Category: music

On this day in music history: October 20, 1989 – “Pretty Hate Machine”, the debut album by Nine Inch Nails is released. Produced by Trent Reznor, Flood, Adrian Sherwood, Keith LeBlanc and John Fryer, it is recorded at The Right Track Studios in Cleveland, OH, Blackwing Studios, Roundhouse Studios in London, Unique Recording Studios in New York City and Synchro Sound Studios in Boston, MA from May – June 1989. While working as an assistant engineer, handyman and janitor at The Right Track Studios in Cleveland, Trent Reznor begins making his debut release under the Nine Inch Nails moniker, at night during studio off hours with the studio managers’ permission. The album features Reznor playing most of the instruments and doing much of the programming and sequencing which is done on an Apple MacIntosh Plus computer. Released on the indie label TVT Records, it is one of the first independently released albums to reach platinum status in the US and is considered a landmark record in the Industrial Rock genre. It spins off three singles including “Head Like A Hole” and “Down In It”. Due to legal issues between Reznor and his former label TVT, the album goes out of print from 1997 to 2005, before the musician acquires the rights to the the master tapes. It is reissued first by Rykodisc, then by UMe (Universal Music Enterprises) in 2010 in a newly remastered edition. Out of print on vinyl since its initial release, it is remastered and reissued in 2010, as a limited edition double LP pressing (on three sides with a blank fourth side), for improved fidelity. This issue also features different cover artwork from the original release. Another LP pressing on 180 gram vinyl is issued in 2011, as single LP like the original first release, and with the original cover art restored. “Pretty Hate Machine” peaks at number seventy five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 – “Quarterflash”, the debut album by Quarterflash is released. Produced by John Boylan, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA and Westlake Audio in West Hollywood, CA from Early – Mid 1981. Originally formed in 1980 and led by the husband and wife duo of Marv and Rindy Ross, the Portland, OR based sextet is originally known as Seafood Mama. The band generates major buzz in their hometown when they record an early version Marv’s song “Harden My Heart”, releasing it on local label Whitefire Records. The single attracts the attention of Geffen Records who sign them. They then change their name to Quarterflash, an Australian slang term for new immigrants who are described as “a quarter flash, three quarters foolish”. Paired with producer John Boylan (Boston), they record their major label debut during the first half of 1981. The album also features Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles providing additional background vocals on several tracks as well as percussionist Paulinho Da Costa. It spins off two hits including “Harden My Heart” (#3 Pop) and “Find Another Fool” (#16 Pop). Originally released on CD in 1983, it is reissued as a budget priced disc on the Geffen Goldline imprint in 2003. The album is then remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2013, with two additional bonus tracks included. “Quarterflash” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 – “Dare”, the third album by The Human League is released. Produced by Martin Rushent and The Human League, it is recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading, UK from March – September 1981. The Sheffield, UK based synth-pop bands’ third release marks the beginning of their transition away from their more experimental avant garde electronic music period, toward more a mainstream pop sound. The band utilizes a number of different synthesizers including the Roland Jupiter-4, MC-8, Korg Delta, 770, Casio M10, VL-1, and the Linn LM-1 drum machine. The end result propels them to superstar status in their native country, and establishes them on a worldwide basis. In the UK, the album spins off four hit singles including “Love Action (I Believe In Love)” (#3 UK), and “Open Your Heart” (#6 UK). The final single released from the album is “Don’t You Want Me” which becomes their biggest hit. It spends five weeks at number one, selling over 1.4 million copies, and paving the way for their US breakthrough (spending three weeks at number one in July 1982). In time, “Dare” is regarded as a pioneering synth pop album, and is one the catalysts in beginning the “second British Invasion” during the 1980’s in the US. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of its original release in 2007, The Human League tour the UK and Europe, playing the album in its entirety live. UK newspaper The Daily Mail also gives out free copies of the CD (packaged in a cardboard slipcase cover) with the September 11, 2008 issue, as part of their promotion to celebrate 80’s classics. It is also reissued as a limited edition picture disc in 2013, and as a standard black vinyl 180 gram LP pressing in 2014, as part of UMe’s “Back To Black” series. “Dare” hits number one on the UK album chart and is certified 3x Platinum, number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “Winelight”, the tenth album by Grover Washington, Jr. is released. Produced by Grover Washington, Jr. and Ralph MacDonald, it is recorded at Rosebud Recording Studio from June – July 1980. After recording “Paradise”, his first album for Elektra Records in early 1979, Grover Washington, Jr. sets about working on his second album the label in mid 1980, after recording “Skylarkin’”, the final album he owes former label Motown released in early 1980. The saxophonist utilizes many of the same musicians who played on “Skylarkin’” including Eric Gale (guitar), Richard Tee, Ed Walsh (keyboards) and Marcus Miller (bass), along with