On this day in music history: October 23, 1984 – “Make It Big”, the second album by Wham! is released. Produced by George Michael, it is recorded at SARM West Studios in London and Studio Miraval in La Val, France from July – September 1984. After a year long court battle to extricate themselves from their contract with CBS distributed Innervision Records, the British pop music duo finally begin work on the follow up to their debut release “Fantastic!”, shortly after signing with the UK division of Epic Records in their home country, remaining on Columbia Records in the US. Barely twenty one years old at the time, George Michael takes full creative control of the group, becoming the sole producer and arranger of their music. He writes six of the albums’ eight songs with the seventh, “Careless Whisper” (#1 Pop, #8 R&B) being co-written with Andrew Ridgeley. “Whisper” is issued as a solo single by George Michael internationally, and co-credited as “Wham! Featuring George Michael” in the US. The American release of the album features different cover photo and graphics from its more understated European counterpart. Also, some initial pressings of the international LP release come packaged with a full color poster of the duo. The album is a huge critical and commercial success worldwide, spinning off four singles including “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” (#1 Pop), “Everything She Wants” (#1 Pop, #12 R&B) and “Freedom” (#3 Pop). Along with the standard vinyl and cassette releases, “Make It Big” is also issued as a limited edition picture disc. The album also spins off a music video compilation titled “Wham! – The Video”, in Europe and Japan in late 1984 and in throughout the rest of the world in the Spring of 1985. The original European release features only five clips, including “Wham Rap”, “Club Tropicana”, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”, “Careless Whisper” and “Last Christmas”. The Japanese release contains six videos, adding “Bad Boys”. The version issued in the US contains all of the aforementioned clips, also adding “Everything She Wants”, which is shot after the international home video release is issued. Originally issued on CD in 1985, it is remastered and reissued (Europe and Japan only) in 1992. It is later reissued as a single layer SACD (Japan only) in 2001. “Make It Big” spends two weeks at number one on the UK album chart, three weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number twenty on the R&B album chart, and is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 21, 1967 – “To Sir With Love” by Lulu hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the R&B singles chart November 18, 1967. Written by Don Black and Mark London, it is the biggest hit for the Scottish born singer and actress (born Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie in Lennoxtown, Stirlingshire, Scotland). It is the theme song to the Sidney Poiter film about a teacher dealing with social and racial issues in a tough Secondary school in East London. Also co-starring in the film, Lulu introduces her friend Mark London (the husband of her manager Marion Massey) to the films’ producers after they cannot find a suitable song for the main theme. London writes the music in just five minutes, with lyricist Don Black (“Born Free”, “Ben”, “The World Is Not Enough”) penning the lyrics the next day. Produced by Mickie Most (The Animals, Donovan, Herman’s Hermits), there are three versions of the song recorded. One version used during a montage sequence in the film features three verses. A second version that is heard at the end of the film, features only the first verse of the song. The hit single version is yet another performance featuring strings features two verses, excising the middle verse heard during the museum montage scene. When the single is released in the US on June 2, 1967, Epic Records places “To Sir With Love” on B-side of “The Boat That I Row” (written by Neil Diamond). “Boat” had initially been issued with another Mark London penned song titled “Dreary Days And Nights”, as its original B-side just days earlier. That version is quickly withdrawn, and replaced with “To Sir With Love”. American radio DJ’s prefer the flip side and “Sir” takes off quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on September 9, 1967 it races to the top of the chart six weeks later. On Sunday, October 22, 1967, the day after “To Sir With Love” tops the US pop chart, Lulu performs the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show”. The song is ranked the top single of 1967 as determined by Billboard Magazine. Surprisingly, “Sir” is passed over for an Academy Award nomination for Best Song in 1968, and even more surprising, it does not chart in the UK in spite of its huge success in the US. The song is covered numerous times over the years by artists