On this day in music history: December 8, 1967 – “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, the sixth UK (and eighth US) LP by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by The Rolling Stones, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London from February 9 – October 23, 1967. Following the release of “Between The Buttons” in early 1967, various distractions including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones being arrested on drug charges (all are acquitted), and general lack of focus on music, leads to producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham resigning from The Rolling Stones organization. In spite of this, the band begin recording another album, influenced by psychedelia, and experimenting freely in the studio. Producing themselves for the first time, the sessions are erratic and drag on for several months. As soon as a month before its scheduled release, there is doubt that the material can be molded into a cohesive work. A final running order is worked out, and it is ready for release. The album is greeted with a highly mixed reception. Coming six months after The Beatles’ universally heralded “Sgt. Pepper”, The Stones album is largely written off as a self indulgent, ill conceived and pale imitation. Original LP pressings come with a 3D lenticular cover designed by and photographed by Michael Cooper, having also shot the “Sgt. Pepper” cover. Like “Pepper” which features a doll wearing a sweater with “Welcome The Rolling Stones” on the front, The Stones pay tribute to The Fab Four in return by featuring small pictures of them in the cover art work. The 3D cover is discontinued after the first pressing, due to high costs to reproduce it. Though it sells well initially, interest and sales trail off quickly. In later years, though the band are mostly dismissive of it, they perform “2000 Light Years From Home” and “She’s A Rainbow” (#25 Pop) live over the years. KISS also covers “2000 Man” on their album “Dynasty” in 1979. In time, “Their Satanic Majesties” garners more favorable opinion, attaining cult classic status. “Rainbow” is later featured on the series “American Horror Story”, and in several TV commercials. It is remastered and reissued in 2002 as a hybrid SACD. It is reissued on vinyl in 2013, with some import editions replicating the original 3D cover. The mono mix, out of print since the late 60’s, is reissued on CD for the first time and on 180 gram vinyl as part of “The Rolling Stones In Mono” box set in September of 2016. It’s also released as a double vinyl LP and hybrid SACD (with the mono and stereo mixes) in September of 2017. The LP jacket replicates the original 3D lenticular cover. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” peaks at number three on the UK album chart, spending six weeks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 7, 1963 – “Dominique” by The Singing Nun hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Sœur Sourire (aka Jeanne Deckers), it is the only hit for the Dominican nun from the Fischermont Monastery in Belgium. Written and sung by Sister Luc-Gabrielle (born Jeanne-Paule-Marie Deckers), the song (and album) are recorded after nuns from the monastery approach executives from Philips Records about making a private recording to be given away as gifts to girls studying at the convent. The label likes the finished recordings so well that they are commercially released. The French language song about St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican religious order becomes a surprise hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #64 on November 9, 1963, it rockets to the top of the chart four weeks later. Both the single and album “The Singing Nun” (#1 for 10 weeks) sells several million copies around the world, with The Singing Nun becoming the first artist in the history of the Billboard charts to have their album and single claim the top spot on both charts simultaneously. Deckers performs the song on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 5, 1964, but does not have any other hits after the huge success of “Dominique”. A film about the nuns’ path to pop music success starring actress Debbie Reynolds is released in 1966. Deckers leaves the monastery later in 1967 to become a secular missionary, continuing her music career, and opening a school for autistic children with her childhood friend and life partner Annie Pécher. The success of “Dominique” proves to be a double edged sword when the Belgian government claims the Deckers owes a large amount in back taxes from the royalties of the single and album. Having given all of her royalties to the convent, she claims she is not liable for the large tax bill. The convent refuse to take any responsibility for the debt since Deckers no longer belonged to it, and claimed to not have the funds. They also prevent her from performing under the name Sœur Sourire as the Dominican sisters claim rights to the name. Dogged by financial problems and depressed at the failure to restart her music career, Deckers and Pécher both commit suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol on March 29, 1985. In later years, “Dominique” is featured in various films including “Mermaids”, and television programs including “Mad Men”, “The Simpsons”, “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “American Horror Story: Asylum”.
