote several of Taylor Swift’s hits. This was Eli Young Band’s first #1 hit.
Napoleon XIV – They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa (1966)
This is, in my opinion, the craziest of the crazy songs. I remember it as a child and being totally impressed…but then what can you expect from a 9-year-old!
Napoleon is Jerry Samuels, a recording engineer from New York. When the song became a hit, the record company sent other people to perform it at live appearances. According to Songfacts.com, Samuels said “It took me 9 months to finish it. I wrote one verse and the chorus, and immediately I realized I was writing a sick joke. So I said, ‘This is no good, I’ll put it away.’ Three months later it was still running through my head; I pulled it out again and wrote the second verse and it was an even sicker joke. Finally about 6 months after that I decided I was going to finish it, and I was going to do something in that last verse that would throw things off a little bit, so I referred to the object – ‘They’re coming to take me away because of what YOU did – I referred to YOU as a dog. The dog ran away. By doing that I felt I was lightening the sickness of the joke, and I probably was and it probably did some good for me, but that was the reason I went for that afterthought.” The flip side of this single was the same song….RECORDED BACKWARDS!!! A group called Josephine XV was created to record an answer song to this called “I’m Happy They Took You Away, Ha-Haaa!” Another answer song was Teddy And Daniel’s “They took you away, I’m glad, I’m glad.”
Samuels appeared at the monthly meeting of the Keystone Record Collectors in the past year. They provided a great article in their newsletter about Samuels and his one-hit-wonder, “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”
If you have any interest in music at all, it would benefit you to attend one of the monthly meetings of the Keystone Record Collectors (KRC) in Lancaster. Admission is FREE. Here’s a great link to a video introducing you to the KRC that was produced by the York Dispatch. Those guys at Keystone Record Collectors are CRAZY about anything related to records, music and memorabilia!
Thanks for reading! Share with your friends. Have a CRAZY Weekend!!!!