Category: dance

On this day in music history: December 11, 198…

On this day in music history: December 11, 1982 – “Mickey” by Toni Basil hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, it is the biggest hit for the choreographer and singer born Antonia Christina Basilotta. Written by glam rock songwriter and producers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (Smokie, Sweet, Suzi Quatro), the song is originally titled “Kitty”, and is first recorded by the British bubblegum pop band Racey in 1979. Having previously recorded a one off single titled “Breakaway” for A&M records in 1966, dancer and choreographer Toni Basil sets aside her ambitions as a singer to focus on her career in dance, which is highly successful. By 1980 she turns her attention back to music, landing a deal with Virgin Records subsidiary Radialchoice Records in the UK. While looking for material with producers Greg Mathieson and Trevor Veitch, she finds the song “Kitty”. Basil records it for her debut album (changing the title to “Mickey” and the gender of the song to a man) and accompanying long form video “Word Of Mouth”. Two music videos for the song both produced, directed and choreographed by Basil are made for “Mickey”. The first is a performance clip with the singer being backed by a band, and is rarely seen. The second and now iconic version features Basil with a cheerleading squad recruited from Carson High School in Los Angeles. Licensed to Chrysalis Records in the US, the song is slow to take off, taking nearly ten months from the time it is released to when it reaches the top of the charts. MTV plays a vital role in the record’s success, after adding the music video to its rotation in the late Summer of 1982. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on September 4, 1982, it climbs to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. In 1983, comedian “Weird Al” Yankovic parodies the song on his debut album as “Ricky”, spoofing the classic sitcom “I Love Lucy”. “Mickey” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 7, 1974…

On this day in music history: December 7, 1974 – “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also hitting #1 on the R&B singles chart for 1 week on January 11, 1975. Written by Carl Douglas, it is the biggest hit for the Jamaican born singer. He is inspired to write the song when he sees young kids in a pinball arcade in Soho, London “mock fighting” in time with music playing in the background. “Kung Fu Fighting is initially intended to be the B-side of the song "I Want To Give You My Everything” and is recorded very quickly during the last ten minutes of a recording session with Indian born/British based producer Biddu (born Biddu Appaiah). First released through Pye Records in the UK, there is no airplay on the record at all for the first five weeks after its release. It suddenly reaches critical mass when it begins being played in dance clubs. From there radio picks up on it, setting it on the course to number one. The single is licensed to 20th Century Records for release in the US where it immediately follows its UK chart success. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on October 12, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The song is used in numerous films in later years including “Wayne’s World 2”, “Beverly Hills Ninja”, “Daddy Day Care”, “Bowfinger” and “Rumble In The Bronx”. A cover version of the song sung by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black is recorded for the animated film “Kung Fu Panda” in 2008. “Kung Fu Fighting” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 6, 1975…

On this day in music history: December 6, 1975 – “I Love Music (Part 1)” by The O’Jays hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, peaking at #5 on the Hot 100 on January 24, 1976, also topping the Dance/Disco chart for 8 weeks on November 22, 1975. Written and produced by Kenny Gamble & Leon Huff, it is the fourth chart topper for the R&B vocal trio from Canton, OH. Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia with members of the studio band MFSB, the basic track to the song is cut live with minimal overdubbing. The song is also significant as being on the first major hit records to be mixed using console automation on the studios’ mixing board (by engineer Joe Tarsia). Released as the first single from the group’s ninth studio album “Family Reunion”, the single quickly becomes a big hit not only on pop and R&B radio, but also becomes a mainstay of the disco era. “I Love Music” is covered by several different artists over the years including versions by house music artists Rozalla and Darryl Pandy. “I Love Music (Part 1)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 5, 1984…

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 the “sweet and innocent good girl” image cultivated by her record company and the press, 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 is Los Angeles 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 Easton that same night on television, performing on The Tonight Show. Impressed by her performance on the show, 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 as the follow up. The poppy and undeniably funky track, laced with Sheena’s equally sexy vocals, 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, it doesn’t stop the record 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 the song 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”.

On this day in music history: December 3, 1990…

On this day in music history: December 3, 1990 – Madonna appears on the ABC News program “Nightline” and is interviewed by Forrest Sawyer. During the interview, ABC shows the controversial video for “Justify My Love” in its entirety. Though MTV has the banned clip from airplay, it does not stop the singles’ upward chart momentum. Instead, the video (directed by Jean Baptiste-Mondino) is issued as a single on VHS tape, selling over one million copies. “Justify My Love” hits number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 5, 1991, spending 2 weeks at the top.

On this day in music history: December 2, 1978…

On this day in music history: December 2, 1978 – “Le Freak” by Chic hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also hitting #1 on the Hot 100 for 6 weeks (non-consecutive) on December 9, 1978. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the first number one single for the New York City based R&B/Funk band. The song is inspired by an incident when Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgersm are denied entry into Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve 1977, after being invited by Grace Jones. The duo encounter the discos’ notoriously brash doorman Marc Benecke, who brusquely tells them that they are not on the guest list. Upset at the rebuff, the pair go back to Rodgers apartment around the corner and jam, coming up with the song, which is initially titled “F*** Off”. Realizing that they’re on to something, the lyric is changed, from “f*** off” to “freak out”. Taking into mind the current popular dance “the freak”, they re-title the song “Le Freak”. Released in late September of 1978 as the first single from the bands’ second album “C’est Chic”, it becomes the largest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, shifting an astounding six million copies in the US alone. The single is such a massive seller, eventually it is taken out of print for a time, with Atlantic and Chic fearing that it will impede on sales of “C’est Chic”, which sells nearly two million copies. “Le Freak” makes further history on the Hot 100 when the record hits number one three times during its run on the charts. After it hits the top of the pop chart on December 9, 1978 it is bumped from the top by “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond returning to the top (on December 16, 1978) after being displaced by “Le Freak”. It holds on to the top spot for two more weeks over the Christmas holiday before being bumped from the top by the Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven” on January 6, 1979. Startlingly, two weeks later, Chic return to the top for the third and final time on January 20, 1979 for three more weeks. Regarded as a definitive recording not just of the Disco Era, but of 70’s music period, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2015. “Le Freak” is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: November 30, 198…

