“Never Been to Spain” by Three Dog Night Prominently Mentions The Beatles

Of course, there have been many songs in the Top 40 that have mentioned The Beatles. In the early days of Beatlemania, there were several novelty songs, the most famous of which was “We Love You Beatles”, the 1964 novelty song by The Carefrees.

Countless other mentions of The Fab Four have been noteworthy. Some of them have been Mott The Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” with the lyrics “….and my brother back at home with his Beatles and his Stones.” Another memorable mention can be found in the 1970 Temptations’ song “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World is Today)” with the lyrics “Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles’ new record’s a gas”. Other prominent mentions can be found in the 1985 hit “Life in a Northern Town” by Dream Academy, and in the 1989 number one hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. There are many more examples.

“Never Been to Spain” was a # 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for Three Dog Night in 1971, appearing on their album Harmony. It was released after their top ten hit “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and before their single “Family of Man”. Prior to “Never Been to Spain”, Three Dog Night had two number one hits under their belt, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come) in 1970 and “Joy to The World” in 1971. Their third and final number one, “Black and White”, would top the charts in 1972. Between 1969 and 1975, Three Dog Night had twenty Top 40 hits and eleven Top Ten hits.

“Never Been to Spain” was written by Hoyt Axton,and picked up by Three Dog Night. The lyrics go: “Well, I never been to England/ But I kinda like the Beatles”.

The song consists of Axton citing places he has never visited with commentary on the speculative cultural highlights of those locales. He discusses his own travels, making comparisons to more worldly venues.
The final verse is:

Well, I’ve never been to heaven
But I’ve been to Oklahoma
Well, they tell me I was born there
But I really don’t remember

Hoyt Axton also wrote Three Dog Night’s biggest hit, “Joy to the World”, which topped the Billboard charts for six weeks in April and May 1971. Axton has songwriting in his genetics because he was the son of famed songwriter Mae Boren Axton, who was famously known as the “Queen Mother of Nashville”. Mae Boren Axton’s most famous song writing credit is the wildly popular song “Heartbreak Hotel” which she wrote for a young Elvis Presley. She also had the distinction of strategically introducing an unknown Elvis Presley to Colonel Tom Parker. Hoyt Axton also had a famous first cousin, David Boren. David Boren served as Governor of Oklahoma from 1974 to 1974, and then served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 1994.

Ironically, the two other number one songs scored by Three Dog Night were also written by songwriters who have famous relatives. Their first number one hit, “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” was written by Randy Newman. It stayed on top for two weeks in July 1970. The song has the unique distinction of being the number one song on the very first edition of Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” on the weekend of July 40, 1970. Randy Newman, an accomplished singer/songwriter himself, is the nephew of famed composers Alfred, Emil and Lionel Newman; all three worked on film scores in Hollywood. Alfred Newman won nine Academy Awards, more than any composer in Oscar history. Emil Newman worked on over 200 films and tv shows, earning an Oscar nomination in 1941. Lionel Newman’s career with 20th Century Fox spanned 46 years and 200 movies. He wrote several classic tv themes such as “Dobie Gillis” and “Daniel Boone”. It is no surprise that since the 1980’s Randy Newman has concentrated on writing film scores.

The third and final chart-topper for the band was “Black and White”, which stayed in the top position for one week in September 1972. It was co-written by David Arkin in the 1950’s. David Arkin is the father of actor Alan Arkin and the grandfather of actor Adam Arkin. Alan Arkin received two Oscar nominations for Best Actor, and one for Best Supporting Actor. He won his first and only Oscar for the 2006 movie Little Miss Sunshine for Best Supporting Actor.

Hoyt Axton also wrote the Ringo Starr hit “No No Song” which reached # 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, giving the Fab Four drummer his seventh top ten hit in the U.S. In his acclaimed 1991 biography Ringo Starr: Straight Man or Joker, author Alan Clayson wrote of Axton: “To Ringo, he gave a Jamaican-flavoured litany that warned of the horrors of whiskey, cocaine and so forth against the oaradise of total abstinence. Unreleased as a British 45 for fear of Radio One programmers getting the wrong – or right – end of the stick. “No No Song” came within an ace of duplicating the feat of ‘You’re Sixteen’ in the States.”

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