including Herbie Mann, Vickie Sue Robinson, and Tina Arena. In 2017, Saturday Night Live cast members Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata perform “To Sir With Love” in tribute to outgoing US President Barack Obama. “To Sir With Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 18, 1983 – “Rock ‘N Soul Part 1”, the fourteenth album by Daryl Hall & John Oates is released. Produced by Daryl Hall, John Oates, Bob Clearmountain, Christopher Bond, Neil Kernon and Arif Mardin, it is recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, Advantage Sound Studios, The Hit Factory, Electric Lady Studios in New York City, Larrabee Sound Studios in West Hollywood, CA, and Western Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA from March 1973 – September 1983. The duos’ first greatest hits album, the twelve track compilation covers material recorded between 1973 and 1983, including two newly recorded songs (“Say It Isn’t So” #2 Pop, #45 R&B, and “Adult Education” #8 Pop), plus a live recording of “Wait For Me”. The original cover art features a caricature of the duo and comes in three different color variations along with a calendar/poster. Two music videos are shot for “Say It Isn’t So”. The first is a “concept” clip featuring the original LP/45 mix is only aired once on MTV at the time of the song’s release. That first video is later posted on YouTube. The video that is widely seen is a performance clip shot on the roof of a building in New York City, and uses an edit of John “Jellybean” Benitez’s 12" dance remix. The second clip is released on the video compilation “Video Collection – 7 Big Ones” in 1984. On a limited basis, some record stores give away a free 7" of their newly recorded version of the holiday classic “Jingle Bell Rock” (pressed on either red or green vinyl and packaged in a picture sleeve) with purchase of the LP. Initial printings of the LP sleeve do not mention the two new songs by name, and instead state “Plus Two New Songs (Recorded In September 1983)” in large block print. Subsequent pressings also add "Say It Isn’t So” and “Adult Education” in large print, with the original blurb reduced in size. When the album is originally issued on CD in the 80’s, the illustrated cover artwork is replaced with a still photograph of Hall & Oates (taken from the “One On One” music video shoot) also used for the US picture sleeve for “Say It Isn’t So”. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2006, restoring the original cover artwork (red, yellow and black cover), reproducing the calendar/poster (as a fold out in the CD booklet), with “Family Man” and ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling" added as bonus tracks. It is also reissued as a hybrid SACD and 180 gram vinyl LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2015. It is also reissued on vinyl by RCA Sony/Legacy in 2017. It also contains all of the original vinyl packaging, including the hype sticker found on the first release, and comes with an mp3 download card of the full LP. “Rock ‘N Soul Part 1” 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: October 18, 1977 – “Emotion” by Samantha Sang is released. Written by Barry and Robin Gibb, is the biggest hit for the pop vocalist from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Born Cheryl Lau Sang in August of 1951, she is born into a musical family, making her professional debut singing on the radio at eight years old. By the time she’s fifteen, Sang is recording for EMI’s HMV Records, releasing a handful of singles under the name Cheryl Gray (the professional surname of her musician father Reg) that fail to make any real commercial impact. Realizing her prospects for success are limited if she remains in Australia, Cheryl visits England in 1969. While there, she meets Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees who is impressed with her voice, and urges the bands manager Robert Stigwood to take her on as a client. Stigwood changes her name to “Samantha Sang” and Barry writes material for her to record. Sang has couple of minor hits in Europe, before visa problems force her to go back to Australia. She also has to break ties with Stigwood, but remains in touch with the Bee Gees over the years. Sang meets up with the group again in March of 1977 while they are in France at the Château d’Hérouville recording their songs for the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. With Sang having signed a new record deal with New York based Private Stock Records, she asks Barry if he can write something for her. Initially, he offers “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away”, which she immediately loves and agrees to record. Instead, Gibb ends up giving “Don’t Throw It All Away” to his younger brother Andy. Barry and Robin write a new song for Sang titled “Emotion”. The track is cut