On this day in music history: August 29, 1967 – “Diana Ross & The Supremes Greatest Hits”, the twelfth album by Diana Ross & The Supremes is released. Produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI and Columbia Pictures Sound Stage in Los Angeles, CA from October 1, 1963 – February 25, 1967. With The Supremes being the most successful act on Motown Records’ prodigious roster and having scored an unprecedented ten pop and six R&B chart toppers by mid 1967, the label decides to assemble a collection of their biggest hits thus far. Rather than a single LP hits compilation like many other Motown artists, the label compiles a double LP set with fifteen chart hits culled from their first top 40 single “When The Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” to “The Happening”, along with five popular B-sides. At the time it is due to be released, the album is originally intended to also include their then current single “Reflections”, but it is left off of the compilation and not issued on an album until March of 1968. The first album released with the group’s new billing as Diana Ross & The Supremes, it is also the last Supremes album to be issued in the US commercially in separate mono and stereo formats. For the stereo release, many tracks are given new and greatly improved remixes over the ones featured on earlier albums. Also one of the first Motown LP’s to be issued in a gatefold sleeve, its distinctive royal blue sleeve features a painting of the group by artist Robert Taylor. Original pressings come packaged with three individual 12" x 12" portraits of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, though Ballard had been fired from the group the previous month. The set also features liner notes written by Broadway legend Carol Channing. Though not containing any new material, the greatest hits album is an immediate smash, becoming The Supremes second chart topping LP. It spends twenty four weeks in the top ten on the Billboard pop album chart, twenty of those weeks in the top five alone. In all, the album stays on the chart for a total of eighty nine weeks, and is the last number one album in the US for a female group until The Go-Go’s “Beauty And The Beat” hits the top almost fifteen years later. Over time, it becomes one of the best selling titles in Motown’s catalog. To date, it has sold more than six million copies in the US alone. When it is reissued on CD in the mid 80’s, Motown issues them both as a single twenty track disc, and as two separate ten song discs, with Volume One maintaining the original blue cover art and Volume Two being tinted pink. “Diana Ross & The Supremes Greatest Hits” spends twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, five weeks at number one on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 29, 1966 – The Beatles play their last live concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. The Beatles third world tour sees the band facing negative publicity and riots in the Philippines after they unintentionally snub the first lady Imelda Marcos. They face more problems when the tour reaches the US in August. When John Lennon’s comments about religion made in a interview originally published in the Evening Standard in March of 1966 are taken out of context, it leads to backlash in the south. Radio stations in that part of the country ban the bands records from airplay, and protests result the mass burning of Beatles records and other memorabilia. By the time the band reaches the end of the tour in San Francisco, they are bored with the grind of touring, and frustrated at playing to crowds who often cannot hear them above the massive wall of screaming. What turns out to be their final concert, is sponsored by local radio station KYA (w/ DJ “Emperor” Gene Nelson as the MC). The Beatles play to a crowd of over 25,000, and the show also features The Remains, Bobby Hebb, The Cyrkle, and The Ronettes as the opening acts. The bands’ set lasts less about 30 minutes and they earn about $90,000 for the performance. At the time, The Beatles do not publicly acknowledge that the concert is their last either prior to or after the show. The only existing audio documentation of the performance comes from a rough cassette recording, (capturing nearly the entire performance, except for the last minute of the closing number “Long Tall Sally”), and from film footage shot by local San Francisco and Sacramento news crews. Years later, black & white Super 8 film footage shot by a fifteen year old fan named Barry Hood surfaces and is seen two documentaries (“The Beatles Live In San Francisco” and “The Unseen Beatles”) about the concert. On August 14, 2014, Paul McCartney returns to play the last event at the legendary sports venue, before it is closed and demolished, two weeks shy of forty eight years after The Beatles had played there.
