Category: 70’s

Born on this day: December 12, 1943 – Legendar…

Born on this day: December 12, 1943 – Legendary Jazz/Funk saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. (born in Buffalo, NY). Happy Birthday to this great musician on what would have been his 75th Birthday.

On this day in music history: December 12, 1…

On this day in music history: December 12, 1969 – “Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum is released. Written by Norman Greenbaum, it is the fourth single release and biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Malden, MA. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New England, Norman Greenbaum becomes interested in folk and blues music. He studies music at Boston University, before dropping out in 1965. He joins Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, landing their lone hit with “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” (#52 Pop) in December of 1966. The band’s tenure is short lived, and Greenbaum begins his solo career in 1968. He signs with Reprise Records and is paired with producer Erik Jacobsen, best known for his work with The Lovin’ Spoonful. Settling in Northern California in Santa Rosa, Greenbaum works on songs for his first album. The inspiration for what becomes his biggest hit comes from an unlikely source. A fan of country music star Porter Wagoner, Norman sees Wagoner on his TV show, singing a song “about a preacher”. Though born into the Jewish faith, Wagoner’s performance inspires Greenbaum to write a song with its main theme centering around Christianity. It takes him only fifteen minutes to write the lyrics, to what becomes “Spirit In The Sky”. The final arrangement comes together while recording at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, CA. The other musicians include Russell DaShiell (guitar) and Doug Killmer (bass) from the band Crowfoot, and Sopwith Camel drummer Norman Mayell. The backing vocals on “Spirit” are sung by the Oakland, CA gospel trio The Stovall Sisters. Initially, Reprise is reluctant to release it as a single, due to its nearly four minute length and for its lyrics. Eventually, they release it, but the single isn’t an immediate hit, slowly gaining airplay in its first six weeks of release. Finally it hits the charts at end of February 1970. Entering the Hot 100 at #64 on February 28, 1970, it peaks at #3 seven weeks later on April 18, 1970. “Spirit” holds its peak position for three weeks, unable to move past The Jackson 5’s “ABC” or The Beatles’ “Let It Be”. “Spirit in The Sky” is also a huge hit internationally, hitting #1 in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia. In spite of scoring a huge worldwide hit, Norman Greenbaum is dropped by Reprise in 1972. He leaves the music business to work in a restaurant, and as a dairy farmer. Greenbaum’s fortunes turn around in the mid 80’s, when the UK pop group Dr. And The Medics cover “Spirit In The Sky”, taking it to #1 on the UK singles chart. Greenbaum’s original recording also begins being used in numerous films including “Maid To Order”, “Oceans 11”, “Apollo 13” and “Guardians Of The Galaxy”. The song enjoys enduring popularity, and continues to be played regularly on oldies radio. “Spirit In The Sky” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 11, 197…

On this day in music history: December 11, 1979 – “Funk You Up” by The Sequence is released. Written by Angela Brown, Cheryl Cook, Gwendolyn Chisolm and Sylvia Robinson, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the rap vocal trio from Columbia, SC. Consisting of Angie B. (Angela Brown), Cheryl The Pearl (Cheryl Cook), and Blondie (Gwendolyn Chisolm), the trio have been friends since childhood having been on the same cheer leading squad in high school. The group get their big break when The Sugarhill Gang, who are on the road promoting “Rapper’s Delight”, come to Columbia to perform at the Township Auditorium. The girls meet Sugarhill Records co-founder Sylvia Robinson back stage and audition for her, performing their original song titled “Funk You Up”. Robinson signs them immediately and put them in the studio to record the song. Making history as the first female Hip Hop group on record, the single takes off quickly, selling over a half million copies in less than a month. “Funk You Up” peaks at #15 on the R&B singles chart in the Spring of 1980. The Sequence record a nearly dozen singles (and three albums) for Sugarhill between 1979 and 1985 including the classic “Monster Jam” with labelmate Spoonie Gee, “Funky Sound (Tear The Roof Off)” (#39 R&B), “I Don’t Need Your Love (Part One)” (#40 R&B) and an updated version of their debut “Funk You Up ‘85”. Though the group breaks up in 1985, “Funk You Up” has great staying power, with one of its main hooks being interpolated in Dr. Dre’s hit “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” (#10 Pop and R&B) in 1995, by Erykah Badu on a remix of “Love Of My Life Worldwide” in 2003, performing the song with Bahamadia and Angie Stone.  Angie B. rechristens herself Angie Stone and go on to have a successful career as an R&B singer in the 90’s and 2000’s. A talented lyricist, Cheryl Cook also co-writes a number of hits while at Sugarhill including The Sugarhill Gang’s “8th Wonder”, “Apache”, and co-producing the electro-funk classic “Break Dance (Electric Boogie)” for the West Street Mob. She now runs her own production company Black Bottom Entertainment, and has begun recording again. Gwendolyn Chisolm has worked for several years behind the scenes in the music industry as a personal assistant and road manager to her lifelong friend Angie Stone, and has established a nonprofit organization called Education Through Talent to assist young people looking to enter the music industry.

