On this day in music history: August 19, 1988 – “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers is released. Written by Craig Reid and Charlie Reid, it is the fifth UK and first US single for the pop music duo from Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland. Born on October 5, 1962 in the Scottish burgh of Leith, twin brothers Craig and Charile Reid play in several bands before forming The Proclaimers in 1983. In 1986, one of the duo’s fans sends their demo tape to The Housemartins, the UK band led by musician and DJ Norman Cook. Impressed by the brothers demo, The Housemartins invite them to be the opening act on a tour of the UK. The exposure they receive leads to them being signed to Chrysalis Records. In January of 1987, they’re booked on the music program “The Tube”. Their second single “Letter From America” becomes their breakthrough hit, peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart. While working on material for their second album, Craig is sitting at the piano and begins to play some chords. Feeling that he might have something that could be a hit, he writes virtually the entire song in 45 minutes. Showing it to his brother Charlie, they finish it off and record it. Titled “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, it is recorded at Chipping Norton Studios in Oxfordshire, UK in mid 1988. The song is selected as their first single from The Proclaimers’ second album “Sunshine On Leith” in August of 1988. Though the single stops at #11 on the UK chart, it’s even more successful internationally, hitting #1 in Australia, New Zealand and Iceland. The single and album are also released by Chrysalis in the US, but is ignored by American radio. “I’m Gonna Be” won’t become widely known to US music fans until five years later, when it is included in the film “Benny & Joon”, starring Johnny Dep, Mary Stuart Masterson and Aidan Quinn. The wide exposure the song receives, revives it like Lazarus from dead, leading to Chrysalis reissuing it. The label re-edits the music video to include footage from the film, which quickly hits heavy rotation on MTV. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on June 12, 1993, the song races up the chart, peaking at #3 ten weeks later on August 21, 1993. The belatedly success of “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” also revives the “Sunshine On Leith” album, which peaks at #31 on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US. Though regarded as a “one hit wonder” in the US, The Proclaimers lone hit record has endured. The song has been widely played at sports events, and featured in commercials and other films including “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Peter Rabbit”. The Proclaimers record a new version of the song in 2007 for the Comic Relief charity, with it also featuring actors Peter Kay and John Lucas. The re-recorded version hits #1 on the UK singles chart, twenty nine years after the original version charted. “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 17, 1987 – “Substance”, the fifth album by New Order is released. Produced by New Order, it features material recorded from 1981 – 1987. The twelve track double LP compilation consists of the 12-inch single mixes and their respective B-side dub mixes. The CD and cassette versions feature track listings that are expanded to twenty four and twenty eight tracks respectively (including “1963”, the B-side of “True Faith”). The album also includes the newly recorded track “True Faith” (#4 UK) which becomes their first top 40 single in the US (#32 Pop). “Faith” is also supported by abstract and surreal music directed by French/Moroccan choreographer and mime artist Philippe Decouflé (The Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy”), that receives widespread play on MTV and other video outlets. The albums’ packaging is designed by graphic artist Trevor Key of Peter Saville Associates with the initial pressings featuring the artist name and title embossed on the front. Subsequent re-pressings feature flat text printing to save on printing costs. “Substance” peaks at number three on the UK album chart, number thirty six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 17, 1979 – “Drums And Wires”, the third album by XTC is released. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, it is recorded at The Townhouse Studios in London from June – July 1979. Working with producer Lillywhite (U2) and engineer Hugh Padgham (Genesis, Phil Collins), it features the bands first big UK single “Making Plans For Nigel” (#17 UK) which also provides the band with their initial exposure in the US. The album is issued with differing track listings in various countries, with the first 20,000 copies coming with a two or three track 7" single featuring the songs “Chain Of Command”, “Limelight”, and/or “Life Begins At The Hop”. The initial US pressing of the LP (initially released on RSO Records and later reissued on Geffen Records) features the single version of “Ten Feet Tall”, while other pressing include the first recorded version. In 2014, the album is remastered and reissued in the UK on CD, DVD-A and Blu-Ray disc, with a newly remixed 5.1 surround mix. “Drums And Wires” peaks at number thirty four on the UK album chart, and number one hundred seventy four on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 15, 1981 – “Pretenders II”, the second album by The Pretenders is released. Produced by Chris Thomas, it is recorded at Wessex