RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #124: Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #124: Friends in Low Places by Garth Brooks.

“Friends on Low Places” is the biggest selling debut single of all-time. It won the Country Music Association award for Song of the Year when it was released in 1990. It is generally listed as one of, if not, THE all-time greatest drinking song ever written. And yet, it is a song that was not originally written by Garth Brooks. It is, also, a song that Brooks almost lost out on because he nearly waited too long to record it. Finally, it is one of the only #1 songs in any genre to be substantially re-written AFTER it was released and hit #1 by the very artist who released it!!! “Friends in Low Places” is quite the song, with quite the story to go with it. Let’s get to it, shall we?

In my earlier post about “The Thunder Rolls”, *(which you can read here), it was noted that Garth Brooks was not an immediate success when he rolled into Nashville as a young man. Like many who show up in places like New York City, Nashville or Hollywood, Brooks had more ambition than he had contacts and success. So, like many who arrive with stars in their eyes, he toiled away in oblivion for a while, working odd jobs and making demo tapes as a hired-gun singer for whoever needed help with their song. It was while making demo tapes for two song writers named Earl Bud Lee and Dwayne Blackwell, that Garth Brooks first came upon a song called, “Friends in Low Places”.

The origin story for the song is that Lee and Blackwell were having lunch one day in a diner and when it came time to pay the bill, Lee realized that he didn’t have his wallet with him. When Blackwell joked with him about how he was going to pay for his share, Lee replied that “he had friends in low places” because he knew the cook. As soon as Lee uttered the phrase about “friends in low places” both men realized that they had the foundation of a great song idea. All the was needed was the rest of the song. That happened a short while later when the duo found themselves at a record-release party. In that atmosphere, with other creative people, Lee and Blackwell started to play around with their song idea and soon, the lyrics began to pour forth. The pair scrambled to write everything down on napkins and whatever else they could find; eventually, creating the entire song. The next step was to get the song recorded, which is what brought them in search of a singer who would work for scale. That singer was a young man with a big dream, named Garth Brooks, who Lee and Blackwell had come to know from the demo circuit.

Garth Brooks agreed to sing the song for his new friends. But, just as Lee and Blackwell approached Brooks, he had signed a record deal for a EP and was working on that. He asked Lee and Blackwell, if they would hold the song for him until such time as he was ready to begin working on his debut album, “No Fences” in a year or so. They agreed. But, in the meantime, another country singer named Mark Chestnutt heard the song and asked to record it, too. In the end, both men recorded the song but, Brooks released his album first and, because of that, Chestnutt’s version was instantly relegated to category of a cover song, even though it was an original recording to him.

As mentioned, “Friends in Low Places” roared out of the gate for Brooks and became a huge hit with fans. The story of a young, working class man getting the last word at the wedding of his ritzy ex-girlfriend struck a chord with other working class folks, in the same way that Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Seger had with their brand of “Heartland” rock. In the version of the song released on the “No Fences” album, Brooks stars as the young man who is spurned by his former girlfriend. In the song, he speaks at her wedding and says that he wishes her well but will be fine without her and then, he makes a graceful exit out through the door. But, a funny thing happened a short while later. Garth Brooks was driving in his car one day not long after the song had reached #1 and happened to hear the song come on the car radio. Hearing yourself on the radio is always a cool thing but, in this case, Brooks listened to the lyrics and suddenly ws overwhelmed by the feeling that the song didn’t really refelect who he was and how he would have acted if that scenario depicted in the song had been real. In an instant, the version of “Friends in Low Places” that he recorded and released seemed wrong. So, when it came time for him to sing the song in concert, he stopped the show and announced that he was adding an entirely new verse to the song; a verse that was more in keeping with who he really was. It is a verse that has stayed in the song ever since and is what is recorded on all of his live albums he has released since. It is, also, a verse that has made a hit song even more popular than it once was. Here is that additional “third” verse:

“Well, I guess I was wrong

I just don’t belong

But then, I’ve been there before,

And everything is alright

I’ll just say goodnight

And I’ll show myself to the door.

Hey, I didn’t mean, to cause a big scene

Just wait ’til I finish this glass

Then, sweet little lady

I’ll head back to the bar

And you can kiss my ass!”

