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Song Stories

“Nights in White Satin”

The Moody Blues | 1967

While most rock songs were still recorded in mono, Decca Records wanted the Moody Blues to record a rock version of Dvorak so it could demonstrate its stereo systems and prove that rock & roll could sound as good as classical music in stereo. This heavily orchestrated tune transformed the band from a decent R&B act to psychedelic prog rockers. "We'd recorded together before, and what came out was good but not magic," Moodies singer/flautist Ray Thomas told Rolling Stone, noting that they cried when they first heard it. "But this, we felt, was different."

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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