On this day in music history: December 11, 197…

On this day in music history: December 11, 1970 – “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”, the debut solo album by John Lennon is released. Produced by John Lennon, Yoko Ono & Phil Spector, it is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London and Ascot Sound Studios at Tittenhurst Park in Ascot, Berkshire, UK from September 26 – October 23, 1970. Much of the material on the album is influenced by the Primal Scream therapy sessions Lennon and Ono participate in with Dr. Arthur Janov (earlier in 1970), dealing with the emotional and childhood traumas both have suffered. The sessions result in some of the most deeply personal and affecting material Lennon has ever written. The album features Lennon, bassist Klaus Voorman and former Beatle band mate Ringo Starr on drums as the core rhythm section, with co-producer Spector and Billy Preston also playing keyboards on one track each. It receives rapturous critical praise upon its release and is considered a landmark recording in Lennon’s career. The album is remastered three times on CD, with the 2000 release featuring the album remixed from the original multi-track tapes adding “Power to the People”, and “Do the Oz” as bonus tracks. A 2003 CD and vinyl LP reissue by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab uses the remixed version of the album. Another remaster is issued in 2010 using the original stereo master mix down masters. It is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015, as part of EMI/UMe’s Back To Black reissue series. The reissue replicates the original album artwork, custom record labels and lyric sheet inner sleeve. “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 10, 197…

On this day in music history: December 10, 1976 – “A Day At The Races”, the fifth album by Queen is released (US release is on December 17, 1976). produced by Queen, it is recorded at The Manor Studios in Shipton-On-Cherwell, Oxfordshire, UK, Sarm East Studios, Wessex Studios and Advision Studios in London from July – September 1976. When the tour in support of “A Night At The Opera” ends in April of 1976, Queen return home to the UK to take a brief rest before beginning work on their next album. Having created their first true masterpiece with their previous release, the band look to craft a sequel to “Opera”. Also taking its title from another Marx Brothers comedy classic, “A Day At The Races” continues to embrace the musical excess and grandeur that trademarks of Queen’s sound. One major difference is the band take the opportunity to seize the production reigns rather than working with producer Roy Thomas Baker. Though all four members of the band contribute songs to the project, the album is largely dominated by Freddie Mercury and Brian May’s songs. Inspired by the use of the multi-tracked vocal harmonies that made “Bohemian Rhapsody” an instant classic, Mercury uses the technique to great effect on the tracks “You Take My Breath Away” and the album’s gospel flavored first single “Somebody To Love” (#2 UK, #13 US Pop). Inspired by R&B icon Aretha Franklin, Mercury, May and Taylor record layers of multi-tracked vocals to replicate the sound of a 100 voice choir. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it is followed by the hard rocking “Tie Your Mother Down” (#31 UK, #49 US Pop) written by Brian May, becoming another highlight of Queen’s live performances over the years. Other highlights include “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy”, “White Man” and “The Millionaire Waltz”. Also in keeping with the idea of “Races” being a thematic sequel to “Opera”, it is packaged with similar cover artwork. It features matching typography, but with a black background rather than the stark white used on the previous album. Well received by the public upon its release, Queen immediately follow it with another extensive tour, kicking off with dates in US and Canada from January to March of 1977 before going to Europe in May and June. First issued on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 1991 with two bonus tracks. It is also reissued briefly on vinyl as part of EMI Records’ Millennium Vinyl Collection series. It is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2008, followed by new CD remaster in 2011 with five additional bonus tracks. The album is most recently reissued on vinyl in 2015. “A Day At The Races” spends one week at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day music history: December 10, 1976 -…

On this day music history: December 10, 1976 – “Wings Over America”, the sixth album by Wings is released. Produced by Paul McCartney, it is recorded in Various Locations from May – June 1976. The band’s only officially issued live album, the twenty-eight track triple LP set (issued in a gatefold sleeve with custom art labels and a double sided poster) is released in response to a three LP bootleg album titled “Wings From The Wings” taken from their performance at The Forum in Inglewood, CA on June 23, 1976. The set is originally conceived as a double album but is expanded to three to reflect the complete concert. The album is a critical and commercial success upon its release, but is the subject of some controversy among fans when it is later revealed that some post production overdubs were done to the otherwise fully live recordings. “Wings Over America” makes its CD debut in 1984 while McCartney is signed to Columbia Records. This edition only remains in print for a brief period before he re-signs with Capitol Records in 1985, taking his catalog with him. The Columbia CD pressing becomes a heavily sought after collector’s item among fans, due to its limited availability. In May of 2013, the album is reissued as a remastered two CD edition, three LP set, and three CD + DVD archival boxed edition (including an eight track CD featuring selections from a Wings concert recorded at The Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA). “Wings Over America” spends one week at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 9, 1974…

