Category: 80’s

On this day in music history: October 21, 1986 – “Polka Party!”, the fourth album by “Weird Al” Yankovic is released. Produced by Rick Derringer, it is recorded at Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, CA from April – September 1986. Like his previous albums, it features parody versions of recent pop hits including ones by James Brown, Robert Palmer and the title track which is a medley of twelve songs strung together and compressed into just over three minutes. In spite of not being as well received as his previous releases (it is one of the few albums by Al not to be certified Gold or Platinum in the US), it is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording. The original vinyl LP release has the messages “Polka ‘Til You Puke” etched into the runout groove of side A and “Where’s My Liquid Paper?” etched in the runout of side B. Issued on CD by CBS Records at the time of its original release, the album is reissued on CD in 1990, after Scotti Bros. Records switches distribution from Sony Music to WEA Distribution. It is reissued again by Volcano Records in 1999. “Polka Party” peaks at number one hundred seventy seven on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: October 21, 1985 – “Once Upon A Time”, the eighth album by Simple Minds is released. Produced by Jimmy Iovine and Bob Clearmountain, it is recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London from June – August 1985. It is the first album issued by the Scottish/UK band releases following their US breakthrough with the soundtrack single “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. The album also features guest musicians such as David Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar, vocalist Robin Clark (Alomar’s wife), and Michael Been of The Call (backing vocals). It spins off three singles including “Alive And Kicking” (#7 UK, #3 US Pop), “Sanctify Yourself” (#10 UK, #13 US Pop), and “All The Things She Said” (#9 UK, #28 US Pop). On the albums’ initial release,  there are two variations in the cover artwork with the photo collages of the band reversed, with the back cover photos appearing on the front and the other way. The album is remastered and reissued in 2003 as a standard redbook CD and hybrid SACD. For its 20th anniversary in 2005, the album is released as a DVD-A with a new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround remixes. The disc also includes the original music videos for “Alive And Kicking” and “All The Things She Said”. In 2015, it is reissued again for its 30th anniversary as a 4CD + DVD Super Deluxe boxed set (released in Europe only). The first three CD’s include the original album, 12" single mixes, B-sides, instrumental mixes and live tracks.  Disc four features the live album “Live In The City Of Light”, recorded in Paris in 1986 during the world tour for the album. The DVD is a reissue of the 5.1 surround mixes previously issued in 2005, and features four music videos associated with the album, plus the original clip for “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. “Once Upon A Time” hits number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 21, 1982 – “Oh, No! It’s Devo”, the fifth album by Devo is released. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, CA from May – September 1982. Following the release of “New Traditionalists” in 1981, Devo back Toni Basil on three tracks of her debut album “Word Of Mouth”. The band then work with producer Roy Thomas Baker (The Cars, Queen) on their fifth release. The title “Oh, No! It’s Devo”, is meant to be a highly sardonic jab at critics, who have branded them as “fascists” and “clowns”. The band conceive it with the concept of “what would an album by fascist clowns sound like?”. They create unique visuals for the accompanying music videos. Devo run into problems with “That’s Good” (#106 Pop Bubbling Under), when it is banned by MTV for being too sexually suggestive. While Devo perform, the screen behind them show animated images of a french fry penetrating the hole of a donut. It’s juxtaposed with a naked woman (shot from the neck up), smiling and tossing her hair when the french fry is penetrating the donut, then frowning when it breaks off. They complain to MTV exec Les Garland about the ban, holding up Billy Idol’s heavily rotated “White Wedding” video in comparison for its suggestive imagery. Garland angrily responds, “we’re talking about you, we’re not talking about them!!”. They label themselves “spuds”, crafting a new look, with the quintet dressed in black T-shirts, pants, and white “spud ring collars” around their necks. The original vinyl LP covers are printed with a die cut stand on the back, so it can be displayed like a framed picture. It also features “I Desire”, whose lyrics are taken from a poem written by then President Ronald Reagan’s would be assassin John Hinckley, Jr.. Another is “Big Mess”, inspired by a series of letters sent to a radio DJ named Cowboy Kim, penned by a fan suffering from schizophrenia. Devo mount an ambitious tour, featuring them performing in front of a twelve foot screen, with video rear projected behind them. The first show at the Warner Beverly Hills Theater, is filmed for a pay-per-view concert titled “3-DEVO”. The concert is marred by technical problems, and is aired in heavily edited form. Without a major hit single to propel it, “Oh, No!” does not perform as well as the two previous albums. Though in time, it is regarded as one of Devo’s best works. First released on CD in 1991 (Japan only), it is issued domestically in 1995, with six bonus tracks. It’s reissued again in 2005, without any extra tracks. Out of print on vinyl since its original release, it is remastered and reissued, as part of the limited edition vinyl box set “This Is The Devo Box”, in April of 2019. The vinyl edition is pressed on “spud brown” vinyl. “Oh, No! It’s Devo” peaks at number forty seven on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1989 – “Pretty Hate Machine”, the debut album by Nine Inch Nails is released. Produced by Trent Reznor, Flood, Adrian Sherwood, Keith LeBlanc and John Fryer, it is recorded at