On this day in music history: October 14, 1983 – “Twist Of Fate” by Olivia Newton-John is released. Written by Stephen Kipner and Peter Beckett, it is the thirty sixth single release for the pop vocalist and actress from Cambridge, UK. After the huge success of “Physical” and second greatest hit album (“Olivia’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2”), Olivia Newton-John teams up again with her friend and “Grease” co-star John Travolta for the film “Two Of A Kind”. The romantic comedy also features a soundtrack album with songs from major artists including Chicago, Journey, Patti Austin, and Boz Scaggs. Olivia herself contributes three solo tracks to the soundtrack, and the duet “Take A Chance” with Travolta. One of the solo tracks by Newton-John is “Twist Of Fate”, written by Stephen Kipner (“Physical”, “Heart Attack”, and Peter Beckett of the band Player (“Baby Come Back”, “This Time I’m In It For Love”). “Fate” marks a departure from Olivia Newton-John’s previous singles, in sporting a more rock based synthesizer sound. The single is produced by David Foster, who has graduated from working as a studio musician and Grammy winning songwriter, into an in demand producer after helping engineer Chicago’s major comeback. Unfortunately for Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, lightning does not strike twice at the box office, when “Two Of A Kind” is a critical and commercial favor. Fortunately, it doesn’t prevent the soundtrack album or “Twist Of Fate” from becoming successful. The single is a smash right out of the gate, with the picture sleeve sporting sexy black & white photos of Newton-John clad in dark sunglasses, taken by photographer Herb Ritts. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #49 on November 5, 1983, it peaks at #5 nine weeks later on January 7, 1984. Along with the standard 7" release, “Twist” is given an extended 12" club mix by Arthur Baker, with edits by The Latin Rascals (both uncredited). Initially released in the US as a promo for club DJ’s and radio by MCA Records, due to public demand it’s issued as the B-side of the 12" for the follow up “Livin’ In Desperate Times” (#31 Pop) in early 1984. “Take A Chance”, the B-side of “Twist Of Fate” becomes a surprise hit on AC radio, peaking at #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Even more surprising, after nearly fifteen years of non stop hits, “Twist Of Fate” is Olivia Newton-John’s last US top ten hit to date.
On this day in music history: October 13, 1984 – “I Just Called To Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart and the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on the same date. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is the eighth pop and sixteenth R&B chart topper for the Motown superstar. Included on the soundtrack to the Gene Wilder directed comedy “The Woman In Red”, Wonder composed the music for the song in 1977 but writes the lyrics during the recording sessions in mid 1984. Released as the first single from the soundtrack on August 1, 1984, it is an immediate across the board smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on August 18, 1984, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. Wonder’s long time friend and sometime songwriting collaborator Lee Garrett (“Signed, Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours”, “It’s A Shame”, “Let’s Get Serious”) and Lloyd Chiate claim to have helped co-write the song and file a lawsuit. The suit is settled in Wonder’s favor, with the jury finding that the other two alleged writers did not provide adequate proof that they had co-written the pop and R&B smash. Stevie Wonder wins a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” for “I Just Called To Say I Love You” in 1985. When Wonder accepts his Oscar, he dedicates the award to then still imprisoned South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. With South Africa still under apartheid rule at the time, Stevie Wonder’s music is banned from radio airplay and television broadcast. The ban is lifted with the end of the segregationist system in 1994. “I Just Called To Say I Love You” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1984 – “No More Lonely Nights” by Paul McCartney is released. Written by Paul McCartney, it is the thirty-first US Top 40 single for the former Beatle. The last song written and recorded for the film and soundtrack of “Give My Regards To Broadstreet” (released through 20th Century Fox), “No More Lonely Nights” is recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London in mid 1984. The band on the song features McCartney (lead vocals, piano), Linda McCartney (backing vocals, keyboards), Eric Stewart (backing vocals), Herbie Flowers (bass), Anne Dudley (synthesizer) and Stuart Elliott (drums). Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is also featured playing the guitar solo on the track. Gilmour does not accept a session fee for playing on the song, instead asking McCartney to donate his fee to the charity of his choice. Two versions of the song are recorded, the original straight ahead “ballad” version is the A-side of the single, while the more uptempo “playout” version is placed on the B-side. An extended version remixed by Arthur Baker is also released as a standard 12" single and picture disc. The music video directed by Peter Webb is shot in London, featuring a full fireworks display over the Thames. The late night video shoot causes many local residents to call the police to complain about the noise from the exploding fireworks. Though the film opens to universally negative reviews and disastrous box office numbers, the soundtrack album and single are a hit. “No More Lonely Nights” peaks at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 8, 1984, driving “Give My Regards To Broadstreet” to Gold status in the US. A dance remix remixed by Arthur Baker, of the uptempo version is also issued as a 12" single at the same time.