Studios in London and EMI Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris, France from Late 1980 – Mid 1981. With the major success of their self-titled debut album, The Pretenders feel palpable pressure from their record label to quickly follow it up with another album. But the band are unable to comply due to the lack of having new songs written. Work begins on their sophomore effort in late 1980, with much of the material being written while the band is touring in support of the previous album, recording during breaks in their busy schedule. The twenty month gap between albums is filled by the release of the stand alone singles “Message of Love” and “Talk of the Town” in the UK, which are also both included on a five track EP titled “Extended Play” in the US (released in March 1981). The album is reissued in 2006 as two CD edition with a remastered version of the original album on disc one, with the second disc containing live versions of several songs, demos and alternate takes. The album is remastered and reissued by Rhino Records in 2006 as a double CD set, with the second disc containing a live concert recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on September 4, 1981. Audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab also releases the album as a hybrid SACD in 2010. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Demon Records in 2015. “Pretenders II” peaks at number ten on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 15, 1980 – “Panorama”, the third album by The Cars is released. Produced by Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at The Power Station in New York City and Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, CA from Early – Mid 1980. The Boston based Rock/New Wave band’s third effort marks a departure from the sound they have established with their two previous multi-platinum albums (“The Cars”, “Candy-O”), going with a more aggressive and experimental style. The reaction from critics and fans is mixed, resulting in lower sales than they have previously experienced. The album spins off three singles including “Touch And Go” (#37 Pop), “Don’t Tell Me No” and “Gimme Some Slack”. Originally released on CD the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as part of “The Cars – The Elektra Years” box set (also issued on vinyl) in June of 2016. It is also issued separately on CD with four additional bonus tracks, and as a 180 gram double vinyl LP in July of 2017. “Panorama” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 13, 1984 – “Phantoms”, the third album by The Fixx is released. Produced by Rupert Hine, it is recorded at The Farmyard Studios in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, UK from Early – Mid 1984. Following an extensive tour in support of their Platinum selling breakthrough “Reach The Beach”, The Fixx return to the studio with producer Rupert Hine to record the follow up. The first full album to feature bassist Dan K. Brown, the five band members Cy Curnin (lead vocals), Jamie West-Oram (guitar), Rupert Greenall (keyboards) and Adam Woods (drums) collaborate on all of the material. Looking to stretch from the previous album, the songs on “Phantoms” feature an edgier and tougher feel compared to the moodier and atmopheric sound of the previous album. That new musical direction is most obvious on the first two singles “Are We Ourselves?” (#15 Pop, #1 Album Rock) and “Sunshine In The Shade” (#69 Pop). Both clocking in at under two and a half minutes each, both feature enigmatic video clips that become MTV favorites. Other stand outs from the sessions include “Less Cities, More Moving People” (#68 Club Play) and “I Will”. “Less Cities” in shorter form on the album, is issued in its full version on a promotional 12" single, becoming an album rock and dance club favorite. Though not selling as well as its predecessor, “Phantoms” is well received by fans and critics, and in time is regarded at one of The Fixx’s best albums overall. Originally issued on CD in tandem with the vinyl and cassette editions in 1984, the title goes out of print in that format later in the decade. It is remastered and reissued in 2001 by reissue label One Way Records, with three additional bonus tracks including the extended versions of “Less Cities”, “I Will” (issued in the UK only) and a live version of “Sunshine In The Shade”. The bonus tracks had all been previously issued on promo vinyl and mark their debuts on CD. “Phantoms” peaks at number nineteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 5, 1983 – “Punch The Clock”, the seventh album by Elvis Costello & The Attractions is released. Produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley. it is recorded at AIR Studios in London from January – April 1983. Following the critically acclaimed and musically eclectic “Imperial Bedroom”, Elvis Costello will go back to a more straight ahead pop music sound, working with producers Langer and Winstanley (Madness, Dexys Midnight Runners). The album also features additional backing from the TKO Horns and background vocal duo Afrodiziak (featuring Caron Wheeler and Claudia Fontaine), spinning off three singles including Costello’s first US Top 40 hit, “Everyday I Write The Book” (#36 Pop). The album is first remastered and reissued in 1995 on Rykodisc Records, augmenting the thirteen song album with seven bonus tracks. It is reissued again in 2003 as a double CD edition with the bonus tracks from the 1995 version, with the second disc