On this day in music history: March 23, 1963 – “Our Day Will Come” by Ruby & The Romantics hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 2 weeks on the same date. Written by Bill Hilliard and Mort Garson, it is the biggest hit for the R&B vocal quintet fronted by lead singer Ruby Nash. Hilliard and Garson submit their song to Kapp Records with the hopes of either Jack Jones or Julie London recording it. Label A&R man/producer Allen Stanton chooses Ruby & The Romantics, an R&B vocal group from Akron, OH to record it as their first release. Recorded in December of 1962, the track features legendary guitarists Kenny Burrell, and Vinnie Bell (inventor of the Coral Electric Sitar), Al Gorgoni (The Monkees, Carole King, The Four Seasons), bassist Russ Savaukus (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison), and drummer Gary Chester (The Shirelles, The Drifters, Dionne Warwick). Two versions of the song are cut, one with a straight pop arrangement and one with a bossa nova arrangement. The latter is chosen for release and is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on February 9, 1963, it streaks to the top of the chart just six weeks later. “Our Day Will Come” is covered a number of times after Ruby & The Romantics success with the song, also being recorded by Frankie Valli, Cher, Fontella Bass, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Nancy Wilson, The Supremes, Isaac Hayes and Amy Winehouse.
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On this day in music history: March 22, 1969 – “Runaway Child, Running Wild” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #6 on the Hot 100 on March 29, 1969. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the eighth chart topper for the legendary Motown vocal group. With producer Norman Whitfield reinventing The Temptations sound with the single “Cloud Nine” in late 1968, he and songwriting partner Barrett Strong write more material for the groups next album. While reading the newspaper one day, Strong sees an article about child runaways. Telling Whitfield about the article, the songs narrative tells the story of a young boy who runs away from home after being punished for being truant from school. The boy ends up on the streets alone, frightened and unable to find his way back home. Titling it “Runaway Child, Running Wild”, the track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on October 31, 1968 with members of The Funk Brothers including James Jamerson (bass), Earl Van Dyke (organ), Kenneth “Spider Webb” Rice (drums), Jack Ashford and Eddie “Bongo” Brown (percussion) and Joe Messina (guitar). As he had on “Cloud Nine”, guitarist Dennis Coffey (“Scorpio”, “Theme From Black Belt Jones”) also plays guitar on the track, using a wah wah pedal during the songs intro and throughout. The Temptations with all five members taking a turn at singing lead, record their vocals on December 16, 1968. Clocking in at over nine and a half minutes, “Runaway Child” is sliced virtually in half for single release when it issued on January 30, 1969. At nearly five minutes edited, DJ’s are not deterred by its length in the least, and begin playing it immediately. The full uncut version is included on The Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” released three weeks after the single. FM underground rock stations and many R&B stations will play the long version, driven by listener requests. One of the pillars of The Tempts’ “psychedelic soul” era, it becomes one the groups most popular songs. An alternate instrumental version of the song by The Funk Brothers is featured on the “20th Century Masters – The Best Of The Funk Brothers: Millennium Collection” compilation in 2004. “Runaway Child, Running Wild” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 22, 1965 – “Bringing It All Back Home”, the fifth album by Bob Dylan is released. Produced by Tom Wilson, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City from January 13-15, 1965. Recorded just four months after the release of his previous album “Another Side Of Bob Dylan”, the prolific musician shifts musical direction yet again. Moving away from the acoustic based protest songs that have established him as a leader of the folk music movement, Dylan cuts half of the new album with a band using electric guitars and bass for the first time. The very act of a folk musician using electric instruments is considered a highly controversial act, with many of his peers having a bias against rock & roll. Dylan’s lyrics also begin to change dramatically, becoming more personal and adopting an abstract “stream of consciousness” prose in many of them. This is most evident on the albums classic single “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (#39 Pop), drawing inspiration from disparate sources including beat poet Jack Kerouac, folk musicians Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and rock & roll pioneer Chuck Berry. The song becomes Bob Dylan’s first chart single in the US, and one of his best known compositions. The album contains a number of other classics including “Maggie’s Farm”, which Dylan performs to a hostile crowd at the Newport Folk Festival, jeering him for feeling that he has betrayed his core folk music audience by going electric. “Gates Of Eden”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” also become among Dylan’s best known, widely covered songs. Also on the second side of the album is his recording of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, originally cut during the “Another Side” sessions, but the first version is left unreleased. Bob re-records it again on the final day of recording for “Bringing It All Back Home on January 15, 1965. Only five days later, The Byrds record their electric version of "Mr. Tambourine Man” in Los Angeles with producer Terry Melcher. Their version hits number one on the pop singles chart late June of 1965. Once released, “Bringing It All Back Home” becomes Bob Dylan’s most successful release to date, topping the UK album chart and his first top ten album in the US. First released on CD in the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2003, as a hybrid SACD, featuring the original stereo mix, and a newly remixed 5.1 surround mix. Reissue label Sundazed Records reissues the original mono mix as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2001, making it available for the first time since going out of print in the late 60’s. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab also reissues the title as a double vinyl set, mastered at 45 RPM in 2012, followed by a hybrid SACD featuring only the stereo mix in 2013. “Bringing It All Back Home” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 22, 1963 – “Please Please Me”, the debut album by The Beatles is released. Produced by George Martin, it is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London from September 11, 1962, November 26, 1962 and February 11, 1963. Following the huge breakthrough success of the single “Please Please Me” in the UK, producer George Martin calls the group down to London for a one day session to record their first full length. The material recorded consists of six cover versions of songs the band has been playing in their live act along with eight original songs by Lennon and McCartney. Recorded live (with few overdubs) to one inch two-track tape, the three three hour sessions (on February 11, 1963) run from 10 in the morning until approximately 10:30 at night. In roughly 585 minutes (9 hours and 45 minutes), at a cost of only £400 ($609.85 USD), The Beatles create one of the best selling albums in British music history. The album spends nearly five months at number one on the UK album chart, before it is replaced by their second album “With The Beatles” in December of 1963. Originally issued both mono and stereo, the first edition UK stereo LP (black Parlophone label with metallic gold print) has less than 1,000 copies manufactured with this label, becoming one of the rarest and most sought after Beatles albums by collectors. One near mint copy sells for over $18,000 on eBay in September of 2011. Issued in different forms in the US during the 60’s (“Introducing The Beatles” and “The Early Beatles”), the original UK version of “Please Please Me” is finally issued domestically in February of 1987 when it is first released on CD. When the album is remastered on CD in 2009, the stereo CD uses the original Parlophone gold label for the first time since its original release in 1963. Reissued briefly on vinyl in the UK in 1982, the mono version is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2014.
On this day in music history: March 21, 1969 – “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Written by Paul Simon, it is the eleventh single release for the folk-rock duo from Queens, NY. 1968 is a landmark year for Simon & Garfunkel. After “The Graduate” soundtrack, “Bookends” and their second number one single “Mrs. Robinson”, their popularity is at an all time high. In the Fall, the duo begin work on their next album. The first session for “The Boxer” takes place at Columbia Records Nashville, TN studio on November 16, 1968. The song draws from a number of sources, with Simon writing about his early struggles as a musician, persevering in spite of loneliness and the inability to make a living at his craft. Also drawing inspiration from The Bible come the lyrics about asking for only “workman’s wages” and “seeking out the poorer quarters”. The final verse depicts a boxer taking relentless beatings, but keeping his fighting spirit. An extra verse written for the song is excised before the first session. The repeated refrain of “lie-la-lie” stands in place of a final lyric that Simon simply leaves it as it is. Cutting the basic track, engineer Roy Halee records Paul playing a Martin D-18 and Fred Carter, Jr. on a 000-18 Martin, miking the musicians from multiple angles, capturing the unique sonics of the instruments and the room itself. Charlie McCoy plays bass harmonica on the track, and Curly Chalker on pedal steel guitar. Work continues at St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University (vocals), and Columbia’s East 52nd Street studio in New York City. Drummer Hal Blaine plays the signature “thunder clap” effect, achieved by hitting his snare, and recording the sound echoing down a hallway into an empty elevator shaft. Cut before CBS acquires their first sixteen track tape machine, the strings are recorded on a separate eight track machine. This proves to be nightmarish when it comes time to mix, with Halee “flying in” the strings eight bars at a time, then splicing the pieces together so they are in sync with the rest of the track. In all, more than one hundred hours are spent on the song before it’s completed. During the same period, the track “Baby Driver” is also recorded. Both songs are the first taste of Simon & Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The epic five minute plus single quickly becomes a hit, after hitting the airwaves in mid-March of 1969. Entering the Hot 100 at #51 on April 19, 1969, “The Boxer” peaks at #7 on the Hot 100 on May 17, 1969. With Art Garfunkel off making his acting debut in the film “Catch-22”, another seven months go by before the duo finish recording the “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, which is released in late January of 1970. Over the years, “The Boxer” has become one of S&G’s most enduring, popular and frequently covered songs, with versions by Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Neil Diamond, Bruce Hornsby and Mumford & Sons.
