So, it’s the 4th of July -and what better way to celebrate the ol’ Red, White & Blue than with, well…red, white and blue!
These colors have been a source of pride and patriotism for Americans since the birth of the first American flag in 1777. And though the flag does represent America’s independence from Britain, the two nations do enjoy the same great colors (UK flag, anyone?), and when it comes to classic rock ‘n’ roll, they have respected and influenced each other from the very beginning. Just think of the American blues, rockabilly and R&B influence on bands like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin! So to celebrate these iconic American hues, along with all the great music that has been released from both sides of the Atlantic, here’s a list of classic rock songs that salute Red, White or Blue in the title. From The Jimi Hendrix Experience to Queen, The Allman Brothers Band to The Who, these bands have all contributed their share of colorful tunes. And even if they’re not all American, or not even British for that matter (what’s up Rush!), we love ‘em all just the same.
*A huge thank you to Elliot Gross for the list suggestion!
Elvis Costello – “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
The song was the 3rd single from the English singer-songwriter’s 1977 debut album, My Aim Is True. In 2011, Costello rewrote the song for a segment on Sesame Street, renaming it “(A Monster Went and) Ate My Red 2.”
Foreigner – “Dirty White Boy”
The song was the first single from the British-American band’s third album, Head Games, and reached as high as #12 on the charts. The track is featured in the 2013 video game, Grand Theft Auto V.
Badfinger – “Baby Blue”
Written by lead singer/songwriter Pete Ham, the song was included on the band’s 1971 album Straight Up and is one of their most famous songs. It was written about a girlfriend of Ham’s named Dixie Armstrong and has appeared in the film The Departed as well as the finale of the drama series Breaking Bad.
Harry Chapin – “Flowers Are Red”
The song, off of 1978’s Living Room Suite, tells the story of a boy who draws flowers using many different colors, but his teacher tells him to only paint them red and green because that’s how they’re typically seen. It is based on a personal experience Chapin had with a teacher who told him that his son marches to the beat of a different drummer, but that she’ll get him straightened out.
The Moody Blues – “Nights in White Satin”
Written by lead singer Justin Hayward at the age of 19, the song was included on 1967’s Days of Future Passed. It has been interpreted by many to be a tale of unrequited love (perhaps experienced by Hayward) and is one of the English band’s biggest hits.
The Beatles – “Blue Jay Way”
The trippy song was written by lead guitarist George Harrison and included on the band’s 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour. The song is named after a street high in the Hollywood Hills where George Harrison rented a house around the time of the album recording/release.
The Rolling Stones – “Little Red Rooster”
The blues standard is credited to songwriter Willie Dixon, but a variety of musicians have recorded/reinterpreted it. The Stones released their own version of the song as a single in 1964 (and then again on their 1965 album The Rolling Stones, Now!) complete with the signature Stones swagger.
Queen – “White Queen (As It Began)”
Written by guitarist Brian May, the song was included on 1974’s Queen II and was inspired by the love that May had for a girl who was a fellow student. May has said that he came up with the idea for the song while reading Robert Graves’ The White Goddess.
Styx – “Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)”
Composed by guitarist/songwriter Tommy Shaw, it was the first single released for the band’s 1978 album, Pieces of Eight. It was apparently written after Shaw heard the sound of his motorboat engine failing to start up, and he thought the sound would make a good song riff.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Red House”
The slow twelve-bar blues song was originally released on 1967’s Are You Experienced. It was one of the earliest songs recorded by the Experience and became a staple of Hendrix’s live shows where he would usually improvise parts.
Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit”
The song, off of 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, was ranked #478 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was partly inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the lyrics are often seen as a reference to psychedelic drugs like LSD (which the band were known for using).
The Allman Brothers Band – “Blue Sky”
Appearing on the band’s 1972 double album Eat a Peach, the song was written by guitarist Dickey Betts about his Native American girlfriend and future wife, Sandy “Bluesky” Wabegijig (they divorced in 1975). The song marks Betts’ debut as lead vocalist with the band.
Rush – “Red Barchetta”
The song, off of 1981’s Moving Pictures, describes a future where many vehicles have become illegal. The narrator’s uncle has kept one of these illegal vehicles (a red barchetta) in perfect condition, hidden at his secret country home. The narrator sneaks out to the house to go for drives and is involved in high-speed chases with “air cars.”
Cream – “White Room”
Written by bassist/singer Jack Bruce and poet Pete Brown (although drummer Ginger Baker claims to have written the intro), the song appears on the 1968 double album Wheels of Fire and is perhaps the band’s most well-known song, along with Sunshine of Your Love.
The Who – “Blue, Red, And Grey”
The song appears on 1975’s The Who by Numbers and features guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend on lead vocals. It is interpreted by some as a song dealing with Townshend’s own depression and thoughts of suicide, while others believe it to have hopeful undertones.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]