Category: blue eyed soul

On this day in music history: December 8, 1984 – “Out Of Touch” by Daryl Hall & John Oates hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Club Play Chart for 2 weeks on November 17, 1984, peaking at #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #24 on the R&B singles chart on December 1, 1984. Written by Daryl Hall and John Oates, it is the sixth and final chart topping pop single for the Philadelphia, PA based duo. For the follow up to the critically and commercially successful “H2O” album, they decide to shake up their successful hit making formula by enlisting the assistance of Arthur Baker whose acclaimed work as a producer and remixer co-produces the track (as well as the rest of the album w/ H&O and engineer Bob Clearmountain), giving it a harder dance influenced edge. Working together at Electric Lady Studios in the Summer of 1984, they emerge from the studio with another highly successful album. Issued as the first single from their twelfth album “Big Bam Boom” in September of 1984, it is an immediate smash. The song is accompanied by a tongue in cheek music video directed by Jeff Stein (“The Who – The Kids Are Alright”, The Cars’ “You Might Think”, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Don’t Come Around Here No More”). Entering the Hot 100 at #48 on September 29, 1984, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. The chart topping success of “Out Of Touch” helps drive sales of the accompanying album to 2x Platinum status in the US. The edited version of the 12" dance mix (featuring edits by The Latin Rascals) used for the music video, which also incorporates a excerpt of “Dance On Your Knees”, is first issued on a 12" single in the UK only. It is finally issued in the US on the CD compilation “Playlist : The Very Best Of Daryl Hall & John Oates” in 2008.

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On this day in music history: December 5, 1984 – “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton is released. Written by Alexander Nevermind (aka Prince), it is the thirteenth US (sixteenth UK) single release for the pop vocalist from Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Making a conscious effort to shed her “sweet and innocent good girl” image, Sheena Easton looks to shake things up with her sixth album “A Private Heaven”. While working on the album with her producer Greg Mathieson, Easton receives an unexpected message from Prince. At the time, he’s putting the final touches on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack and film. On January 20, 1984, Prince records the basic track for a new song he has written titled “Sugar Walls” at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. The track is originally intended for singer Jill Jones, but the musician changes his mind when he sees Sheena that same night on television, performing on The Tonight Show. Impressed by her performance, the musician will say to himself, “Ya, I gotta write something for that girl”. The next day, Prince contacts Easton through recording engineer David Leonard, whom both are working with at the time. Sheena likes the track immediately, and agrees to work with Prince on the song. Easton records her vocals at Sunset Sound’s sister studio The Sound Factory on January 22, 1984. Getting on well immediately, Easton and Prince finish recording the vocals in one session. Following up the sexy first single “Strut” (#7 Pop), the even more provocative “Sugar Walls” is issued next. Poppy and undeniably funky, laced with Sheena’s equally sexy vocals, it draws immediate attention from fans and radio. Credited to the pseudonym “Alexander Nevermind”, it doesn’t take long for the public to realize that Prince, is the one behind this sexy musical confection. It also doesn’t take long for listeners to figure out the title is a euphemism for a woman’s privates. However, this doesn’t stop it from becoming an across the board smash on pop and R&B radio, as well on club dance floors. “Sugar Walls” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #60 on December 22, 1984, peaking ten weeks later at #9 on March 2, 1985. It’s an even bigger hit on R&B stations, peaking at #3 on the R&B chart on March 9, 1985, and topping the Club Play chart for one week on February 23, 1985. After it peaks on the charts, “Sugar Walls” is the subject of further controversy and infamy, when it is singled out by the PMRC (Parents Music Research Center), as one of its “Filthy Fifteen” along side Prince’s “Darling Nikki”. The success of the collaboration between Sheena Easton and Prince leads to future musical collaborations. Easton later appears on the hit “U Got The Look” (#2 Pop, #11 R&B), co-writing the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” B-side “La, La, La, He, He, Hee”, and “The Arms Of Orion” on the “Batman Soundtrack”.