at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL with musicians George Terry, Joey Murcia (guitars), George Blitzer (keyboards), Harold Cowart (bass) and Ron “Tubby” Ziegler (drums). Barry sings background vocals, with Samantha adding her lead vocals. Like everything else with the Bee Gees magic touch, “Emotion” becomes a worldwide hit. At the time it is on the charts, a rumor starts that Samantha Sang is not a real person, but are actually the Bee Gees themselves with the vocals sped up. The rumor is squashed once a promotional film made for the song is shown, and she begins making television and personal appearances to promote the record. “Emotion” peaks at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 18, 1978, #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart on January 28, 1978 and #42 on the R&B singles chart on March 11, 1978, while the groups singles “Night Fever” and “Stayin’ Alive” hold down the #1 and #2 spots on the chart. Samantha Sang is unable to match the success of “Emotion” on subsequent singles like the follow up “You Keep Me Dancing” (#56 Pop). The popularity of “Emotion” has endured over the years, continuing to be played on radio today, and covered by Destiny’s Child in 2001. “Emotion” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 15, 1968 – “Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White is released. Written by Tony Joe White, it is the seventh single release and biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Oak Grove, LA. The youngest of seven children, Tony Joe White begins performing in the early 60’s, making a living playing clubs. In 1967, White relocates to Nashville to land a record deal. Originally the home of Roy Orbison and other legends including Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton and Ray Stevens, Monument Records signs White. He works with producers including Stevens and Dan Penn, but are unable to get a hit on him. White is paired up with label mate Billy Swan (“I Can Help”) to produce him. During this time, White reaches back to his roots to write a new song. Inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe”, he spins a tale about a poor young girl, whose family harvests a type of greens called pokeweed or “polk sallet”, that grow wild in the swamp lands. Similar to a turnip green and tasting a bit like spinach when cooked, many poor families subsisted on them (which had to be cooked since they were potentially poisonous if consumed raw) when there was nothing else to eat. White and Swan cut the song titled “Polk Salad Annie” at RCA Victor Studio B in Nashville, TN on May 16, 1968. It features musicians Norbert Putnam (bass), Jerry Carrigan (drums), David Briggs (organ) and White himself (vocals, guitar, harmonica). It’s released as a single in the Fall of 1968, to virtually no response. Undaunted, White returns to the road to promote it. While performing in Texas, “Annie” gets a big response from audiences who begin clamoring for the record. Having written it off as a failure, Monument begins sending White promo copies to sell at shows, when the meager supply of stock copies run out. The musician has to black out the “Disc Jockey – Not For Sale” text on the label with a marker, in order to supply local record stores with stock to sell. This continues for several months as “Polk Salad Annie” grows in popularity through the south. It seems like it will remain a regional hit only, when a radio station in Los Angeles begins playing it in the late Spring of 1969. From there, it goes national. Finally entering the Hot 100 at #86 on July 5, 1969, it peaks at #8 seven weeks later on August 23, 1969 over ten months after its released. Though it is his only major pop hit, “Polk Salad Annie” firmly establishes Tony Joe White as one of the main purveyors of “swamp rock”. It is covered by a wide variety of artists including Elvis Presley, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Clarence Reid (aka “Blowfly”) and Tom Jones. That same year, R&B singer Brook Benton lands a smash with the White penned “Rainy Night In Georgia”, and is also widely covered by other artists. Years later, Tony Joe re-records “Polk Salad Annie” for a television commercial for McDonald’s, advertising the chains’ McRib sandwich.
