On this day in music history: November 19, 1991 – “Achtung Baby”, the seventh studio album by U2 is released. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin, Germany, Elsinore Studios in Dalkey, Ireland, STS Studios and Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from October 1990 – September 1991. It marks the beginning of a major shift in U2’s musical direction. The album takes its title from a line in the Mel Brooks comedy “The Producers”, both as a tongue in cheek reference to the bands’ recording in Germany, and to add some levity to intensity of the music contained on it. Initial sessions for the album take place at Hansa Studios in Berlin which prove so arduous that the band nearly breaks up in frustration. The writing and recording of the track “One” (#10 Pop) allows them to regroup and creatively refocus their efforts, leading the way to the rest of the albums’ completion. The resulting work is a huge critical and commercial success, spinning off five singles including “Mysterious Ways” (#9 Pop) and “Even Better Than The Real Thing” (#32 Pop). The albums’ cover art, designed by Steve Averill, features a series of various photos (taken by photographer Anton Corbijn) also includes a full frontal nude picture of bassist Adam Clayton on the back cover. The original limited vinyl LP release features this photo uncensored, while the CD pressing includes the photo with an “X” drawn over Clayton’s private parts. The album is remastered and reissued to commemorate its twentieth anniversary in October of 2011, including a single CD, a double CD “Deluxe Edition”, and double vinyl LP releases (with a bonus 12" EP featuring remixes, pressed on blue vinyl). Also released is a “Super Deluxe” that contain six CD’s, four DVD’s and a ninety-two page hardbound book. And finally, a limited (to only six hundred copies) and numbered “Über Deluxe” edition containing all of the contents of the Super Deluxe version, plus the double LP set, and reproductions of all of the albums’ singles pressed on clear vinyl, and packaged with their corresponding picture sleeves. It also features a copy of Propaganda, the bands’ fan club magazine, art prints of the album cover artwork, four badges, stickers, and a pair of Bono’s “Fly” sunglasses. “Achtung Baby” debuts at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1990 – Pop music duo Milli Vanilli are stripped of their Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences, the organization that awards the coveted music industry honor, revokes the prize won by Milli Vanilli members Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, after it is revealed that neither actually sang on the groups’ multi-Platinum selling album “Girl You Know It’s True”. Producer Frank Farian announces to the press on November 12, 1990 that the duo did not actually perform on the album (the actual vocalists were Charles Shaw, Brad Howell and John Davis), after Pilatus and Morvan insisted on singing on the second Milli Vanilli album, which was in production. In a hastily organized press conference, Rob and Fab give their award back, explaining that they were basically pawns in the deception perpetrated by producer Farian, who had made them the visual face of the group after he found they could not sing. As a result of the scandal, former fans file class act lawsuits against Arista Records seeking refunds for their purchase of Milli Vanilli’s records. Rob & Fab attempt to continue their music career, but due to the overwhelmingly negative publicly surrounding them, the album they release in 1991 under their own names sells only 2,000 copies in the US. Interest in the duo is revived when they are the subject of the premiere episode of the VH1 program “Behind The Music”, documenting their meteoric rise and fall. Sadly, Rob Pilatus, plagued by numerous personal problems after Milli Vanilli’s fall from grace, dies of a drug and alcohol overdose in a hotel in Frankfurt, Germany on April 2, 1998 at the age of 32. Fab Morvan continues to work as a musician and public speaker, recording an album in 2003. In 2007, Universal Pictures announces that they are working on a biopic about Milli Vanilli, written and directed by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (“Catch Me If You Can”). To date, the project is still in development.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1984 – “Building The Perfect Beast”, the second solo album by Don Henley is released. Produced by Don Henley, Danny Kortchmar and Greg Ladanyi, it is recorded at Record One in Sherman Oaks, CA, Bill Schnee Studio in Universal City, CA, and The Villa in North Hollywood, CA from Late 1983 – Mid 1984. Following up his successful solo debut “I Can’t Stand Still”, the second release from the former Eagles vocalist and drummer features instrumental and vocal support from Lindsey Buckingham, Mike Campbell, Belinda Carlisle, Martha Davis, Patty Smyth, Benmont Tench, Charlie Sexton, Pino Palladino, David Paich, Jim Keltner, Randy Newman and J.D. Souther. The cassette and CD releases of the album include the additional bonus track “A Month Of Sundays” (the non-LP B-side of “The Boys Of Summer”). It is left off of the vinyl pressing of the album due to the time constraints of the format. It spins off four singles including “The Boys Of Summer” (#5 Pop) and “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” (#9 Pop). “Summer” wins