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On this day in music history: December 3, 1984 – “Last Christmas” by Wham! is released. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the seventh UK single release for the pop music duo from Bushey, Hertsfordshire, UK. In Fall of 1984, George Michael announces that Wham! are to release a new single for Christmas. Having already had an incredible year with three consecutive UK number ones including “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, “Careless Whisper” and “Freedom”, they set their sights on the coveted number one spot during the holidays. For the occasion, Michael pens “Last Christmas”. In spite of its melancholy lyric, the track and George’s excellent vocal make it another sure fire hit. It is also supported by a music video directed by Andy Morahan. The clip’s narrative depicts Michael’s girlfriend (played by model Kathy Hill) leaving him and taking up with Andrew Ridgeley, who is seen wearing the brooch that George had given her. At the time, the British press play up the rivalry between Wham! and Frankie Goes To Hollywood who is also competition with “The Power Of Love”. Both are bested by Band Aid’s unstoppable “Do They Know It’s Christmas”. “Last Christmas” is issued as a double A-side with “Everything She Wants”, peaking at number two. The initial pressing is packaged in a picture sleeve featuring George dressed like Santa Claus, and Andrew as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. The holiday themed art is replaced by a second sleeve on December 27, 1984. Wham! donate their royalties to the Band Aid Trust. It sells over 1.8 million copies, setting a record for the largest selling UK single to not top the chart. It is not issued in the US, to avoid direct competition with the just released “Careless Whisper”, though Columbia Records releases it as a promo only 7" to US radio stations in 1986. It is reissued in 1985 with a new picture sleeve and with the live version of “Blue (Armed With Love)” recorded in China on the B-side. It charts again, peaking at number six on the UK singles chart. It is issued a third time in 1986, also with a new sleeve, and with “Where Did Your Heart Go” on the B-side. The extended version, subtitled the “Pudding Mix” also appears on “The Final” and “Music From The Edge Of Heaven” in 1986. “Last Christmas” becomes a perennial holiday favorite, re-charting nine more times between 2007 and 2015. It is also covered by Jimmy Eat World, Taylor Swift, Whigfield, Billie Piper, Crazy Frog, Alcazar, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ashley Tisdale, and Ariana Grande. Wham’s original is issued in the US as a 12" single on Black Friday Record Store Day on November 28, 2014, pressed on red and green colored vinyl limited to 3,000 copies, using the first issue UK cover artwork, including a previously unreleased instrumental mix. In 2019, the song becomes the theme and title of a romantic comedy film, directed by Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”).

