On this day in music history: October 17, 1963 – The Beatles record “I Want To Hold Your Hand” at Abbey Road Studios in London. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the fifth UK single release for “The Fab Four”. The song is written in the Fall of 1963 while Paul McCartney is living at the home of his girlfriend, actress Jane Asher and her family, with John and Paul writing it together on the piano. “Hand” is recorded during sessions for the band’s second album “With The Beatles”, and is completed in seventeen takes. It is the first Beatles song recorded on Abbey Road’s four track multi-track tape machine, with previous recordings by the band being recorded using a two track machine. When it is released in the UK on November 29, 1963, it is an immediate smash, receiving advance orders of over one million copies. The single enters the chart at #2, at first unable to dislodge their previous release “She Loves You” from the top, finally taking the top spot two weeks later on December 12, 1963, spending five weeks at number one. The UK single is backed with the ballad “This Boy” which is recorded during the same session as “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. “Hand” becomes one of the best selling singles in history, selling over twelve million copies worldwide.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1960 – “Save The Last Dance For Me” by The Drifters hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks (non-consecutive). Written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, it is the biggest pop single for the legendary R&B vocal quartet. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is also the last single to feature lead singer Ben E. King, who leaves the group for a solo career. There is some speculation among fans that a young Phil Spector assisted Leiber and Stoller on the production of this song, but has never been confirmed. Though the legendary songwriter and producer collaborates with King, and the production team on the classic “Spanish Harlem”. Entering the Hot 100 at #78 on September 5, 1960, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Save The Last Dance For Me” goes on to become a rock & roll standard and is covered numerous times over the years by various artists including Ike & Tina Turner, Jay & The Americans, Billy Joe Royal, and Emmylou Harris. Following the re-charting of “Stand By Me” in 1986, Ben E. King records a new version of “Save The Last Dance For Me”, as the title track of a new album that is released in 1987. The Drifters original version is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001. “Save The Last Dance For Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1919 – RCA (the Radio Corporation of America) is founded in New York City. The company is the incorporation of several different organizations including the Marconi Wireless Company Of America, General Electric, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, United Fruit Company and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T). RCA’s first general manager is David Sarnoff plays an instrumental role in the success and growth of the corporation. Among Sarnoff’s achievements are the establishment of the first major radio and television network, the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), the film production company RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), and in 1929, RCA acquires the Victor Talking Machine Company (later known as RCA Victor). RCA makes a massive impact on the communications and entertainment industries over the next sixty years, playing a vital role in the expansion of commercial radio and in the development of the television and music industries. Sarnoff works for RCA until retiring from the company in 1970, one year before his death in 1971. RCA is eventually taken over by GE in 1986 with the music division being sold to Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) (later consolidated into Sony Music Entertainment), and its electronics division is sold to the French based Thomson Consumer Electronics. General Electric maintains ownership of NBC until 2011, when it is purchased by Comcast (NBC Universal) who purchases the remaining interest of the company in 2013.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1995 – “Missing (Todd Terry Remix)” by Everything But The Girl is released. Written by Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, it is the twenty third single release and biggest hit for the pop music duo from Hull, Yorkshire, UK. Meeting each other while both are students attending the University Of Hull in 1982, Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt discover they have much in common. Both are also signed to UK indie label Cherry Red Records as solo artists. The pair soon become musical collaborators. Their name Everything But The Girl comes from a sign in the window of a local furniture shop that bares the legend, “for your bedroom needs, we sell everything but the girl”. Cultivating a unique jazz-pop sound from the start, they record a cover of the Cole Porter pop standard “Night And Day” as their first release together in June of 1982. Issuing their debut album “Eden” in 1984, EBTG become solid hit makers in the UK during the 80’s and early 90’s, as one of the leaders of the sophisti-pop movement that also includes Sade, The Style Council, Swing Out Sister, and Matt Bianco. In the Summer of 1992, the duo abruptly stop working when Ben is diagnosed with Churg-Strauss syndrome, a life threatening auto immune disease. Watt is hospitalized for nearly three months while he receives treatment for his illness. Recovering well enough to resume recording, Everything But The Girl release a pair of EP’s in 1993, followed by their seventh studio album “Amplified Heart” in June of 1994. Among the songs on “Heart” is the song “Missing”. Written about lamenting the absence of a former lover as they walk past their former residence. The spare acoustic guitar based original version is released in August of 1994, garnering only a minimal response. Several months later, Ben and Tracey give the track to house music innovator Todd Terry, to produce a dance remix of the song. In Terry’s hands, he turns the mellow groove into an arresting and electrifying dance floor burner. Issued fourteen months after the original mix, the revamped version of “Missing” becomes a massive worldwide hit, peaking at #3 in the UK. In the US, where the duo had only enjoyed fringe popularity, it peaks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 17, 1996 (#6 AC, #70 R&B). The single spends an astounding 55 weeks on the pop singles chart before it exits. The remix version is added to the album, also turning Gold. “Missing” attains additional pop culture immortality, when it is used in a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live. In his portrayal of the male exotic dancer and stripper Mango, comedian Chris Kattan dances to the song when seducing and enticing both men and women, who fall under his spell. “Missing (Todd Terry Remix)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1979 – “One On One” by Bob James & Earl Klugh is released. Produced by Bob James, it is recorded at Mediasound Studios, Sound Palace Studios and SoundMixers Studios in New York City in Mid 1979. Both well established artists individually, musicians Bob James and Earl Klugh decide to record an album together. The idea for the collaboration comes after Klugh appears as a guest musician on James’ 1978 album “Touchdown”. CBS Records executive Bruce Lundvall suggests that the two musicians make an album. Writing three songs each for their proposed duet album, James and Klugh are joined in the studio by a group of ace jazz players including Ron Carter (acoustic bass), Neil Jason, Gary King (electric bass), Harvey Mason (drums), Eric Gale (electric guitar), Hubert Laws (flute), Ralph MacDonald (percussion) and David Nadien (violin). Bob James’ graceful touch on the acoustic and electric pianos, along with Earl Klugh’s lyrical acoustic guitar playing are an inspired pairing. The recording goes very smoothly and swiftly, with the band recording two songs a day, live without any additional overdubs. The album’s opening track “Kari” written by Klugh, is an immediate stand out, and begins receiving airplay on jazz, R&B and even some pop stations. With James very much in the public eye after scoring a hit with “Angela (Theme From Taxi)” earlier in the year, fans embrace the “One On One” album. “Kari” wins the duo a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1981. Other highlights on the album include “Mallorca”, “Love Lips” and “I’ll Never See You Smile Again”. The album’s unique and quirky cover art also stands out immediately. Designed to look like an over sized book of matches, the front of the matte finished gatefold sleeve features two matches left in the book, with the track listing and other credits printed on the back. The success of the album inspires two more duet albums between Bob James and Earl Klugh, “Two Of A Kind” in 1982 and “Cool” in 1992. Originally released on CD in 1982 by CBS/Sony, it is remastered and reissued by Essential/Castle Communications in 1996. It’s reissued again when James’ catalog is distributed by Koch Records in 2006. In 2009, the album is licensed to Salvo Records in the UK, and features a previously unreleased outtake from the original sessions, and a brief conversation with Bob James and Earl Klugh. “One On One” spends twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, peaking at number twenty three on the R&B album chart, number twenty six on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Songs In The Key Of Life” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 14 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the R&B album chart for 20 weeks (non-consecutive) on the same date. Produced by Stevie Wonder , it is recorded at Crystal Sound Studios, The Record Plant in Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, and The Hit Factory in New York City from Spring 1975 – Fall 1976. Recorded over a period of nearly two years, “Songs” becomes only the third album in US chart history to debut at #1 (Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Rock Of The Westies” are the first two.). It spins off four singles including “I Wish” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “Sir Duke” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “As” (#36 Pop and R&B) and “Another Star” (#32 Pop, #18 R&B). “Songs” wins four Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year, making Stevie Wonder one of only three artists in history to win the Album Of The Year prize three times (Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon are the others). The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002, and is also added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2005, for its ongoing historic and cultural significance. “Songs In The Key Of Life” is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Disco Duck Pt. 1” by Rick Dees & His Cast Of Idiots hits #1 on the Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #15 on the R&B singles chart on November 20, 1976. Written by Rick Dees, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the broadcasting legend born Rigdon Osmond Dees III. Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Rick Dees works days as a DJ at WMPS while spinning records at local night club called Chesterfield’s at night. With the Disco Era nearing its commercial peak in the mid 70’s, Dees is inspired to write a parody song. He’ll pitch the idea around town for a few months before attracting the interest of Stax Records co-founder Estelle Axton who is running a local record label called Fretone Records. Dees gets his friend Ken Pruitt to provide the signature “Donald Duck” vocals on the track. Released on Fretone in early 1976, the single begins getting major regional airplay throughout the south, but is not played by any Memphis radio stations, out of fear of promoting their competition. Rick Dees himself is prohibited by his own radio station from playing the record on the air. When he talks about it on the air one morning, the station manager abruptly fires him, on the grounds that it was a conflict of interest. After the firing, Dees is hired by rival station WHBQ-AM in Memphis. Shortly afterward, Dees goes to Los Angeles to shop the record around to major labels. Al Coury, the head of RSO Records buys the master from Fretone to release it nationally. Once the novelty hit takes hold on radio, it is a runaway smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on August 14, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Disco Duck” is also featured in one scene in the film “Saturday Night Fever”, but is not included on the Grammy winning soundtrack album. His management unwisely decides not to grant permission to allow RSO to use it on the soundtrack. At the same time the record is a huge hit selling over six million copies worldwide (over two million in the US alone), a large groundswell of backlash against the song develops while it is