Q

Marc Myers breaks down the anatomy of iconic songs in his new book

Writer Marc Myers details the stories behind 45 iconic songs in his new book, Anatomy of a Song.
American singer Janis Joplin performing, c. 1967. (Getty Images)

Writer Marc Myers is well known for his Wall Street Journal column called Anatomy of a Song. In it, he breaks down the story behind the biggest hit songs in history. Now, Myers has compiled all 45 of these tales into a new book of the same name. 

Myers spoke to q about four hit songs that resulted from accidents and imperfections in the studio, which you can read and hear about below.

Marc Myers's new book, Anatomy of a Song, is a compilation of his Wall Street Journal column of the same name where he reveals the stories behind famous songs. (Alyse Myers)

Otis Redding, "(Sittin' On) the Doc of the Bay"
"As Otis was recording that song, Steve Cropper, who was producing it, always liked to leave about 10 measures at the end because he knew Otis loved to riff around. He loved to improvise towards the back end of the song, but in this case, Otis just decided to whistle."

Janis Joplin, "Mercedes Benz"
"When they were recording Pearl, the recording equipment broke down and they had to take out their screwdrivers and figure out how to fix the recording heads. Meanwhile, Janis was in a booth and she was sort of biding her time but finally becomes a little frustrated and decides to sing this song she had learned just weeks earlier in New York. And she starts to sing 'Mercedes Benz.'"

Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time"
"This was a last minute addition, a complete accident. Her first album was pretty much done but her producer wanted one more song so Cindy and Rob Hyman go into a studio where there's a piano and they start to fool around with the song. Cyndi's dancing around in there but she needs a title, she's got to have a title. She picked up a TV Guide because she couldn't quite come up with the title and she starts thumbing through the guide [...] and she comes to a science fiction movie from 1979 that was airing called Time After Time, and thought that was a good starting point."

Led Zepplin, "Whole Lotta Love"
"Robert Plant recorded his vocal twice. When they were mixing it in the studio, Jimmy Page and the engineer were listening and they couldn't get that first track out of the way. They turned that sound down all the way but it was still bleeding through to the master so they basically had to leave it in. They started messing around with the dials, creating this experimental feel to it. It's become a hallmark of their sound."

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