containing twenty six additional tracks, featuring song demos and live recordings made after the album was originally released. In 2013, audiophile label Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissues the album on 180 gram vinyl. “Punch The Clock” peaks at number twenty four on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: August 3, 1985 – “Shout” by Tears For Fears hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on August 24, 1985. Written by Roland Orzabal and Ian Stanley, it is the second consecutive chart topping single for the British pop/rock duo from Bath, Somerset, UK. The song as well as the albums title is inspired by the TV miniseries “Sybil” which Roland Orzabal sees during the initial writing for the album. Orzabal plays a rough, partially completed version of the song to producer Chris Hughes and the bands’ keyboardist Ian Stanley who are convinced early on of the songs hit potential, while Orzabal thinks of it as being nothing more than an album track. Once they begin work on “Shout” in the studio, the band spends the better part of two months, recording and overdubbing until they feel it is perfect. Released in UK first in November of 1984 in advance of the album, the single peak at #4 on the UK singles chart. Released in the US in June 1985, it quickly follows their first chart topper “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” up the charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #66 on June 15, 1985, it leaps to the top of the chart seven weeks later. An extended dance mix of “Shout” is remixed for release in the US by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero (the original UK mix is regulated to the B-side of the 12" single) is also a major hit on US dance floors, topping the club play and 12" sales charts. Initially, the US 12" release was to be issued with the acapella vocal of the track along with a dub remix on the B-side. This version issued as a promotional only 12", and is nixed for commercial release. “Shout” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 3, 1979 – “Fear Of Music”, the third album by Talking Heads is released. Produced by Talking Heads and Brian Eno, it is recorded at Chris and Tina’s Loft, The Hit Factory, and Atlantic Studios in New York City from April – May 1979. Recorded in just three weeks, mostly in Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s New York City loft, with The Record Plant’s mobile recording truck, they expand on the sound of their previous album “More Songs About Buildings And Food”, incorporating more dance oriented rhythms along with David Byrne’s eclectic lyrics and vocals featured front and center. The album’s cover art features a matte black cover with a metal diamond plate floor pattern embossed on the front and back with the band name and title printed in green ink. The initial idea was to make the LP jacket out of a plastic material, but when that proves to be too expensive, the artwork is printed on regular cardboard paper stock. It spin off two singles including “Life During Wartime” (#80 Pop) and “I Zimbra”. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2006 as a hybrid DualDisc featuring four additional bonus tracks. The DVD side features the album remixed into 5.1 surround sound, and also contains the videos for “Cities” and “I Zimbra”. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2013. The same year, a limited pressing on marbled green vinyl (500 copies only) sold exclusively through Boston based record store Newbury Comics. “Fear Of Music” peaks at number twenty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 1, 1981 – At 12:01 am, MTV, the world’s first 24 hour cable music network is launched. A joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express (i.e. Warner-Amex Cable, later Viacom, Inc.), the cable television channel originally shows music videos and concerts during its round the clock broadcasts (VJ segments are pre-taped). The concept for the channel is created by Bob Pittman, who later becomes president and CEO of MTV Networks. The original MTV VJ’s are J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, and Martha Quinn (Jackson, Hunter, and Blackwood leave in 1986, Goodman in 1987 and Quinn in 1991). The first music video aired on the channel is the clip for The Buggles’ 1979 single “Video Killed The Radio Star”, making a symbolic and prophetic statement on how the visual aspect of music will impact it in the future. The network revolutionizes the way music is marketed and promoted to a mass audience, forever changing the music industry. In the months and years that follow, MTV spawns numerous competitors and imitators including Video Jukebox, Night Tracks (on SuperStation WTBS out of Atlanta), Friday Night Videos (on NBC), ABC Rocks, Cable Music Channel, and D-TV (on the Disney Channel). Later in the decade and the early 90’s, the channel breaks new ground with the introduction of shows like “Yo! MTV Raps”, “Headbanger’s Ball”, “120 Minutes” and “MTV Unplugged”, impacting the rise of Hip Hop, Metal and Alternative Rock into mainstream popularity. By the mid 90’s, with the shifting tides in musical tastes and trends, MTV begins to significantly reduce the number of hours per day that music videos are played, in favor of other programming created for the channel including reality shows like “The Real World”, “The Osbournes, "Jersey Shore” and various game shows, comedy programs and animated programs. Happy 38th Anniversary, MTV!!!