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1995 – “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 12 weeks on the same date. Written by Seal , it is the biggest hit for the British born Nigerian/Afro-Brazilian singer, songwriter and musician. Originally written for his second self-titled album released in 1994, “Kiss From A Rose” is almost left off of the album when Seal and his producer Trevor Horn feel initially that it sounds “too different” from the other songs on the album, planning to drop it from the final track sequence. A friend of Seal’s hears the song and insist that he include it. When a Warner Bros A&R exec hears “Kiss”, he plays it for Gary LeMel, the president of music for Warner Bros movie division. LeMel plays the song for Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher who loves the song and asks to use it in the film. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on June 24, 1995, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The song drives both Seal’s second self titled album and the “Batman Forever” soundtrack to multi-platinum status, as well as winning three Grammy Awards including Record and Song Of The Year for 1995. “Kiss From A Rose” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 24, 1985 – “Power Of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes and John Colla, it is the first chart topping single for the Marin, CA based rock band fronted by lead singer Huey Lewis (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III). In late 1984, film producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton approach Huey Lewis about writing and performing a song for the film “Back To The Future” directed by Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”, “Cast Away”) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Initially, the band write a song called “In The Nick Of Time” which Gale and Canton love. But the song is given away to the Richard Pryor comedy “Brewster’s Millions”, when negotiations between Lewis’ manager, lawyers and Universal take too long. In place of “In The Nick Of Time”, Lewis and the band offer up the songs “Back In Time” and “Power Of Love” for the “Back To The Future” soundtrack. The producers of the film are not fond of “Love” initially, but quickly warm up to it. Lewis himself also makes a brief cameo appearance in the film as a school administrator that rejects Michael J. Fox’s band, who in a bit of tongue in cheek irony are playing a hard rock cover of “Power Of Love” in an audition to the play the school’s dance. Released in tandem with the films June 1985 opening, the song is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #46 on June 29, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single also receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song in 1986, though it loses to Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me”. “Power Of Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 8, 1992 – “This Used To Be My Playground” by Madonna hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart on the same date. Written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, it is the tenth chart topping single for the pop music icon born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. The song is written as the end theme for the Penny Marshall directed film “A League Of Their Own” which co-stars Madonna, Tom Hanks and Rosie O’Donnell. After she’s cast in the film, Marshall asks Madonna if she’ll write a song for the film, and she agrees to do so. Two days later, Madonna and Pettibone write “Playground” and play it for the director who loves the song and green lights it for inclusion in the film. The ballad is the first non-dance oriented track that Madonna and Pettibone write together. When they record the track, it is the first time that Pettibone works with live musicians in the studio. Veteran arranger Jeremy Lubbock (Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand) is brought in to write the string arrangement for the song. In an ironic twist, when the soundtrack album for “A League Of Their Own” is released, “This Used To Be My Playground” is not included on it. Madonna’s label Warner Bros does not grant permission for the song to appear on the album due to licensing restrictions in her contract. The song first appears on an album on the Olympics compilation “Barcelona Gold” in 1992, and on the Madonna ballads compilation “Something To Remember” in 1995. Entering the Hot 100 at #35 on July 4, 1992, it streaks to the top of the chart five weeks later. “This Used To Be My Playground” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 5, 1989 – “Batdance” by Prince hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on August 12, 1989. Written and produced by Prince, it is the fourth #1 Pop and sixth R&B chart topper for the Minneapolis, MN born singer, songwriter and musician. Prince becomes involved in the “Batman” film project after being shown a rough cut of the film by director Tim Burton, who had been using “1999” and “Baby I’m A Star” as temporary music tracks while editing the film. Cancelling a scheduled vacation, Prince flies back home to Minneapolis and begins writing music for the film. Within a month, the artist composes eight new songs (only few make the final cut) for the film. The track “Batdance” is a song collage (featuring pieces of the songs “200 Balloons” (Batdance’s non-LP B-side), “The Future”, and “Electric Chair”) written and recorded overnight, using samples of dialogue from the film. Though it is not included in the film, the song is brilliantly utilized to market both the film and album. Released as a single on June 9, 1989, it is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #53 on June 17, 1989, it rises to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The