The Music of Glee: Episode 1×10 – “Ballad”

It’s not a male duck, I assure you. A ballad is a “form of verse, often a narrative set to music,” though, in popular culture, we use it to define anything without a backbeat. Particularly, ballads tend to be sentimental, emotive and strophic. Ironically, I’d argue that two of the episode’s songs aren’t actually ballads, but that’s just me.

“I’ll Stand By You”
Written by Chrissie Hynde, Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg
Performed Most Notably by The Pretenders
Performed on GLEE by Cory Monteith

The Pretenders most recent single, I’ll Stand By You reached #16 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1994. It was the second single from their album Last of the Independents, written by lead singer Chrissie Hynde with songwriting team Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. They used the melody from Bach’s “Minuet for Lovers.”

Josh Note: That video creeps me out. Chrissie Hynde is bad-ass rock queen, not a pop-singer. She should be slinging an electric guitar and spitting on the audience, not caring for a sick dude. I mean, this is the woman who wrote Tattoed Love Boys. Still, the song is classic and definitely played during countless proms and first dances in the mid-90’s. Crazy to think that it came out two years after Nevermind.

“Don’t Stand So Close To Me”
Written by Sting

Performed Most Notably by The Police
Performed on GLEE by Matthew Morrison

A 1980 hit single for the British Rock band The Police, it’s the story of a schoolmaster dealing with a young student’s crush on him. It was written by Sting, who’d previously worked as an English teacher. Years later, the band formed in the studio to record a new album, but, instead, came out with a Greatest Hits collection and a new version of this song, called “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86.”

Josh Note: I should turn this note over to Jennifer, as The Police are her favorite band, but she’s busy. So, I’ll write her words for her: “This song is great. The band is great. Sting’s abs are great!”

“Young Girl”
Written by Jerry Fuller
Performed Most Notably by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
Performed on GLEE by Matthew Morrison

This song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968, and #1 in the UK. It was written by Jerry Fuller, who discovered Gary Puckett and The Union Gap in a San Diego Bowling Alley. Fuller also wrote “Travelin’ Man,” “A Wonder Like You,” and “Young World” for Ricky Nelson, and produced the American psychedelic rock band, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. (I’m not making that name up.)

Josh Note: I saw Gary Pucket and the Union Gap perform at the Ventura County Fair around 1995. He performed “Young Girl” three times, as well as a succesion of covers, like “That’s My Story” and “Hurts So Good.” The audience ate it up. It was the first time I realized that no matter who you are, if you have tight jeans and an amp, someone will want to have sex with you.

“(You’re) Having My Baby”
Written by Paul Anka
Performed Most Notably by Paul Anka
Performed on GLEE by Cory Monteith

Paul Anka wrote and released this song in 1974, recorded as a duet with Odia Coates. It rose the charts quickly and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 that year. And, in 2006, it was voted #1 on a poll of the “Worst Song of All Time.” The song gained criticism for having chauvinistic undertones, namely that the “baby” in question was the man’s, rather than the couple’s. In later years, Anka would perform the song as “You’re Having Our Baby.”

Josh Note: I always get bogged down in the lyrics of this song. First, she’s having the kid “to say how much you love me?” Wouldn’t a Hallmark card be easier? Later, she’s having the baby to “say that you’re thinking of me.” I’m a big fan of pie. Nothing says “you’re on my mind” like pie. Then it gets creepy: “The need inside, I see it showin’. The seed inside ya’, do you feel it growin’?” And, it finishes with a PSA: “Didn’t have to keep it; Wouldn’t put you through it; You could have swept it from your life.” Just gonna leave that one alone.

“Lean On Me”
Written by Bill Withers
Performed Most Notably by Bill Withers
Performed on GLEE by New Directions

“Lean on Me” is one of only nine songs in history to have gotten to #1 with versions recorded by two different artists: the original, by Bill Withers in 1972, and the cover by Club Nouveau in 1987. Withers said the inspiration for the song was missing the strong community ethic of growing up in the coal mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia after he’d moved to Los Angeles.

Josh Note: The definitive version of this song has to be on the 1973 Live at Carnegie Hall album. It’s one of the coolest live records you’ll ever here, recorded on a stormy night in NYC, in front of an audience that was bursting with the excitement of just getting there. You can hear them shouting, cat calling and singing along, asWithers gives it all back to them, having so much fun with Use Me that he plays it twice. It’s freakin’ awesome.

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