On this day in music history: October 22, 1966 – “The Supremes A’ Go Go”, the tenth album by The Supremes hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B album chart for 4 weeks on the same date. Produced by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Hal Davis and Frank Wilson, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Fall 1965 – Summer 1966. The Motown superstar trio’s tenth full length release in just four years, the album consists mostly of cover versions of recent Motown songs (“This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)”, “Get Ready”, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) and pop hits ("These Boots Are Made For Walking”, Hang On Sloopy"), along with newly composed original songs for the group. It spins off two singles including “Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart” (#9 Pop, #7 R&B), and “You Can’t Hurry Love” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B). The Supremes become the first all female group in history to top the Billboard Pop and R&B album charts, with ‘A Go Go selling over a million copies in the US (3.5 million internationally) becoming their second largest selling album worldwide behind their double LP Greatest Hits collection released a year later.
On this day in music history: October 21, 1967 – “To Sir With Love” by Lulu hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the R&B singles chart November 18, 1967. Written by Don Black and Mark London, it is the biggest hit for the Scottish born singer and actress (born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire, Scotland). It is the theme song to the Sidney Poiter film about a teacher dealing with social and racial issues in a tough Secondary school in East London. Also co-starring in the film, Lulu introduces her friend Mark London (the husband of her manager Marion Massey) to the films’ producers after they cannot find a suitable song for the main theme. London writes the music in just five minutes, with lyricist Don Black (“Born Free”, “Ben”, “The World Is Not Enough”) penning the lyrics the next day. Produced by Mickie Most (The Animals, Donovan, Herman’s Hermits), there are three versions of the song recorded. One version used during a montage sequence in the film features three verses. A second version that is heard at the end of the film, features only the first verse of the song. The hit single version is yet another performance featuring strings features two verses, excising the middle verse heard during the museum montage scene. When the single is released in the US on June 2, 1967, Epic Records places “To Sir With Love” on B-side of “The Boat That I Row” (written by Neil Diamond). “Boat” had initially been issued with another Mark London penned song titled “Dreary Days And Nights”, as its original B-side just days earlier. That version is quickly withdrawn, and replaced with “To Sir With Love”. American radio DJ’s prefer the flip side and “Sir” takes off quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on September 9, 1967, it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. On Sunday, October 22, 1967, the day after “To Sir With Love” tops the US pop chart, Lulu performs the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. The song is ranked the top single of 1967 as determined by Billboard Magazine. Surprisingly, “Sir” is passed over for an Academy Award nomination for Best Song in 1968, and even more surprising, it does not chart in the UK in spite of its huge success in the US. The song is covered numerous times over the years by artists including Herbie Mann, Vickie Sue Robinson, and Tina Arena. In 2017, Saturday Night Live cast members Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata perform “To Sir With Love” in tribute to outgoing US President Barack Obama. “To Sir With Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1967 – “Pandemonium Shadow Show”, the second album by Harry Nilsson is released. Produced by Rick Jarrard, it is recorded at RCA Victor’s Music Center in Hollywood, CA from February 17 – June 30, 1967. Making in roads in the music business as a songwriter while making early unsuccessful attempts at a recording career himself, Harry Nilsson is signed to a $50,000 multi-album contract with RCA Records in late 1966. A profoundly gifted songwriter, Nilsson is also blessed with a pitch perfect and pure tenor voice capable of reaching dazzling heights. “Pandemonium Shadow Show” features the musician being supported in the studio by members of the legendary Wrecking Crew studio collective including Mike Melvoin (keyboards), Mike Deasy (guitar), Lyle Ritz (bass) as well as then unknown musician from New Orleans named Mac Rebbennack (aka “Dr. John”) (guitar, keyboards). Nilsson’s early supporters and music publishers Perry Botkin, Jr. and George Tipton also write arrangements for the project. The album is a well balanced mixture of originals written by Harry along with some well chosen covers. Among those original songs is the autobiographical “1941”, with the singer telling the story of his own early life in which his father abandons the family (when Harry is only three years old).. Other songs that are standouts include the clever and rousing opening track “Ten Little Indians”, and “Without Her” which is later covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears and by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. “Cuddly Toy” is also covered by The Monkees. Also a huge fan of The Beatles, Harry also puts his own unique stamp on “You Can’t Do That” and “She’s Leaving Home”. In spite of a significant promotional push by RCA, “Pandemonium” fails to generate any hits in the US or chart, though it finds pockets of support, becoming a hit in Canada. And as fate would have it, it also catches the ear of a member of The Beatles inner circle. The band’s publicist Derek Taylor is in Los Angeles with his wife Joan, when he happens to hear “1941” on the radio. After finding out who the artist is, Taylor goes to a local record store and purchases whole case of Nilsson’s album to give to friends, including The Beatles themselves. John, Paul, George and Ringo are immediately impressed by Nilsson, and sing his praises in the press, helping to heighten his public profile. Falling out of print in the 70’s, the album makes its US CD debut in 1995. It is remastered and reissued in 2013 as part of the box set “Nilsson – The RCA Albums Collection”, featuring both the original mono and stereo mixes. The mono version of the album, out of print since being deleted in 1968, is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Sundazed Music in 2014.