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Making Music: Unique Ways Songs Became Hits is a new book that takes the "Three R's" we learned in school and converts them into the hit-making process of rock music. To author John Gregory, the Three R's stand for 'Riting, Recording and Releasing. Making Music tells stories of how 690 tunes, from rock, soul, and country to hip-hop, reggae, and jazz, made it big from 1955 (the start of the rock era) to 1999. The 496-page book, available on Amazon and from the author, has more than 300 illustrations accompanying the songs. Take Gregory's first "R" (writing), for instance. Songs can pop into heads when the writer least expects it. Mick Jagger stood in line at a drug store to buy a soft drink when the man in from of him asked for a cherry Coke and was told there weren't any. He turned around and said, "You can't always get what you want." Voila, a Rolling Stones hit in the making. Many years later, Kurt Cobain awoke to find graffiti, "Curt smells like Teen Spirit," scrawled above his bed by a girlfriend, who had left the house. Cobain thought she meant his songs were connecting with teenagers and he wrote a Nirvana song using that title. He eventually learned that Teen Spirit is an underarm deodorant. For the second "R" (recording), Making Music becomes a fly-on-the-wall in studios, describing how fist fights occasionally broke out among musicians — or artists vs. producers — and unusual equipment had to be found to get just the right sound an engineer wanted. To get a clunky feel for "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes, the manager sent a studio assistant on a mission to buy the worst-sounding drums possible. The Beatles' chauffeur rattled chains as part of the percussion sound for "Yellow Submarine." The book follows the history of the third "R" (releasing) from the payola days of the Fifties — when DJs were paid by the record label or band manager to play their clients' songs incessantly — to the impact that MTV and a band's antics or costumes — think Sex Pistols and Alice Cooper — had on sales. "Most of the book's stories are funny," Gregory says. "Some are bizarre, a few involve tragedy or anger, but all of them attest to the creativity that goes into a good song. "Four years ago when I started this 'little' project, I found that pop music fans can't rely on music critics to explain how individual songs go from concept to reality to popularity. Critics focus instead on albums and on concerts coming to town. I dug deeper, looking at more than 6,000 hits" as determined by Billboard's Hot 100 and by radio airplay surveys. "Only 15% of the hits had good stories to tell about the writing, recording, and/or releasing." Gregory is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and an executive producer for two public TV stations in the Los Angeles area. He owns a communications and marketing company, Gregory Communications, in Arcadia, CA, where he also lives. What's his expertise for writing this book? "I'm neither a music critic nor a musician. But rock music is in my soul and investigative journalism in my arteries. Mix that with history in my veins and you have this book."
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