On this day in music history: December 14, 1999 – Paul McCartney performs at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, UK. Staged in part to promote his rock & roll covers album “Run Devil Run”, the intimate live show is McCartney’s first performance at the legendary venue since The Beatles last played there in 1963, and is his first public performance since the passing of his wife Linda in 1998. He is backed by a band that includes Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, guitarist Mick Green, Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, and keyboardist Pete Wingfield. The show is first broadcast on PBS, and is later released on video as “Paul McCartney Live At The Cavern Club” on June 19, 2001.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1980 – A ten minute worldwide silent vigil is held for John Lennon at 2 pm EST, at the request of Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono. More than 100,000 people attend the vigil in Central Park in New York City across the street from the Lennon’s apartment at The Dakota on Central Park West. Over 30,000 people attend the vigil in Lennon’s hometown of Liverpool, UK. On October 9, 1985 (what would have been John Lennon’s 45th Birthday), a memorial is dedicated at the entrance to Central Park at Central Park West and 72nd Street, the same location where the 1980 silent vigil takes place. Named “Strawberry Fields”, the 2.5 acre site designed by Central Park’s chief landscape architect Bruce Kelly includes a circular mosaic with the word “IMAGINE” placed directly in the center. The memorial serves as a meeting place for annual tributes and remembrances of Lennon on his birthday and on the day of his passing.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1979 – “London Calling” the third album by The Clash is released in the UK (US release is in January 1980). Produced by Guy Stevens and Mick Jones, it is recorded at Wessex Sound Studios in London from August – September and November 1979. The album demonstrates the bands’ ever widening musical influences and touch on numerous social issues affecting the UK at the time including unemployment, racial conflict and class inequality. The albums’ iconic cover artwork features a photo (taken by photographer Pennie Smith) of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision bass on stage at The Palladium in New York City. The title graphics on the cover pay homage to Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut album which also features the same typography design. The remnants of Simonon’s smashed bass are on display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, OH. It spins off three singles including the classics “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” (#23 Pop) and the title track. With “Train” being a last minute addition, initial pressings do not list the track on the back of the album or on the labels. Subsequent re-pressings correct this oversight. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, with original double LP being reissued on 180 gram vinyl in 2013. “London Calling” peaks at number nine on the UK album chart, number twenty seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1977 – “Saturday Night Fever” opens in theaters across the US. Released by Paramount Pictures, it stars John Travolta and is directed by John Badham. The low budget film about a young working class man spending his weekends dancing in a Brooklyn discotheque becomes a pop cultural phenomenon, grossing over $237 million at the box office, and is the breakthrough film role for Travolta. Initially Paramount has very low expectations, with some studio executives referring to it as “a vulgar little movie”. Their minds are changed when theater audiences respond enthusiastically to the first teaser trailer, which features John Travolta strutting down the street to the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”. The actor also receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1978. The soundtrack album featuring five tracks by the Bee Gees goes on to sell more than thirty million copies worldwide. The R-rated film’s popularity is so great, that Paramount re-edits the film and resubmits it to the MPAA for a PG rating so Travolta’s younger fans can see it with out being accompanied by an adult. This version of the film is the one that is aired on television, when it makes its network debut on ABC on November 16, 1980 (with further alterations), and is briefly issued on home video along with the original theatrical cut. Due to legal complications regarding clearances for the all of the music featured in the film, “Saturday Night Fever” does not make its debut on DVD until 2002, just in time for the twenty fifth anniversary of its original release. Since then, it has been reissued again on DVD for its thirtieth anniversary in 2007 and on Blu-ray disc in 2009. The iconic white three piece suit worn by John Travolta in the film is purchased at auction in 1979 by film critic Gene Siskel, whose inner lining includes an inscription to the critic from Travolta himself. After Siskel’s death in 1999, the suit is auctioned again by Christie’s to an anonymous buyer in the UK.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1974 – “You Got The Love” by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #11 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Ray Parker, Jr. and Chaka Khan, it is the first R&B chart topper for the Chicago based R&B band fronted by singer Chaka Khan. The song is originally written for Barry White for whom Parker is then working as a sideman in the Love Unlimited Orchestra, following his tenure with Stevie Wonder. When White passes on recording it, he shows the song to Chaka Khan, having met a few years before. Khan completes the lyrics and comes up with the title. Parker also joins the band in the studio and the play the songs’ signature rhythm guitar hook, when the band’s own guitarist Al Ciner isn’t able to nail the part. “You Got The Love” is released as the follow up to the band’s Grammy winning breakthrough hit “Tell Me Something Good” (#3 Pop & R&B) in September of 1974. “You Got The Love” is the first of five number one R&B singles the band has over the next nine years, propelling their second album “Rags To Rufus” to Gold and eventually Platinum status in the US.