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On this day in music history: December 1, 1978 – “Minute By Minute”, the eighth album by The Doobie Brothers is released. Produced by Ted Templeman, it is recorded at Warner Brothers Studios in North Hollywood, CA from Mid – Late 1978. Following the modestly successful “Livin’ On The Fault Line”, the Bay Area based band realize that they are at a career crossroads. Concerned that they may lose support from their label Warner Bros Records, The Doobie Brothers concentrate their efforts to make a more commercial album with their next release. Even so, with their confidence somewhat shaken by the previous record’s disappointing performance, they begin second guessing themselves. Soldiering on, they complete the album within a few months. Playing the finished album for executives at Warner Bros., initially they are less than enthusiastic about the final results, with some predicting that it will bomb upon release. Marking a decided change from the initial sound that made The Doobies successful, the tracks are smoother and more R&B based, largely due to Michael McDonald’s influence. However, no one predicts at the time what the public’s reaction will be. Instead of being a flop, they rebound with what becomes their most successful album, also broadening their audience. Besides becoming a pop smash, “Minute By Minute” receives unexpected support from American R&B radio who embrace McDonald’s blue eyed soul sound. It spins off three hit singles including “What A Fool Believes” (#1 Pop, #72 R&B). “Depending On You” (#25 Pop), and the title track (#14 Pop, #74 R&B).“What A Fool” is written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, originally recorded by Loggins on his album “Nightwatch” released earlier in the year. The Doobies version wins Grammy Awards for Record and Song Of The Year, taking home two additional awards for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals and Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chrous in 1980. The album’s opening track “Here To Love You” is belatedly issued as a single in January of 1982, when it is added to the greatest hits compilation “The Best Of The Doobies Vol. II”. “Minute” is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Friday Music in 2008. Warner Music Japan also remasters and reissues the title as an SHM-CD in 2009, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve. It is remastered again and reissued as a hybrid SACD by Warner Music Japan in 2017. “Minute By Minute” spends five weeks at number one (non-consecutive) on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 25, 1970 – “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat”, the fourth album by Laura Nyro is released. Produced by Felix Cavaliere and Arif Mardin, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City in May 1970. Following her highly acclaimed third release “New York Tendaberry”, singer, songwriter and musician Laura Nyro returns to the studio in the Spring of 1970 to work on her next release with Rascals keyboardist and vocalist Felix Cavaliere and arranger and producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Chaka Khan) handling the production duties. It is the final part of the musical trilogy begun with Nyro’s second and third albums “Eli And The Thirteenth Confession” and New York Tendaberry". In spite of its title, it is not a traditional holiday album, containing no covers of actual Christmas songs. The material however captures the joyful spirit present during that time of year. It also features guest appearances by Duane Allman (on the title track) and Alice Coltrane. The album yields Nyro’s only chart single, a cover of The Drifters hit “Up On The Roof” (#92 Pop). It makes its domestic CD debut in 1990, and is remastered and reissued by Sony Japan in 2008. Out of print on vinyl for more than thirty years, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2017. “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat” peaks at number fifty one on the Billboard Top 200.

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Born on this day: November 21, 1940 – Singer, songwriter and musician Dr. John (born Malcolm John Rebennack in New Orleans, LA. Happy Birthday to this musical great, on what would have been his 79th birthday.

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On this day in music history: November 17, 1984 – “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” by Wham! hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the first US chart topper for the pop music duo from Bushey, Hertsfordshire, UK. Released as the lead single from the duo’s second album “Make It Big”, the inspiration for the song comes from a note pinned to (a then still teen aged) Andrew Ridgeley’s bedroom door. The note was to remind his mother to wake him up before she left for work. However, Ridgeley makes the mistake of writing the word “up” twice on the note, so to humorously compound his error, he writes the word “go” twice. The track is cut at SARM West Studios in London in the Spring of 1984, with Michael and engineer Chris Porter programming the songs’ drum track on a Linn LM-1, and musicians Deon Estus (bass), Hugh Burns (guitar), David Baptiste, Steve Gregory (saxophones), Colin Graham, Paul Spong (trumpets), Tommy Eyre, Andy Richards and George Michael (keyboards). The basic track is cut in a day and a half, with Michael recording his lead and background vocals over a few days time. The song’s music video filmed at the Brixton Academy in South London, is directed by Andy Morahan. The clip marks the beginning of a years long association between Morahan and George Michael, who also directs several other videos for Wham! and Michael over the years. The now famous “CHOOSE LIFE” T-shirts worn by Michael and Ridgeley in the video are designed by British fashion designer Katherine Hamnett, later becoming a popular clothing item and an iconic 80’s image. Issued in the UK first on May 5, 1984, it quickly shoots to number one, spending two weeks at the top. Released in the US in August of 1984, it repeats its overseas success. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on September 8, 1984, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. It is the first of three consecutive US chart toppers that Wham! has in just six months. The song is used to highly humorous effect by Ben Stiller in the comedy “Zoolander” in 2001. “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 17, 1971 – “Gonna Take A Miracle”, the fifth album by Laura Nyro is released. Produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, it is recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA from May – June 1971. Following the holiday themed “Christmas And The Beads Of Sweat”, singer and songwriter Laura Nyro again follows her muse and changes musical direction yet again. For the first time in her career, Nyro decides to record an album of all cover material, rather than another featuring original material penned by her. Having recorded a cover of The Drifters classic “Up On The Roof” on her previous release, which becomes her only single to crack the Hot 100 in the US, Laura records a full album of favorite R&B songs during her years growing up in The Bronx. Prior to recording the album, Nyro meets singer Patti LaBelle, when she is being interviewed by LaBelle’s manager Vicki Wickham. Laura and Patti become close friends and tour together. When it comes time to work on the project, Nyro is paired with Philadelphia International Records co-founders and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Backed by the core rhythm section of PIR’s house band MFSB, Nyro invites LaBelle (Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash) to perform backing vocals throughout. Recording a well selected group of songs that include Motown classics (“You Really Got A Hold On Me”, “The Bells”, “Nowhere To Run”, “Jimmy Mack”), girl group standards (“I Met Him On A Sunday”, “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle”), Brill Building pop (“Spanish Harlem”) and doo wop (“The Wind”), the recordings are spirited and inspired. The title track is released as a single not long after the album, and though it does not chart, the album itself receives favorable reviews and performs well. In time, “Miracle” is regarded as a favorite among Laura Nyro’s loyal fan base and today is revered as a classic “blue eyed soul” album. It is also the last album Nyro records for nearly five years. By the end of 1971, the already media shy musician turns away from the spotlight to get married and live in rural Massachusetts. Out of print in the US for many years, the album is reissued on CD in 1991, then is remastered and reissued again in 2002 with four bonus tracks, recorded live at The Fillmore East in May of 1971. “Gonna Take A Miracle” peaks at number forty six on the Billboard Hot 100, and number forty one on the R&B album chart.

