ANSWERING THE ROLLING STONES
Aired in February 2003
In the late 50s and early 60s, music fans were introduced to “answer” records – songs that were sometimes a parody or a sequel to recently established hits.
A few that come to mind are Jeanne Black’s “He’ll Have To Stay” in 1960, the answer record to Jim Reeves’ smash hit of 1959/60, “He’ll Have To Go”; Jody Miller’s 1965 “Queen Of The House,” the answer to Roger Miller’s 1965 signature song “King Of The Road”; and Lesley Gore’s 1963 “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” the follow-up record to her hit “It’s My Party.”
In most cases these answer records usually came out a few months after the success of the records they were emulating. One grand exception to this rule was an answer record that took eight years before it made it on the charts. Recognized today as a core Rock & Roll record, it went all the way to #1.
By the mid-70s the Rolling Stones were well established with seven #1 hits to their credit. In 1974 they put out a tongue-in-cheek tribute to their love of music – “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It).”
The song stirred up the creative juices of Alan Merrill, a band member of the Anglo/American group known as the Arrows. Although he realized that the Rolling Stones didn’t really mean to be derogatory about the music of the time, Merrill felt compelled to respond to the Stones’ tune through song.
Most thought that Merrill’s answer record was okay but wouldn’t be a hit so it got lost on the B side of one of the Arrows’ British singles in 1975. In the late 70s an all-girl band from the States, the Runaways, saw the Arrows performing this song on their TV show. A member of the Runaways subsequently called the group and asked for permission to record the song.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Runaways refused to record the song. The Runaways eventually broke up and the member with the eagerness to record the tune did so, releasing it in Holland in the early 80s. By 1982 she was back in America and had formed her own group. The group recorded the song again, only to be faced with contemporary hit radio stations saying it was too punk, and new wave stations feeling it was too rock.
But perseverance paid off. Being primarily a touring band, the group made the song their anthem and created such a demand that radio stations of all types were forced into playing it. By the week of March 20, 1982, this answer song was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remained there for 7 straight weeks.
Riding the wave at the #1 position was Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who were constantly encouraging their fans to “put another dime in the jukebox baby” because “I Love Rock ‘N Roll.”