On this day in music history: November 14, 1983 – “Beauty Stab”, the second album by ABC is released. Produced by ABC and Gary Langan, it is recorded at Sarm East and West Studios, Townhouse Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London from August – September 1983. Having scored major commercial and critical success with their debut album “The Lexicon Of Love”, ABC find the task of following it up a greater challenge than they thought. The band also find themselves without the services of producer Trevor Horn, who is busy elsewhere working with Yes, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and his own side project The Art Of Noise. Instead, ABC work with recording engineer Gary Langan acting as co-producer on their sophomore effort. They also decide to go in a completely different musical direction, eschewing the lush blue eyed soul/new wave atmosphere of “Lexicon”. Many of the tracks on “Beauty Stab” are more stripped down and rock guitar based, recalling “Berlin Trilogy era” Bowie and even attempting to mimick Led Zeppelin. The band are accompanied in the studio by veteran session drummer Andy Newmark (John Lennon, Sly & The Family Stone), saxophonist Howie Casey (Wings) and bassist Alan Spenner (Roxy Music, Joe Cocker, Spooky Tooth). The first taste of ABC’s dramatically revamped sound comes in the form of the first single “That Was Then, But This Is Now” (#18 UK, #89 US Pop), released just ahead of the album in October of 1983. The tepid response the single receives from the public pales in comparison to the full album, released just a few weeks later. Critics and many fans are taken aback by the dramatic change, and are brutally savage in their assessment, literally referring to ABC as having committed “career suicide” and recording one of “the great career-sabotage LPs in pop history”. Though it manages to reach Gold status in the UK, and cracks the Top 20 (#12 UK) on the album chart, it fares far worse in the US. It receives even more negative reviews, and is resoundingly ignored by radio. It spins off one more single in the UK with “S.O.S.” (#39 UK), which ABC’s US label Mercury Records, (deciding to cut their losses) does not release but is issued in Canada. The fall out from the album’s failure results in founding member Stephen Singleton leaving ABC, later followed by David Palmer. In spite of the poor performance of “Beauty Stab”, the band survives with Martin Fry and Mark White continuing on, and rebounding with the follow ups “How To Be A… Zillionaire!” and “Alphabet City”. Out of print in any form for many years, ABC’s sophomore album is remastered and reissued CD in 1997 (with the non-LP B-side “Vertigo” added), and again in 2005 with three additional bonus tracks. “Beauty Stab” peaks at number sixty nine on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 14, 1978 – “Jazz”, the seventh studio album by Queen is released (UK release date is on November 10, 1978). Produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and Super Bear Studios, Berre-les-Alpes, France from July – October 1978. Looking for a change of scenery after recording almost exclusively in the UK since the beginning of their career, Queen purchase Mountain Studios in Montreux. Musically, Queen branches out further, experimenting with various styles. Those changes are immediately apparent in the double A-sided single “Bicycle Race” and “Fat Bottomed Girls” (#24 Pop). The former written by Freddie Mercury is inspired while watching the Tour De France on TV. The song features multiple key modulations, shifting its time signature back and forth from 4/4 to 6/8 time. The latter song written by Brian May features co-lead vocals by him and Mercury, and is played with the guitar and bass tuned to drop-D tuning. The band film promo clips for both. The one for “Bicycle” features staged race with sixty five nude women riding bicycles around the track at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in London. The clip is banned from broadcast in many countries, or significantly edited in those that do show it. The single picture sleeve features a photo of one of the nude bicyclists. A pair of red bikini bottoms are painted on to the woman’s behind to avoid censure. In all, it spins off three singles (four in Europe) including “Don’t Stop Me Now” (#86 Pop) and “Jealousy”. Prior to its release, Queen stages a launch party for “Jazz” in New Orleans on Halloween night of 1978. The party takes place at the Fairmont Hotel, and is attended by more than 400 guests. Estimated to have cost between $200-300K, the decadent soiree features lavish spreads of food and free flowing alcohol. The entertainment includes fire eaters, strippers dressed like nuns, snake charmers, transvestites and dancing girls. One of the most talked about parts of the evening involves a woman performing an X-rated party trick. It goes down in history as one of the most notorious events in rock & roll. Though once released, “Jazz” garners largely mixed reviews, receiving fairly negative jibes from American critics. The album comes packaged with a poster featuring a still shot from the naked bicycle race. In the US, LP’s come with a coupon allowing fans to send in for the poster for free, when Elektra fears that some retailers will refuse