Category: music

Remembering music icon Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, MN) – June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016 

On this day in music history: April 20, 1978 – “Come Get It!”, the debut album by Rick James is released. Produced by Rick James and Art Stewart, it is recorded at Crossed-Eyed Bear Studios in Clarence, NY and The Record Plant in New York City from Mid – Late 1977. The first album by James comes some twelve years after first recording for Motown as a member of The Mynah Birds, a band featuring James and future Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young and Bruce Palmer. In the years in between, travel around the world, before moving to California and start a series of bands that lasts for a brief period. At one point, he reconnects with Motown briefly as a staff writer for the label before parting ways again. Finally, he signs with Motown in 1977 after when staff producer Jeffrey Bowen hears a demo of several songs that Rick has written, playing them for label executive Suzanne DePasse. Shortly after this, he is signed to the label and is paired with co-producer and engineer Art Stewart (Marvin Gaye). James plays most of the instruments on the album himself before assembling The Stone City Band in 1979. It spins off two singles including “You And I” (#1 R&B, #13 Pop) and “Mary Jane” (#3 R&B, #41 Pop). “Come Get It!” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirteen on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Since officially beginning my music history blog “Behind The Grooves” in October of 2011, it has grown from just a handful of followers to nearly 35,000 strong to my page here on Tumblr.

I’m out of work (like many right now) and struggling to keep myself afloat financially, so I am making an appeal to my followers for donations. I’m also looking to publish my writing in book form, hopefully in the not too distant future. So I am trying to raise funds to make that happen.

Donations of any size are greatly appreciated. Anyone that would like to contribute can do so by clicking on the link at: PayPal.Me/jharris1228

On this day in music history: April 19, 1980 – “Call Me” by Blondie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Written by Giorgio Moroder and Deborah Harry, it is the second chart topping single for the New York based New Wave/Rock band fronted by lead singer Debbie Harry. Written as the theme song for the Richard Gere film “American Gigolo”. Moroder originally approaches Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac to co-write and perform the song, but declines when her label Modern Records will not grant permission for her to participate on the project. Next, Moroder asks Blondie lead vocalist Debbie Harry if she is interested. She agrees and begins working with the producer. Originally titled “Man Machine”, with a rough lyric written in by Moroder, Debbie feels the original words don’t transfer well to English. After looking at rough cut of the film, it gives the singer the proper inspiration to write new lyrics and melody. Harry writes the lyrics and records her vocals in just a few hours of studio time. Released in early February of 1980, the single is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on February 16, 1980, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Call Me” is ranked the top single of year by Billboard Magazine. Three versions of the song are released. The version released on the “American Gigolo” soundtrack on Polydor Records runs 8:04 and is also serviced as a promotional 12" single to club and radio DJ’s. Blondie’s label Chrysalis Records releases the single edit clocking in at 3:32, and the third being a Spanish language version titled “Llámame” released on Salsoul Records on a 12" single. “Call Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 17, 1990 – “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm”, the debut album by A Tribe Called Quest is released. Produced by A Tribe Called Quest, it is recorded at Calliope Studios and Battery Studios in New York City from Mid 1989 – Early 1990. The group has its beginnings in 1985 with Q-Tip (born Jonathan William Davis, renamed Kamaal Ibn John Fareed) and Phife Dawg (born Malik Izaak Taylor), who are childhood friends growing up in the same Queens neighborhood. While attending high school, they are joined by DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and fellow MC Jarobi White. First known as Crush Connection, they are given the name A Tribe Called Quest in 1988 by members of The Jungle Brothers. Tribe begins to record demos that are heard by legendary Hip Hop figure Kool DJ Red Alert of the Universal Zulu Nation (also JB’s member Mike Gee’s uncle). Red Alert takes Tribe under his wing, assisting them in landing a demo deal with Geffen Records in 1989. Tribe record a five song demo for the label who pass on signing them, leaving them free to shop the tape elsewhere. They attract