on the charts. It is often been cited by critics as one of the “worst records of all time”. “Disco Duck Pt. 1” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Johnny The Fox”, the seventh studio album by Thin Lizzy is released. Produced by John Alcock, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, Ramport Studios in Battersea, London, UK and Olympic Studios in Barnes, London, UK in August 1976. The band begin work on the album while lead singer and bassist Phil Lynott is recovering from a bout of hepatitis, causing the band to abort a tour of the US for the “Jailbreak” album. Lynott composes the songs while in the hospital with an acoustic guitar. Thin Lizzy decides to record in Germany rather than in the UK for tax purposes, but return home to the UK after only two weeks when the band members have disagreements over musical direction. The album spins off two singles including the title track, that later becomes a staple in Hip Hop culture when its opening drum break becomes a favorite of DJ’s and B-Boys. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1996, with an expanded double CD deluxe edition released in Europe and Japan in 2011. The first CD contains the original ten track album, with the second disc featuring remixes, previously unreleased tracks and live performances recorded for the BBC in November of 1976. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011 on the Back On Black label, and by Mercury Records in 2014. “Johnny The Fox” peaks at number eleven on the UK album chart, and number fifty two on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1970 – “Jesus Christ Superstar – A Rock Opera” is released (US release is on October 30, 1970). Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it is recorded at Olympic Studios, Advision Studios, Island Studios and Sport Production Studios in London from October 10, 1969 and Early – Mid 1970. Meeting each other in 1965, Webber and Rice find they share an interest in musical theater, and begin writing songs. Their first works are “The Likes Of Us” and “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Writing “Joseph” as a musical re-telling of the biblical prophet, they mount an even more ambitious project. The pair write a rock opera about the last week in the life of Jesus.The it initially has no interest from producers. The inspiration for “Jesus Christ Superstar” comes from the Bob Dylan song “With God On Our Side”, mentioning the savior’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot. The melody for “Superstar” comes to Webber while sitting in a restaurant. Hearing of a singer and actor named Murray Head, they approach him about singing the role of Judas and he accepts. After several rejections, Decca/MCA Records give them the money to record “Superstar” as a single. It features members of Joe Cocker’s group The Grease Band, with a full orchestra and the Trinidad Singers. The executives at MCA initially object to its release, but give their approval. Released on November 21, 1969 (US on December 1, 1969), it peaks at #47 on the UK chart, and #74 on the US pop chart. However, it hits #1 in Holland and makes the top ten in other countries. It inspires Decca to green light the full album. Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan is cast as Jesus, along with Yvonne Elliman as Mary Madgalene, Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate, Victor Brox as Caiaphas, The High Priest, and Manfred Mann lead singer Mike d’Abo as King Herod. Working on a very tight budget, they offer everyone a percentage of future royalties, rather than a flat session fee. Many accept the offer except Elliman, who is paid £100 (but is later given royalties). The double album is a huge success, in spite of some outcry that it is blasphemous. The original UK LP is issued with a sleeve, that unfolds into the shape of a star. The US LP is first released as a box set (revised to a gatefold), emblazoned with the now iconic “praying angels” logo, and packaged with a 28 page libretto. “Superstar” (#14 Pop) is reissued, followed by “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (#28 Pop). The latter is out charted by a cover version by Helen Reddy. The album becomes the launch pad for the long running musical, and hit film in 1973, cementing its pop cultural status. “Jesus Christ Superstar” spends three weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1968 – “Three Dog Night”, the debut album by Three Dog Night is released. Produced by Gabriel Mekler, it is recorded at the American Recording Co. in Calabasas, CA from July – August 1968. Formed in 1967, Three Dog Night consists of lead singers Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells, along with fellow band members Jimmy Greenspoon (keyboards), Joe Schermie (bass), Michael Allsup (guitar), and Floyd Sneed (drums). The band chose their unusual name from a magazine article about Australian Aborigines, and how they would often sleep huddled with a dog at night to keep warm. On unusually cold nights, they would sleep with two dogs, and if it were freezing, three dogs. Gigging around Los Angeles, Three Dog Night quickly build a following and are signed to ABC/Dunhill Records in early 1968 after being spotted performing at The Troubadour night club in West Hollywood. The band work with producer Gabriel Mekler, best known for his work with Steppenwolf (“Born To Be Wild”, “Magic Carpet Ride”). TDN record their debut album at the studio owned by recording engineer Richard Podolor, who becomes their producer in 1969, working with them until 1974. Not adept at writing their own material, the band show exquisite taste in choosing songs from some of the best up and coming songwriters of the day, including Randy Newman, Neil Young and Tim Hardin. Their first single release “Nobody” is local hit in L.A., but misses the mark on the national charts. stalling at #116 Bubbling Under the Hot 100. The second release, a cover of “Try A Little Tenderness” (#29 Pop), gives the band their first Top 40 hit. TDN’s breakout hit is the third single from their debut, a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One” (#5 Pop), originally recorded for his album “Aerial Ballet”. Their hook laden arrangement quickly becomes a smash, and is the first of eleven top ten singles Three Dog Night has over the next five years. Due to the success of the song, in later years the album is re-titled “One” outside the US and domestically when it is reissued on CD in the late 80’s. “Three Dog Night” peaks at number eleven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.