On this day in music history: December 9, 1974 – “Dark Horse”, the sixth album by George Harrison is released. Produced by George Harrison, it is recorded at Friar Park Studios (FPSHOT) in Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK and A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from September 1973, April – July 1974, September – October 1974. Harrison’s third post Beatles album is recorded at a particularly turbulent period which sees him struggling in many aspects in his personal life. To complicate matters further, Harrison is suffering from laryngitis during the recording sessions, but must complete the album in time to begin a tour that he is already committed to perform. The project features a number of guest musicians including Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, Tom Scott, Gary Wright, Willie Weeks, and Ron Wood. Critics dub the album “Dark Hoarse” due to Harrison’s vocals, but in spite of this it performs well commercially, spinning off two singles including the title track (#15 Pop) and “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” (#36 Pop). The latter song is inspired by engravings on the grounds of Harrison’s sprawling estate Friar Park, written by its former owner Sir Frank Crisp. A promotional video for the song is filmed at Friar Park, with George donning his famous collarless Beatles suit and Sgt. Pepper uniform. Inspired by Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound”, the song written as a “New Year’s Eve sing-a-long”, but becomes associated with the Christmas holiday over the years. The album is remastered and reissued in September of 2014 with the non LP B-side “I Don’t Care Anymore” (flip side of “Dark Horse”) and an early outtake of the title track added as bonus tracks. It is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP, as a stand alone release and as part of the box set “George Harrison – The Vinyl Collection” in 2017. “Dark Horse” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972…

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972 – “Hot August Night”, the tenth album by Neil Diamond is released. Produced by Tom Catalano, it is recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA on August 24, 1972. It is Diamond’s second live album, the twenty two track double LP set is taken from a single performance recorded on August 24, 1972 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA, in the middle of a run of ten sold out shows at the famed outdoor venue. It is a huge critical and commercial success for Diamond, and establishes his reputation for dynamic live performances captured on the album. It also is his final release for MCA Records before signing a lucrative and long term contract with Columbia Records. The album spins off three sequels released in 1977 (“Love At The Greek”), 1987 (“Hot August Night II”) and 2009 (“Hot August Night/NYC”). The album is remastered and reissued as a two CD set in 2000, and again in 2012 for its fortieth anniversary with additional tracks that were cut due to the time constraints of vinyl. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, the original version is reissued by UMe in 2012, and reissued again in 2017. “Hot August Night” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972…

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972 – “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton, it is the first US chart topper for the Australian born singer. After struggling and suffering numerous setbacks since arriving in the US in 1966, Helen Reddy lands her first chart hit with a cover of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (#13 Pop) from the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” in June of 1971. Her first album also features a song titled “I Am Woman” co-written with fellow Australian musician Ray Burton. The original version receives little notice, but Reddy is asked to re-record the song for the film “Stand Up and Be Counted” starring Jacqueline Bisset, Steve Lawrence, and Loretta Swit. The new version features members of The Wrecking Crew playing on the track including Mike Deasy (guitar), Jim Gordon (drums), Michael Melvoin (piano), future James Taylor and Phil Collins side man Leland Sklar (bass) and background vocalists Clydie King, Vanetta Fields and Shirlie Matthews. Released as a single in May of 1972, “Woman” stalls at #97 on the Hot 100 on July 8, 1972 before falling off the chart. Undaunted, Reddy’s husband and manager Jeff Wald uses his considerable promotional skills to book his wife on various television variety and talk shows to re-promote the single. Positive response from female viewers to the song spreads to radio stations who are flooded with calls to play the record. Re-entering the Hot 100 at #87 on September 16, 1972, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. “I Am Woman” becomes an anthem and rallying cry for the women’s equal rights movement as a result of its huge popularity. Reddy wins a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female in 1973, and in her memorable acceptance speech, she thanks her husband and “God, because she makes everything possible.” “I Am Woman” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972…

On this day in music history: December 9, 1972 – “Me And Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 3 weeks on December 16, 1972. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert, it is the biggest hit for the Philadelphia, PA born R&B/Jazz singer. Gamble and Huff meet Paul at a local Philadelphia club in 1967 and begin working together shortly afterward. After several attempts to write a hit for the singer fail, they finally come up with a song that perfectly balances R&B and pop with Billy’s jazz vocal style. Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios with members of MFSB and arranged by Bobby Martin, it is the first single from Paul’s album “360 Degrees Of Billy Paul” on September 13, 1972. The song about an extramarital affair is the third R&B chart topper, and first number pop single for the fledgling Philadelphia International label. The single wins Paul a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male in 1973. Songwriters Gamble, Huff and Gilbert also later collaborate on “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, originally writing it for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes in 1975. A cover version by Thelma Houston becomes a worldwide hit, topping the pop and R&B singles charts in 1977. It is also covered by The Dramatics and by Michael Buble. In 2000, Billy Paul’s original recording is used in a television commercial for Nike sportswear featuring track star Marion Jones. At the time, Paul had not received any royalty payments on the song in twenty seven years. He files a lawsuit against Gamble & Huff, their publishing company Assorted Music, Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment for back royalties. He wins the lawsuit and receives a sizable settlement and future royalties generated by his version of the song. Regarded as not only one of the greatest “Philly Soul” records of all time, but one of the best singles of the 70’s, “Me And Mrs. Jones” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2018. “Me And Mrs. Jones” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.