On this day in music history: December 6, 1969 – The Rolling Stones headline a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Livermore, CA. Originally intended to be held at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the concert is moved to the Altamont Speedway at the last minute, fifty miles away when an agreement cannot be reached with SF city officials. Attended by over 300,000 people, the concert alsos feature the Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the Grateful Dead. As they had done with their Hyde Park concert earlier in the year, The Stones hire Hells Angels to do security for the event. Unlike that event which is peaceful and goes off without incident, Altamont turns violent and ultimately tragic when concert goer Meredith Hunter is stabbed and beaten to death by several Hells Angels when he brandishes a gun and waves it at the stage. The incident is captured on film, featured in filmmakers Albert and David Maysles’ documentary “Gimme Shelter”, released the following year. The incident signals the beginning of the end of the counterculture movement in the US, which peaked with the Woodstock festival just a few months before.
On this day in music history: December 6, 1969 – “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Gary De Carlo, Dale Frashuer and Paul Leka, it is the lone hit single by the Bridgeport, CT band fronted by singer Gary De Carlo. Newly signed to Mercury Records, De Carlo is put under contract by A&R exec Bob Reno at the suggestion of producer and songwriter Paul Leka. For his initial recording session for the label, Leka and De Carlo cuts four songs. When they agree that all four songs are strong enough to be A-sides, they decide that they need to come up with a quick throwaway B-side that will discourage DJ’s from playing the wrong side. Along with mutual friend and former band mate Dale Frashuer, the trio revive an old song they had written eight years before titled “Kiss Him Goodbye”. Recording in Mercury’s New York recording studio without a full band, Leka plays most of the instruments and splices together a drum track, creating a loop from parts of a another song. Several hours later, the song is completed and mixed, clocking in at over six minutes, and is far too long to be considered for radio play. The song is pared down to under four minutes, when Leka is told by a mastering engineer he’s unable to cut the full length of the song, on to one side of a single and have it track properly. The producer gives his approval to shorten it. Mercury execs like the song so much that they insist that it be released as an A-side. Embarrassed by the song, De Carlo requests that it be released under a pseudonym. Producer Paul Leka comes up with the name Steam, and it is issued on Mercury’s Fontana Records imprint. In an ironic twist, “Kiss Him Goodbye” becomes an instant and unexpected smash, while all four of De Carlo’s singles (released under the name Garrett Scott) flop. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on October 18, 1969, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. In 1983, British pop group Bananarama cover the song on their debut album, taking it to #5 on the UK singles chart. In 1987, Canadian a cappella vocal group The Nylons release a cover version with the title shortened to “Kiss Him Goodbye”, peaking at #12 on the Hot 100. Today, Steam’s original version is a still a staple on oldies radio and has become an anthem at sports events over the years. “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 6, 1968 – “James Taylor”, the debut album by James Taylor is released in the UK (US release is on February 17, 1969). Produced by Peter Asher, it is recorded at Trident Studios in London from July – October 1968. Taylor is one of the first signings to The Beatles Apple label by Asher (one half of the pop duo Peter & Gordon and the brother of Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend Jane Asher) who is the head of A&R. Paul McCartney and George Harrison make an uncredited appearance on the first single “Carolina In My Mind” contributing background vocals. In spite of good reviews, the album sells poorly, due to Taylor’s hospitalization for heroin addiction, which prevents him from promoting it properly. Taylor re-records “Carolina” and “Something In The Way She Moves” for his 1976 greatest hits album when his label Warner Bros Records is unable to license the original versions from Apple. The original album is eventually reissued on CD in the mid 90’s and again in 2010. It is also briefly reissued on vinyl in Europe in 1991, but quickly goes out of print again. The vinyl LP release is remastered and reissued in 2017, making it available in that format, for the first time in over two decades. “James Taylor” peaks at number one hundred eighteen on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 6, 1968 – “Beggars Banquet”, the seventh album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by Jimmy Miller, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London from March 17 – July 25, 1968. The album marks the bands’ return to its R&B roots following the psychedelic influenced “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. The album is not without controversy. The song “Sympathy For The Devil” raises the ire of religious groups, and the single “Street Fighting Man” whose picture sleeve depicts a student riot is withdrawn from release, resulting in it becoming one of the most valuable and highly sought after Stones collectibles. The recording sessions for “Sympathy” are filmed by director Jean-Luc Godard (“Breathless”), for a film titled “One Plus One (Sympathy For The Devil)” about late 60’s counterculture. The footage of The Stones is inter cut with scenes featuring The Black Panthers, along with political commentary about “the need for revolution” and Marxism. The original album cover photo of a filthy toilet scrawled with graffiti is not issued in the US until the 1980’s, and is replaced with a white cover designed to look like a formal party invitation. It also is the last Rolling Stones album to feature full contributions