On this day in music history: September 24, 1988 – “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, peaking at #11 on the R&B singles chart on October 22, 1988. Written by Bobby McFerrin, it is the biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from New York City. Born in New York City, McFerrin grows up in a musical family, with both of his parents being opera singers. Initially intending to become a minister and an educator himself, Bobby finds various musical jobs during and after college. Influenced by jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, he begins to develop his unique vocal style. Becoming a one man vocal orchestra, McFerrin sings the main parts of songs and the accompaniment, while tapping on his chest and using his mouth for percussive effects. He gets his big break in 1980, when he is hired to tour with vocalese pioneer Jon Hendricks. It leads to McFerrin being signed to Elektra Musician Records in 1982, releasing his debut album. By 1986, he moves to the legendary Blue Note label when it is revived by executives Michael Cuscuna and Bruce Lundvall. Recording his fifth album “Simple Pleasures” in 1988, its original concept was to be all covers of classics like The Beatles’ “Drive My Car”, and The Young Rascals’ version of “Good Lovin’”. While sitting at the piano, Bobby begins singing the words “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to himself. The phrase comes from Indian spiritual master Meher Baba, whose teachings had influenced other musicians including The Who’s Pete Townshend and Melanie Safka. Performed entirely by McFerrin, the Caribbean influenced “Don’t Worry” is included on his album. Initially, it draws little attention, until Touchstone Pictures licenses it for the Tom Cruise blockbuster “Cocktail”. Also included on its soundtrack, the song quickly becomes a stand out. McFerrin’s label EMI-Manhattan responds issuing as a single in July of 1988. It is accompanied by a music video that also features comic actor friends Robin Williams and Bill Irwin. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on July 30, 1988, it races to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The success of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy unexpectedly catapults the jazz vocalist into the pop spotlight. It wins three Grammy Awards in 1989, including Record and Song Of The Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. Its popularity is so great, that then Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush tries to co-opt it as his official campaign song. McFerrin doesn’t approve of it being used for political purposes, and asks Bush to stop using it, even dropping it from his live performances for many years. Over time, "Don’t Worry” becomes ensconced in popular culture, being name checked by Public Enemy in “Fight The Power” (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy was a number one jam…”), and in other films including “Flushed Away”, “WALL-E” and “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”. “Dont Worry, Be Happy” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1984 – “No More Lonely Nights” by Paul McCartney is released. Written by Paul McCartney, it is the thirty-first US Top 40 single for the former Beatle. The last song written and recorded for the film and soundtrack of “Give My Regards To Broadstreet” (released through 20th Century Fox), “No More Lonely Nights” is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in mid 1984. The band on the song features McCartney (lead vocals, piano), Linda McCartney (backing vocals, keyboards), Eric Stewart (backing vocals), Herbie Flowers (bass), Anne Dudley (synthesizer) and Stuart Elliott (drums). Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is also featured playing the guitar solo on the track. Gilmour does not accept a session fee for playing on the song, instead asking McCartney to donate his fee to the charity of his choice. Two versions of the song are recorded, the original straight ahead “ballad” version is the A-side of the single, while the more uptempo “playout” version is placed on the B-side. An extended version remixed by Arthur Baker is also released as a standard 12" single and picture disc. The music video directed by Peter Webb is shot in London, featuring a full fireworks display over the Thames. The late night video shoot causes many local residents to call the police to complain about the noise from the exploding fireworks. Though the film opens to universally negative reviews and disastrous box office numbers, the soundtrack album and single are a hit. “No More Lonely Nights” peaks at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 8, 1984, driving “Give My Regards To Broadstreet” to Gold status in the US. A dance remix remixed by Arthur Baker, of the uptempo version is also issued as a 12" single at the same time.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1983 – “In A Special Way”, the third album by DeBarge is released. Produced by El DeBarge, it is recorded at Kendun Recorders in Burbank, CA and Westlake Audio in West Hollywood, CA from Late 1982 – Mid 1983. Buoyed by the success of their sophomore release “All This Love”, the family vocal group from Grand Rapids, MI are granted more creative freedom in the studio. Only twenty one years old at start of recording, lead singer El DeBarge oversees the sessions as the sole producer and bandleader, with brothers James and Mark and sister Bunny all writing songs that are included on the completed album. Aided by a group of seasoned studio veterans including Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Harvey Mason, Ricky Lawson, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums) “Ready” Freddie Washington, James Jamerson, Jr., Nathan East (bass), Charles Fearing, Paul Jackson, Jr., Carlos Rios (guitars), and Paulinho DaCosta (percussion), the sessions are highly productive. Motown label mate Stevie Wonder (harmonica) also makes a guest appearance on the title track. The finished album is an artistic triumph and is widely regarded as the group’s best. It spins off two singles