Henley a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male in 1985, and also wins four MTV Video Music Awards including Video Of The Year for the songs’ iconic music video directed by Jean-Baptiste Mondino (“Justify My Love” “Slave To Love”). “Building The Perfect Beast” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and certified is 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1982 – “Coda”, the ninth and final studio album by Led Zeppelin is released. Produced by Jimmy Page, it is recorded from January 9, 1970 – November 21, 1978. Compiled by Page from unreleased studio and live outtakes recorded over an eight year period. The first Zeppelin album to appear in the wake of drummer John Bonham’s death two years earlier, it is released in response to the numerous bootlegs of the bands live and studio vault material that have leaked out over the years. The release also fulfills their contract with Atlantic Records, which also becomes necessary when the band discovers that they owe the label one more album. The tracks “We’re Gonna Groove” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” are actually live performances from a concert at The Royal Albert Hall with the crowd noise muted out, and guitar overdubs added to the former, while the latter is edited down from its original length. It spins off three airplay tracks on Mainstream Rock radio including “Darlene” (#4 Mainstream Rock) and “Ozone Baby” (#14 Mainstream Rock). A remastered and reissued edition of the album is released in July of 2015 on CD and LP, including a Super Deluxe Box Edition with alternate versions, previously unreleased material. The latter also includes a hardbound book with rare and previously unpublished photos, a lithograph of the album cover art work, and a card for hi-rez downloads of the tracks. “Coda” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1979 – “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III”, the twenty ninth studio album by Frank Zappa is released. Produced by Frank Zappa, it is recorded at Village Recorders, Studio B in Los Angeles, CA from September 17 – November 19, 1979. The second of two albums released just two months apart, the ten track double album is a rock opera centering around the character “Joe”, following his journey through the music business. Filled with Zappa’s stinging guitar work, tempered with his trademark satirical and often scatalogical humor. The album also takes sharp aim at religion (particularly the Catholic church and Scientology), and the censorship of music. The latter of which foreshadows the musicians’ opposition against the Parents Music Research Center (PMRC) formed by the wives of Washington senators and businessmen in the mid 80’s. “Garage” also features musical backing from members of what becomes the popular new wave band Missing Persons. “Joe’s Garage Acts II & III” peaks at number fifty three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1977 – “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 7 weeks, also peaking at #13 on the Hot 100 on February 11, 1978. Written by Maurice White, Verdine White and Reginald “Sonny” Burke, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the legendary R&B/Funk band led by drummer and vocalist Maurice White. Following the release of Earth, Wind & Fire’s seventh studio album “Spirit” and the extensive tour that follows, Maurice White takes a much needed vacation in early 1977. White visits Brazil during his sabbatical, soaking up the culture and the countries’ unique sounds and rhythms. Also having an avid interest in Eastern philosophy, metaphysics and all things spiritual, all of these influences make their way into the bands’ music. Collaborating with his younger brother, bassist Verdine White and musician Sonny Burke, the trio come up with “Serpentine Fire”. The song is a metaphor describing a person’s life force, primarily their sexual impulse and energy. Issued as the first single from Earth, Wind & Fire’s landmark eighth album “All ‘N All” on October 5, 1977, it hits the charts and rises to the top quickly. Like their previous R&B chart topper “Getaway” the previous year, “Serpentine Fire” is edited from its original recorded length (to fit the confines of the vinyl LP’s time limit) of 5:02 to 3:51. The full unedited version is released on a white label promotional 12" single for club and radio DJ’s at the time of its original release. It is belatedly issued commercially in 1989 as a CBS Mixed Masters 12" reissue (on the B-side of “Boogie Wonderland”). The chart topping success of “Serpentine Fire” and duration on the chart makes it top R&B single of 1978, as ranked by Billboard Magazine. It also helps to propel the accompanying album “All ‘N’ All” to the top of the Billboard R&B album chart, into the top five on the Top 200, selling over three million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1966 – “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #28 on the Hot 100 on December 10, 1966. Written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, It is the biggest hit for Alabama born soul singer. The song is actually recorded in the Summer of 1965 (with Booker T. & The MG’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and The Mar-Keys horn section), but is held back from release by Stax Records president Jim Stewart when he believes that it is too similar to Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. The record actually experiences resistance from radio upon its release, failing to receive any airplay initially. Stax Records’ head Al Bell hits upon the idea of Floyd performing live in an area where he has a strong fan base. Washington DC is the city that is chosen. The ploy works, with the single breaking on radio stations in the DC and Baltimore area. From there, the record goes national. Over the years, “Knock On Wood” is covered by a number of artists including versions by Ike & Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. Singer Amii Stewart’s disco rendering of the song becomes a worldwide hit, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1979. “Knock On Wood” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1966 – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by The Supremes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks on November 26, 1966. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the eighth number one pop single, and third R&B chart topper for the Motown vocal trio. The track is a deliberate attempt by HDH to give the group a harder edged sound. The songs’ distinctive morse code like lead guitar lick is suggested by Lamont Dozier when he hears the intro to a news report on the radio with a similar rhythmic element to it. The track is recorded at Motown Records Studio A on June 30, 1966 with instrumental backing by The Funk Brothers. The Supremes overdub their vocals two months later on August 1, 1966. Released as the follow up to the girls’ previous chart topper “You Can’t Hurry Love” on October 12, 1966, it is another immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #68 on October 29, 1966, it rockets to the top of the chart just three weeks later. The week that “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” hits the top of the chart, it presides over a unique top five in which all of the songs within had either previously reached number one, or are on their way to hitting the top of the chart. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” sells more than one million copies in the US. Like many Motown classics, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” covered by a wide variety of artists, including versions by Wilson Pickett, Rod Stewart, and The Box Tops. The song returns to the top ten in a dramatically re-vamped version by hard rock band Vanilla Fudge in 1968. Their version, initially released in June of 1967 fails to make much of an impression at first. Clocking in at more than seven minutes on their self-titled debut, it is pared down to under three minutes for single release. It’s only after it begins receiving widespread airplay on FM underground stations playing the long LP cut, that it eventually crosses over to AM pop stations. Reissued a year later in June of 1968, climbs to #6 on the Hot 100 on August 31, 1968. Then over twenty years after The Supremes top the pop charts with the song, it hits number one a second time, when it is covered by British pop singer Kim Wilde, whose own Hi-NRG dance remake becomes a club and pop smash. Regarded as one of The Supremes career defining singles as well as a R&B and pop standard, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: November 18, 1989 – “Don’t Take It Personal” by Jermaine Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #64 on the Hot 100 on January 6, 1990. Written by David “Pic” Conley, David Townsend and Derrick Culler, it is the second R&B chart topper for the bassist and co-lead vocalist of the Jackson musical family. The song is co-written and produced by Conley and Townsend of the band Surface, The song had originally slated for Milli Vanilli’s “Girl You Know It’s True” album, the writers withdraw the song after producer Frank Farian insists that they not travel to Germany to attend the recording sessions. Arista chief Clive Davis passes the song on to Jackson instead. Issued the title track from Jermaine’s twelfth solo album (also titled “Don’t Take It Personal”), it becomes the singers’ biggest hit since “I Think It’s Love” (co-written by Stevie Wonder) in 1986.
On this day in music history: November 18, 1986 – “Notorious”, the fourth studio album by Duran Duran is released. Produced by Nile Rodgers and Duran Duran, it is recorded at Studio Davout in Paris, France, Abbey Road Studios, Maison Rouge Studios, AIR Studios – Lyndhurst Hall, Westside Studios in London and Skyline Studios in New York City from Late 1985 – Mid 1986. The first new studio album from Duran Duran in three years, the band is pared down to a three piece with the departure of original guitarist Andy Taylor (who plays on a few tracks before leaving the band) and drummer Roger Taylor. Former Missing Persons guitarist Warren Cuccurullo and former AWB drummer Steve Ferrone fills in during the sessions, with Cuccurullo eventually becoming a full fledged member of the band. Featuring a more stripped down funk and horn based sound (courtesy of producer/guitarist Nile Rodgers of Chic), it spins off three singles including the title track (#2 Pop) and “Skin Trade” (#39 Pop). In 2010, the album is remastered and reissued as a three disc set (two CD’s and one DVD), with extended mixes, demos, and outtakes. The DVD features a live concert performance as well as the original music videos for all of the singles. “Notorious” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.