On this day in music history: March 21, 1964 – “She Loves You” by The Beatles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the second US chart topper for the Liverpool, UK based rock quartet. The song is recorded on July 1, 1963 in Studio Two at Abbey Road along with its B-side “I’ll Get You”. Released in August of 1963, the single is an immediate hit in the UK, quickly becoming one of the biggest selling singles of all time in their home country. When Capitol Records once takes a pass on The Beatles, the track is licensed to Philadelphia, PA based Swan Records in US, and is released on September 16, 1963. The single initially flops, but is reissued by the label in January 1964 after Capitol releases “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and storms the charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on January 25, 1964, it races to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The Beatles replace themselves at number one with “She Loves You” becoming the first act to do this since Elvis Presley when it pushes “Hand” out of the top spot. Along with their first UK single “Love Me Do” (b/w “PS I Love You”), it is one of the only Beatles tracks never to be issued in true stereo. Being initially released as a single, it is mixed into mono only. Before late 1963, EMI Records often did not keep multi-track session tapes once a final master was prepared. After the two songs are mixed, the session tape is scrapped without a stereo mix being made. However, every Beatles session tape from late 1963 through 1970 has been preserved in the Abbey Road tape archive.
On this day in music history: March 20, 1969 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono are married in Gibraltar in a quiet civil ceremony. Initially the pair intend to get married on the Southampton Ferry, but when they get there, they’re told that the captain no longer officiates weddings, so they have to go elsewhere. Lennon calls Beatles personal assistant Peter Brown to ask where he and Yoko can be married in a quiet and discreet manner. Brown suggests the island of Gibraltar off the southern coast of Spain (a British colony at the time). The ceremony takes place at The Rock Hotel, with Brown acting as the best man. The groom wears a white suit and tennis shoes, and the bride a short white mini skirt, white hat and sunglasses. The couple honeymoon in Paris and Amsterdam, where they stage the first of two “bed-ins” for peace (the other taking place in Montreal, QC, Canada). When asked about the wedding ceremony, Lennon is quoted in the Daily Mirror as saying “it was all very quick, quiet and British.” Lennon documents the entire episode in The Beatles song “The Ballad Of John And Yoko”, recorded on April 14, 1969. The union produces one son, Sean Taro Ono Lennon (born on October 9, 1975. The Lennons remain married until John’s death in December of 1980.
On this day in music history: March 20, 1961 – “Surrender” by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, It is the sixteenth chart topping single for the rock & roll icon. After the huge chart success of “It’s Now Or Never”, which is based on the Italian romantic song “O Sole Mio”, Elvis records another song in a similar vein. Songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (“Save The Last Dance For Me”) are enlisted to write a new melody and English lyrics for another early twentieth century Italian song. “Surrender” is adapted from a popular Neapolitan ballad originally titled “Torna a Surriento” (“Come Back To Sorrento”) which is originally written in 1902 by songwriter Ernesto DeCurtis, with the lyrics being taken from a letter written by his brother Giambattista DeCurtis. The track for Presley’s version is recorded on October 30, 1960 at RCA Studios in Nashville, TN during a marathon session that would also produce his first gospel album “His Hand In Mine”. The track features Elvis’ regular band including Scotty Moore (guitar), DJ Fontana (drums), The Jordanaires (background vocals), along with legendary Nashville studio musicians Floyd Cramer (piano), Hank Garland (acoustic guitar), Boots Randolph (saxophone) and Bob Moore (bass). Released on February 7, 1961, it is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #24 on February 20, 1961, it races to the top of the chart four weeks later. “Surrender” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 19, 1962 – “Bob Dylan”, the debut album by Bob Dylan is released. Produced by John H. Hammond, it is recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City from November 20 – 22, 1961. Signed to Columbia Records by legendary A&R man John Hammond, he sees the young folk singer and musician at the apartment of fellow musician Carolyn Hester and her husband Richard Farina. Hammond is so impressed with Dylan that he immediately offers him a record contract. Dylan records his debut album, made up of folk and blues standards and two original songs, in just three days. Upon its release, the album receives very little notice, selling only 2500 copies initially, leading Dylan to be referred to as “Hammond’s Folly” by other Columbia executives. Though in the years that follow it receives greater acclaim and gains sales. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2005, also being reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2010. Audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab release the title as a double 180 gram vinyl LP mastered at 45 RPM, and hybrid SACD in 2014. “Bob Dylan” does not chart on the Billboard Top 200.