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1969 – The Jackson 5 make their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the CBS television network. The family group perform three songs including the A and B-sides of their debut single “I Want You Back”, “Who’s Lovin’ You” and “Stand”, all included on their debut album “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” released on December 18, 1969. With an estimated audience of more than 50,000,000, the studio audience and viewers at home owed by their polished and electrifying set, the J5 make a major impression, with Sullivan praising the young Motown stars. The normally staid host makes the statement “the little fella in front is incredible", of the then eleven year old Michael Jackson. The performance has an immediate impact, with The Jackson 5 becoming the talk of the town and receiving widespread media coverage. “I Want You Back” which had been steadily climbing the charts since debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles in mid November, is given a virtual rocket boost two weeks after Sullivan show appearance. The week of December 27, 1969, the single leaps from #17 to #8 on the Hot 100, and holds at #2 on the R&B chart before finally unseating label mates Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together” on January 10, 1970, settling in for a four week stay at the top. Three weeks later on January 31, 1970, the single tops the Hot 100, and shifting more than two million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1968 – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts for 7 weeks. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the first number one pop single for the Motown superstar. Gaye is the third artist on the label to record the song in April of 1967, with previously recorded versions by The Miracles and The Isley Brothers but are shelved. Motown founder Berry Gordy initially believes Gaye’s version it isn’t a hit either so it is also shelved. In the interim, Whitfield cuts the song on Gladys Knight & The Pips who have a runaway smash with it in December of 1967 (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). Marvin Gaye’s version remains in the Motown vault until September 1968, when it is finally issued on the album “In The Groove”. DJ’s begin playing it as a LP cut, eventually pushing Motown to release it as a single on October 30, 1968. Entering the Hot 100 at #34 on November 23, 1968, it leaps to the top of the chart only three weeks later, unseating Motown label mates Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Love Child” from the top spot. Two weeks after “Grapevine” hits number one on the Hot 100, it resides over a unique Top 10 in which Motown Records holds down five of the top ten chart positions including the top three positions on the chart for four consecutive weeks. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” sells over four million copies in the US, at the time becoming Motown’s largest selling single to date. One of the most frequently covered songs in Motown’s catalog, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Roger Troutman score hit with their versions of the song. Marvin Gaye’s recording is used in the film “The Big Chill” in 1983, helping propel its soundtrack album to multi-Platinum status. Musician Buddy Miles sings it as the voice of the animated claymation group The California Raisins, and hits the charts in 1986. A re-recorded version is also used in a UK commercial for Levi’s 501 jeans in 1985, featuring model and singer Nick Kamen, The commercial prompts Motown to reissue Gaye’s version as a single, and it peaks at #8 on the UK singles chart. Marvin Gaye’s recording of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1959 – “Time Out”, the twenty seventh album by The Dave Brubeck Quartet is released. Produced by Teo Macero, it is recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from June 25, July 1 and August 18, 1959. Born in Concord, CA in 1920, Dave Brubeck begins taking piano lessons from his mother as a youth. Later studying veterinarian medicine at the University Of The Pacific, one of his professors urges him to change his major to music. After graduating college, Brubeck is drafted into the Army. In 1944, he meets saxophonist Paul Desmond, who later becomes a member of The Brubeck Quartet, when it is formed in 1951. By 1958, the band’s best known line up consisting of Brubeck, Desmond, Joe Morello (drums) and Eugene Wright (bass) is set. While on a tour sponsored by the US State Department, hearing a band of Turkish street musicians play in 9/8 time, is initial inspiration for an album that changes the face of jazz music. Presenting his idea to Columbia Records president Goddard Lieberson, the executive agrees, but only if they consent to recording an album of traditional American songs first. Quickly cutting the requested album, the quartet move on to the next project. Original songs written for what become “Time Out” include the Dave Brubeck penned “Blue Rondo à la Turk”, which moves back and forth between 9/8 and 4/4 time. However, it is a Paul Desmond song that becomes its centerpiece. “Take Five” written in the unusual time signature of 5/4, giving the tune its name. Initially released as a single in September of 1959, i fails to make much of an impact. It becomes a hit more than a year and a half later in 1961. “Five” (#25 Pop, #5 AC) hits the Top 30 on the pop chart, propelling album in the top five, making it the first jazz recording to sell over a million copies. Even the albums’ abstract impressionist art cover, painted by artist S. Neil Fujita becomes iconic. The success of “Time Out” turn The Dave Brubeck Quartet into international stars, with “Take Five” and “Blue Rondo à la Turk” both become jazz standards and are widely covered. The album also spins off the successful sequel “Time Further Out” in late 1961. Regarded as one of the most influential jazz albums of all time, “Time Out” is selected for preservation by the National Recording Registry, by the Library Of Congress in 2005. It is also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2009. Following his death in 1977, Paul Desmond wills the publishing rights for “Take Five” to the American Red Cross, which to this day earn an average of $100,000+ a year in royalties. Long a favorite of audiophiles, “Time Out” has been reissued numerous times over the years, including a three CD Deluxe Edition with previously unreleased outtakes and live recordings from the era. “Time Out” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.