On this day in music history: September 6, 1986 – “Venus” by Bananarama hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Robbie Van Leeuwen, it is the biggest hit for the London based female vocal trio. Originally formed in 1979, Bananarama consists of childhood friends Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin, who meets Siohban Fahey when all three are college students. All have an avid interest in music, and are immersed in the punk rock and post punk scenes in London in the late 70’s and early 80’s, performing as an opening act, or singing backing vocals for numerous artists including The Jam and Iggy Pop. The trio become roommates, living above a rehearsal space used by former Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Jones and Cook help the girls record a demo for the song “Aie a Mwana” (#92 UK Pop) which get them signed to Demon Records who release it as a single. It is enough of a hit to attract the attention of Decca Records who sign Bananarama in 1982. They have a string of top five hits in their native country, which also garners them a cult following in the US. They finally score a major hit in the US in the Fall of 1984, after their single “Cruel Summer” (#9 Pop), is featured in the film “The Karate Kid”. For their third album, Bananarama pair up with the production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman (Stock, Aitken & Waterman) after hearing their work on Dead Or Alive’s number one UK single “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”. The team produce two tracks for their album “True Confessions”. The group cover the pop classic “Venus”, originally recorded by the Dutch band The Shocking Blue, whose original version is a huge worldwide hit in late 1969/early 1970 hitting number one in the US in February of 1970. Bananarama’s version is released in early June of 1986, and quickly takes off. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 28, 1986, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. When “Venus hits the top of the charts, it is only the fourth time in the history of the rock era that the same song has hit number one on the US pop singles chart by two different artists. The Bananarama version of "Venus” is later used in an episode of the animated series “American Dad!” in 2009. Titled “Moon Over Isla Island”, the song is declared the national anthem of a “banana republic” island also re-named Bananarama (making it a double in-joke), by Roger who is posing as the country’s dictator after the real one dies from accidentally choking to death on a corn dog.
On this day in music history: September 6, 1986 – “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent” by Gwen Guthrie hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on August 23, 1986. Written by Gwen Guthrie, it is the biggest hit for the R&B singer and songwriter from Newark, NJ. Born in small town in rural Oklahoma, Gwen Guthrie’s family will relocate to Newark, NJ while she is a child. Coming from a musical household, she’ll learn piano from her father and study classical music in school, and sing in various vocal groups. Guthrie attends college and train to become a schoolteacher, but fate will intervene, and she gets her big break in the music business. In 1974, Gwen is asked to sing background vocals for Aretha Franklin on the song “I’m In Love” (#1 R&B, #19 Pop). Singing along side established veterans including Cissy Houston, Guthrie makes an immediate impression, leading to more lucrative work as a background vocalist and commercial jingle singer. During this time, she co-writes Ben E. King’s comeback hit “Supernatural Thing” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop) and “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” (#23 R&B, #104 Pop), becoming the first hit for singer Angela Bofill. Guthrie’s work with innovative producer/musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare in the early 80’s puts her on the map as a solo vocal star while signed to Island Records, as will her collaborations with club DJ icon Larry Levan, who remixes the classic “Padlock”. Signed to Polydor Records in early 1986, Gwen Guthrie begins work on her first album for the label with David “Pic” Conley of the R&B group Surface. The inspiration for her biggest hit comes from Guthrie’s grandfather, who would often reply with the phrase “ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent” when someone would ask him what was going on with him. That hook along with the lyric “no romance without finance” makes the song an anthem for many women, though many men misconstrue the lyrics as women “being materialistic”, instead of the actual message of both parties being on equal footing in a relationship. Regardless, the song becomes an instant club classic, rising up the R&B and dance charts simultaneously. Larry Levan also remixes the 7" and 12" versions of “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent”. “Rent” attains further pop cultural status when comedian Eddie Murphy quotes lyrics from the song in his 1987 concert film “Raw”.
Born on this day: September 6, 1947 – Disco and Hi-NRG music icon Sylvester (born Sylvester James in Los Angeles, CA). Happy Birthday to this one of a kind vocalist on what would have been his 72nd Birthday.