The Right Track Studios in Cleveland, OH, Blackwing Studios, Roundhouse Studios in London, Unique Recording Studios in New York City and Synchro Sound Studios in Boston, MA from May – June 1989. While working as an assistant engineer, handyman and janitor at The Right Track Studios in Cleveland, Trent Reznor begins making his debut release under the Nine Inch Nails moniker, at night during studio off hours with the studio managers’ permission. The album features Reznor playing most of the instruments and doing much of the programming and sequencing which is done on an Apple MacIntosh Plus computer. Released on the indie label TVT Records, it is one of the first independently released albums to reach platinum status in the US and is considered a landmark record in the Industrial Rock genre. It spins off three singles including “Head Like A Hole” and “Down In It”. Due to legal issues between Reznor and his former label TVT, the album goes out of print from 1997 to 2005, before the musician acquires the rights to the the master tapes. It is reissued first by Rykodisc, then by UMe (Universal Music Enterprises) in 2010 in a newly remastered edition. Out of print on vinyl since its initial release, it is remastered and reissued in 2010, as a limited edition double LP pressing (on three sides with a blank fourth side), for improved fidelity. This issue also features different cover artwork from the original release. Another LP pressing on 180 gram vinyl is issued in 2011, as single LP like the original first release, and with the original cover art restored. “Pretty Hate Machine” peaks at number seventy five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 – “Quarterflash”, the debut album by Quarterflash is released. Produced by John Boylan, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA and Westlake Audio in West Hollywood, CA from Early – Mid 1981. Originally formed in 1980 and led by the husband and wife duo of Marv and Rindy Ross, the Portland, OR based sextet is originally known as Seafood Mama. The band generates major buzz in their hometown when they record an early version Marv’s song “Harden My Heart”, releasing it on local label Whitefire Records. The single attracts the attention of Geffen Records who sign them. They then change their name to Quarterflash, an Australian slang term for new immigrants who are described as “a quarter flash, three quarters foolish”. Paired with producer John Boylan (Boston), they record their major label debut during the first half of 1981. The album also features Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles providing additional background vocals on several tracks as well as percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. It spins off two hits including “Harden My Heart” (#3 Pop) and “Find Another Fool” (#16 Pop). Originally released on CD in 1983, it is reissued as a budget priced disc on the Geffen Goldline imprint in 2003. The album is then remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2013, with two additional bonus tracks included. “Quarterflash” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 – “Dare”, the third album by The Human League is released. Produced by Martin Rushent and The Human League, it is recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading, UK from March – September 1981. The Sheffield, UK based synth-pop bands’ third release marks the beginning of their transition away from their more experimental avant garde electronic music period, toward more a mainstream pop sound. The band utilizes a number of different synthesizers including the Roland Jupiter-4, MC-8, Korg Delta, 770, Casio M10, VL-1, and the Linn LM-1 drum machine. The end result propels them to superstar status in their native country, and establishes them on a worldwide basis. In the UK, the album spins off four hit singles including “Love Action (I Believe In Love)” (#3 UK), and “Open Your Heart” (#6 UK). The final single released from the album is “Don’t You Want Me” which becomes their biggest hit. It spends five weeks at number one, selling over 1.4 million copies, and paving the way for their US breakthrough (spending three weeks at number one in July 1982). In time, “Dare” is regarded as a pioneering synth pop album, and is one the catalysts in beginning the “second British Invasion” during the 1980’s in the US. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of its original release in 2007, The Human League tour the UK and Europe, playing the album in its entirety live. UK newspaper The Daily Mail also gives out free copies of the CD (packaged in a cardboard slipcase cover) with the September 11, 2008 issue, as part of their promotion to celebrate 80’s classics. It is also reissued as a limited edition picture disc in 2013, and as a standard black vinyl 180 gram LP pressing in 2014, as part of UMe’s “Back To Black” series. “Dare” hits number one on the UK album chart and is certified 3x Platinum, number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “Winelight”, the tenth album by Grover Washington, Jr. is released. Produced by Grover Washington, Jr. and Ralph MacDonald, it is recorded at Rosebud Recording Studio from June – July 1980. After recording “Paradise”, his first album for Elektra Records in early 1979, Grover Washington, Jr. sets about working on his second album the label in mid 1980, after recording “Skylarkin’”, the final album he owes former label Motown released in early 1980. The saxophonist utilizes many of the same musicians who played on “Skylarkin’” including Eric Gale (guitar), Richard Tee, Ed Walsh (keyboards) and Marcus Miller (bass), along with other top studio veterans including Steve Gadd (drums), Paul Griffin, Raymond Chew and Bill Eaton (keyboards). Grover also collaborates again with his old friend percussionist Ralph MacDonald who also co-produces the project. MacDonald along with longtime songwriting partner William Salter, both of whom had penned Washington’s classic “Mr. Magic” get together to write songs for the new album. The pair write “In The Name Of Love” and another called “Just The Two Of Us”. Looking for a vocalist to sing the song, MacDonald calls musician Bill Withers. Long an admirer of Grover Washington, Jr., Withers agrees to do the song also since Washington had been the first artist to cover one of his songs, having recorded “Ain’t No Sunshine” on the “Inner City Blues” album in late 1971. Before Withers adds his vocals to the track, he asks MacDonald and Salter if he can re-write some of the lyrics, to which they agree. Once the album is completed and released, no one is prepared for how it will be received by the public. “Just The Two Of Us” (#2 R&B and Pop, #3 AC) becomes a break out across the board smash, racing into the top five on the Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary singles charts by the Spring of 1981.