song is accompanied by an elaborately staged music video directed by Albert Magnoli (“Purple Rain”) and choreographed by Barry Lather (Janet Jackson, Tiffany). The clip features Prince in dual roles as himself and as a character called “Gemini”, half representing The Joker and the other half representing Batman, with the name being a nod to Prince’s own astrological sign. The music video earns an MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Video From A Film in 1990. The single is also released as a 12" with extended remixes by Mark Moore of S-Express (Batmix) and William Orbit (Vicki Vale Mix). That 12" is reissued on Record Store Day on April 22, 2017, replicating the original sleeve design. Due to Prince having to sign over his publishing rights to his “Batman” soundtrack music to DC Comics, the company that owns the Batman franchise, “Batdance” has not appeared on any other Prince albums or compilations since the release of the soundtrack album. After many years, clearances are finally obtained from DC, and the single edit of the song is included on the posthumous compilation “Prince 4Ever” in November of 2016. “Batdance” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 2, 1980 – “Magic” by Olivia Newton-John hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks on July 19, 1980. Written and produced by John Farrar, it is the third US chart topper for the British born (Australian raised) pop vocalist and actress. With the massive success of the film adaptation of the musical “Grease” and its soundtrack, pop superstar Olivia Newton-John is approached by film producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver (“Die Hard”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”) to make another big screen musical. The musical fantasy titled “Xanadu”, co-starring Hollywood musical icon Gene Kelly and Michael Beck, looks like a sure thing, so Olivia signs on to do the project. However, the over the top script, plus bad advance word of mouth, dooms the films commercial chances before it reaches theaters and is an enormous flop. The soundtrack album on the other hand is very successful, spinning off a total of five hit singles and selling over three million copies in the US alone. MCA Records (the soundtrack’s distributor) also sets a new precedent as it is the first single LP title to be issued with a $9.98 list price. The song “Magic” is written and produced by ONJ’s long time producer John Farrar. Issued as the first single from the “Xanadu” soundtrack in May of 1980, it quickly becomes a smash not only on top 40 radio, it is her biggest hit on AC radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on May 24, 1980, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. “Magic” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: July 17, 1958 – “Hard Headed Woman" by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Claude Demetrius, it is the tenth chart topping single for Presley. The song is written for and included in his fourth film “King Creole”, directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”, “The Adventures Of Robin Hood”, “Angels With Dirty Faces”) and co-starring Carolyn Jones (“The Addams Family”) and Walter Matthau. Recorded on January 10, 1958, Presley records the soundtrack and stars in the film just prior to being inducted into the Army. He receives a deferment from the US Government from January to March, to allow him time to complete his work on the film. Presley receives his best reviews yet for his performance, and sites it as his personal favorite among the thirty one films he makes between 1956 and 1969. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #15 on June 26, 1958, it streaks to the top of the chart three weeks later. “Hard Headed Woman” is Elvis’ third single to be officially certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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On this day in music history: July 12, 1986 – “Who’s Johnny” by El DeBarge hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on July 5, 1986. Written by Peter & Ina Wolf, it is the lone solo chart topper for the singer, songwriter and musician from Grand Rapids, MI. Undone by infighting and drug use among its members, the family vocal group DeBarge begins to implode during the making of their fourth album “Rhythm Of The Night”. Seeing the writing on the wall, their label Motown Records grooms lead singer El DeBarge for solo stardom. DeBarge works with producers Jay Graydon (Manhattan Transfer, Al Jarreau), and husband and wife songwriter/producers Peter and Ina Wolf (not the former J. Geils Band lead singer). While working on El’s album, the Wolfs are approached by film producers David Foster and Lawrence Turman, asking them if they will write a song for their comedy “Short Circuit”. The film starring Steve Guttenberg (“Police Academy”) and Ally Sheedy (“War Games” , “The Breakfast Club”), is about a military robot named Number 5 that is struck by lightning and develops a human like personality and intelligence. Seeing a rough cut of the film, the Wolfs accept the assignment and agree to write a song. The inspiration for “Who’s Johnny” comes from a scene where Number 5 expresses his dislike of being referred to by a number, and someone suggests “how about Johnny?”. When Peter and Ina present the song to El, initially he is not in favor of it, feeling that is it doesn’t really suit his musical style. When they tell him that it’s for a movie soundtrack and that it could potentially broaden his audience, he agrees to record it. Released as single in April of 1986, like the film “Short Circuit”, it quickly becomes a major success, racing to the top of the R&B singles chart, into the top five on the pop chart, propelling El DeBarge’s debut album to Gold status in the US.
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