On this day in music history: October 12, 1984 – “Big Bam Boom”, the twelfth studio album by Daryl Hall & John Oates is released. Produced by Daryl Hall, John Oates and Bob Clearmountain, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City from June – August 1984. After the release of their first greatest hits album “Rock ‘N Soul Part 1” in the Fall of 1983, Hall & Oates return to the studio the following Summer to begin working on the official follow up to “H20”. Having co-produced the new tracks “Say It Isn’t So” and “Adult Education” for the hits compilation, producer and recording engineer Bob Clearmountain work with the duo on their new studio album. Influenced by dance music and the latest musical technology of the day, including the Synclavier II and Fairlight CMI sampling keyboards, Hall & Oates look to incorporate these new elements into their established sound. They also invite top DJ/remixer and producer Arthur Baker as well as drum programmer Jimmy Bralower and keyboardist Robbie Kilgore (Shannon, Man Parrish, Tina B., Xena) to lend their musicianship and technical know-how to the sessions. The end result adds a modern cutting edge dance groove to the duo’s distinctive pop and blue eyed soul sound, and the subsequent 12" dance remixes (edited by The Latin Rascals, but uncredited) of the singles. The album is very well received by the public, spinning off four singles including “Out Of Touch” (#1 Pop, #24 R&B, #1 Club Play), “Method Of Modern Love” (#5 Pop, #21 R&B, #18 Club Play) and “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (#18 Pop, #85 R&B). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2004, with the original 12" dance mixes of “Out Of Touch”, “Method Of Modern Love”, “Possession Obsession” and “Dance On Your Knees”, as added bonus tracks. Unavailable on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued by Megaforce Records in August of 2018. The new reissue is packaged in a gatefold sleeve, rather than a single pocket LP jacket and inner sleeve lyric sheet, like the original release. The inner sleeve contents are printed on the inside of the gatefold instead. “Big Bam Boom” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 6, 1979 – “Sad Eyes” by Robert John hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart on September 1, 1979. Written by Robert John, it is the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter born Robert Pedrick, Jr.. Musically inclined from an early age, John has his first chart entry at twelve years old (in 1958) with the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman penned “White Bucks and Saddle Shoes”. John meets producer George Tobin (Kim Carnes, Smokey Robinson, Tiffany) in 1978, inviting him to move to California and work with him. The singer is signed by Ariola Records and release a couple of singles before being dropped by the label. The president of EMI Records hears those records and offer John a record contract, though it takes six weeks for him to actually make contact. Tobin’s secretary doesn’t realize who the exec is, and his calls go unreturned until the producer answers the phone himself. “Sad Eyes” is released in April of 1979 from John’s self titled album, with EMI-America Records editing down the four minute plus track down to an even three and a half minutes for single release. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on May 19, 1979, it makes a very slow and steady climb up the chart, reaching the top twenty weeks later. It ends up tying with Nick Gilder’s “Hot Child In The City” for the slowest ascent to number one on the Billboard pop singles chart, also reaching number one in its twenty-first week on the chart. “Sad Eyes” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 4, 1982 – “H2O”, the eleventh album by Daryl Hall & John Oates is released. Produced by Daryl Hall, John Oates and Neil Kernon, it is recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City from Spring – Summer 1982. Following the multi-Platinum success of their previous album “Private Eyes”, Hall & Oates continue their hot streak on the charts. Prior to the recording sessions, bassist Tom “T-Bone” Wolk and drummer Mickey Curry become full time members of the Hall & Oates band, both becoming essential elements to the duo’s sound. With only a few months to finish the album before going out on the road again, engineer Hugh Padgham (The Police, Genesis) is brought in to mix the finished tracks. The end result becomes Hall & Oates most commercially successful album. It spins off three top 10 singles including “One On One” (#7 Pop, #8 R&B), “Family Man” (#6 Pop), and “Maneater” (#1 Pop), the latter becoming their biggest single. The albums front and back cover photos are taken by famed Japanese-American fashion photographer Hiro (born Yasuhiro Wakabayashi). The original LP labels distinctive “water atom” graphic symbols (also used on the 12" singles for “One On One”, “Family Man”, and the 2004 CD album reissue) are designed by artists Geoffrey Kent (aka future Warner Bros Records, Virgin Records USA, The Work Group label exec Jeffrey Kent Ayeroff) and Mick Haggerty. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2004, featuring three additional bonus tracks. It is also remastered and reissued as a limited edition numbered hybrid SACD by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2013. It is released as a 180 gram vinyl LP by MFSL in 2014. “H2O” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.