Sedaka’s “Bad Blood” Still A Favorite

by Kevin Burton

   The night my beloved Cincinnati Reds became world champions for the first time in my lifetime, “Bad Blood” by Neil Sedaka was the number one song in the nation.

   It was number one for three weeks, then slid off the charts as all songs do.  But it never did fall off the Kev Top 40. 

   Time hasn’t been so good to the song though.  If you tune in my local oldies station you would think “Smoke From A Distant Fire,” by the Sanford Townsend Band was still on the charts.  But Bad Blood, not so much.   

   The Shadow of the British Invasion completely obscured the pop careers of Sedaka and many other American artists.  Sedaka never has been a favorite of hard rockers.  I guess his bubble-gum 60s run wasn’t fully redeemed by his more solid mid-70s stuff.

   What credit Sedaka does get doesn’t seem to filter down to Bad Blood.  

   That is despite the fact that Elton John provided uncredited backup vocals on the song. 

   Bad Blood co-writer Philip Cody told www.songfacts.com that it’s his least favorite song.  Here’s the story as he told it to songfacts.

   “I went to visit my family and I spent some time with my grandmother, who is an old Sicilian lady. She was telling stories about the lady up the street who used to be a witch, a strega. And the whole idea of people being good or evil because of what goes on in their blood was just part of the superstitious nature of my Sicilian upbringing that I tried to stay as far away from as I could.”

   “I just thought it would be an interesting way to approach a lyric: rather than from a place of enlightenment the idea is that love makes us stupid. And that’s where I went.”

   “It wasn’t (heavy sigh – pause)…I did it, and I didn’t think I did a very good job on it, and before I had a chance to do a re-write Neil was in the studio with Elton doing the song, and that was it. So I guess the best things are left undone.”

   “While Neil may be remembered primarily for “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” his most successful single is really “Bad Blood,” which sold 1.4 million copies and was number one for three weeks,” reads the entry in the Billboard book of Number One Hits. 

   But in 1986 Sedaka said Bad Blood was the least requested song at his concerts. 

   Speaking about the song, Sedaka told Rolling Stone that “The lyric is a little controversial, with words like “bitch” and such.  “I like it because it’s not such a goody two-shoes thing. That’s the mistake I made in my first career, the songs were too predictable.”

   “In case you’re wondering about the doo-wop stuff at the end that sounds like ‘did you run did you run,’ Cody says that was a spur of the moment thing between Elton and Neil in the studio,” according to songfacts. “I was a literate snob and would never written anything like doo run,” Cody said.

   Bad Blood was featured on “That 70s Show,” but for some reason I never watched that show.

   I recorded a version of Bad Blood with a backing track at a studio in Ohio. I wanted to listen to it before writing this post. It took me a longish time to find it. That was odd, given the orderly state of all my belongings in all areas of the house.  I feared for the briefest of moments that I had lost it.

   Then I found it.

   Well I won’t go so far as to say I wish I had lost it. But let’s just say it may be another long while before I spin it again.  I needed more track to cover up my vocal inadequacies that day.

   Or maybe I needed Elton John to help out.

   I seem to recall singing Bad Blood with my buddy Brandon door to door that December when we were supposed to be singing Christmas carols. That version was more inspired I’m sure. 

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