On this day in music history: August 31, 1970 – “Sunflower”, the sixteenth album by The Beach Boys is released. Produced by The Beach Boys, it is recorded at Brother Studios in Los Angeles, CA from January 9, 1969 – July 21, 1970. The album is the bands first full length release on their own Brother Records imprint (distributed by Warner Bros subsidiary Reprise Records), following The Beach Boys acrimonious split with their former label Capitol Records. The band sue Capitol over unpaid royalties and unpaid production fees totaling over two million dollars. As a result of the suit, the bands last few albums fare poorly from a lack of promotional support. “Sunflower” is well received by critics upon its release but sells poorly due to the lack of hit single. However, its reputation and popularity with fans grows over the years, and is now regarded as one of the bands finest efforts. The album goes in and out of print over the years, and is reissued several times. It is most recently remastered and reissued by audiophile label Analogue Productions in 2016. The title is issued as a hybrid SACD, and 200 gram vinyl LP. “Sunflower” peaks at number one hundred fifty one on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 31, 1970 – “After The Gold Rush”, the third album by Neil Young is released. Produced by Neil Young, David Briggs and Kendall Pacios, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA, Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA and Neil Young’s Home Studio in Los Angeles, CA from August 1969 – June 1970. Having recently joined his former Buffalo Springfield bandmate Stephen Stills in Crosby, Stills & Nash, the band name is amended to add Young. CSNY release the classic “Deja Vu” album in the Spring of 1970, before the individual band members embark on solo projects. Young records a sizeable portion of his third release in his home studio in Topanga Canyon with members of his band Crazy Horse, including a then eighteen year old guitarist named Nils Lofgren. Overdubs and vocals are recorded at Sunset Sound and Sound City Studios. It spins off two singles including “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (#33 Pop) and “When You Dance I Can Really Love” (#93 Pop), though the albums centerpiece is the track “Southern Man”, a sharp rebuke against racism. Originally released on CD in the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2009 with HDCD encoding and is reissued on vinyl. “After The Gold Rush” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 30, 1977 – “Barry White Sings For Someone You Love”, the seventh album by Barry White is released. Produced by Barry White, it is recorded at Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA from April – May 1977. Enjoying a prolific hit streak that by the mid 70’s includes nine top ten singles on the R&B chart, including four of them hitting number one, Barry White shows few signs of that pace slowing down. Though by 1976, the non stop pace begins to take its toll. As well as recording projects under his own name, Barry is also writing and producing for Love Unlimited and instrumental albums with the Love Unlimited Orchestra. The strain begins to show when White’s albums “Let The Music Play” and “Is This Whatcha Wont?” both fail to go Gold after scoring six million selling albums in under four years. For his seventh solo album, The Maestro turns to material from outside writers and collaborating with protege Danny Pearson and songwriter Vance Wilson. As on previous albums, White is backed by the Love Unlimited Orchestra recording at his favorite studio, Whitney Studios in the San Fernando Valley. Any talk of a slump in Barry White’s hit making prowess is quickly silenced with the release of the first single “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop) in July of 1977. The simmering, pulsating track featuring White’s sultry bass baritone voice front and center, becomes an instant classic and one of the biggest hits of his career. It is followed by the equally sexy “Playing Your Game, Baby” (#8 R&B, #101 Pop) and “Oh What A Night For Dancing” (#13 R&B, #24 Pop). The sexy vibe of the album is also extended to the LP’s cover artwork, which features a photo of a fur with a locket pendant draped over it, and the artist name and title written in elegant graphic style. The Ivy Duo-Pak gatefold sleeve which must be opened to pull the record out from the inside, comes in two different variations. The first features a light colored fur with a solid locket on the front cover. The second has a dark colored fur with the pendant having a die cut center when punched out, reveals a small photo of White also visible inside. Though the album restores “The Maestro” to the top of the charts, after the follow up release “The Man” in 1978, the late 70’s sees the musician’s commercial fortunes wane dramatically, until making a major comeback in 1995 with “The Icon Is Love”. Long out of print in any form since the early 80’s, “Barry White Sings For Someone You Love” is finally remastered and reissued, making its CD debut in 1996. “Barry White Sings For Someone You Love” spends four weeks at number one (non-consecutive) on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number eight on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 30, 1971 – “Surf’s Up”, the seventeenth album by The Beach Boys is released. Produced by The Beach Boys, it is recorded at United/Western Studios in Hollywood, CA and Brother Studios in Los Angeles, CA from November – December 1966, Late 1969, Mid 1970, and January – June 1971. The album consists of outtakes from the abandoned “Smile” album written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks and recorded in late 1966, as well as contributions from the other members of the band. During the period that the majority of the recording takes place, Carl Wilson becomes the musical director of the band when Brian Wilson is reluctant to work on the project, having mostly withdrawn from music following the demise of the “Smile” project. Though he is coaxed out of isolation to help complete “Surf’s Up”. Issued as the follow up to the critically acclaimed but poorly selling “Sunflower”, “Surf’s Up” is their best received and best selling album since leaving Capitol Records (setting up their own label Brother Records through Warner/Reprise)more than four years. The album is reissued numerous times over the years, most recently in 2016. Audiophile label Analogue Productions remasters and reissues it as a limited edition hybrid SACD, and 200 gram vinyl LP. “Surf’s Up” peaks at number twenty nine on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 29, 1979 – “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by Fatback is released. Written by Fred Demery and Bill Curtis, it is the seventeenth single by the R&B/Funk band