from founding member Brian Jones, whose health and playing has been adversely affected by drugs and alcohol. The album is remastered and reissued in 2002 as a hybrid SACD in digipak packaging, reverting to a standard redbook CD in a jewel case after the initial pressing is discontinued by ABKCO. It is also reissued on clear vinyl in the US in 2013, making it available in the format for the first time in more than twenty years. The original mono version of the LP, released only in the UK and other foreign territories is remastered and reissued as part of “The Rolling Stones In Mono” box set on CD and 180 gram vinyl in September of 2016. To commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2018, the vinyl LP is issued as a special deluxe ediiton. It contains the original stereo mix, along with a single sided 12" single, with the mono mix of “Sympathy For The Devil” (with etching on the reverse side). It also comes with a plastic flexi-disc, featuring an interview with Mick Jagger recorded in April of 1968, and an mp3 download card of the audio contents. The set comes packaged in a outer sleeve using the US LP cover art, with the original UK “toilet graffiti” gatefold cover on the inside. “Beggar’s Banquet” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1969 – “Let It Bleed”, the eighth UK (tenth US) album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by Jimmy Miller, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London and Elektra Studios in Los Angeles, CA from November 1968, February – November 1969. After the success of “Beggar’s Banquet”, The Rolling Stones begin work on the follow up. The first track recorded is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, first surfacing as the B-side of “Honky Tonk Women” in July of 1969. After a brief break, the sessions continue in February of 1969. With Brian Jones sidelined by drugs and alcohol, he only plays on “You Got The Silver” and “Midnight Rambler” before he is fired. His replacement is Mick Taylor, who becomes a major asset to the band. Originally scheduled for a Summer release, numerous delays result in the album not being completed until later in the year. While recording in L.A., Mick and Keith decide that the song “Gimme Shelter” requires a little something extra. Background vocalist Merry Clayton is brought into the studio. Very pregnant at the time, she arrives in her nightgown, hair in rollers in a scarf and wearing a fur coat. Clayton records her highly memorable vocals in just a couple of takes. “Bleed” also features appearances by Ry Cooder, Nicky Hopkins, Al Kooper, Doris Troy, Madeline Bell, Leon Russell and Bobby Keys, the latter of whom becomes a sideman for The Stones for the next forty years. The albums’ iconic cover is designed by artist Robert Brownjohn, and features a photo of the LP being played with a vintage phonograph tone arm, with numerous items including a cake with figurines of the band stacked on top of a turntable spindle. The back cover reveals the aftermath, with the record is being smashed and the other items in disarray. Original LP’s come with a poster and an insert for The Stones fan club. No singles issued are from it in the US, though several become rock radio staples, and is widely regarded as one of their best albums. It is remastered and reissued on CD in 2002 as a hybrid SACD, then as a standard redbook CD. The vinyl LP is reissued in 2013, with a high resolution Blu-Ray disc released in 2014. The mono version of the album, released only in the UK and other foreign territories, is remastered and reissued as part of “The Rolling Stones In Mono” box set on CD and 180 gram vinyl in September of 2016. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, it’s released as a Super Deluxe edition on November 15, 2019. The set includes the stereo and mono versions on hybrid SACD’s and vinyl LP’s, an 80 page hardcover book, a poster, lithographs, and a reproduction of the US 7" of “Honky Tonk Women”. “Let It Bleed” spends one week at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1966 – “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston is released. Written by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Sylvia Moy, it is the twenty second single for Gaye and the tenth single release for Weston. By late 1965, Marvin Gaye is riding a wave of hits including the back to back R&B chart topping million sellers “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar, co-penned and produced by Smokey Robinson. With Robinson being busy with his own group The Miracles, as well as writing for other artists, Marvin is handed off to another producer. At Motown since 1959, Mickey Stevenson is given the assignment to produce a project for the singer. Stevenson already has a significant history with Gaye, having co-written the hits "Pride And Joy”, “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” and “Dancing In The Street” with him. Having recorded an album with Mary Wells in 1964, Stevenson suggests another duets album, but this time with his then wife and fellow Motown artist Kim Weston. It isn’t the first time they’ve have sung together, recording “What Good Am I Without You” (#28 R&B, #61 Pop) in 1964. Weston scores her biggest solo hit in 1965 with “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” (#4 R&B, #50 Pop). For the duet album, Stevenson pairs up with songwriter and producer Sylvia Moy. Making her breakthrough co-writing Stevie Wonder’s smash “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, Moy works on some original material for it. Those songs include “It Takes Two”. Mickey Stevenson co-produces “It Takes Two” with Stevie Wonder’s then producer Henry “Hank” Cosby. It is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on November 27, 1965 with The Funk Brothers playing on the track. The strings provided by The Detroit Symphony are recorded on December 6, 1965 and finally Marvin and Kim overdub their vocals on March 2, 1966. With the rest of the album titled “Take 2” completed, it released in late August of 1966. Initially, no single is released, during which time Stevenson leaves Motown when he is offered a lucrative position at MGM Records, also taking his wife Kim with him. Motown finally decides to release “It Takes Two” in early December, and it takes off. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #88 on January 7, 1967, and #50 on the R&B singles chart on January 21, 1967, it rises up both charts simultaneously. The single peaks at #14 on the Hot 100 on March 4, 1967 and #4 on the R&B chart on March 18, 1967. It also becomes Gaye’s first Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #16. A Motown evergreen, “It Takes Two” is covered numerous times, with versions by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, Donny & Marie Osmond, and by Rod Stewart & Tina Turner. Marvin Gaye includes a cover version in a medley with Florence Lyles on the album “Live At The London Palladium” in 1977, and Kim Weston re-records the song with Marvin’s brother Frankie in 1989.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1964 – “Ringo” by Lorne Greene hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Canadian born actor. Born Lyon Himan Green in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on February 12, 1915, Lorne Greene becomes a huge star on the iconic western TV series “Bonanza” as family patriarch Ben “Pa” Cartwright. One of the most popular television series of all time, the show runs for fourteen seasons between September 12, 1959 and January 16, 1973. With the show at or near the top of the Nielsen ratings through much of its run, in 1963 the show’s network NBC comes up with the idea of producing an album featuring members of the cast. Titled “Welcome To The Ponderosa”, the album features a track about the notorious western outlaw Johnny Ringo titled “Ringo”. Not being a natural singer, Greene recites a dramatic monologue about Ringo with a chorus of singers (supposedly either The Mello Men or The Jordanaires) backing him up. The track does not receive much notice until after The Beatles breakthrough in the US. Though the song is not about drummer Ringo Starr, a DJ in Lubbock, TX discovers the song in the Fall of 1964, and begins playing it. It generates such a huge response, that RCA Records releases it as a single in October of 1964. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on October 31, 1964, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. The popularity of “Ringo” inspires numerous parody records including “Gringo” by songwriter Marty Cooper and released under the name El Clod. It is also parodied by comedian Frank Gallop in 1966 as “The Ballad Of Irving” (#34 Pop) on the comedy album “When You’re In Love And The Whole World Is Jewish”. Lorne Greene releases several more singles and albums throughout the 60’s and into the 70’s, but none come close to matching the huge success of “Ringo”.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1960 – “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry is released. Written by Robert Guidry (aka Bobby Charles) and Paul Gayten, it is the fifth single release, and biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from New Orleans, LA. Breaking through in early 1957 with the rhythm & blues novelty classic “Ain’t Got No Home”, Clarence “Frogman” Henry hits the road with a six piece band to promote his hit record. Following up that song proves to be problematic, when Henry’s next three singles all fall flat on the charts. But Chess Records A&R man Paul Gayten, the man who signed Clarence Henry to the label doesn’t give up on him. Gayten finds a song titled “I Don’t Why”, written by Cajun musician Bobby Charles. Influenced by his own native cajun and country and western music, Charles is discovered by Fats Domino when he’s only fifteen years old. Before he’s out of his teens, Bobby pens several rhythm & blues and rock & roll standards including “See You Later, Alligator”, “It Keeps Rainin’” and “Walking To New Orleans”. Written by Charles in a more laid back country style, “I Don’t Know Why” is given a dramatic revamping when Clarence “Frogman” Henry records it. Gayten hires a twenty two year old musician named Allen Toussaint to write the new arrangement. In Toussaint’s hands, the song is given a swaggering, jazzy New Orleans back beat, complete with a brass section. When the single is released on Chess Records Argo imprint under its original title, it doesn’t take off immediately. In early February of 1961, the title is amended to “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” (also as “But I Do”), it takes off. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #90 on February 20, 1961 and #27 on the R&B chart on March 6, 1961, it becomes a crossover smash. “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” peaks nine weeks later at #4 on the Hot 100 and after an erratic up and down chart trajectory, peaks eight weeks later at #9 on May 8, 1961. Clarence “Frogman” Henry scores two more sizable hits with the follow ups “You Always Hurt The One You Love” (#11 R&B, #12 Pop) and “Lonely Street” (#19 R&B, #57 Pop), before tapering off again. Acknowledged as an R&B and pop classic, “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” is covered by several artists including Bobby Vinton, The Walker Brothers, Tom Jones, Timi Yuro, Ronnie Milsap, Lou Rawls, and by its author Bobby Charles. Henry’s classic version is also featured prominently in the the films Forrest Gump and Mickey Blue Eyes.