including “Time Will Reveal” (#1 R&B, #18 Pop) and “Love Me In A Special Way” (#11 R&B, #45 Pop). The album receives further belated attention more than a decade after its release when the album tracks “Stay With Me” and “A Dream” are widely sampled and interpolated by numerous Hip Hop and R&B artists during the 90’s including The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Ashanti. Originally released on CD in the early 90’s, it is remastered and reissued as part of the compilation package “Time Will Reveal: The Complete Motown Albums” in 2011. “In A Special Way” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart, also peaking at number thirty six on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1983 – “Tell Her About It” by Billy Joel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on the same date. Written by Billy Joel, it is the second chart topping single for the singer, songwriter and musician from Hicksville, Long Island, NY. Wanting to put the experiences of the previous year behind him, by early 1983, Billy Joel looks back to his adolescence to create his next album. Having grown up during the 60’s, Joel becomes nostalgic for the music of his youth, rock & roll, doo wop and R&B. His muse is inspired when he begins dating again after splitting with his first wife and former manager, at first dating model Elle Macpherson and then Christie Brinkley, the latter of which he marries on March 23, 1985. The Motown influenced “Tell Her About It” is one of several songs that are written during a six week burst creativity from the musician. The song’s 60’s R&B feel extends to the songs memorable music video, featuring Joel performing the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” with actor Will Jordan playing the legendary TV variety show host. Issued as the first single from “An Innocent Man” in July of 1983, it quickly become a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #38 on July 30, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Tell Her About It” is also issued as a 12" single, remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1982 – “1999” by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is the eleventh single release for the singer, songwriter, musician and producer from Minneapolis, MN. Written about “a party at the end of world”, the lyrics touch on widespread fears of the escalation of “The Cold War”, and the impending threat of global thermal nuclear war between the United States and the then Soviet Union (Russia). The song’s message encourages listeners to enjoy the time we do have, best expressed in the lyric “life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last”. The somewhat dark undercurrent present in the lyrics are masked by the exuberant, funky track, with its point being missed by many who only viewed it as a party song. One of the last songs recorded for the album, the basic tracks are recorded at Prince’s home studio on Kiowa Trail (“The Purple House”) in Chanhassen, MN in late July/early August of 1982. The song features Prince sharing lead vocals with band members Lisa Coleman, Jill Jones, and Dez Dickerson. Initially, he had planned for everyone to sing the entire song in unison, but during mixing of the single he hits upon the idea of having them sing lines on their own then all together on the chorus. The songs music video is directed by Bruce Gowers (Queen, Michael Jackson), and is shot at the Minneapolis Armory (with the full stage set up) during rehearsals for the “Triple Threat Tour”. It is one of three promotional clips filmed that week along with “Automatic” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”. The single is backed with the non album B-side “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”. Featuring Prince singing lead and background vocals to his own piano accompaniment, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA on April 26, 1982. “How Come” is included on the compilation “The Hits/B-sides” in 1993, and on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film “Girl 6” in 1996. “1999” peaks at #4 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in December of 1982 also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on December 4, 1982, and initially peaking at number #44 on the Hot 100. After the top ten chart success of “Little Red Corvette”, Warner Bros re-promotes “1999” at US top 40 pop radio in the late Spring of 1983. It re-enters the Hot 100, and peak at #12 on July 23, 1983. Prince re-records “1999” in late 1998, releasing it on his NPG Records imprint (as a seven track EP) after Warner Bros reissues the original version. The original re-charts again, peaking at #40 on the Hot 100 on January 16, 1999, with the remake peaking at #58 on the R&B album chart, and #150 on the Top 200 on February 20, 1999.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1986 – “Third Stage”, the third album by Boston is released. Produced by Tom Scholz, it is recorded at Hideaway Studios in Boston, MA from Early 1980 – Mid 1986. Over six years in the making, the album is released on MCA Records after a seven year long legal battle with CBS Records. CBS accuse the band of being in breach of contract for taking so many years to deliver their third album, and responds by putting a freeze on royalty payments for their first two albums. Believing that ploy will force Scholz to settle out of court and turn over the album, the guitarist responds by setting up his own company, creating The Rockman compact guitar amplifier. The money earned from the device provides him with income to continue recording, and pay the mounting legal costs generated by the lawsuit. Eventually, the court decides in the bands favor, being awarded millions in back royalties. The decision also releases Boston from their contract with CBS, leaving the band free to sign with MCA. The recording process is long and arduous, due to Tom Scholz’s legendary perfectionism and because of numerous technical setbacks. For the track “Cool The Engines”, Scholz puts it together by recording the drums live and splicing the final track together bar by bar from