So, without further delay, here is Garth Brooks with his #1 hit…the greatest selling debut single of all-time…the Song of the Year in Country Music in 1990….”Friends in Low Places”, complete with the new, third verse. He is really quite the entertainer. This is a great live video. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Garth Brooks, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #77: The Dance by Garth Brooks.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #77: The Dance by Garth Brooks.

To some of you, “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, is the real #1 best song of all-time. Truth be told, it would be hard to argue that fact, either. “The Dance” was the final cut on Garth Brooks debut album which, as we have said before, was one of the biggest and most successful debut albums ever in the history of recorded music. “The Dance” was Song of the Year in 1990. This single, alone, sold over fifteen million copies worldwide. Because of the subject matter of the song, Brooks has been asked to sing it at many funerals, such as that of NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt, as well as, at the finales of long running shows such as when Jay Leno signed off as the host of The Tonight Show. For Garth Brooks, he says that “The Dance” is the one song in his entire catalogue that best exemplifies his philosophy on Life and that it is the song he is most proud of and enjoys singing the most.

“The Dance” was originally written by a Nashville songwriter named Tony Arata. Back in the late 1980s, Arata and Brooks were unknown singers trying to get their big break. Both young men worked part-time jobs in order to pay the rent. But, where they spent most of their time was in small clubs, singing songs that they hoped others in positions of influence might hear and want to buy for themselves or better yet, sign them to a recording contract. And so it was, that one night Arata was performing in a club at a “Songwriter’s Showcase”. Garth Brooks was performing at the same club. Arata went first. He played his version of “The Dance”. Brooks liked it right away. After the showcase was over, he approached Arata and told him that, if and when, he ever got signed to a record deal, he wanted to record “The Dance”, if Arata was willing to sell it to him. Well, there wouldn’t be much of a story if Garth Brooks hadn’t gotten that record deal and contacted Tony Arata again. Arata gave him the song but, instead of selling it for cash, he asked to be given the songwriting credit. As decisions go, this was probably the best decision Tony Arata ever made in his life. Because of the fact that he had faith in “The Dance” and bet on himself as songwriter, Arata received a percentage of the royalties from each of those millions of sales. As it stands, Tony Arata doesn’t have to work another day in his life unless he wanted to.

Garth Brooks tinkered a bit with the lyrics to Arata’s song but, for the most part, he left the lyrics intact. Where he did make significant changes was in the musical structure of the song. Brooks added a slow piano buildup off of the top of the song and then, changed how the guitar parts happened. He changed the sound of the song so much that when Tony Arata was allowed to hear the finished version of the entire album, he thought Garth Brooks had left his song off. He didn’t even recognize “The Dance” anymore! But, after realizing what Brooks had done, even Arata had to admit that he had made the song better. Obviously, because of how so many millions of people are moved to tears by “The Dance”, it seems that Arata is correct in his assessment of the changes.

Some people feel that the lyrics of “The Dance” are centred upon a broken or lost romance. Garth Brooks says that there could be an element of that in the lyrics but, more importantly that that, “The Dance” is about living a life with no regrets. The song talks about how is better to not know when the end is coming because, if you knew, you might live your life differently in order to avoid having it end as it must. Garth Brooks believes that you should take every chance, journey down every path, shake every hand that is extended in your direction because you just never know when luck is going to befall you and your life is going to change for the better. Because of this philosophy, that’s why “The Dance” is performed so often at funerals and why so many people find it hard to listen to without crying. As songs go, Garth Brooks (with a little help from Tony Arata) has tapped into a universal feeling for how many people wish to view their life as it winds down. We all want to know that it all meant something and that we, by extension, meant something, too. It is worthy wish, well-captured by one of the biggest selling, most respected and beloved Country Music songs of all-time…..”The Dance” by Garth Brooks. Enjoy. PS: Cry, if you want to. I know that I probably will. ❤

The link to the video for the song, “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “The Dance”, as performed live by Garth Brooks, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Garth Brooks, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for playing the best music of all-time, regardless of genre. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History….Song #319: The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #319: The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks.