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1962 – “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi, it is the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Somerville, MA. The novelty classic is recorded in the garage studio of producer/label owner Gary S. Paxton, and also features musician Leon Russell on piano. The record is rejected by several labels before Paxton works out a distribution deal with London Records and releases it on his own Garpax label. “Monster Mash” is an immediate hit upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 8, 1962, it rockets to the top of the chart just six weeks later. On its initial release in the UK, the BBC bans the record from radio and television airplay for being “too morbid”. The ban is lifted in that country when the single is reissued in 1973. “Mash” becomes a belated smash peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart. “Monster Mash” makes chart history as the only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times. After its first run in 1962, it peaks at #91 in September of 1970. The single actually makes the top ten a second time, peaking at #10 in August of 1973. “Monster Mash” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 18, 1969 – “I Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 5 weeks on October 4, 1969. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the ninth R&B chart topper and second pop number one for the Motown vocal quintet. On a roll after changing lead vocalists and going in a bold new musical direction in 1968, The Temptations continue their hot streak into 1969. Much like their groundbreaking single “Cloud Nine”, the groups hit from earlier in the year, producer Norman Whitfield arranges the song so that all five members of the Tempts rotate singing lead through the course of the song, borrowing the template from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music”. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on June 23, 1969 with members of The Funk Brothers playing on it. Further overdubs are recorded on June 24, 27, 30, and July 2, 1969. The Temptations add their vocals on July 3, 1969. Released on July 30, 1969, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on August 16, 1969, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. An instrumental mix of the song is featured on the Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack for “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” in 2002. “I Can’t Get Next To You” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 18, 1969 – The Jackson 5 make their national television debut on the variety show “The Hollywood Palace” on the ABC television network. The show is hosted that week by Diana Ross and Sammy Davis, Jr.. The group perform four songs including their debut single “I Want You Back”, “Sing A Simple Song”, and “Can You Remember”. The performance is also recreated in the television mini series “The Jacksons: An American Dream” in 1992.
Born on this day: October 18, 1926 – Rock & Roll pioneer Chuck Berry (born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis, MO). Happy Birthday to this musical icon on what would have been his 93rd Birthday.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1964 – “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, it is the biggest hit for the London based pop quintet. Formed in 1962 by South African born keyboardist Manfred Mann, the band originally call themselves The Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. They establish themselves as part of the thriving British blues scene in London along with contemporaries including The Yardbirds, Alexis Corner, and The Rolling Stones. When they land a record contract with EMI Records HMV label in 1963, Manfred Mann’s producer John Burgess insists on a name change, and adapt their keyboardist and bandleaders name as their new moniker. After scoring a handful of hits in their native UK, they record a cover of the song “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Newly married at the time it was written, Barry and Greenwich perfectly express their newly wedded bliss, with the title being a clever euphemism for a “sexual dalliance”. Originally written for and recorded by The Exciters (“Tell Him”) as “Do-Wah-Diddy”, their version is only a minor hit, peaking at #78 on the Hot 100 on January 25, 1964. Manfred Mann records their version after lead singer Paul Jones discovers the song in his record collection. Issued in the UK first in July of 1964, it is an immediate smash, leaping to number one on August 13, 1964. Licensed to Ascot Records (distributed by United Artists) in the US, it quickly becomes a hit on American radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on September 5, 1964, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. Regarded as one of the great party anthems of all time, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is covered by a wide variety of artists including Jan & Dean, Andrew Gold, and the 2 Live Crew. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis sing the song during a marching sequence in the film “Stripes” in 1981.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1964 – “12 x 5”, the second US album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, it is recorded at Regent Sound Studios in London and Chess Studios in Chicago, IL from February 25, May 12, June 10 – 11, 24 – 26 and September 28 – 29, 1964. The album includes the first songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (under the pseudonym “Nanker Phelge”), after manager Andrew Oldham tells them that if they want to build on their success, that they have to come with original material. Oldham literally locks the pair up in a kitchen and tells them that they can’t come out until they’ve written a song. While on their first trip to the US in the Summer of 1964, the band records several tracks at Chess Records studio in Chicago. The five songs the band records in the US are released in the UK as an EP titled “5 x 5”. The Stones US record label London takes those songs and expands it to a full LP with the singles “It’s All Over Now” (#26 Pop), and “Time Is On My Side” (#6 Pop), along with their respective B-sides and three other songs that are included on their second UK album “Rolling Stones No. 2”. When the album is remastered and reissued in 2002, it includes the full unedited version of the instrumental “2120 South Michigan Avenue”. It is also remastered and reissued on LP in 2014 pressed on clear vinyl, with the original mono version being re-released as part of the “Rolling Stones In Mono” box set on September 30, 2016. “12 x 5” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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.