On this day in music history: September 4, 1976 – “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, it is the third US chart topper for the trio of brothers from the Isle Of Man, UK. Issued as the first single from the bands fourteenth album “Children Of The World”, the single and album mark a major turning point in the Bee Gees career. Having previously worked successfully with producer Arif Mardin on their comeback release “Main Course”, Mardin is not able to work with the group on the follow up, when the Bee Gees label RSO Records changes distribution from Atlantic Records to Polydor in 1976. Mardin is an Atlantic staff producer exclusively at the time and isn’t permitted to work with artists not on the label. Having gained experience from all they have learned about producing records from their mentor, the Bee Gees take over the production duties themselves with assistance from engineers Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson who become their co-producers. “You Should Be Dancing” is recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL in early 1976 with the Bee Gees band including Alan Kendall (lead guitar), Blue Weaver (keyboards), Dennis Bryon (drums), Joe Lala (percussion) along with Barry Gibb (rhythm guitar) and Maurice Gibb (bass). Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash happens to recording his album “Illegal Stills” in adjoining studio, also sits in on a session playing percussion. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on July 4, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. A little more than a year after its release, “You Should Be Dancing” is featured prominently in the film “Saturday Night Fever” when it is used in an electrifying dance sequence featuring John Travolta, that is one of the films highlights. At the time of the singles original release, a slightly longer version of “Dancing” is issued as a promotional 12" single. Also featured on another promo 12" single issued to promote the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack in 1977, this mix finally sees its first commercial release in 1990 on the box set “Tales From The Brothers Gibb – A History In Song – 1967 – 1990”. The extended mix is also reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day in April of 2015, on a limited edition 12" single titled "Bee Gees: Extended EP". "You Should Be Dancing" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 28, 1976 – “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” by KC & The Sunshine Band hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on September 11, 1976. Written and produced by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, it is the third chart topping single for the Florida based R&B band. Issued as the first single from the bands “Part 3” album in June of 1976, it is one of three top five singles (“Keep It Comin’ Love” and “I’m Your Boogie Man”) to be released from it. The original single release of “Shake Your Booty” is backed with the track “Boogie Shoes” from KC & The Sunshine Band’s self-titled second album. "Shoes" becomes a dance floor favorite and hit in its own right (#29 R&B, #35 Pop), when it is included on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack in 1977. When TK reissues “Boogie Shoes” as an A-side in January of 1978, it is sped up slightly from its originally recorded speed, as it is on the soundtrack album. It wins the band along with all of the other artists featured on the album a Grammy Award for Album Of The Year in 1979. “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” becoming KC & The Sunshine Band’s third million selling single one year to the week after their first chart topper “Get Down Tonight”.
On this day in music history: August 27, 1975 – “Love To Love You Baby”, the second album by Donna Summer is released. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany from May – June 1975. Summer comes up with the initial idea for the title track having written the lyrics and melody. Moroder and Bellotte suggests that Summer sing it in a more sultry and sexual manner, which at first she is hesitant to do. She agrees when she thinks the recording will be a demo for another singer. Before tape rolls on the song, Summer asks that the lights in the studio be turned off while she records her vocals. Moroder likes the finished recording so much that he insists that it be released. Titled “Love To Love You”, it is first released in Europe to modest success. After Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart hears the initial shorter single version of the song (#2 Pop, #3 R&B), he suggests that a longer version of the song be cut, which clocks in at nearly seventeen minutes, taking up one whole side of the album. It immediately creates a sensation in dance clubs (#1 Billboard Club Play) and begins to receive radio play. When some stations ban it, feeling it is too blatantly sexual, it only heightens its allure and popularity. Released on CD in 1992, it is remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2012. Out of print on vinyl for more than thirty years, it is remastered and reissued by Universal/UMe in 2015 to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of its original release. “Love To Love You Baby” peaks at number eleven on the Billboard Top 200, number six on the R&B album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1978 – “Get Off” by Foxy hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on November 11, 1978. Written by Ish Ledesma and Carl Driggs, it is the biggest hit for the Miami, FL based Cuban American R&B band led by singer, songwriter and musician Ish Ledesma (born Ismael Angel Ledesma). Originally formed in 1976, Foxy become the house band for TK Records when the label’s top act KC & The Sunshine Band become too popular and busy to remain at home in Florida. The song “Get Off” is created out of an onstage improvisation while the band are playing at a club in Ocean City, MD. The songs trademark disco call annoys the club manager so much that he threatens to the throw the band and their equipment out into the street. Not wanting to back down from such a threat, Ledesma and Driggs goes back to the motel where they’re staying, and finish writing “Get Off”. They play it at the club the next night and true to his word, the club manager fires the band and has them physically tossed out. They return to Miami the next day, and upon their return play the song for their label boss Henry Stone at TK Records. Stone loves the song and tells them to cut it immediately. Sung by Ish and Carl, the track is recorded at Studio Center Studios in Miami, FL with producer Cory Wade (Peter Brown). The single also features the female vocal group Wildflower on background vocals. Within just a few weeks of its June 1978 release, the funky and risque single becomes a smash in the clubs, quickly crossing over to the R&B and pop charts. “Get Off” sells over a million copies in the US, and is recognized today as one of the definitive records of the Disco Era.