offers from other labels, but go with RCA distributed Jive Records based on their past track record with other rap acts such as Boogie Down Productions and Too Short. Having learned how to make beats from Large Professor (Main Source) and recording engineer Shane Faber, Q-Tip puts the tracks together with assistance from Shaheed. They sample from a wide and eclectic mix of jazz, R&B, funk, rock and pop records. The groups unique approach to writing rhymes also stands apart from other rappers, proving to be an excellent compliment and counterpoint to the music. Proceeded by the single “Description Of A Fool”, the album spins off three other singles including “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” (#9 Rap), “Bonita Applebum” (#4 Rap, #56 R&B) and “Can I Kick It?” (#8 Rap). “People’s Instinctive Travels” receives praise from both music critics and within the Hip Hop community for Tribe’s fresh perspective and musical vision. Though just a modest seller at the time, its stature grows in exposure and influence in later years. For its twenty fifth anniversary in 2015, it is remastered and reissued on CD and vinyl, featuring three additional bonus tracks. The same year, Get On Down Records releases a limited edition eight disc vinyl box set, with the full album (plus non-album B-sides) pressed on 7" 45 RPM discs. The set is limited to only 1,000 numbered sets and sells out almost immediately. Due to popular demand, another small run of the set (non-numbered) are released in 2016. “People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ninety one of the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 16, 1991 – “Temple Of The Dog”, the lone album by Temple Of The Dog is released. Produced by Rick Parashar and Temple Of The Dog, it is recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle, WA from November – December 1990. In early 1990, Mother Love Bone are poised for success. Emerging from Seattle’s late 80’s underground music scene, they’re signed by Polydor Records, and release the EP “Shine” in March of 1989. Polydor then options a full album from the band. With this good fortune, there is also a problem. Their charismatic lead singer Andrew Wood, is a heroin addict. In spite of this, they complete their album “Apple”, which is set for release in March of 1990. On March 16th, Wood overdoses on heroin and is found in a coma by his girlfriend. Declared legally brain dead, Andrew is kept on life support long enough for friends and family to say goodbye. Wood dies on March 19, 1990, at the age of only 24. Devastated by the loss, Mother Love Bone disband after their lone album is released in July of 1990. Jeff Ament (bass) and Stone Gossard form Pearl Jam shortly after. Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, a close friend of Andrew Wood and his roommate in Seattle, looks a way to honor his friend. He writes several songs including “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven”. Cornell then approaches Ament and Gossard about a tribute to Wood. They agree, also bringing in Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready, with Cornell having Matt Cameron from his band to play drums. Intending to record only a single, that idea is discarded in favor of an album. Calling themselves Temple Of The Dog, they begin recording. During the sessions, Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder is also present. When Chris has problems with the song “Hunger Strike” during rehearsals. Vedder steps up to the mic and sings with Cornell. The impromptu duet is then recorded. Completed in only fifteen days, “Temple Of The Dog” initially sells only 70,000 copies. By 1992, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden see their albums “Ten” and “Badmotorfinger” taking flight. Both bands are caught up in the huge wave of media attention, focused on the Seattle grunge movement. Realizing what they have, A&M re-promotes the album, shooting a video for “Hunger Strike” (#4 Mainstream Rock, #7 Modern Rock). The tribute album is regarded as one of the best rock albums of the 90’s. It’s reissued as Deluxe and Super Deluxe sets for its 25th anniversary in 2016. Given only a tiny press run on vinyl in 1991, it’s reissued as a double 180 gram LP set by Music On Vinyl in 2013 (and by A&M/UMe in 2016). The songs are pressed on three sides, with the fourth side featuring etched artwork (band logo on the MOV release, a band silhouette on the A&M release). “Temple Of The Dog” peaks at number five 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: April 14, 1980 – “British Steel”, the sixth album by Judas Priest is released. Produced by Tom Allom, it is recorded at Startling Studios in Ascot, UK from January – February 1980. After an extended world tour to promote their previous studio release “Killing Machine/Hell Bent For Leather” and the subsequent live album “Unleashed In The East”, Judas Priest return to the studio at the beginning of 1980 to work on their