On this day in music history: November 11, 1997 – “BBC Sessions”, the second live album (fifteenth overall) by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded at The Playhouse Theatre, Maida Vale Studio 4, BBC Aeolian Hall, and The Paris Theatre in London from March 3, 19 and June 16, 24, and 27, 1969, and April 1, 1971. The twenty four track double CD compilation features in studio and live concert performances by the band performed for radio broadcast on the BBC in 1969 and 1971. It is the first official release of these recordings (and the first new Zeppelin release in fifteen years), having been widely circulated among fans on bootlegs for years. Though there is some criticism at the decision to edit and exclude some material, it is warmly received by most fans. At the time of its original release, the album is also issued as a limited edition four LP box set, released jointly between Atlantic Records and audiophile label Classic Records. The vinyl edition is subsequently re-pressed in 2005, but remains in print for only a short period before it is deleted. The “BBC Sessions” is remastered and reissued in expanded form in September of 2016, including previously unreleased material not on the original release. “The Complete BBC Sessions” is released as a three CD or five LP box set. “BBC Sessions” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1985 – “Catching Up With Depeche Mode” by Depeche Mode is released. Produced by Depeche Mode, Daniel Miller and Gareth Jones, it is recorded at Blackwing Studios, The Garden, Music Works Studios in London, Hansa Mischraum Studios in Berlin, West Germany and Genetic Studios in Reading, UK from December 1980 – July 1985. Released in North America only, the thirteen track compilation collects singles released by the band between 1981 and 1985 including the non LP B-sides “Fly On The Windscreen” and “Flexible”. It also includes the recently released stand alone singles “It’s Called A Heart” and “Shake The Disease”(#33 Club Play) issued just prior to the LP. “Catching Up” is designed to be the American counterpart to the UK compilation “The Singles 81-85” which contains only single A-sides. A video compilation titled “Some Great Videos” which include many of the same tracks as the LP (and similar cover artwork) is released on VHS and Laserdisc concurrently with the album. Though not a huge success out of the box, it is a very steady selling catalog title over time, topping a half million copies by July of 1989, and over a million by August of 2000. In spite of its best selling status, there are no plans for the album to be reissued. Since its original release, more comprehensive compilations of Depeche Mode’s hit singles and B-sides have been released. Unauthorized bootleg cassette copies of “Catching Up”, have surfaced in Europe since the early 90’s. “Catching Up With Depeche Mode” peaks at number one hundred thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1981 – “The Jacksons Live!” by The Jacksons is released. Produced by The Jacksons, it is recorded at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, NY, Providence Civic Center in Providence, RI, The Omni in Atlanta, GA, and Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 16, July 22, August 2, and August 18, 19, 1981. Recorded during their “Triumph Tour” of North America in 1981, the album is compiled from tour stops in Buffalo, NY, Providence, RI, Atlanta, GA and New York City, NY. The fourteen track two LP set includes live versions of Jacksons, Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson solo material. The Jacksons are backed by a solid rhythm section that includes Jonathan Moffett (drums), David Williams (guitar), Mike McKinney (bass), Bill Wolfer (keyboards), Alan “Funt” Prater, Broderick “Mac” McMorris, Cloris Grimes and Wesley Phillips (horns). The show is choreographed by Michael, Marlon and Jackie, and features visual illusions created by magician and illusionist Doug Henning. Many of the shows on the tour are professionally filmed for future use, but to date have never been legitimately released. Though clips from various performances have circulated as bootlegs among fans for many years. The tracks “Things I Do For You” b/w “Working Day And Night” are issued as a commercial single in February of 1982. The Jackson 5 medley titled “ Medley: a. I Want You Back, b. ABC, c. The Love You Save” (b/w the live performance version of “Rock With You”), is serviced as a promotional single to radio, and becomes an airplay favorite on R&B stations. The original vinyl LP comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve, with full color inner sleeves featuring various live performance photos of the group. Later vinyl re-pressings omit these custom sleeves, and the regular domestic CD reissue re-print these images inside the booklet in black & white rather than in color. To date, the album has yet to be reissued in any form by Sony Legacy. In spite of the original master tapes being remastered by Joseph Palmaccio nearly a decade before now. “The Jacksons Live!” peaks at number ten on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirty on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “C’est Chic”, the second album by Chic is released. Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station Studios in New York City from Mid – Late 1978. Buoyed by the success of their their Gold selling debut album, Chic returns to the studio in the Spring of 1978 to work on their sophomore release. With original lead vocalist Norma Jean Wright departing the band for a solo career, Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin become the lead voices for Chic. While working on their own album, Edwards and Rodgers also concurrently produce an album for Philadelphia based family group Sister Sledge after Atlantic Records executives let them choose whatever act on the company roster they want to work with. The song “He’s The Greatest Dancer”, originally intended to go on Chic’s album is given to Sister Sledge, while “I Want Your Love” (#5 R&B, #7 Pop) written with the intent of giving it to the Sledges, is instead placed on “C’est Chic”. The albums’ cornerstone track, “Le Freak” (#1 Pop and R&B) is inspired by an incident at the legendary Studio 54 disco on New Year’s Eve of 1977, when the producers are invited by singer Grace Jones to discuss working with her. Edwards and Rodgers are met with the club’s infamous “velvet rope” door policy and are not admitted. They instead go to Nile’s apartment around the corner, and begin jamming on a riff that starts with the refrain “ahhh, f*** off!!!, which evolves into “ahhh, freak out!!” With “Le Freak” being issued as the lead single, the album quickly takes off, becoming Chic’s biggest seller and today is regarded as a landmark album of the Disco Era. The front and back cover photos are taken by legendary photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors, Ohio Players, Funkadelic). Beyond the albums’ two hit singles, the lead track “Chic Cheer” also becomes a dance floor favorite, later being sampled on singer Faith Evans’ hit “Love Like This” in 1998 and on Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful”. Originally issued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Warner Japan in 1998, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve (w/ HDCD encoding). Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, the album is reissued as a 180 gram LP by Friday Music in 2013. The album is remastered again, by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios. It’s reissued as part of the box set “The Chic Organization: 1977 -1979” as a five CD, or four LP + 12” single half speed mastered vinyl set, on November 23, 2018. The vinyl edition is also issued separately, coming with an OBI strip detailing the half-speed mastering process. “C’est Chic” spends eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 on December 23, 1978. Written by Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, it is the first solo chart topper for the lead singer of the R&B band Rufus. After recording five albums with Rufus, Chaka Khan begins work on her first solo album with producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Average White Band, the Bee Gees) in early 1978. While searching for material to record, Mardin finds the song “I’m Every Woman”, written by Ashford & Simpson, who Khan had recently collaborated with on Quincy Jones’ R&B chart topper “Stuff Like That”. The husband and wife duo play the demo for Mardin off of an acetate disc they had recorded some years before. The producer writes out the chord changes and lyrics, before coming up with a new arrangement. Recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City, the track features musicians such as AWB members Steve Ferrone (drums), Hamish Stuart and Onnie McIntyre (guitars and background vocals), bassist Anthony Jackson, guitarist Phil Upchurch and keyboard player Richard Tee. An instant R&B radio and club classic upon its release in September of 1978, it also crosses over into the pop Top 30 before the end of the year. Whitney Houston covers “Woman” (#4 Pop and R&B) for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack in 1992, and Khan makes a cameo appearance in the music video. “I’m Every Woman” is the first of three solo number one singles for Chaka Khan, with that single propelling the accompanying album “Chaka” to Gold status in the US.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Jimmy Webb, it is the first number one single for the legendary “Queen Of Disco”. The song is originally written in 1967 by songwriter Jimmy Webb (“Up, Up And Away”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”) for The Association, and is conceived as part of a side long cantata for the bands’ album “Birthday”. When The Association pass on recording the cantata, Webb excerpts “MacArthur Park” from the piece and record it with actor Richard Harris. His version, clocking in at a then unheard of 7:20, is a huge hit (#2 Pop) in spite of its length. Donna Summer records the song in 1978 as part of a seventeen and a half minute long suite for the fourth side of her double album “Live And More!”. Her medley consists of “MacArthur Park” as well as the songs “One Of A Kind” and “Heaven Knows” (the latter also being released as single in early 1979 (#4 Pop, #10 R&B). Edited down from its epic side long duration to a more radio friendly length, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on September 9, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. A few months later, Summer meets Webb while she is recording her next album “Bad Girls” in Hollywood. He takes her out to the parking lot, and shows her a brand new Ferrari he’s purchased, telling the singer with a big smile, “you bought me that!!”