On this day in music history: September 12, 1984 – “Stop Making Sense”, the seventh album by Talking Heads is released. Produced by Gary Goetzman, it is recorded at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA in December 1983. Recorded during the tour in support of the bands then current album “Speaking In Tongues”, the album is issued as the companion piece to the live concert film directed by Jonathan Demme (“The Silence Of The Lambs”, “Philadelphia”). Talking Heads main line up is augmented with additional musicians including Bernie Worrell (keyboards), Alex Weir (guitar), Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt (backing vocals). The original LP release contains only nine songs and is heavily edited in order to fit it on one album, and also comes wrapped in a full color picture book. A second variant of the LP package is released along with the standard release. The limited edition version is printed without the torso photo of David Byrne on front and instead is stark white, with the graphics in black print. It also comes with a twenty page booklet with photos and storyboard sketches by Byrne created for the staging of the concert. In 1999, a remastered and expanded edition of the album is released featuring the complete performance, matching the contents of the fifteenth anniversary theatrical re-release of the film. “Stop Making Sense” peaks at number forty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 10, 1975 – “Alive!”, the fourth album by KISS is released. Produced by Eddie Kramer, it is recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI, Convention Center in Wildwood, NJ, Music Hall in Cleveland, OH, The Orpheum Theater in Davenport, IA, and Electric Lady Studios in New York City from March – August 1975. Recorded during the tour in support of their third studio album “Dressed To Kill”, it comes at a time when both the band and their record label Casablanca are teetering on the brink of financial collapse. By mid 1975, none of KISS’ studio albums have sold over 100,000 copies, and the band are basically living on their manager Bill Aucoin’s American Express card. In spite of their low record sales, KISS is a top draw as a live touring act. Gambling on their reputation as a live act, they decide to record several shows on their current tour for an album. Working with veteran producer/engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin), they do just that. The release of the sixteen song double live LP becomes KISS’s long awaited breakthrough, quickly going Gold, then Platinum and Multi-Platinum, spending 110 weeks on the Top 200 album chart. In later years, rumors circulate among fans that extensive overdubbing and re-recording of the tracks were done in the studio prior to the final mixing. According to the band and producer Eddie Kramer, other than a few minor fixes, the rumors are not true. Considering Casablanca Records perilous financial state at the time, budget constraints do not permit the amount of post-production work that had been alleged. The original vinyl LP release comes packaged in a gate fold jacket with a eight page full color booklet, featuring photos of the band. First remastered and reissued on CD in 1997, “Alive!” is remastered and reissued on double 180 gram vinyl in 2014, replicating the original album package including the booklet. “Alive!” peaks at number nine on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 31, 1978 – “Live And More”, the seventh album by Donna Summer is released. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, it is recorded the Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, CA (live tracks), Rusk Sound Studios, and Westlake Audio in Hollywood, CA (studio tracks) in early 1978. Her second double album, the first three sides are taken from a live concert (during the “Once Upon A Time Tour”) recorded at the Universal Amphitheater in early 1978. The fourth side of the album contains the “MacArthur Park Suite”, a seventeen minute plus long medley of three songs (“MacArthur Park”, “One Of A Kind”, and “Heaven Knows”). The album further demonstrates Summer’s musical versatility beyond her “disco diva” image by covering jazz standards in her set, including “The Man I Love” and “I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good”, as well as the pop ballad “The Way We Were”. It spins off two singles including a cover of the Jimmy Webb penned pop classic “MacArthur Park” (#1 Pop, #8 R&B) (originally sung by actor Richard Harris in 1968 (#2 Pop) ), and “Heaven Knows (w/ Brooklyn Dreams) (#4 Pop, #10 R&B). Originally released on CD in 1986 (W. German European, domestic pressing in 1990), it is remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2012. "Live And More” hits number one on the Billboard Top 200, number four on the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 25, 1992 – “Unplugged”, the sixteenth album by Eric Clapton is released. Produced by Russ Titelman, it is recorded at Bray Studios in Windsor, UK on January 16, 1992. Issued as the audio counterpart of his MTV Unplugged special, it features the veteran rock guitarist performing an entirely acoustic set in front of a small audience. The band features such long time stalwarts such as guitarist Andy Fairweather-Low and percussionist Ray Cooper, as well as bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, and drummer Steve Ferrone. The performance has special significance as it is the one of first live performances by Clapton following the death of his four year old son Conor the previous year. Both the television special and album is a huge critical and commercial success, winning Clapton three of the six Grammy Awards he receives in 1993, including one for Album Of The Year. The 1939 000-42 Martin acoustic guitar that Clapton plays throughout most of the television special is sold at auction in 2004 for $791,500, with the funds going to raise money for his Crossroads Centre in Antigua. Originally issued on vinyl as an import only in 1992, the album is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram double LP set in 2011. The contents of the album are spread over four sides for dramatically improved fidelity over the original single vinyl pressing. To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of its original release, “Unplugged” is remastered and reissued as a two CD + DVD Deluxe Edition in October of 2013. The first disc contains the original fourteen song album, with disc two featuring previously unreleased outtakes from the show. The DVD contains the video of the program, plus rehearsal footage as an added bonus. “Unplugged” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, receiving a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: August 24, 1963 – “Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius” by (Little) Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1 week. Produced by Berry Gordy, Jr. it is recorded at the Royal Theater in Chicago, IL in June 1962. Following the failure of his first two studio albums, Motown founder Berry Gordy hits upon the idea of recording the young singers electrifying live performances. Performing as part of the legendary Motortown Revue in 1962, Wonder turns in a highly energetic set in front of an audience at the legendary Royal Theater in Chicago. When the album is released in May of 1963, it quickly attracts attention when radio DJ’s who begin playing the second half of the mostly instrumental track “Fingertips”. Bolstered by Stevie’s call and response with the audience as well as his virtuoso harmonica playing, both the single and album race up the charts. With the single “Fingertips Pt. 2” (hitting number one on August 10, 1963) also holding at number one on the Hot 100 for a third week, Wonder (thirteen years old and three months old at the time) becomes the youngest artist in Billboard chart history to hold down the top spots on the pop album and singles charts simultaneously.
