"They're not the obvious choices, although they are extremely well-known. Everybody knows all the songs and all the artists, but they're songs that are not on the interstate. You kind of have to drive a little bit on the rural road."
On the latest Chart Beat Podcast, Marc Myers chats with host Gary Trust about the author's new book, Anatomy of a Song, The Oral History of 45 Iconic Hits That Changed Rock, R&B and Pop, which grew out of Myers' popular Wall Street Journal column, "Anatomy of a Song." The book traces the history of the rock era in 45 compelling chapters, each of which tells the backstory of a song that influenced pop music's arc via a bevy of in-depth interviews.
Lloyd Price's 1952 release "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" begins the Anatomy of a Song narrative and R.E.M.'s 1991 smash "Losing My Religion" wraps it, bookending other big hits and more obscure tracks by the likes of Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith.
Countless fun facts dot Anatomy of a Song, from who earned the privilege of being in a Presley recording session (and who didn't) to how the 45 was born by RCA out of a battle with then-rival Columbia (which had invented the 33, which itself edged out the 78). Other revelations: which mid-'60s hit renewed Brian Wilson's creativity; how certain religious groups considered The Isley Brothers' "Shout - Part 1" blasphemous; and the disco diva that inspired Blondie's "Heart of Glass."
Overall, Myers considers the book (which he worked on for roughly a year, waking up in the wee hours daily) to be a thank-you to the artists that shaped his musical upbringing. "Music has given me so much joy, as a kid, as a teenager, as a college student, and today. I felt that I was paying back, paying tribute to the artists whose 45s I fought over with my brother all those years ago.
"To interview them was a privilege. Each song has a heartbeat, and to get that from the artists, that's the passion."
A sampling of previous episodes with host Gary Trust:
Anthony Head on the "Buffy" Musical Episode / Suzanne Vega / Bobby Bones (hosted by Jim Asker) / How Daya Broke Through on New Label Artbeatz / The Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit / Joel Whitburn / Debbie Gibson / Hit Songs Deconstructed on The Chainsmokers & Meghan Trainor / Lionel Richie (hosted by Trevor Anderson)
Enjoy the entire latest Chart Beat Podcast and check back for more upcoming episodes with artists, label executives, radio programmers and personalities, songwriters, producers and more. And, to receive every episode automatically in your inbox, subscribe to (and rate) the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast on iTunes!