“Winelight” becomes the biggest selling album of Washington’s career, spending an astounding six consecutive months at the top of Billboard’s Jazz album chart, returning to the top for two more non-consecutive weeks in July and August of 1981. The album wins two Grammy Awards including Best R&B Song (for “Just The Two Of Us”) and Best Jazz Fusion Performance (for the entire album) in 1982, receiving two further nominations for “Two Of Us” for Record Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (for Withers). “Winelight” spends twenty nine weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, also peaking at number two on the R&B album chart, number five on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “The Wanderer”, the eighth studio album by Donna Summer is released. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, it is recorded at Westlake Audio Recording Studios in West Hollywood, CA from May – August 1980. With her five year association with Casablanca Records having ended acrimoniously at the end of 1979, Donna Summer becomes the first artist signed to former Asylum Records founder David Geffen’s eponymously named label in early 1980. Having established herself in the 70’s as “The Queen Of Disco”, Summer seeks to go in a different musical direction in the new decade after the fierce and sweeping backlash against the Disco music phenomenon of the previous decade takes hold. Donna continues to collaborate with her longtime producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, experimenting with rock and new wave sounds, showing yet another side of her musical versatility. The public get their first taste of the new sound when the title track “The Wanderer” (#3 Pop, #13 R&B) is released in September of 1980. The sharp shuffling new wave flavored dance track is an immediate hit, paving the way for the rest of the album which is also a commercial success. It spins off two more singles including “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” (#40 Pop) and “Cold Love” (#33 Pop), the latter of which receives a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1982. Having rediscovered her Christian faith in the late 70’s, “The Wanderer” also marks the beginning of Summer including one self penned gospel song on each of her albums, with the first one being “I Believe In Jesus” which receives a Grammy nomination for Best Inspirational Performance. After being briefly reissued on CD in 1996, “The Wanderer” along with Summer’s other Geffen era albums go out of print for nearly two decades, having purchased the rights back from her former label. The album is reissued in December of 2014 on the Driven By The Music label, established by the late singer’s husband Bruce Sudano. “The Wanderer” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, number twelve on the R&B album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “Catholic Boy”, the debut album by The Jim Carroll Band is released. Produced by Earl McGrath and Bob Clearmountain, it is recorded at The Power Station in New York City from June – August 1980. A gifted poet and writer since his teens, Jim Carroll sees his poetry work published in magazines and book form beginning in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He finds greater fame in 1978 when his autobiography “The Basketball Diaries” is released. The bold and starkly honest book is drawn from personal diary entries written between the ages of twelve and sixteen. Carroll writes about his Catholic school upbringing, being a high school basketball star and his sexual experiences before spiraling down into heroin addiction. By the late 70’s, Carroll is able to recover his sobriety while continuing to write, and takes an unexpected career turn. Having been roommates with fellow poet and punk rock pioneer Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith encourages Jim to start his own band. In 1979, Carroll forms The Jim Carroll Band with band members Steve Linsley (bass), Wayne Woods (drums), Brian Linsley and Terrell Winn (guitars). After playing together for a short time, the band are signed to Atlantic subsidiary Atco Records. The raw, rudimentary instrumentation featuring Carroll’s dark and powerful lyrics make for a compelling combination. The band are also supported in studio by Rolling Stones side man Bobby Keys (saxophone) and Blue Öyster Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier. The album’s cover photo is taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz (Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair). Though only a modest success, “Catholic Boy” receives attention and acclaim for the single “People Who Died”. Written as an elegy to Carroll’s fallen friends, the song becomes a punk rock classic and an enduring pop cultural touchstone. It is heard briefly in the 80’s blockbuster “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”, and is later featured in the film adaptation of “The Basketball Diaries” in 1995, with Leonardo DiCapro portraying Jim Carroll. Carroll himself also makes a cameo appearance in the film as a junkie. With the original version being featured on the soundtrack album, a music video for “People Who Died” is shot featuring clips from the film inter cut with Carroll performing the song. “Boy” is released on CD by Atco/Atlantic in 1989. “Catholic Boy” peaks at number seventy three on the Billboard Top 200.

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