On this day in music history: June 19, 1974 – “Marvin Gaye Live!”, the second live album (fifteenth release overall) by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA on January 4, 1974. Following the huge commercial and critical success of the “Let’s Get It On” album, Gaye embarks on a major US tour in support of it. Though he has to overcome often paralyzing stage fright that has kept him from performing in front of a live audience for several years. Appearing in front of a sold out crowd of over 14,000 cheering fans at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the electric atmosphere of the show is captured on the released album. The concerts centerpiece is his rendition of “Distant Lover”, which creates such a sensation on R&B radio stations that Motown release an edited version of the six minute plus song as a single (#15 R&B, #28 Pop). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1998, also being reissued as a limited edition SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2009, in a mini-LP sleeve replicating the original album package. “Marvin Gaye Live!” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number eight on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: June 9, 1983 – “Plays Live”, the first live album (fifth overall) by Peter Gabriel is released. Produced by Peter Gabriel and Peter Walsh, it is recorded circa Autumn 1982. The sixteen track double album features live performances recorded during Gabriel’s 1982 tour of the US and Canada in support of the “Peter Gabriel 4”(aka “Security”) album. The album also includes the studio recorded track “I Go Swimming” (#38 Mainstream Rock) which receives significant airplay. “I Don’t Remember” is also issued as a single in both the US and UK. When the album is originally issued on CD in 1985 it is in edited form (as “Plays Live – Highlights”) so that it fits on one disc. In 2002, it finally is released in its complete original form as a two CD set. “Plays Live” peaks at number eight on the UK album chart and number forty four on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: June 4, 1969 – “Johnny Cash At San Quentin” by Johnny Cash is released. Produced by Bob Johnston, it is recorded at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, CA on February 24, 1969. Following the success of his live album “At Folsom Prison” the year before, Cash records another live album before an audience of prison inmates. Recorded live at the infamous San Quentin maximum security prison north of San Francisco, CA, the show is also filmed by UK network Granda Television. The country music star and his band are rapturously received by the inmates as evidenced on the recording. Anchored by the Shel Silverstein penned “A Boy Named Sue” (#2 Pop, #1 Country), the album becomes a huge and unexpected success on the country and pop charts. Cash also wins a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “Sue”, and is nominated for Album Of The Year in 1970. Expanded editions of “At San Quentin” featuring performances not included on the original album are issued in 2000 and 2006. “Johnny Cash At San Quentin” spends twenty weeks at number one on the Billboard Country album chart (on August 2, 1969) and spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200 (on August 23, 1969), and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 1, 1982 – “Three Sides Live” by Genesis is released. Produced by Genesis, it is recorded at The Lyceum Ballroom in London on May 6, 1980, Savoy Theatre in New York on November 28, 1981, Nassau Coliseum in Nassau, L.I., NY on November 29, 1981, and National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, UK on December 23, 1981. The double LP is recorded live on the UK and US legs of their world tour in support of the “Abacab” album (The UK version includes two tracks dating back to tours in 1976 and 1978). The US and some European pressings of the album include new material recorded in the studio (initially released in the UK as the EP “3 x 3”), including the single “Paperlate” (#10 UK, #32 US Pop). Several shows on the tour are filmed for released for an accompanying concert video (taken mostly from the Nassau Coliseum shows) is released on VHS and laserdisc in late 1982 (reissued on DVD in 1991 and 2009). “Three Sides Live” peaks at number two on the UK album chart, number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 29, 1995 – “Pulse” by Pink Floyd is released (US release is on June 6, 1995). Produced by James Guthrie and David Gilmour, it is recorded at Festa Nazionale dell’Unità in Modena, Italy, the Cinecittà in Rome, Italy, Niedersachsenstadion in Hannover, Germany and Earl’s Court in London from August 17, September 17, October 13 – 23, 1994. Recorded live during the UK and European legs of the “Division Bell” tour in 1994, the majority of the album is compiled from the band’s two week run of performances at Earl’s Court in London. The second disc of the album includes “The Dark Side Of The Moon” performed in its entirety as well as a performance of “Astronomy Domine”, which had not been performed live by the band since the early 70’s. The original CD release of the album comes with a flashing red LED light (powered by two AA batteries) in the spine. A limited edition four LP vinyl version of the album is also released (with “One Of These Days” included as a bonus track, also included on the cassette release). An accompanying home video release is issued in tandem with the album. Out of print since its original release in 1995, the vinyl LP box set is reissued on May 18, 2018, pressed on 180 gram vinyl and faithfully replicating the original packaging and fifty two page hardbound book. “Pulse” enters the UK album chart and the Billboard Top 200 at number one, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.