from New York City. Formed in 1970 by drummer Bill Curtis, The Fatback Band take their name from term “fatback” used to describe the heavy back beat of New Orleans jazz. The band move more toward a straight ahead R&B/Funk sound and away from their jazz roots. Fatback scores hits with the disco classics “(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop” and “(Do The) Spanish Hustle”, they officially shorten their name from to Fatback in 1977.. After scoring their first R&B top ten hit with funky “I Like Girls” (#9 R&B) in 1978, they follow it with “Freak The Freak The Funk (Rock)” (#36 R&B). In the Summer of 1979, Fatback releases “You’re My Candy Sweet”. The mid tempo dance single initially draws little attention and peters out at #67 on the Billboard R&B singles chart on September 22, 1979. While it is crawling up the chart, radio and club DJ’s discover the track hidden on the B-side. In the late 70’s, with Hip Hop culture still very much an underground phenomenon out of its birthplace of the South Bronx, the art of MC’s (Master of Ceremonies) improvising rap verses over R&B, funk and disco breaks is largely unknown to the general population. “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” features radio DJ Tim Washington rapping over Fatback’s chunky, driving backing track, supported by the band chanting the provocative phrase “Do it to me, and I’ll do it to you” in between the verses. Washington’s raps follow the tradition of R&B radio DJ pioneers like Jack “The Rapper” Gibson, Rufus Thomas and Douglas “Jocko” Henderson who often rapped between records while on the air. The reaction from music fans is swift, prompting Spring Records to quickly reverse the sides of the single. “King Tim III” hits the airwaves only two and a half weeks before The Sugarhill Gang’s landmark single “Rapper’s Delight”. The Fatback single enters the R&B singles chart at #88 on October 6, 1979, peaking at #26 on November 17, 1979. Though it does not have the same commercial impact, and is largely overshadowed by “Rapper’s Delight”, in time, “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” is acknowledged by music historians as the first commercially released rap record. Over the years, the song has been sampled numerous times including on songs by the Beastie Boys (“Shadrach”), Rodney O & Joe Cooley (“Cooley High”), DJ Qbert (“Track 10”) and J Dilla (“One Eleven”). After “King Tim III” charts, Fatback scores its biggest success in 1980 with their thirteenth album “Hot Box” and the back to back R&B hits “Gotta Get My Hands On Some (Money)” (#6 R&B) and “Backstrokin’” (#3 R&B). Still together after more than forty years, the band still perform “King Tim III” in their live shows.
On this day in music history: August 29, 1977 – “Lust For Life”, the second album by Iggy Pop is released. Produced by David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Colin Thurston (aka “The Bewlay Brothers”), it is recorded at Hansa Studios By The Wall in West Berlin, Germany from April – June 1977. Having produced Pop’s solo debut “The Idiot” the year before, David Bowie returns to the studio with Iggy in mid April of 1977, only a month after that album arrives in stores to record the follow up. The album is co-produced by Iggy along with engineer Colin Thurston who later engineers Bowie’s “Heroes” album, becoming a success producer in his own right through his work with numerous artists including Duran Duran and Talk Talk. The trio dub themselves “The Bewlay Brothers” after the song on the album “Hunky Dory”. With guitarist Carlos Alomar in tow, “Lust” also features musical support from Ricky Gardiner (lead guitar), Bowie (keyboards, piano, organ, backing vocals) and brothers Hunt (drums, bass, backing vocals) and Tony Sales (bass, guitar, backing vocals), the sons of comedian Soupy Sales. Rejuvenated both creatively and physically after moving Berlin in late 1976 to beat his severe cocaine addiction, Bowie writes or co-writes seven of the the nine songs on “Lust For Life” including the now iconic title track. The song is inspired by the sound of the morse code opening that David hears while listening to Armed Forces Radio one day. The distinctive and hard hitting back beat on “Lust” played by Hunt Sales, is taken directly from “The Motown Sound”, specifically The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” and Martha & The Vandella’s “I’m Ready For Love”, but played with a more intense and punkish drive. “The Passenger”, written by guitarist Gardiner is another stand out, and becomes another one of Iggy Pop’s signature songs over time. Once released, it becomes the most successful of Pop’s career internationally. It is in part fueled by a now legendary and infamous appearance that Iggy makes on the UK music show “TopPop”, where he literally destroys part of the stage set during his energetic performance. It makes a lesser splash in the US, after RCA abruptly pulls the plug on its promotional efforts to focus on selling Elvis Presley catalog, after the rock & roll legend’s death two weeks before. In later years, “Lust For Life” is featured in various media including the films “Desperately Seeking Susan” and most notably at the opening of “Trainspotting”. It is first released on CD in 1990 on Virgin Records. It is remastered and reissued on vinyl in 1997, and is reissued again by 4 Men With Beards in 2009, with limited pressings on clear red, purple and yellow vinyl in 2016. And finally it is reissued by Virgin/UMe in 2017 on standard black vinyl and clear vinyl. “Lust For Life” peaks at number one hundred twenty on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 29, 1970 – “War” by Edwin Starr hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the biggest hit for the Nashville, TN born R&B singer, given name Charles Edwin Hatcher. The song is originally recorded by The Temptations and included on their 1970 album “Psychedelic Shack”. Motown receives numerous requests from young fans to release it as a single, but the label declines, feeling that the songs strong anti-war sentiment will alienate the groups older and more conservative fans. Instead, Whitfield re-cuts the song with Edwin Starr in May of 1970 at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit, MI, with The Funk Brothers providing musical backing, and featuring The Originals and The Undisputed Truth on background vocals. Released on June 10, 1970, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on July 11, 1970, it climbs to the top the chart seven weeks later. Selling nearly two million copies in the US, “War” wins Starr a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1971. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band record a live version of “War” that is released as a single, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 in December of 1986.