On this day in music history: August 27, 1967 – The Beatles manager Brian Epstein dies from an accidental overdose of the sleeping medication Carbitral mixed with alcohol. Epstein’s butler finds him in his bedroom, entering after there is no response. This incident occurs while the band are in Bangor, Wales attending a seminar on Transcendental Meditation by the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Epstein was to have attended as well but never made it there. Brian Epstein is only 32 years old at the time of his death. Epstein is laid to rest at the Long Lane Jewish Cemetery, Aintree, Liverpool on August 29, 1967. The Beatles do not attend the funeral in order to allow the family privacy and not attract unwanted attention from fans and the media. They do attend a private memorial held for him on October 17, 1967.
On this day in music history: August 27, 1967 – “I Was Made To Love Her”, the seventh album by Stevie Wonder is released. Produced by Henry Cosby and Clarence Paul, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Late 1966 – Mid 1967. After releasing the albums “Up-Tight” and “Down To Earth in 1966, it is well into the next year before Stevie Wonder releases a brand new album. Scoring four consecutive top ten R&B hits during 1966, Wonder’s next single "Travelin’ Man” (#32 Pop, #31 R&B) stalls on the top 40 on both charts. It’s B-side “Hey Love” (#9 R&B, #90 Pop) winds up finding favor on R&B stations, but meets with a tepid response from pop radio. Concerned that Stevie’s commercial success might be waning, Motown founder Berry Gordy allows the now seventeen year old musician more freedom to express himself creatively, rather than simply relying on the label’s writing staff to provide him with material. Having co-penned the smash “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, Stevie collaborates once again with staff producers Sylvia Moy and Henry “Hank” Cosby. Among the songs they write together includes “I Was Made To Love Her”, which Stevie writes along with Moy, Cosby and his own mother Lula Mae Hardaway. The single is an instant smash after its release in May of 1967, and prompts Motown to quickly follow it with a full album to capitalize on it. Titled after his recent R&B chart topper and top five pop hit, the album features covers of Ray Charles’ “A Fool For You”, James Brown’s “Please, Please, Please”, and Aretha Franklin’s then recent hit “Respect” as well as several Motown standards such as “My Girl” and “Can I Get A Witness”. “I Was Made To Love Her” peaks at number seven on the Billboard R&B album chart and number forty five on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 27, 1966 – “Blowin’ In The Wind” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on September 3, 1966. Written by Bob Dylan, it is the third R&B chart topper and third top 10 pop single for the then sixteen year old Motown star. Written folk rock icon Bob Dylan in 1962, the song is a meditation on themes of war, peace, and freedom. He records and releases the song on his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” in May of 1963. His version is released as a single in August of 1963, but does not chart. In spite of this, it goes on to be one of his most popular and most recorded songs. Folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary are the first to bring widespread popularity to “Blowin’ In The Wind” when their version peaks at #2 on the Hot 100 on August 17, 1963. Stevie Wonder records his version of the song after receiving many requests from fans who have heard him perform the song in his live show. Stevie’s producer Clarence Paul sings the co-lead vocal on the track. Motown releases Wonder’s version on June 28, 1966, rising up the R&B and pop charts quickly. The song originally appears on Stevie Wonder’s 1966 album “Uptight”.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1968 – “Hey Jude” b/w “Revolution” by The Beatles is released. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the first single on the bands newly established label Apple Records. Both are written and recorded during the sessions for the bands’ self-titled ninth album (aka “The White Album”), “Jude” is written by McCartney, while “Revolution is written by Lennon. Though both mutually credit the other on their compositions, in keeping with the agreement the pair established from the beginning of their writing partnership. "Jude ” is backed with the hard rocking “Revolution”. At the time of its release, “Hey Jude” makes the highest chart debut in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, entering the chart at #10 on September 14, 1968. Hitting the top of the charts just two weeks later, it goes on to be The Beatles biggest record ever, spending nine weeks at number one, becoming their largest selling single, selling over four million copies in the US alone. “Revolution” peaks at number twelve on the Hot 100 on September 21, 1968. At seven minutes and eleven seconds, “Hey Jude” is one of the longest singles to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1967 – “Ode To Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on October 21, 1967. Written by Bobbie Gentry, it is the biggest hit for the Mississippi born singer, songwriter and musician born Roberta Lee Streeter. The cryptic story song about a young man committing suicide for unknown reasons is an immediate smash. Recorded at the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, CA in Studio C on July 10, 1967, the track is completed in less than an hour of studio time. Arranger Jimmie Haskell adds the songs crowning touch by overdubbing violins and cellos to the spare arrangement. The unedited version runs over seven minutes and it pared down to just over four minutes. Originally issued as the B-side to her debut single “Mississippi Delta”, DJ’s very quickly favor the flip side. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on August 5, 1967 it rockets to the top of the chart just three weeks later. The song also propels Gentry’s album (also titled “Ode To Billie Joe”) to number one for five weeks (unseating The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”), and winning her two Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1968. In 1976, “Billie Joe” inspires a feature film titled “Ode To Billy Joe” based on the songs story line starring Robby Benson in the title role and is produced and directed by Max Baer, Jr. (“The Beverly Hillbillies”). The song is also widely covered by numerous artists including Howard Roberts, Cal Tjader, Tammy Wynette, Frank Sinatra & Ella Fitzgerald, Lou Donaldson, Lorrie Morgan, and Sinead O’Connor among them. As Bobbie Gentry’s original version is on the R&B singles chart, it is surpassed by a competing instrumental version by King Curtis, which peaks at #6 on October 28, 1967. “Ode To Billie Joe” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1967 – “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on September 9, 1967. Written by Ronnie Shannon , it is the third R&B chart topper for Memphis, TN born, Detroit, MI raised R&B icon. Penned by Ronnie Shannon, the writer behind Aretha Franklin’s breakthrough smash “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)”, the song is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City on June 23, 1967, and features musicians such as Jimmy Johnson and Joe South (guitars), Tommy Cogbill (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums), Spooner Oldham (electric piano), Truman Thomas (organ), as well as a horn section led by saxophonist King Curtis, and Aretha’s sisters Carolyn and Erma Franklin on background vocals. Following up the hugely successful “Respect”, “Baby I Love You” is issued as first single from her second Atlantic album “Aretha Arrives” in July of 1967. It quickly becomes the third smash hit in a row from Aretha Franklin in just five months, becoming another million seller for the then newly dubbed “Queen Of Soul”. In 1990, director Martin Scorsese features Franklin’s recording in his film “Goodfellas”. “Baby I Love You” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1964 – “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks is released. Written by Ray Davies, it is the first major hit for the North London based rock band. Having released two previous singles that fail to make an impact, The Kinks are pressured by their UK label Pye Records to deliver a hit record, or be dropped from the label. After Davies writes “You Really Got Me”, he and the band try the song with a number of different arrangements before finding the right one. The Kinks record the track with American producer Shel Talmy at IBC Studios in London in July 1964. The singles trademark overdriven distorted guitar tone is achieved by lead guitarist Dave Davies slicing the speaker cone of his guitar amp with a razor blade. It is also one of the first rock songs to feature power chords (perfect 5ths and octaves) rather than major or minor triads. This lays the template for the hard rock and heavy metal music genres that follow in the years to come. The song hits #1 in the UK and #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 on November 28, 1964. One of the records that help define the 60’s “British Invasion” era, it has also been covered many times over the years. Most notably by Van Halen on their self-titled debut album in 1978. Ray and Dave Davies also record a live version of “You Really Got Me” with The Smithereens in 1991. “You Really Got Me” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: August 25, 1962 – “The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 3 weeks on the same date. Written and produced by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the R&B/Pop vocalist from Belhaven, NC. Little Eva (aka Eva Boyd) is the seventeen year old babysitter for the husband and wife songwriting team. One day, King hears Eva singing around the house and asks the teenager to sing on the demo of a new song that she and her husband have written. The demo is heard by music publisher Don Kirshner who releases it “as is” on his newly established Dimension Records imprint. Entering the Hot 100 at #86 on June 30,1962, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “The Loco-Motion” proves to have great staying power as it is covered numerous times over the years, with the band Grand Funk Railroad also scoring a number one pop hit with their cover version in May of 1974. Australian pop singer/actress Kylie Minogue also takes the song to number three on the Hot 100 in November 1988 with her version. Little Eva’s original recording is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2016. “The Loco-Motion” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.