Next to The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Elvis, Garth Brooks is the biggest selling music artist of all-time. He has sold over 200 million albums, which has resulted in his albums being certified 157 times Platinum!!!! He is known for his showmanship on stage, the ability to capture the moods of ordinary people in his songs and in his playful yet, strong singing voice. Garth Brooks is often credited with being one of the main people who helped Country Music transition from its “Tears in my Beer” roots, to a style of music that is more modern and rock/Pop-oriented, all the while retaining all of the original roots of Country and Western music. He is winner of the most Country Music Association Awards in history. He has had more #1 hits than any other Country artist in History. He has already been inducted in every music Hall of Fame he is eligible for. And, it all started with a debut album for the ages, called, “No Fences”.

Like many aspiring singers, Garth Brooks began his career making demo tapes and submitting them to any record label that would listen. He held odd jobs to pay his bills, while he played in small bars. It was while he was struggling to break into the music industry that one of the secrets to his success came to the fore. He worked tirelessly on his craft. He spent all of his free time writing songs, playing for anyone who would listen, as well as, getting to know session players, other songwriters and musicians in Nashville. As tends to happen, Garth Brooks began to create a network of friends and associates in the industry and, eventually, after much effort, his hard work began to pay off in two distinct ways. First of all, two of his songwriting buddies, Earl Bud Lee and Dewayne Blackwell, asked Brooks to sing on a demo they wished to shop. The song on the demo was called, “Friends in Low Places”. That demo was the last demo tape Brooks ever had to make. *(We will see that song later in our countdown).

The second break that he received was from fellow Country star, Tanya Tucker. At this point in his career, Brooks was just as willing to sell songs to other singers, as he was to write songs for himself. So, he wrote a song about infidelity called, “The Thunder Rolls” and pitched it to Tucker. She was in the process of making a Greatest Hits album and wasn’t actively seeking new songs at the moment but, she liked it and put a “hold” on it, meaning that she didn’t want to use it at the moment but was reserving the right to use it later and didnt want any other artist to have access to it. These sort of deals are quite common, apparently. In any case, as Garth Brooks began getting more and more well-known in Music circles, he was, eventually, offered a contract and tasked with putting together enough songs for an album. He circled back to Tucker and asked if he could have his song back and, luckily for Country fans everywhere, she agreed. *(She ended up using a slightly different version of the song on her next album of original material but, long after it became the big hit that it did for Brooks).

“No Fences” became Garth Brooks debut album. It was titled that because, right from the start, he had a vision for how he wanted Country music to change and evolve. For his part, he wanted no pre-conceived boundaries or limitations to hold him back so, he announced his arrival on the scene with “No Fences”. This album went on to become the highest selling debut album of all-time with over 18 million in sales alone, fuelled, in part, by the tandem hits of “Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls”.

The song, “The Thunder Rolls” is about an unfaithful husband and a wife who knows, all too well, that he has strayed. In the original version of his song, the story ends with the wife detecting the smell of another woman’s perfume on her husband and the line, “He knows that she knows.” However, there were many people who felt that the song, in its original form, was unfinished. They wanted to know what the wife did about her husband’s unfaithfulness. So, a fourth verse was added in which the wife sought a gun. When the song was released in video form, it was banned by CMT (Country Music Television) because of the violence inferred in the song. CMT said that they would only air the video if Brooks made a personal disclaimer, disassociating himself with violence). Brooks refused to do so. He is on record as saying that “The Thunder Rolls” is, actually, an anti-domestic violence song and that it is pro-female in its implications. Like many types of bans, the controversy surrounding the video only whetted the appetites of those desperate to see it. Eventually, the video aired on other channels, folks got to watch it and make their own judgements and the ban was soon lifted.

Regardless of the drama over the video for “The Thunder Rolls”, Garth Brooks remains one of the most popular music artists in any genre. While his heyday was in the 1990s, he has continued releasing new materials to this day (between bouts of retirement that he is, obviously, not yet ready for). Garth Brooks is married to fellow artist, Trisha Yearwood. He was asked to perform at the inauguration of current US President, Joe Biden, in Washington in 2021. From “No Fences” to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Garth Brooks has enjoyed one of the most successful music careers ever! Without further delay, here is “The Thunder Rolls” by the King of Country Music, himself, Mr. Garth Brooks! Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “The Thunder Rolls” by Garth Brooks, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Garth Brooks, can be found here.