On this day in music history: August 23, 1982 – “Upstairs At Eric’s”, the debut album by Yazoo is released (UK release is on August 20, 1982). Produced by E.C. Radcliffe and Yazoo, it is recorded at Blackwing Studios in London from February – June 1982. Quickly growing weary of touring and having musical differences with his band mates, Depeche Mode founding member and keyboardist Vince Clarke leaves the band in November of 1981 as they are having their initial success throughout Europe. Soon after, Clarke responds to an advertisement in the music trade paper the Melody Maker. The ad is placed by a singer named Alison Moyet, also from Clarke’s hometown of Basildon. Hitting it off immediately, the pair begins working on music together. Calling themselves Yazoo, they record “Only You”, penned by Clarke while he’s still a member of Depeche Mode. Playing the finished track for Mute Records founder Daniel Miller, at first he isn’t impressed. After playing it for Clarke’s music publisher, Miller re-evaluates the song and decides to release it. Issued in the UK on March 15, 1982, “Only You” (#2 UK, #67 US Pop) is an immediate smash, hitting the top five in England and making the charts in several other European countries and Australia. The record label requests that Yazoo quickly follow it up with a full album. Clarke and Moyet record at Blackwing Studios, owned by recording engineer Eric Radcliffe, who also co-produces it with them. The album’s title is also named after Radcliffe. Their second single “Don’t Go” (#3 UK, #1 US Club Play) is released in the UK in July of 1982, it too becomes a hit. In the US, Sire Records opts to release the track “Situation” (#1 US Club Play, #73 Pop) instead. Quickly written by Clarke and Moyet, the song is originally issued in the UK as the B-side of “Only You”. Featuring Alison Moyet’s powerful blue eyed soul inflected vocals front and center, it creates an instant sensation on American dance floors, shooting to the top of the US dance chart. “Situation” is added to the US release, removing the track “Tuesday”. Just after that single is released, Sire shortens their name to Yaz to avoid legal trouble from the American blues label Yazoo Records. The full album follows in August of 1982, selling more than 300,000 copies in the UK, also becoming a major hit internationally, and spinning off a total of three singles including “The Other Side Of Love” (#13 UK). Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 2008. Out of print on vinyl since the early 90’s, the album is remastered and reissued by US audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2012, as part of their “Silver Label Series”. “Upstairs At Eric’s” peaks at number two on the UK album chart, number thirty seven on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ninety two on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the UK by the BPI, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 23, 1975 – “Get Down Tonight” by KC & The Sunshine Band hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on August 30, 1975. Written and produced by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, it is the first chart topping single for the Hialeah, FL based R&B band. Casey and Finch meet each other in 1973 when they are hired to do odd jobs at local label TK Records. Following the huge success they have as the writers and producers of George McCrae’s international hit “Rock Your Baby”, KC & The Sunshine Band launch their own career with their first album “Do It Good” spinning off the singles “Blow Your Whistle”, “Sound Your Funky Horn” in 1974. On “Get Down Tonight”, the songs signature guitar licks on the intro are achieved by recording guitarist Jerome Smith playing with the tape running at half speed, changing both the sound and texture of the notes dramatically when played back at normal speed. Issued as the first single from their self-titled second album in March of 1975, it hits the R&B and pop charts, climbing both simultaneously. “Get Down Tonight” sells over a million copies in the US, and is the first of four R&B and five pop chart toppers that KC & The Sunshine Band have over the next four and a half years.
On this day in music history: August 22, 1987 – “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, it is the sixth chart topping single for the pop music superstar. Director James Foley (“At Close Range”) asks Madonna to record some new songs for the films soundtrack. Madonna in turn calls upon her collaborators Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray to write “some uptempo material” that might work in the film. Madonna later writes the melody and lyrics for the songs they have written. Inspired by her own recent top five hit “La Isla Bonita”, she writes based on the Latin feel of that song. Recorded as the theme song to her third film (originally titled “Slammer”), the films title is changed before its release to “Who’s That Girl”. Issued as the first single from the soundtrack on June 30, 1987, it quickly becomes another smash for Madonna. Entering the Hot 100 at #43 on July 11, 1987, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. Though the film opens to bad reviews and disappointing box office, the success of “Who’s That Girl”, and its follow up single “Causing A Commotion” propel the soundtrack album to 2x Platinum status in the US.