On this day in music history: July 19, 1969 – “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” by Jr. Walker & The All Stars hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on August 9, 1969. Written by Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua and Vernon Bullock, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Motown singer and saxophonist. The track is recorded in late 1968 at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit with members of The Funk Brothers sitting in for members of Walker’s band. The Originals (“Baby I’m For Real”) and The Andantes, provide the background vocals. “What Does It Take” is initially passed over for release in one of Motown’s Quality Control meetings in favor of another Jr. Walker song titled “Home Cookin’” (#19 R&B, #42 Pop). When that single is only moderately successful, “What Does It Take” is immediately pulled from the vault and is released on April 25, 1969. “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” takes off faster than any of Walker’s singles since “Shotgun” four years before, becoming his second million seller.
On this day in music history: July 18, 1968 – “Anthem Of The Sun”, the second album by The Grateful Dead is released. Produced by Dave Hassinger and The Grateful Dead, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studio A in Hollywood, CA, American Recording Company in Century City, CA, Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles, CA, Eureka Municipal Auditorium in Eureka, CA, Eagles Auditorium in Seattle, WA, Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR, Coast Recorders in San Francisco, CA, Carousel Ballroom in San Francisco, CA, Kings Beach Bowl in Lake Tahoe, CA, Century Sound Studios and Olmstead Studios in New York City from September 1967 – March 31, 1968. Once again working with recording engineer and producer Dave Hassinger, The Grateful Dead begin work on their sophomore release, just six months after their debut. Determined to capture their live on stage sound in the studio, Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh painstakingly piece together the tracks, using parts that have been recorded in a controlled studio environment along with parts of live performances of the same material. Frustrated with the extremely slow pace that the band is working at, Hassinger quits the project midway through. The Dead recruit their sound man Dan Healy to assist them, and the sessions resume back in San Francisco. “Anthem” also marks the first appearance of longtime Dead and Jerry Garcia collaborator Robert Hunter, who pens the lyrics for the song “Alligator”, co-written by bassist Phil Lesh and keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Taking full advantage of their contract with Warner Bros which allows them unlimited studio time, they continue tweak and rework the songs over a period of six months. The resulting album is a wide ranging psychedelic collage mixed specifically to emphasize that intent. Though reaction to it is mixed upon its release, in time the experimental “Anthem” is regarded as groundbreaking, laying the groundwork for the follow up album “Aoxomoxoa” which brings The Grateful Dead’s musical vision into clearer focus. “Anthem Of The Sun” is remixed and reissued in 1972 with alternate cover artwork, changing the cover background from purple to white, with different title and artist graphics than the original issue. The album is remastered and reissued on CD (with HDCD encoding) in 2001, using the original 1968 mix, restoring the original cover art and containing three live bonus tracks. Though the high definition digital download release uses the 70’s remix version. In 2011, it is reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records, also using the original mix. “Anthem Of The Sun” peaks at number eighty seven on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: July 18, 1966 – Singer and musician Bobby Fuller is found dead in his mother’s car outside his apartment in Hollywood, CA. Just four months after making his breakthrough with the rock & roll classic “I Fought The Law” (#9 Pop), the Texas born musician dies under mysterious circumstances. Fuller is found in the front seat of his mother’s car, reeking of gasoline and his upper body covered in petechial hemorrhages. In spite of an extensive investigation by the LAPD, the authorities are unable to determine if Bobby Fuller committed suicide or was murdered. More than thirty years later, Fuller’s life and death are profiled on the programs “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Mysteries And Scandals". Both programs draw the conclusion that Fuller’s death may have been mafia related (due to his association with a woman alleged to have mob ties), and was covered up by the Los Angeles Police Department.