next full length LP. The band record the album on the English country estate (Tittenhurst Park) formerly owned by John Lennon (now owned by Ringo Starr). It is their first album to feature all original material written by the band, and the first to include new drummer Dave Holland (replacing Les Binks). The album is the British heavy metal bands breakthrough release in the US, and includes the classics “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight”. “Law” is promoted with a music video directed by Julien Temple (“The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle”, “Absolute Beginners”). The plot of the video involves the band holding up a bank (with guitars), breaking into the vault and robbing it of a gold record award for their own album. The video and song are later parodied on the MTV series “Beavis & Butthead”, and on an episode of “The Simpsons”. Judas Priest’s original version is also featured on the video game Guitar Hero Live. The album is remastered and reissued in 2010 as a CD/DVD 30th anniversary edition with the CD including two live bonus tracks. The DVD features live performances, and a documentary on the making of the album. It is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by UK label Simply Vinyl in 2001, with a later reissue from Sony Legacy in 2008. And in 2010. UK reissue label Back On Black releases various pressings of “Steel” on red, clear, blue and standard black vinyl, also as a limited edition picture disc. “British Steel” peaks at number four on the UK album chart, number thirty four 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: April 13, 1984 – “Street Talk”, the solo debut album by Steve Perry is released. Produced by Steve Perry and Bruce Botnick, it is recorded at Record One Studios in Sherman Oaks, CA from Late 1983 – Early 1984. With Journey at the peak of their success by 1983, they take their first hiatus. Recording nearly an album a year, and then touring extensively since lead singer Steve Perry’s arrival in late 1977, the break is needed. During the down time, drummer Steve Smith records with his jazz fusion band Vital Information. No stranger to side projects, guitarist Neal Schon has recorded with keyboardist Jan Hammer (Schon & Hammer). Then Schon puts together HSAS (Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve), including Sammy Hagar, Kenny Aaronson and Michael Shrieve. Fearful that it will interfere with Journey, Perry voices his concern to both Schon and the band manager Herbie Herbert. When Herbert says that he can’t stop Neal from doing what he wants to do, Steve decides to make a solo album himself. When the singer tells his label Columbia Records, that he wants to record on his own, initially they are less than enthused. They’re concerned that he’ll make an overly expensive, self indulgent album that won’t sell. He convinces them he’ll complete it in reasonable time and not go over budget. Perry then contacts his former Alien Project band mate (also of Kim Carnes’ backing band) Craig Krampf (drums) to assist him. Also collaborating with Randy Goodrum (Chicago, Toto, Anne Murray), Steve Perry enlists Bruce Botnick (The Doors, Eddie Money) to co-produce. They put together a team of musicians that include Bob Glaub, Chuck Domanico (bass), Michael Landau, Waddy Wachtel (guitars), Bill Cuomo, Duane Hitchings (keyboards), and Steve Douglas (saxophone). With no outside pressure, the recording sessions go quickly. Though Perry’s unmistakable voice is front and center, his first solo outing differs noticeably from Journey. Returning to his pop and R&B music roots, it stands apart from his superstar band’s arena rock bombast. “Street Talk” is led by “Oh Sherrie” (#3 Pop, #1 Mainstream Rock, #33 AC), written for Perry’s then girlfriend Sherrie Swafford, who also appears in the music video. The album spins off three more singles including “She’s Mine” (#21 Pop, #15 Mainstream Rock) “Strung Out” (#40 Pop, #17 Mainstream Rock) and “Foolish Heart” (#18 Pop, #2 AC). Though he finds success on his own, Steve Perry returns to Journey, and does not record another solo album (“For The Love Of Strange Medicine”) until 1994. “Street Talk” is remastered and reissued on CD in 2006, with five additional bonus tracks. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it’s reissued as a 180 gram LP by Music On Vinyl in 2011. “Street Talk” peaks at number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 11, 1983 – “Living In Oz”, the sixth album by Rick Springfield is released. Produced by Rick Springfield and Bill Drescher, it is recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA, Soundcastle Recorders in Los Angeles, CA from Late 1982 – Early 1983. With his music career in full swing, Rick Springfield continues to deliver one hit after another. Buoyed by the back to back Platinum selling successes of “Working Class Dog” and “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet”, they give the Australian born musician and actor the confidence to take greater control of the production end of his music. With his producer Keith Olsen busy working with Sammy Hagar, Rick interviews several prospective candidates for the job. Springfield eventually decides to co-produce his sixth album with recording engineer Bill Drescher. Armed with a batch of brand new songs that demonstrate his growing maturity as an artist, they head into the studio in the Fall of 1982 to begin work on the album. Titled “Living In Oz”, Springfield begins to experiment with his established sound, incorporating synthesizers and electronic drums into the mix. Just as the album is completed, Rick ends his initial stint on the soap opera “General Hospital”, where he has played Dr. Noah Drake for three seasons. The first single “Affair Of The Heart” (#9 Pop) is released in tandem with the album, becoming his fourth top ten hit in the US. It’s nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male in 1984, the award he had won two years earlier for “Jessie’s Girl”. This time out, the singer has even tougher competition, losing the award to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. “Oz” spins off two more singles including “Human Touch” (#18 Pop) and “Souls” (#23 Pop). Though it is regarded as one of his best albums now, critics (who didn’t take him seriously anyway), take cheap shots at the musician for “trying to grow up” and attempting to do something different. Originally released on CD in 1985 (Japan only), it’s not released in the US until 1990. The album is remastered and reissued by Rock Candy Records in 2008. The CD reissue includes a twelve page color booklet, an interview with Rick Springfield, and a 4,000 word essay by Malcolm Page. On April 2, 2020, Rick Springfield posts a video on his YouTube page, performing an acoustic reworking of “Human Touch”. Re-titled “No Human Touch”, Springfield re-writes the lyrics to bring some levity to the Coronavirus pandemic effecting every corner of the world. “Living In Oz” peaks at number twelve 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: April 10, 1990 – “Fear Of A Black Planet”, the third album by Public Enemy is released. Produced by Carl Ryder (Chuck D.), Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler (aka “The Bomb Squad”), it is recorded at Greene Street Studios in New York City, Spectrum City Studios and The Music Palace in West Hempstead, L.I., NY from June – October 1989. After the critical and commercial success of their second album “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”, Public Enemy return to the studio in mid 1989 to begin work on the follow up. Before that happens, the group become embroiled in controversy when Minister Of Information Professor Griff is interviewed by the Washington Times in May of 1989. In the interview, Griff makes anti-semitic remarks which erupt into a media firestorm, leading to his dismissal from the group. The controversy becomes so intense that Chuck D. announces that P.E. is disbanding just as “Fight The Power” (#1 Rap, #20 R&B), from Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing” is being released. In truth, the statement is made in order to take the media scrutiny off of them, and to be able to work in relative peace. Much like previous album, P.E. seizes the opportunity to make statements about issues affecting the African American community, primarily “the state of race relations” in the United States. Like its predecessor, “Planet” weaves a musically dense fabric of samples for each track, utilizing various tools including the E-mu SP-1200 sampler/drum machine, Akai S9000, and a Apple Macintosh computer to create the tracks. Due to the complexity of synchronizing the large number of samples, and the time limitations of the samplers, The Bomb Squad layer them on multi-track tape by recording a SMPTE time code (used for synchronizing film and sound) on to the tape, in order to properly synchronize all of the samples. Proceeded by the single “Welcome To The Terrordome” (#3 Rap, #15 R&B, #31 Pop) in January of 1990, chronicling the recent controversy with Griff (who is quietly reinstated), anticipation for the album is high. When “Fear Of A Black Planet” is released, it is a major success with fans and critics alike. It spins off a total of five singles including “911 Is A Joke” (#1 Rap, #15 R&B, and “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” (#22 Rap, #20 R&B). “Black Planet” is regarded as one of the best albums of the 90’s, and is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2005. In 2018, “Fight The Power” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame, becoming the first of P.E.’s seminal and influential recordings to be recognized by NARAS as being “culturally and historically significant”. “Fear Of A Black Planet” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ten on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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