. “MacArthur Park” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1975 – “Gratitude”, the seventh album by Earth, Wind & Fire is released. Produced by Maurice White, Charles Stepney and Joe Wissert (live tracks), it is recorded in Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA, St. Louis, MO, Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington DC from Late 1974 – Mid 1975 (live tracks) and Hollywood Sound, Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood, CA in June 1975 (studio tracks). Following their huge breakthrough success with “That’s The Way Of The World”, Columbia Records requests another album from the band for release in time for the 1975 Christmas holiday season. Not having enough time or new material written to record a brand new studio album, they begin recording their live shows. The finished album is a two LP set with three sides of live material and a fourth side with five new songs. It is also released with the lower list price of $7.98 ($8.98 cassette and 8-track) rather than the normal $11.98 or $12.98 price for a double album. It spins off the hits “Sing A Song” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop) and “Can’t Hide Love (#11 R&B, #39 Pop). "Gratitude” is regarded by many fans and critics as one of the best live recordings of all time. The album is remastered and reissued in 1999 on a standard redbook CD and single layer SACD. It is remastered again in 2011 for the box set “Earth, Wind & Fire – The Columbia Masters”, and in 2012 as a two disc high resolution Blu-Ray disc in Japan, replicating the original album packaging in mini-LP form. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued by Friday Music in 2015, as a limited edition pressed on blue vinyl. Another LP reissue pressed on standard black vinyl is released by Sony Music also in 2015. “Gratitude” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, six weeks (non-consecutive) at the top of the R&B album chart, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1968 – “Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is released (UK release date is on November 29, 1968). Produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, it is recorded at Kenwood Sun Room (John Lennon home studio) in Weybridge, Surrey, UK on May 19, 1968. The avant garde recording is the result of an all night recording session consisting of tape loops combined with minimal instrumentation, sound effects, and ad-libbed dialogue between Lennon and Ono. The album becomes infamous for its cover art which feature photos of the couple naked on both the front and back of the LP. The photos are taken by Lennon with a time delayed camera, while he and Ono are living in a London flat in Montagu Square owned by Ringo Starr. This stirs up such great controversy that Apple Records’ US distributor Capitol Records and UK distributor EMI refuse to handle the album (though do actually press the LP). Tetragrammaton Records distributes it in the US, while Track Records distributes it in the UK (limited to only 5,000 copies). Retailers outraged by the nudity on the cover, only agree to sell it if it is packaged in a brown paper bag. Though in one instance, 30,000 copies of the album are seized from a distributor in New Jersey. Treated more as a curiosity by fans, it still manages to sell over 25,000 copies in the US. The album is officially reissued in the US by Rykodisc in 1997. “Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins” peaks at number one hundred twenty four on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1920 – “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith And Her Jazz Hounds is released. Written by Perry Bradford, it is biggest hit for the singer, dancer and actress from Cincinnati, OH. Born Mamie Robinson, she begins her career as a dancer at the age of ten. Known as an all around performer, her talents also extend to singing and acting. She marries fellow singer William “Smitty” Smith in 1912. In 1918, Smith meets songwriter and vaudeville performer Perry Bradford. Bradford persuades Okeh Records’ A&R director Fred Hager to record Mamie Smith. The songwriter recommends her, when singer Sophie Tucker falls ill before a scheduled recording session. Before this, no African American singers had ever been recorded by the label. In spite of racist groups, vowing to boycott labels that record black musicians, Hager ignores the threats. Backed by a band of white musicians, Mamie Smith breaks the color barrier by recording “That Thing Called Love” and “You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” on February 14, 1920. Just six months later, Mamie Smith records “Crazy Blues”. It’s cut at the Okeh Studios on August 10, 1920, with a band of black musicians called The Jazz Hounds. Though Bradford claims to have played piano on the track, photographs associated with the historic session, show stride piano icon Willie “The Lion” Smith at the piano. With the African Americans being under served, in terms of records out of their own culture being available, “Crazy Blues” is an instant sensation. In its first week, it sells over 10,000 copies, and more than 75,000 within its first month of release. In all, it is believed to have sold more than a million copies. Mamie Smith’s landmark recording, opens the door for more black musicians to attain mainstream success. Smith becomes a big star, continuing to record for Okeh through 1924. Switching to Ajax and Victor Records, they do not sell well. She continues to tour and perform in the US and Europe, before retiring in 1931. Her own fame is eclipsed by other blues vocal legends like Bessie Smith (no relation), Ma Rainey and others. Smith appears in several low budget films from 1939 to 1943. She makes her last public appearance in 1944, along side Billie Holiday. Falling ill, Smith spends the last two years of her life in a Harlem hospital. She dies in 1946, and is buried in an unmarked grave. It is believed that she was penniless at the time of her death. With the help of West German blues fans, money is raised to purchase a headstone for Smith in 1963. Blues singer Victoria Spivey and Len Kunstadt have her re-interred at Frederick Douglass Memorial Park in Richmond, NY, on January 27, 1964. “Crazy Blues” is later honored when it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1994, and is selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2005.