other top studio veterans including Steve Gadd (drums), Paul Griffin, Raymond Chew and Bill Eaton (keyboards). Grover also collaborates again with his old friend percussionist Ralph MacDonald who also co-produces the project. MacDonald along with longtime songwriting partner William Salter, both of whom had penned Washington’s classic “Mr. Magic” get together to write songs for the new album. The pair write “In The Name Of Love” and another called “Just The Two Of Us”. Looking for a vocalist to sing the song, MacDonald calls musician Bill Withers. Long an admirer of Grover Washington, Jr., Withers agrees to do the song also since Washington had been the first artist to cover one of his songs, having recorded “Ain’t No Sunshine” on the “Inner City Blues” album in late 1971. Before Withers adds his vocals to the track, he asks MacDonald and Salter if he can re-write some of the lyrics, to which they agree. Once the album is completed and released, no one is prepared for how it will be received by the public. “Just The Two Of Us” (#2 R&B and Pop, #3 AC) becomes a break out across the board smash, racing into the top five on the Pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary singles charts by the Spring of 1981.“Winelight” becomes the biggest selling album of Washington’s career, spending an astounding six consecutive months at the top of Billboard’s Jazz album chart, returning to the top for two more non-consecutive weeks in July and August of 1981. The album wins two Grammy Awards including Best R&B Song (for “Just The Two Of Us”) and Best Jazz Fusion Performance (for the entire album) in 1982, receiving two further nominations for “Two Of Us” for Record Of The Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (for Withers). “Winelight” spends twenty nine weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, also peaking at number two on the R&B album chart, number five on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “The Wanderer”, the eighth studio album by Donna Summer is released. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, it is recorded at Westlake Audio Recording Studios in West Hollywood, CA from May – August 1980. With her five year association with Casablanca Records having ended acrimoniously at the end of 1979, Donna Summer becomes the first artist signed to former Asylum Records founder David Geffen’s eponymously named label in early 1980. Having established herself in the 70’s as “The Queen Of Disco”, Summer seeks to go in a different musical direction in the new decade after the fierce and sweeping backlash against the Disco music phenomenon of the previous decade takes hold. Donna continues to collaborate with her longtime producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte, experimenting with rock and new wave sounds, showing yet another side of her musical versatility. The public get their first taste of the new sound when the title track “The Wanderer” (#3 Pop, #13 R&B) is released in September of 1980. The sharp shuffling new wave flavored dance track is an immediate hit, paving the way for the rest of the album which is also a commercial success. It spins off two more singles including “Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’” (#40 Pop) and “Cold Love” (#33 Pop), the latter of which receives a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1982. Having rediscovered her Christian faith in the late 70’s, “The Wanderer” also marks the beginning of Summer including one self penned gospel song on each of her albums, with the first one being “I Believe In Jesus” which receives a Grammy nomination for Best Inspirational Performance. After being briefly reissued on CD in 1996, “The Wanderer” along with Summer’s other Geffen era albums go out of print for nearly two decades, having purchased the rights back from her former label. The album is reissued in December of 2014 on the Driven By The Music label, established by the late singer’s husband Bruce Sudano. “The Wanderer” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, number twelve on the R&B album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 – “Catholic Boy”, the debut album by The Jim Carroll Band is released. Produced by Earl McGrath and Bob Clearmountain, it is recorded at The Power Station in New York City from June – August 1980. A gifted poet and writer since his teens, Jim Carroll sees his poetry work published in magazines and book form beginning in the late 60’s and early 70’s. He finds greater fame in 1978 when his autobiography “The Basketball Diaries” is released. The bold and starkly honest book is drawn from personal diary entries written between the ages of twelve and sixteen. Carroll writes about his Catholic school upbringing, being a high school basketball star and his sexual experiences before spiraling down into heroin addiction. By the late 70’s, Carroll is able to recover his sobriety while continuing to write, and takes an unexpected career turn. Having been roommates with fellow poet and punk rock pioneer Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Smith encourages Jim to start his own band. In 1979, Carroll forms The Jim Carroll Band with band members Steve Linsley (bass), Wayne Woods (drums), Brian Linsley and Terrell Winn (guitars). After playing together for a short time, the band are signed to Atlantic subsidiary Atco Records. The raw, rudimentary instrumentation featuring Carroll’s dark and powerful lyrics make for a compelling combination. The band are also supported in studio by Rolling Stones side man Bobby Keys (saxophone) and Blue Öyster Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier. The album’s cover photo is taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz (Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair). Though only a modest success, “Catholic Boy” receives