to stock the album if the poster is contained inside. Reissued numerous times since the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2011 with five additional bonus tracks, correcting the tape glitch at the beginning of “Fat Bottomed Girls” that had appeared on previous CD releases. It is also issued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015. The LP is also pressed on pink vinyl, as part of the box set “Queen – Studio Collection” also in 2015. “Jazz” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 13, 2000 – “1” (aka “The Beatles 1”) by The Beatles is released. Compiled by George Harrison, George Martin, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, it is recorded at Abbey Road Studios, Trident Studios, Olympic Studios in London and EMI Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris, France from September 11, 1962 – April 1, 1970. The twenty seven track compilation features remastered versions of all of the bands’ number one singles released in the UK and the US between 1962 and 1970. The success of the album is both unexpected and unprecedented with it topping the charts in thirty five countries and selling over thirty million copies worldwide. By 2012, “1” has shipped over twelve million copies in the US alone, making it the fifth best selling album of the Soundscan Era (1991 – present) and is the biggest selling album of the 21st century (thus far). The set is remastered and reissued in 2011 (using the 2009 remasters of the songs) after complaints from fans over the use of noise reduction and heavy digital limiting used on the original 2000 release. In November of 2015, a video compilation also titled “Beatles 1” is released, featuring promotional clips for all twenty seven songs included on the original CD compilation. The set is released on DVD and Blu-Ray disc, also configured as double DVD/CD or double Blu-Ray/CD editions (titled “The Beatles 1 +”) featuring an annotated book on the production of all of the clips. The audio for the CD DVD/Blu-Ray sets also feature new stereo and 5.1 surround remixes (with the latter in both Dolby Digital and DTS-HD). “1” spends nine weeks at number one on the UK album chart, eight weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 11x Platinum in the US by the RIAA receiving a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: November 13, 1976 – “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 8 weeks. Written by Rod Stewart, it is the second US chart topper for the British rock vocalist. The inspiration for the song comes from America’s
“Today’s The Day” (included on their sixth album “Hideaway”). Stewart is over at the home studio of America band member Dan Peek when he hears their song. Rod then tells Peek that it has given him an idea for song of his own. Produced by Tom Dowd (Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Allman Brothers), the single is recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and Criteria Studios in Miami, FL. The track also features a vocal cameo by his then girlfriend, actress Britt Ekland speaking in French. “Tonight’s The Night” is the first single released from Stewart’s seventh studio album, “A Night On The Town” in September of 1976. Some radio programmers initially ban the record from airplay when the lyric “spread your wings and let me come inside” is deemed too sexually explicit, but listener demand forces it on to the airwaves. Entering the Hot 100 at #81 on October 2, 1976, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. The song is ranked the top single of 1976 by Billboard Magazine. “Tonight’s The Night” is covered by numerous artists over the years, including versions by Linda Clifford, Betty Wright, and Janet Jackson. “Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 13, 1971 – “Santana” (aka “Santana III”), the third album by Santana hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 5 weeks. Produced by Santana, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in San Francisco, CA from January – July 1971. Following the release of the highly successful and acclaimed “Abraxas”, the third album by the San Francisco, CA rock band is technically released without a title but is referred to by fans as “Santana III”. It is the last to feature the “Woodstock Era” line up, as Gregg Rolie and Neil Schon depart to form Journey. It spins off the singles “Everybody’s Everything” (#12 Pop) and “No One To Depend On” (#36 Pop). “Santana III” is the bands’ last chart topping album until “Supernatural” in 1999. It earns Santana a place in the Guinness World Book Of Records for the longest gap between number one albums, over twenty eight years. In 2006, the album is remastered and reissued on CD as a double CD Legacy Edition with four additional bonus tracks on the first disc. The second disc consists of live recordings taken from a concert at the Fillmore West Auditorium in San Francisco on July 4, 1971 on the closing night of the original venue. Two track from this set had been previously issued on the triple LP (+ 7" interview disc) live album “Fillmore: The Last Days” in June of 1972. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is remastered and reissued by Music On Vinyl in 2010. The 2 LP set features four bonus tracks on the second disc. It is also remastered and reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2013 (original nine track album only), as part of their Silver Label Vinyl reissue series. “Santana III” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1988 – “Wild, Wild West” by The Escape Club hits # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Trevor Steel, John Holliday, Johnnie Christo and Milan Zekavika, it is the biggest hit for the British quartet fronted by lead singer Trevor Steel. It is the first single from the bands’ second album (also titled “Wild, Wild West”), having previously recorded and released an unsuccessful album for EMI Records in 1987. The band meet producer Chris Kimsey, (best known for his engineering and co-production work with The Rolling Stones) while still signed to EMI. They play the song for execs at the label who feel it isn’t a hit. The band leave EMI and are quickly signed by Atlantic Records in the US. Once the single is released in July of 1988, it does not take long for its impact to be felt. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on August 20, 1988, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. The video for “Wild, Wild West” receives heavy airplay in the US, particularly from MTV. It is banned in the UK on the grounds that it is “sexist and offensive”. “Wild, Wild West” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1984 – “Arena”, the fourth album by Duran Duran is released. Produced by Duran Duran and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA, The Forum in Los Angeles, CA, Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Canada and Wembley Arena in London from December 1983 – April 1984 (live tracks) and Maison Rouge Studios in London in July 1984 (studio track only). Recorded live during the bands’ “Sing Blue Silver” World Tour, the ten track album also includes the newly recorded studio track “The Wild Boys” (#2 Pop for 4 weeks) produced by Nile Rodgers. The video for the single is an elaborate short film directed by Russell Mulcahy based on the William Burroughs novel “The Wild Boys: A Book Of The Dead”. The clip is shot on the 007 Sound stage at Pinewood Studios in London at a cost of over one million dollars, making it one of the most expensive music videos made to that date. That track is followed by “Save A Prayer” (#12 Pop) in January of 1985. Though the live version is featured on the single release, it regulated to the B-side, with an edit of the original studio version from “Rio” garnering airplay instead from radio. The original LP is packaged in a gatefold sleeve (designed by Assorted Images) with a bonus photo booklet of the band in live performance. Duran Duran also releases a feature length documentary in December of 1984 titled “Sing Blue Silver”, featuring live and behind the scenes footage of the tour, and the live concert film “Arena (An Absurd Notion)” in March of 1985. Both are later reissued together on DVD in 2004 by EMI Home Video. The album is remastered and reissued in 2004 with two additional bonus tracks left off of the original release. “Arena” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1976 – “Hejira”, the eighth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from May – September 1976. Following the release of her previous album “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns”, Joni Mitchell hits the road as part of Bob Dylan’s legendary “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour in late 1975. Shortly after, she embarks on her own tour in support of the “Lawns” album in early 1976, but is aborted only after six weeks when she and drummer John Guerin break up. Having had an on and off again relationship nearly three years, Mitchell breaks off her relationship with Guerin when she discovers that he is cheating on her. Seeking a diversion from the split and looking to stoke her creative energy, Joni drives across the United States from Maine to California with two traveling companions. Writing new songs all along the way, Mitchell’s vivid lyrical imagery as well as her unique and distinctive musical sensibilities permeate the new compositions. Once back in Los Angeles, she begins recording the songs with her long time engineer Henry Lewy. Having experimented with jazz textures since the recording of “Court And Spark”, the sessions feature Larry Carlton (guitar), Victor Feldman (vibraphone), Tom Scott (saxophone) and Bobbye Hall (percussion). Having grown tired of conventional bass guitar patterns in pop music, which Joni refers to as “putting a dark fence through my music”, she looks to find a bassist is freer in their playing and doesn’t always rely on “playing the root of a chord”. Around this time she is introduced to bassist Jaco Pastorius. Having just become a member of the innovative jazz-fusion band Weather Report, Joni and Jaco form an instant musical bond, and he is invited to play on four songs during the sessions. Jaco’s fluid and melodic playing, played on a war weary fretless 60’s Fender Jazz Bass, nicknamed “The Bass Of Doom” provides the perfect counterpoint and compliment to Mitchell’s songs. The title “Hejira” is taken from the Arabic word “hijra” which means “journey”, also making reference to the prophet Muhummad’s sojourn from Mecca to Medina in 622, as well as Mitchell’s cross country trip while writing the songs. The resulting album includes “Amelia”, “Black Crow”, “Furry Sings The Blues”, “Coyote” and “Song For Sharon”. In time, it is viewed as one of the best albums of her career. The cover and inner sleeve photos are taken by frequent collaborator photographer Norman Seeff. First released on CD in the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 1997 with HDCD encoding, also restoring the original cover artwork. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2014. “Hejira” peaks at number thirteen on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1974 – “Sheer Heart Attack”, the third album by Queen is released (UK release is on November 1, 1974). Produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at AIR Studios, Trident Studios and Wessex Studios in London and Rockfield Studios in Rockfield, Monmouthshire, Wales, UK from July – September 1974. While touring in support of their second album “Queen II”, the band are forced to abort the tour in May of 1974, when guitarist Brian May falls ill with a bout of hepatitis. Returning home to the UK, the rest of the band use the down time to begin working on material for their next album while May recovers. He re-joins is band mates midway through work on what becomes “Sheer Heart Attack” during the Summer of 1974. The British rock bands’ third release is the one that launches them into the mainstream both in the UK and internationally. Anchored by the single “Killer Queen” (#2 UK, #12 US Pop), it establishes Queen’s trademark sound, moving away from the more progressive rock sound of their first two releases. It also yields the classics “Stone Cold Crazy” and “Now I’m Here”, which both become staples of Queen’s live performances. Most ironically, the title track “Sheer Heart Attack does not appear on the album. It’s left off due to it being an incomplete demo written and sung by Roger Taylor. It does not surface until three years later, when it is included on “News Of The World” in late 1977. That version features Freddie Mercury on lead vocals, rather than Taylor. The album is most recently remastered on CD in 2011, with a 180 gram vinyl LP released in September of 2015. The vinyl edition is also remastered and pressed on red vinyl, as part of the box set “Queen – Studio Albums Collection”. “Sheer Heart Attack” peaks at number two on the UK album chart, number twelve on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1971 – “Nilsson Schmilsson”, the seventh album by Nilsson is released. Produced by Richard Perry, it is recorded at Trident Studios in London in June 1971. Releasing six albums in five years, and known his highly creative drive and often mercurial nature, Harry Nilsson shifts musical directions repeatedly. Working previously with RCA staff producer Rick Jarrard, Nilsson parts ways with him to produce himself. After recording an album of covers by then still largely unknown songwriter Randy Newman, and the soundtrack to the wonderfully wry and surreal children’s animated film “The Point!”, Harry decides to work with another producer. Prior to working with artists as diverse as Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, Ringo Starr, Leo Sayer and The Pointer Sisters, Richard Perry was known for producing Captain Beefheart and Tiny Tim. For Harry’s album, the pair travel to England in mid 1971 to record. Perry surrounds Nilsson with a group of top musicians which include Klaus Voorman, Herbie Flowers (bass), Jim Gordon, Jim Keltner, Roger Pope (drums), Chris Spedding, John Uribe, Caleb Quaye (guitar), Gary Wright, Jimmy Webb (keyboards), and Bobby Keys (saxophone). Consisting mostly of original songs, he also covers “Let The Good Times Roll”, multi-tracking a chorus of his own voice and Louis Jordan’s “Early In The Morning”. The third, a cover of Badfinger’s “Without You” (#1 Pop) buoyed a sweeping arrangement and Nilsson’s soaring tenor voice, becomes a centerpiece of the album. It is contrasted by the gritty and hard rocking “Jump Into The Fire” (#29 Pop) and the light hearted and humorous “Coconut” (#8 Pop). The album’s now instantly recognizable cover photo is taken by Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean. Torrence’s company Kittyhawk Graphics is hired to create the artwork for Nilsson’s album. He goes to Harry’s home in L.A., and is greeted by the singer in his bathrobe in the middle of the afternoon. Deciding to forego a formal photo session, Dean photographs Harry standing in his kitchen in his robe, holding a hash pipe. Original copies of the LP come packaged with a 12" x 24" poster. “Schmilsson” quickly becomes the most successful album of Nilsson’s career. It is nominated for four Grammy Awards including Record and Album Of The Year. Nilsson wins his second Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Without You” in 1973. Reissued many times since first appearing on CD in the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2013 as part of the “RCA Albums Collection”. It is most recently reissued on vinyl in 2017, on standard black vinyl, and a limited edition pressing on split yellow and white vinyl, with the latter including a reproduction of the poster. “Nilsson Schmilsson” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.