On this day in music history: July 18, 1964 – “Rag Doll” by The 4 Seasons hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, it is the fourth number one single for the New Jersey based vocal quartet fronted by lead singer Frankie Valli. The inspiration for the song comes from an encounter that songwriter Bob Gaudio has on his way to the recording studio. While driving down the Westside Highway into New York City, he stops at a red light. A young woman dressed in tattered clothing comes up to his car and begins cleaning his windows. Reaching into his pocket for change, he finds that all he has is a five dollar bill. Faced with the dilemma of giving her the bill or nothing, Gaudio gives her the five dollars. As he drives away, he remembers the woman’s stunned expression while still standing in the middle of the street. After reaching the studio, he tells his writing partner Bob Crewe about what he had just experienced and the two complete the song shortly after. Wanting to record the song quickly, Crewe books Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons into a basement demo studio in Manhattan, when their regular studio isn’t open on Sunday. The alternate recording venue is also chosen, since the group are about to embark on another tour the following day. Released in early June of 1964, “Rag Doll” is another immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #53 on June 20, 1964, it races to the top of the chart four weeks later. The original singles’ B-side “Silence Is Golden” is also covered by British pop band The Tremeloes in 1967, hitting number one on the UK singles chart and peaking at number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100. “Rag Doll” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: July 18, 1960 – “Sketches Of Spain”, the thirty-fourth studio album by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, it is recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City on November 20, 1959 and March 10, 1960. Barely three months after the release of the landmark “Kind Of Blue”, Miles Davis returns to the studio to begin recording the follow up release. Having previously worked with arranger Gil Evans on “Miles Ahead” and “Porgy And Bess”, Davis once again calls on the Canadian born musician to collaborate once again. Initially the project is started without a central concept or theme, at first recording the piece “Concierto de Aranjuez” by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo. A composition originally written for guitar, Evans and Davis transform it into an epic orchestral jazz masterpiece. It features Miles accompanied by his core band of musicians including Jimmy Cobb (drums), Paul Chambers (bass) and Elvin Jones (percussion), backed by brass and woodwind instruments. The nearly side long recording becomes the centerpiece of the new album, with Gil Evans writing the Spanish tinged “Saeta” and “Solea” as well as the band recording early 20th century composer Manuel de Falla’s “Will O’ The Wisp” from the ballet “El Amor Brujo”. In spite of the challenging nature of the material, compositionally as well as technically, it sees Davis and Evans both at the peak of their creative powers. Miles’ control and command of his instrument is apparent from the first note to the last, displaying extraordinary degrees of sublitity and nuance. Released in the Summer of 1960, “Sketches Of Spain” receives unanimous acclaim from fans and critics alike, recognizing that Miles Davis and Gil Evans have again raised the bar for jazz music. In time, it is regarded as one of the most important albums of the 20th century. It wins Davis and Evans their first Grammy Awards for Best Original Jazz Composition in 1961. Originally released on CD in 1983, it is remastered and reissued in 1997 with three additional bonus tracks. It is remastered again in 2009 by Sony Legacy as an expanded two CD edition, featuring more outtakes and alternate recordings from the sessions. Reissued numerous times on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is most recently reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011, with the long out of print mono mix being released in 2012. “Sketches” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1997. “Sketches Of Spain” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Jazz Album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: July 18, 1960 – “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Ronnie Self and Dub Albritton, it is the first chart topping single for teen aged country/pop singer from Atlanta, GA born Brenda Mae Tarpley. Produced by legendary country music producer Owen Bradley (Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn), the song is recorded during the last five minutes of a session. The single is groundbreaking as it is one of the first country records to use strings, becoming one of the trademark elements of the “Nashville Sound”. Initially, Lee’s record label Decca is hesitant to release it as a single, feeling that the songs lyrics about unrequited love are too mature for the then fifteen year old vocalist. It is issued as the B-side of the uptempo “That’s All You Gotta Do”. Both sides chart successfully with “That’s All” peaking at #6 on the Hot 100 on July 4, 1960, though “I’m Sorry” quickly overtakes it in popularity, becoming a huge smash and Lee’s signature song. It not only tops the pop singles chart, but also reaches the top five on the R&B chart, peaking at #4. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on May 30, 1960, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. “I’m Sorry” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: July 17, 1968 – The Beatles third film “Yellow Submarine” has its world premiere at the London Pavillion Theater in London. Directed by George Dunning and written by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, and Erich Segal (“Love Story”), the animated feature is a joint venture between King Features Syndicate, United Artists Pictures and The Beatles company Apple Corps. The band contribute four new songs to the films soundtrack (in addition to eleven previously released songs) is not released until January of 1969. The films US release does not take place until November 13, 1968. “Yellow Submarine” is well received upon its release, and is regarded as a classic today. When The Beatles company Apple Corps regains ownership of “Yellow Submarine”, the film undergoes a major restoration in 1999 and is released on DVD for the first time. It is digitally enhanced and receives further restoration work before it is reissued a second time on DVD, and on Blu-Ray for the first time in 2012. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, the film is re-released for a brief theatrical run in various major cities. Apple Records also releases a limited edition 7″ picture disc of “Yellow Submarine” b/w “Eleanor Rigby” on July 6, 2018.
On this day in music history: July 17, 1967 – “With A Lot O’ Soul”, the fifth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Frank Wilson and Ivy Jo Hunter, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Fall 1966 – Spring 1967. Released during the period when the legendary Motown vocal group is reaching the peak of their commercial success, the album is the most successful of the groups’ “Classic 5” era line up. It spins off four hit singles including the top 10 hits “(I Know) I’m Losing You (#1 R&B, #8 Pop), "All I Need (#2 R&B, #8 Pop), ”(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need" (#3 R&B, #14 Pop), and “You’re My Everything” (#3 R&B, #6 Pop). Over the years, outtakes from the sessions that produce this album surface on compilations such as The Temptations “Emperors Of Soul” box set in 1994, and “Lost and Found: You’ve Got To Earn It (1962-1968)” in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued in 1998 with the original cover artwork restored. “With A Lot O’ Soul” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peaking at number seven on the Top 200.