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“Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)”

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Released in September 1974, Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me) by Reunion was instantly catchy, a definite earworm and one of those feel-good songs.

The band 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)
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
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)
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.”

Here’s the video with the lyrics…. good luck!

And… here are the lyrics:

B.B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers
Lonnie Mack and twangin’ Eddy, here’s my ring we’re goin’ steady
Take it easy, take me higher, liar liar, house on fire
Locomotion, Poco, Passion, Deeper Purple, Satisfaction
Baby baby gotta gotta gimme gimme gettin’ hotter
Sammy’s cookin’, Lesley Gore and Ritchie Valens, end of story
Mahavishnu, fujiyama, kama-sutra, rama-lama
Richard Perry, Spector, Barry, Archies, Righteous, Nilsson, Harry
Shimmy shimmy ko-ko bop and Fats is back and Finger Poppin’

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

FM, AM, hits are clickin’ while the clock is tock-a-tickin’
Friends and Romans, salutations, Brenda and the Tabulations
Carly Simon, I behold her, Rolling Stones and centerfoldin’
Johnny Cash and Johnny Rivers, can’t stop now, I got the shivers
Mungo Jerry, Peter Peter Paul and Paul and Mary Mary
Dr. John the nightly tripper, Doris Day and Jack the Ripper
Gotta go Sir, gotta swelter, Leon Russell, Gimme Shelter
Miracles in smokey places, slide guitars and Fender basses
Mushroom omelet, Bonnie Bramlett, Wilson Pickett, stop and kick it

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Arthur Janov’s primal screamin’, Hawkins, Jay and
Dale and Ronnie, Kukla, Fran and Norma Okla
Denver, John and Osmond, Donny
JJ Cale and ZZ Top and LL Bean and De De Dinah
David Bowie, Steely Dan and sing me prouder, CC Rider
Edgar Winter, Joanie Sommers, Osmond Brothers, Johnny Thunders
Eric Clapton, pedal wah-wah, Stephen Foster, do-dah do-dah
Good Vibrations, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl and Little Honda
Tighter, tighter, honey, honey, sugar, sugar, yummy, yummy
CBS and Warner Brothers, RCA and all the others

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me (whoa whoa whoa whoa)
Life is a rock but the radio rolled me
At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

Listen–remember, they’re playing our song!
Rock it, sock it, Alan Freed me, Murray Kaufman, try to leave me
Fish, and Swim, and Boston Monkey,
Make it bad and play it funky.
(Wanna take you higher!)

Freddie King and Albert King and B.B. King and frolicking
Get it on and not to worry, Pappalardi, Hale and Hearty, yes
(Baby, baby, baby, Light My Fire)
(Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music)

There’s a perfect more than you would carry, words of Randy Newman
1-2-3, so long, Sophie, Anita, Freda, Aretha
(I wanna take you higher)
(Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music)

Tito Puente, Buffalongo, Cuba, War and even Mongo
Lay it down, while it’s hurtin’, Herbie’s Brass
(Baby, baby, baby, Light My Fire)
(Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music)
(Baby, Everything is Alright, Uptight, Outta Sight) Whoa

California, Beatlemania, New York City, Transylvania
S&G, V&C, Bobby Vee and SRO, yeah
(Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music)
(Baby, Everything is Alright, Uptight, Outta Sight)


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