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 – “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 – “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.
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 8, 1979 – “Babe” by Styx hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Dennis DeYoung, it is the biggest hit for the rock band from Chicago, IL. In middle of a string multi-Platinum selling albums, Styx continues their hot streak as the 70’s come to a close, as they begin work on their ninth album. “Cornerstone” sees Styx moving away from the progressive rock of their previous work, refining their formula to more mainstream pop/rock sound. During the sessions, lead singer and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung writes the ballad “Babe” for his wife Suzanne as a birthday present. Recording it as a demo with just drummer John Panozzo and bassist Chuck Panozzo, the song is not originally intended for the album in progress, until band members James “J.Y.” Young and Tommy Shaw convince DeYoung that it should be included. When they find that DeYoung’s original demo cannot be improved upon, J.Y. overdubs a guitar solo to the track, and the song is slotted into the finished album. Released as the first single from “Cornerstone” in September of 1979, “Babe” is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on October 6, 1979, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Babe” is later included on the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler film “Big Daddy”, and is covered by R&B singer Alexander O’Neal and Dutch pop group Caught In The Act. In spite of the songs’ ongoing popularity, Styx stop performing “Babe” live after Dennis DeYoung is fired from the band in 1999. “Babe” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 8, 1976 – “Hotel California”, the fifth album by the Eagles is released. Produced by Bill Szymczyk, it is recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL and The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA from March – October 1976. Having scored their greatest success to date with the album “One Of These Nights”, the Eagles are more than aware of the pressure to come up with a strong follow up. Recording begins in L.A. in March of 1976, before moving to Miami, with the band traveling back and forth between the two cities during the months spent writing and recording. “Hotel California” is a concept album reflecting on themes of the hedonistic 70’s lifestyle, using “California” as a metaphor for the entire country. The title track begins as an instrumental demo written by guitarist Don Felder, who then shows it to Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Intrigued by the unique hybrid, sounding like a cross between Spanish flamenco music and reggae, Henley and Frey write the lyrics and melody to Felder’s music. With the song designated the album’s centerpiece, the others fall into place around it. In pursuit of perfection, the tension intensifies, particularly between Felder, Henley and Frey, when Felder presses them to sing lead on “at least two cuts”. Specifically, Felder insists on being allowed to sing lead on the song “Victim Of Love”, which he has written the music for. After several attempts at recording a suitable lead vocal, the others decide that it is better for Henley to sing it instead, causing bad feelings between Felder and the others. In spite of this, the sessions continue until it is completed in the Fall of 1976. It is the band’s most successful album spinning off three singles including “New Kid In Town” (#1 Pop), “Life In The Fast Lane” (#11 Pop) and the title track (#1 Pop). Original vinyl copies come packaged in a gatefold jacket with a poster taken by photographer Norman Seeff. The original vinyl pressings also come with custom labels of the album’s title logo. The phrase “Is It 6 O’Clock Yet?” is etched into the runout groove of side one, and “V.O.L. Is Five-Piece Live” etched into the runout of side two. Regarded as a definitive 70’s album, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2008. Remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, it is also issued as a DVD-A disc, featuring a new 5.1 surround mix remixed by Elliot Scheiner. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2009, replicating the original packaging including the inner sleeve and poster. To commemorate the album’s 40th anniversary, it is reissued as a two CD deluxe edition. The first disc contains the original nine song album, with disc two featuring live concert performances recorded at The Forum in Inglewood, CA on October 20-22, 1976. “Hotel California” spends eight weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 16x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: December 8, 1973 – “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by The Staple Singers hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on December 22, 1973. Written by Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson and Carl Hampton, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Chicago, IL based family group fronted by lead singer Mavis Staples. The song is inspired when Banks, Jackson and Hampton are hanging out at Stax Studios in Memphis when they decide to go to lunch at a local restaurant. Before heading over, Raymond Jackson blurts out the line “If you’re ready, come go with me”. Carl Hampton hears him say it and then reply that it sounds like a potential song title. The trio return to the studio and quickly write the song, recording a demo within a day of completing it. Issued as the first single from the groups’ seventeenth album “Be What You Are”, the track features members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section including Jimmy Johnson (guitar), David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums) and Barry Beckett (keyboards). The group record their vocals with the band live at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL in mid 1973. “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.