In 2016, my husband and I were invited to join a table for Trivia night whose members met weekly inside the restaurant of our community clubhouse. Each table was considered a team and they were allowed up to nine players. If your team won, it would receive a food and beverage $25.00 gift card which, in truth, was usually spent buying a round of drinks the following week. “Bragging rights” for the week were equally rewarding.
As guests, we didn’t really know the other players that night with the exception of the couple who invited us. I was elated when we were asked “Who sang the 1969 song “Spirit in the Sky?” I whispered “Norman Greenbaum” to the person sitting next to me who passed it down to the woman writing down the answers. I was hooked.
We returned as substitutes and over time we really bonded as a team as we became regulars. It was fun. It was our own local version of Jeopardy!. Aside from the friendly banter and camaraderie, I learned something interesting every week which was appealing.
Here’s a past question: Which is further west? Reno, Nevada or Los Angeles, California?
The answer is Reno. Though Nevada is California’s eastern neighbor and Los Angeles sits on the Pacific Coast, Reno is farther west than Los Angeles. Reno is located at 119°49′ West, while Los Angeles is located at 118°14′ West. That’s always been a head-scratcher for me.
I’ll be honest. In terms of geography, I was the weakest link. History was a close second. But I had a niche. Music. Ever since my college disc jockey days at WDUB Radio, I had just absorbed that world of banter with other DJs, accruing knowledge on bands, songs, albums, and way too many extraneous facts. Why it all stuck would make an interesting post about the brain and why it sets up storage units for some concepts, but not for others. A storage unit created for math would have proved helpful.
We joined in every week, even when the venue changed to a bar further away. Then in November 2019, I received my cancer diagnosis and Covid hit a couple of months later. Trivia night vanished for most of 2020. When it did return with safety protocols like socially-distanced tables of four only, I still chose not to go – partly because of my health and partly because my focus was more on my mom’s growing health issues.
But just because I wasn’t exercising the “retrieval”” part of my brain as much, it didn’t mean that I had stopped retaining “new to me” music trivia. Safe at home over the last year and a half, I’ve watched endless interviews and band documentaries. My old DJ self was feeling the groove.
Here are a few interesting trivia facts I discovered:
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen.
In both the song’s music video and during its U.K tour, front man Freddie Mercury plays on a concert grand piano which was also used by Paul McCartney while he was recording ‘Hey Jude’. That is some piano pedigree. Despite its length and quirky “operatic” style, Bohemian Rhapsody was listed 17th in Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.
‘Take a Chance on Me’ by Abba
The songwriter/band member Ulvaeus, conceived the idea while he was jogging. He would repeat a “tck-a-ch”-style rhythm to pace himself. It slowly morphed into “takeachance, takeachance, takeachance.” It was the group’s 4th biggest grossing song ever.
‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton
Last year, Parton spoke in an interview on how she wrote the song ‘Jolene.’ She was on the set of a movie and was heading back to her trailer, when a young girl approached her for an autograph. “Sure sweetie” Dolly replied “what’s your name?” And the girl said “Jolene.” Dolly told the girl she loved that name and wanted to remember it. So, as she walked towards the trailer, she started repeating “Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene” in order to memorize it. When she got to the trailer, she sat down and wrote the song.
The Beauty and the Beat album by the Go-Go’s
This was the first album the all-female band released in 1981. The cover depicts the women with towels covering their hair and bodies like they are enjoying a spa day. They were on a shoestring budget, however, and the towels were purchased from Macy’s and were expensive. So as soon as the shoot wrapped, the towels were returned!
‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles
There is a line in this song: “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.” This is a reference to the band Steely Dan. Managed by the same person, Irving Azoff, there was some competition between the two supergroups. Steely Dan had taken the first shot when they made an insulting reference to The Eagles in their song ‘Everything You Did’ singing a line “turn up the Eagles the neighbors are listening.” Apparently, they were defining the Eagles music as “loud or noisy.” The Eagles response was more of a genteel stab.
The Main Course album by the Bee Gees
Despite early success, the Bee Gees career was struggling in the early-70’s. They were introduced to Eric Clapton who encouraged the group of brothers to record an album in America. Clapton had just had huge success with his album 461 Ocean Blvd which was recorded in Miami. So, the Bee Gees headed to Miami and recorded 1975’s Main Course which included ‘Jive Talkin’ and ‘Nights on Broadway.’ The “new” sound also placed Barry Gibb’s falsetto in the front which altered the sound and trajectory of their success forever. (Saturday Night Fever came two years later.) In fact, the Bee Gees permanently moved to Miami after that where the sole remaining brother Barry still lives today.
‘Our House’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The sweet, mega-hit song was written by Graham Nash who was living with Joni Mitchell at the time. Meanwhile, she was writing a troubled relationship song for her classic album Blue. As a side note, Joni Mitchell is one of the 2021 Kennedy Music Center honorees.
‘Light My Fire’ by The Doors
Given lead singer Jim Morrison’s love of poetry, he was the writer for the majority of the band’s songs but encouraged his band mates to try. So, Robby Krieger wrote ‘Light My Fire.’ Morrison loved it but didn’t like the repetitive “c’mon baby light my fire, c’mon baby light my fire” etc. He thought of a line he had previously written in one of his poems and swapped it out before recording with “try to set the night on fire.”
With so many people vaccinated, Trivia night has returned to pre-Covid tables of nine, but ironically, just like many of the bands listed above, our team eventually disbanded. I’m ok with that. But I’ve been thinking that, just maybe, I should use this time to brush up on geography and history…just in case.
“Don’t know much about history, don’t know much biology..” And yes, who sings this song?