On this day in music history: November 30, 1982 – “Thriller”, the sixth studio album by Michael Jackson is released. Produced by Quincy Jones & Michael Jackson, it is recorded at Westlake Audio and Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, CA from April 14- 15, August – November 8, 1982. Issued as the long awaited follow up to the hugely successful “Off The Wall”, Jackson is highly ambitious in his quest to surpass the success of the previous album. Writing four of the nine tracks himself, producer Quincy Jones finds other songs for the project from other songwriters including Rod Temperton, Steve Porcaro, John Bettis, Michael Sembello and James Ingram. After reviewing dozens of potential songs, the final nine tracks are chosen for the album. However, the tight deadline in recording and mixing the album (as well as recording “The E.T. Storybook Album” at the same time) takes its toll initially. The final overdubs for “Thriller” are recorded on the morning the album is due to be mastered. When the team listens to the original cut of the album, they realize the running time is too long (for the time limits of vinyl) and that several songs require remixing before it can be handed in. In spite of CBS being angered by the delay (with the first single “The GirI Is Mine” (#1 R&B, #2 Pop) already released and climbing the charts), Jones, Jackson and engineer Bruce Swedien push ahead, remixing and editing the tracks. With the final masters handed over at last, CBS Records puts the album on a crash production schedule, halting the pressing of other records at their three US pressing plants to quickly manufacture the two million plus copies initially shipped to record stores. “Thriller” achieves unprecedented success, spinning off seven Top 10 singles, winning eight Grammy Awards (including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year), becoming the largest selling album of all time. “Thriller” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2008, and is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress also in 2008. The album remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with four additional bonus tracks, and interviews with Quincy Jones. It is remastered again in 2008 to commemorate its 25th anniversary with six bonus tracks and a DVD featuring the three original music videos and Jackson’s Motown 25 performance of “Billie Jean”. It is also reissued as a double vinyl LP set and picture disc. “Thriller” spends thirty seven weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts, ninety one weeks within the Top 10, and is certified 33x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Triple Diamond Certification.

On this day in music history: November 28, 198…

On this day in music history: November 28, 1981 – “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 8 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 19, 1981. Written by Maurice White and Wayne Vaughn, it is the seventh chart topping single for the veteran R&B band led by Maurice White. Following the somewhat muted commercial response to the bands’ previous album “Faces”, White collaborates with songwriter Wayne Vaughn, a member of The Brothers Johnson’s touring band who is married to Wanda Hutchinson, the lead singer of The Emotions. White and Vaughn end up writing three songs together including “Wanna Be With You”, “My Love”, and the uptempo “Let’s Groove”. Sporting a sleek more electronic sound than before, “Groove” is issued as the first single from Earth, Wind & Fire’s eleventh album “Raise!” in September of 1981. The song is an immediate hit, restoring the band to commercial prominence on both the pop and R&B charts. “Groove” tops the R&B charts longer than any of their previous chart topping singles, and holding at #3 on the Hot 100 for five consecutive weeks behind Foreigner’s “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (occupying positions number two and one). It is nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1982. While the single is still burning up the charts, CBS Records also releases an extended dance remix of “Let’s Groove” in the US in December of 1981, to club DJ’s and radio stations as a promotional only 12" single (though is released for commercial sale outside the US). The song is later used as running joke on the Comedy Central series “That’s My Bush!” and in a television commercial for Toujeo in 2017. “Let’s Groove” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

Judith Jamison in costume for her starring rol…

Judith Jamison in costume for her starring role in the Broadway play ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ in December 1980. 

Photos by Jack Mitchell

On this day in music history: November 27, 197…

On this day in music history: November 27, 1978 – “Love Tracks”, the sixth album by Gloria Gaynor is released. Produced by Freddie Perren & Dino Fekaris, it is recorded at Mom & Pop’s Company Store Studios in Studio City, CA from Mid – Late 1978. Following her breakthrough in early 1975 with her cover of The Jackson 5 classic “Never Can Say Goodbye” and the subsequent follow ups “Honey Bee”, and “Reach Out I’ll There”, Gloria Gaynor finds that her next three albums fail to match the success of her sophomore album. The singer is paired with former Motown staff songwriters Freddie Perren (The Jackson 5, The Miracles) and Dino Fekaris (Rare Earth) to write material and produce the album. Released in the late Fall of 1978, the album initially gets off to a slow start when the song “Substitute” is chosen as the first single. Club DJ’s flip the single and begin playing “I Will Survive”, forcing Polydor Records to quickly reissue the single with “Survive” as the A-side when it becomes an instant smash, and also remaster the LP with the eight minute long “disco mix” of the song. It spins off one more single with the follow up “Anybody Wanna Party” (#16 R&B) in the Spring of 1979. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2013 by BBR Records with five bonus tracks including the extended 12" mixes of “Anybody Wanna Party”, Substitute" and three versions of “I Will Survive” (the original 12" mix, the Spanish language version “Yo Viviré” and a previously unreleased mix by Tom Moulton). “Love Tracks” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.