When I research for articles, I often come across odd tidbits that are tangentially related to the topic and sometimes more interesting in their own right. In my recent article on Starship’s 1985 hit, “We Built This City,” I discovered a couple of these bits and pieces of knowledge that didn’t fit into the narrative of the post.
Bernie Taupin, who wrote the lyrics for “We Built This City,” said in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone that Martin Page’s original version was “very dark” before Peter Wolf (Starship’s producer) “totally changed it.” Taupin even went on to say that, “If you heard the original demo, you wouldn’t even recognize the song.” After I published my article, I found a copy of the song online in the midst of an archived radio show. You can hear that the demo, while not “totally changed” as Taupin claimed, is certainly a different kind of song:
Another tidbit I came across was the music video for Taco’s 1982 recording of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” Taco’s recording of this song was listed alongside “We Built This City” in some of the “Worst Songs of the 1980s” lists I consulted. This re-imagining of Irving Berlin’s 1927 song portrays Taco floating through a bizarre world of destitution, light sabres, and blackface. When this video was being conceived, at what point did someone say: “We should have some guys dancing in blackface”? I suppose it’s a reference to the times when Berlin wrote the song; but come on, really? I’ll put this music video alongside Starship’s version of “We Built This City” in the category of things that beg the question, “How could this have happened?”