attention and acclaim for the single “People Who Died”. Written as an elegy to Carroll’s fallen friends, the song becomes a punk rock classic and an enduring pop cultural touchstone. It is heard briefly in the 80’s blockbuster “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”, and is later featured in the film adaptation of “The Basketball Diaries” in 1995, with Leonardo DiCapro portraying Jim Carroll. Carroll himself also makes a cameo appearance in the film as a junkie. With the original version being featured on the soundtrack album, a music video for “People Who Died” is shot featuring clips from the film inter cut with Carroll performing the song. “Boy” is released on CD by Atco/Atlantic in 1989. “Catholic Boy” peaks at number seventy three on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1979 – “Rise” by Herb Alpert hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 1 week on September 22, 1979, and peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on October 27, 1979. Written by Andy Armer and Randy (Badazz) Alpert, it is the second number one single for the co-founder of A&M Records. Recorded in Studio D at A&M Records in Hollywood, the song is one of the first hit records to be recorded on digital recording equipment. The 3M Corporation lends the label, one of its first 32-track tape machines to experiment with. Alpert initially begins the sessions by attempting to record a disco remake of his first hit “The Lonely Bull”. When the musicians realize the new version isn’t working, Alpert’s nephew Randy gives his uncle a demo tape with some songs he as written with his friend Andy Armer. Herb loves the instrumental titled “Rise” and agree to record it. Originally written an uptempo dance track, it is recorded at a slower tempo for the finished recording. The track is recorded almost completely live in the studio in just a few takes. After its release in June of 1979, the single initially gets off to a slow start until it is prominently featured on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital”. The exposure the song receives on the show jump starts interest in it, spreading to radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on July 28, 1979, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. The single wins Alpert a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1980, his first Grammy win since 1967. The song also becomes the basis of The Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous chart topper “Hypnotize” in 1997. “Rise” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1977 – A chartered plane carrying members of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and their crew crashes into a swamp near Gillsburg, MS. The band is on tour in support of its latest album “Street Survivors” released just three days before. The Convair CV-300 plane is in route from Greenville, SC to Baton Rouge, LA when it runs out of fuel and crashes into a heavily wooded area. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray are all killed on impact. The other members of the band and crew all sustain serious injuries from the crash. Drummer Artimus Pyle and two members of the road crew, though also injured, are able to climb from the wreckage and get help for the remaining survivors. The cause of the plane crash is determined to have been caused by a malfunctioning ignition device on one of the engines and by pilot error when the pilots accidentally dump the remaining fuel instead of transferring it to the still working engine. After the accident, the bands’ label MCA Records quickly withdraws the original cover artwork of “Street Survivors” which shows the band surrounded by flames. The original photo is substituted with another shot from the same cover shoot (minus the flames), on all subsequent re-pressings until it is reissued on CD in 2001 when the original artwork is restored. Lynyrd Skynyrd do not perform again for ten years, until the surviving members reform the band in 1987, with Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny taking over as lead vocalist.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1973 – “The Joker”, the eighth album by the Steve Miller Band is released. Produced by Steve Miller, it is recorded at The Capitol Tower in Hollywood, CA, The Tower Theater in Philadelphia, PA, and The Aquarius Theatre in Boston, MA from Early – Mid 1973. After seven albums that have met with varying degrees of success, The Steve Miller Band’s eighth release marks a major shift in the band’s sound from their trademark psychedelic blues to a more mainstream blues rock and pop sound. Seeking perfection, Miller and the band labors over the songs, especially the title track “The Joker”, which takes nearly three weeks to turn out the final released version. The hard work pays off, with the end result becoming  their most commercially successful album to date. It spins off two singles including a cover of The Clovers classic “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” (#51 Pop), and the title track which becomes Miller’s first number one single in the US on January 12, 1974 (it also belatedly tops the UK singles chart in 1990 when it is used in a commercial for Levi’s blue jeans). The albums iconic cover photo is taken by photographer Norman Seeff. Originally released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued in 1996. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2001 by the UK label Simply Vinyl. It is reissued again in 2017 by Capitol/UMe, as part of their extensive vinyl reissue program to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records. The new LP reissue replicates the original album packaging including the gatefold sleeve design. “The Joker” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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