On this day in music history: December 6, 1968 – “James Taylor”, the debut album by James Taylor is released in the UK (US release is on February 17, 1969). Produced by Peter Asher, it is recorded at Trident Studios in London from July – October 1968. Taylor is one of the first signings to The Beatles Apple label by Asher (one half of the pop duo Peter & Gordon and the brother of Paul McCartney’s former girlfriend Jane Asher) who is the head of A&R. Paul McCartney and George Harrison make an uncredited appearance on the first single “Carolina In My Mind” contributing background vocals. In spite of good reviews, the album sells poorly, due to Taylor’s hospitalization for heroin addiction, which prevents him from promoting it properly. Taylor re-records “Carolina” and “Something In The Way She Moves” for his 1976 greatest hits album when his label Warner Bros Records is unable to license the original versions from Apple. The original album is eventually reissued on CD in the mid 90’s and again in 2010. It is also briefly reissued on vinyl in Europe in 1991, but quickly goes out of print again. The vinyl LP release is remastered and reissued in 2017, making it available in that format, for the first time in over two decades. “James Taylor” peaks at number one hundred eighteen on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 4, 1965 – “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” by The Byrds hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Pete Seeger, it is the second number one single for the Los Angeles, CA based folk/rock band. Legendary folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger (The Weavers) writes “Turn! Turn! Turn! ” in 1959 and records his own version of it in 1962. The lyrics are adapted verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible, giving the song the unique distinction of holding the record for being the number one hit with the oldest lyrics. Produced by Terry Melcher (The Rip Chords, the son of actress Doris Day), The Byrds are insistent that the entire band be allowed to play on their own records, after being replaced with members of The Wrecking Crew (except McGuinn and Crosby) on “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Melcher agrees after realizing the band are competent enough to cut their own tracks in the studio. Though the recording process is relatively slow, with their version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” being recorded over five days in September 1965, and taking seventy eight takes to complete the final master. Released on October 1, 1965, it takes off quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on October 23, 1965, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. During its time on the charts and after, the song becomes an anthem of the peace and anti-war movements in the US and abroad. The song is later used on television shows like “The Wonder Years”, “The Simpsons” and “Cold Case”, as well as in the films “Forrest Gump”, “Heart Like A Wheel” and “In America”. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001.
On this day in music history: November 23, 1970 – “Tea For The Tillerman”, the fourth album by Cat Stevens is released. Produced by Paul Samwell-Smith, it is recorded at Morgan Studios in Willesden, North London, UK in May – July 1970. Already an established star in his native England in the late 60’s, it is not until the turn of the next decade that Cat Stevens achieves worldwide notoriety. After a near fatal bout of tuberculosis side lines him for an extended time, it makes the musician reassess his life and career. Unhappy with his original producer Mike Hurst and Decca distributed Deram Records, Stevens breaks ties with them in 1969. He makes a conscious decision to change his musical direction also, moving away from the lighter pop and heavily orchestrated sound imposed by Hurst, toward more stripped down and organic production values. Signing with Island Records in the UK and A&M records in the US, Stevens finds like minded collaborators in former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith who becomes his producer, and guitarist Alun Davies. Though only a modest success at the time, the album “Mona Bone Jakon” released in April of 1970 sets the template that springboards Cat Stevens’ recording career. On the follow up “Tea For The Tillerman, it is completed only three months after his previous release lands in stores. Writing from his own past experiences, "Tea” features several songs that become among Cat Stevens’ best known and most covered material, including “Wild World” (#11 Pop), “Where Do The Children Play?” and “Father And Son”. The album becomes his breakthrough release in the US, putting him at the forefront of the burgeoning singer/songwriter movement that will dominate 70’s pop music. Director Hal Ashby uses four tracks from the album in his black comedy “Harold & Maude” the following year. The albums’ cover artwork is illustrated by Stevens himself. In 2000, Universal Music Group remasters and reissues the album on CD. "Tillerman" is also released as a 2 CD Deluxe Edition featuring the remastered version of the original album on one disc, with the second disc including demos and previously unreleased live recordings. Long a favorite of audiophiles, it is remastered and reissued three separate times by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, in 1980 (standard vinyl LP) in 1984 (as a 200 gram UHQR LP set) and in 1989 (on CD). It is also remastered and reissued by Analogue Productions in 2011 as a 200 gram vinyl LP and hybrid SACD. It is issued by AP again in 2015 as a limited edition 200 gram double vinyl set, mastered at 45 RPM. “Tea For The Tillerman” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1976 – “Hejira”, the eighth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from May – September 1976. Following the release of her previous album “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns”, Joni Mitchell hits the road as part of Bob Dylan’s legendary “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour in late 1975. Shortly after, she embarks on her own tour in support of the “Lawns” album in early 1976, but is aborted only after six weeks when she and drummer John Guerin break up. Having had an on and off again relationship nearly three years, Mitchell breaks off her relationship with Guerin when she discovers that he is cheating on her. Seeking a diversion from the split and looking to stoke her creative energy, Joni drives across the United States from Maine to California with two traveling companions. Writing new songs all along the way, Mitchell’s vivid lyrical imagery as well as her unique and distinctive musical sensibilities permeate the new compositions. Once back in Los Angeles, she begins recording the songs with her long time engineer Henry Lewy. Having experimented with jazz textures since the recording of “Court And Spark”, the sessions feature Larry Carlton (guitar), Victor Feldman (vibraphone), Tom Scott (saxophone) and Bobbye Hall (percussion). Having grown tired of conventional bass guitar patterns in pop music, which Joni refers to as “putting a dark fence through my music”, she looks to find a bassist is freer in their playing and doesn’t always rely on “playing the root of a chord”. Around this time she is introduced to bassist Jaco Pastorius. Having just become a member of the innovative jazz-fusion band Weather Report, Joni and Jaco form an instant musical bond, and he is invited to play on four songs during the sessions. Jaco’s fluid and melodic playing, played on a war weary fretless 60’s Fender Jazz Bass, nicknamed “The Bass Of Doom” provides the perfect counterpoint and compliment to Mitchell’s songs. The title “Hejira” is taken from the Arabic word “hijra” which means “journey”, also making reference to the prophet Muhummad’s sojourn from Mecca to Medina in 622, as well as Mitchell’s cross country trip while writing the songs. The resulting album though not as successful as the previous two, yields some of Joni Mitchell’s best known and loved songs including “Amelia”, “Black Crow”, “Furry Sings The Blues”, “Coyote” and “Song For Sharon”. In time, it is viewed as one of the best albums of her career. The cover and inner sleeve photos are taken by frequent collaborator photographer Norman Seeff. First released on CD in the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 1997 with HDCD encoding, also restoring the original cover artwork. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2014. “Hejira” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 21, 1970 – “New Morning”, the twelfth studio album by Bob Dylan is released. Produced by Bob Johnston, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios, Studio B & Studio E in New York City from June – August 1970. Issued just four months after the controversial and poorly received “Self Portrait”, Dylan emerges with a much more coherent and tightly produced album that attracts raves from both critics and fans. Some speculate that the album is rushed out in response to the negative backlash that Dylan receives following the release of “Self Portrait”, when most of “New Morning” had been recorded prior to the release of “Portrait”. It produces the classic “If Not For You” which is also covered by George Harrison on his solo debut “All Things Must Pass”, and a version by Olivia Newton-John is her first US hit in 1971. The majority of “Morning is recording during June and July of 1970, with "If Not For You” and “Time Passes Slowly” being re-recorded. “Day Of The Locusts” which was not finished earlier on is completed and recorded during the same session on August 12, 1970. Dylan also records cover versions of “Ballad Of Ira Hayes” and “Mr. Bojangles”, but are not included in the final track listing. Prior to the completion of the album, Dylan parts ways with his long time manager Albert Grossman, gaining full control over management of his career and music publishing. Grossman continues to maintain a financial stake in Dylan’s earlier work until his death in 1986. The album cover artwork features a portrait of a bearded Dylan on the front, without any artist name or title graphics. The back cover features a black and white photo of the musician, with blues singer Victoria Spivey. The photo is taken during a recording session where Bob had played harmonica and sang backing vocals, on an album by Spivey and Big Joe Williams. Spivey had met Dylan in 1961, while he had been playing the coffee house circuit in Greenwich Village. Becoming fast friends, she is one of his earliest supporters prior to him signing with Columbia Records. Originally released on CD in the late 80’s, the album is remastered and reissued in 2009. It is reissued on vinyl by Sony Music in 2001, with a 180 gram LP pressing released by Music On Vinyl in 2009. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab also remasters and reissues the classic title as a limited edition hybrid SACD and 180 gram vinyl LP in 2014. “New Morning” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 19, 1964 – “Wednesday Morning, 3AM”, the debut album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Tom Wilson, it is recorded at Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from March 10 – 31, 1964. Recorded in just two weeks, the acoustic folk album is released to little fanfare, and attracts very little attention. As a result of the albums’ initial failure, Art Garfunkel returns to his studies at Columbia University, while Paul Simon travels to England and writes numerous songs, many of which end up on his first solo album “The Paul Simon Songbook” in 1965. Almost a year after its release, producer Tom Wilson uses studio musicians (originally hired to back Bob Dylan) to overdub electric guitar, bass and drums on to the track “The Sounds Of Silence”. The newly released “electric” version of the song shoots to number one in January 1966, prompting CBS to re-promote the duos’ debut. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with three bonus tracks added. “Wednesday Morning, 3AM” peaks at number thirty on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1966 – “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme”, the third album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Bob Johnston, it is recorded at Columbia Studios in New York City from December 1965 – August 1966. Their first full album since breaking through with the revamped and remixed version of “The Sound Of Silence” in late 1965, many of the songs are written while Paul Simon is traveling through the UK by himself in the Fall of 1965. Several are re-recorded by the duo (including “I Am A Rock” and “Patterns”, and later “Kathy’s Song”) after Simon records his solo project “The Paul Simon Songbook”, not released in the US until 1981 on the box set “Collected Works” and reissued again on CD in 2004. The album is proceeded by the single “Homeward Bound” (#5 Pop), also written during Simon’s trip to England in 1965. The full length is met with critical and commercial success upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of Simon & Garfunkel’s best albums. It yields several classics including “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” (#11 Pop) (released as a single belatedly in 1968 when it is featured in “The Graduate”), “The Dangling Conversation” (#25 Pop) and “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with two bonus tracks. An exhaustive search through Sony Music’s archives is conducted for the original first generation master tapes, which had been misfiled and lost for years. The classic title is also reissued on vinyl by Sundazed Records in 2008. “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 10, 1966 – “Georgy Girl” by The Seekers is released. Written by Tom Springfield and Jim Dale, it is the biggest hit for the Australian folk quartet. Formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1962, The Seekers consisting of lead singer Judith Durham, Keith Potger (guitar, banjo, vocals), Bruce Woodley (guitar, mandolin, banjo, vocals) and Athol Guy (double bass, vocals), become one of the first Australian groups to achieve major success outside of their native continent when they score a worldwide hit in 1965 with “I’ll Never Find Another You” (#3 Pop, #1 UK and Australia). During this time, Woodley also collaborates with Paul Simon, co-writing the hit song “Red Rubber Ball” (#2 Pop), covered by American pop band The Cyrkle in 1966. The song “Georgy Girl” is written by folk musician Tom Springfield (brother of blue eyed soul and pop singer Dusty Springfield) and musician, stage and film actor Jim Dale (“Pete’s Dragon”, “Hot Lead And Cold Feet”, “Barnum”) as the title song for the British romantic comedy/drama starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason, Alan Bates and Charlotte Rampling. The Seekers are tapped to perform the song and is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, with Tom Springfield producing. Like the film itself, the instantly catchy title song is an immediate hit, giving the group their biggest selling single, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 4, 1967 (behind The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer”). “Georgy Girl” is also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1967, but loses to “Born Free”. The popularity of “Georgy Girl” endures over the years, being featured in an ad campaign by Mattel for Barbie and on the TV shows “The Simpsons” and “Get A Life”. “Georgy Girl” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 25, 1965 – “Eve Of Destruction” by Barry McGuire hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, it is the biggest hit for the folk-rock singer from Oklahoma City, OK. Originally a member of the legendary folk music group The New Christy Minstrels, Barry McGuire is one of the first artists signed to producer Lou Adler’s Dunhill Records in early 1965. McGuire records a number of songs for his first album including “California Dreamin’”, though his vocals are wiped from the master tape (though part of his vocal on the intro is still audible on the released recording), and The Mamas & Papas add their vocals to the track, becoming their breakthrough hit. Adler assigns staff songwriter and producers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri to work with McGuire. Influenced by Bob Dylan, the pair begin writing a song about the growing anti-war sentiment over Vietnam, The Cold War and struggle over Civil Rights, openly expressing fears about where those conflicts may lead. Recorded in July of 1965, “Eve Of Destruction” features members of The Wrecking Crew playing on the track including Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (bass) and P.F. Sloan himself (guitar). McGuire records his vocal in a single take, and the song is given a quick rough mix. The producers play the just completed “Destruction” for Dunhill Records VP Jay Lasker who loves it immediately and believes that it will be a hit. Leaving a copy of the tape with the executive, the song ends up on the radio the same afternoon. Lasker gives the tape to a promotion man at the label who takes it over to KFWB in Los Angeles who in turn begin airing it immediately as “an exclusive”. At first, Adler, Sloan and Barri are upset since they feel the record “isn’t finished”, but it matters not. “Destruction” is an instant smash and is rush released by Dunhill in early August of 1965. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on August 21, 1965, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. Though Barry McGuire does have another major pop hit after his chart topping debut, he is later name checked by The Mamas & Papas on their 1967 hit “Creeque Alley”. After his initial brush with fame, McGuire becomes a born-again Christian in the early 70’s carving out a successful career as a Contemporary Christian music artist. After the incident at Columbine High School in 1999, McGuire begins performing “Eve Of Destruction” again after many years of declining to perform it in concert.