numerous takes for the final result. During the year spent working on that song, the multi-track tape has been run over the record and playback heads so many times, that the tape begins shedding oxide and sticking to the heads. At one point, an early version of the unfinished song “Amanda” leaks out of the studio in 1984, forcing the band to quickly send a cease and desist letter to stations had been playing it. In spite of the lengthy hiatus, the album is very well received upon its release. It spins off four singles including “Amanda” (#1 Pop), “We’re Ready” (#9 Pop) and “Can’tcha Say (You Believe in Me)/Still In Love” (#20 Pop). “Third Stage” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1982 – “The Nylon Curtain”, the eighth album by Billy Joel is released. Produced by Phil Ramone, it is recorded at A&R Recording Studios and Media Sound Studios in New York City from February – June 1982. Coming after the commercial and critical acclaim for his album “Glass Houses” in 1980, Billy Joel follows it in the Fall of 1981 with the live release “Songs In The Attic” recorded during the tour for the previous album. Writing new material during that period, Joel makes plans to return to the studio in early 1982. The creation what becomes “The Nylon Curtain” comes during a period of major upheaval in Joel’s life and career, which sees the end of his first marriage, and being involved in a serious motorcycle accident. Much of the material is more introspective and darker than previous efforts. Several of the songs reflect on the then current state of America under President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980’s, with many facing economic hardship, and seeing the American Dream slipping away from them. Joel’s ambition to create “a sonic masterpiece” leaves him physically and creatively exhausted by the end of the recording process. Joel sites the album as his personal favorite, and the one he is most proud of. It is one of the first digitally recorded (mixed to analog tape) albums by a major artist. It spins off three singles including “Pressure” (#20 Pop), and “Allentown” (#17 Pop). While not as huge sales wise as some of his previous efforts, it receives major acclaim from critics and fans upon its release, and is regarded as one of Billy Joel’s finest works. Other highlights of the set include “Goodnight Saigon”, addressing the plight of Marines who had served in the Vietnam War, the poor treatment they receive after returning home and coming to terms with they’ve experienced and its aftermath. The “Beatle-esque” “Scandanavian Skies”, “She’s Right On Time” and “Laura” also become favorites of Joel’s devoted fans. The album is remastered on CD for the first time in 1998, and is reissued in 2012 by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab as a hybrid SACD and in 2014 as a 2 LP 180 gram vinyl LP mastered at 45 RPM. “The Nylon Curtain” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 22, 1984 – “Missing You” by John Waite hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Mark Leonard, Chas Sandford and John Waite, it is the biggest solo hit for the British rock vocalist. The former lead singer of the UK rock band The Babys, Waite writes the song about the aftermath of a relationship with a woman he had been involved and his denial over his true feelings for her. Released as the first single from his second album “No Brakes”, there are actually two different mixes of the single issued during the songs run on the charts. The first is the original album version. When the music video for “Missing You” is released, it features a remix of the song remixed and edited by veteran remixer John Luongo (an extended version of this remix is also issued as a 12" single). EMI-America Records quickly replaces the original pressing of the single with the remix, becoming the definitive version of the record. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 23, 1984, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. “Missing You” is also featured in numerous movies, television programs and commercials over the years. While the single is a current hit, John Waite performs the song on the short lived ABC night time soap opera “Paper Dolls”, appearing as himself on several episodes. The song is also heard on the third episode (titled “Heart Of Darkness”) of “Miami Vice” in its first season. It is also featured on the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”. Tina Turner records a cover version of “Missing You” on her album “Wildest Dreams” in 1996. Waite also cover the song as a duet with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in 2007, with that version peaking at #34 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.
On this day in music history: September 22, 1980 – Geffen Records is officially established. Founded by record executive David Geffen, the label is distributed in conjunction with Warner Bros Records. It is not Geffen’s first record company, having established Asylum Records in 1970, then selling it to Warner Communications in 1975. The first artists signed to the Geffen label include Donna Summer, John Lennon and Elton John. Over the years, the labels roster includes artists such as Don Henley, Asia, Quarterflash, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Guns ‘N’ Roses, Sonic Youth, Cher, Jennifer Holliday, Kylie Minogue, and Irene Cara. The label’s distinctive logo is designed by famed graphic artist Saul Bass. When Geffen’s contract with Warner Bros ends in 1990, the company is sold to MCA Music Entertainment, and their parent company Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (aka the Panasonic Corporation) for $800 million in company stock. The deal makes Geffen a billionaire and he stays on with the label until 1995 when he leaves to start Dreamworks SKG with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Geffen Records eventually is merged with Interscope and A&M Records in 1999 after Universal Music Group combines the labels with MCA Records. From 2003 on, all catalog and artists formerly on MCA and its numerous imprints carry the Geffen Records logo.