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On this day in music history: November 15, 2007 – The first episode of the music series “Live From Daryl’s House” is broadcast on the internet. Originally conceived as a web broadcast only, the show offers fans the opportunity to see musician Daryl Hall sing and play in a relaxed and intimate setting. The debut episode features Hall and his band performing in Hall’s upstate New York home, and shown on his website. Featuring his long time band mate and friend John Oates in the second episode, the show quickly grows in popularity and viewership online, to where the program picks up sponsorship to allow for improved production values. The series wins a Webby Award in 2010 for Best Variety Series, also earning an MTV O Music Award the same year. By 2011, Viacom cable network Palladia (later MTV-Live) takes over production of the show, and begins broadcasting “Live From Daryl’s House” in 2012. Featuring a who’s who of musical icons and upcoming musicians including Smokey Robinson, The O’Jays, Todd Rundgren, Chromeo, Billy Gibbons, Joe Walsh, Plain White T’s, Sharon Jones, and Cee-Lo Green among them, it becomes one of the most popular shows on cable television. In 2014, the show moves from Daryl Hall’s home to the club also named “Daryl’s House” just a short distance away in Pawling, NY, though some episodes are filmed in other locations depending on the guest performer. To date, more than eighty episodes of LFDH have been produced, airing regularly on MTV-Live, VH-1 and MTV-Classic.

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On this day in music history: November 14, 1997 – The Bee Gees perform in concert in Grand Garden Arena at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. It is the final live concert in the US performed by the legendary pop music trio. The show is originally to be the bands’ farewell live performance due to Barry Gibb’s chronic back problems have left him unable to stand the rigors of extensive touring. The concert features music from all phases of the Bee Gees storied career including material from their most recent album “Still Waters”. The performance also features a tribute to their late younger brother Andy Gibb, with the brothers performing “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away”, with footage of Andy synched up to the live musicians and singing the songs’ second verse. Pop singer Celine Dion also appears, performing the Gibb brothers penned song “Immortality” with the trio. The concert is released as a live album (in edited form) and home video release featuring the complete concert titled “One Night Only” in September of 1998.

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