Category: rock

Behind The Grooves:

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Kiss cover shoot in New York City for their album Dressed to Kill (1975) in 1974.

Photos by Bob Gruen

On this day in music history: December 9, 1989 – “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Billy Joel, it is the third chart topping single for the singer, songwriter and musician from Hicksville, Long Island, NY. Having just turned forty years old in May 1989, Billy Joel is inspired to write “We Didn’t Start The Fire” after a conversation he has with a young man in his twenties.  When they begin talking about past world events and people, the young man comments to Joel, You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties". To that statement Billy replies, “wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?”. Beginning with the year of his birth, 1949, Joel looks up and writes down information on significant historic figures and pop cultural events chronologically leading up to the then present time (1989), then crafting them into structured lyrics. Working with Mick Jones of the band Foreigner as his co-producer, is instrumental in changing the arrangement of the song as how it had been written, to giving it a more driving “rock & roll” attitude. Released as the first single from his eleventh studio album “Storm Front” on September 27, 1989, it is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on October 14, 1989, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single receives a Grammy nomination for Record Of The Year in 1990. “Fire” also is the subject of numerous song parodies by comedians and other musicians. “We Didn’t Start The Fire” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 9, 1974 – “Dark Horse”, the sixth album by George Harrison is released. Produced by George Harrison, it is recorded at Friar Park Studios (FPSHOT) in Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, UK and A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from September 1973, April – July 1974, September – October 1974. Harrison’s third post Beatles album is recorded at a particularly turbulent period which sees him struggling in many aspects in his personal life. To complicate matters further, Harrison is suffering from laryngitis during the recording sessions, but must complete the album in time to begin a tour that he is already committed to perform. The project features a number of guest musicians including Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins, Jim Keltner, Ringo Starr, Tom Scott, Gary Wright, Willie Weeks, and Ron Wood. Critics dub the album “Dark Hoarse” due to Harrison’s vocals, but in spite of this it performs well commercially, spinning off two singles including the title track (#15 Pop) and “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” (#36 Pop). The latter song is inspired by engravings on the grounds of Harrison’s sprawling estate Friar Park, written by its former owner Sir Frank Crisp. A promotional video for the song is filmed at Friar Park, with George donning his famous collarless Beatles suit and Sgt. Pepper uniform. Inspired by Phil Spector’s “Wall Of Sound”, the song written as a “New Year’s Eve sing-a-long”, but becomes associated with the Christmas holiday over the years. The album is remastered and reissued in September of 2014 with the non LP B-side “I Don’t Care Anymore” (flip side of “Dark Horse”) and an early outtake of the title track added as bonus tracks. It is also remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP, as a stand alone release and as part of the box set “George Harrison – The Vinyl Collection” in 2017. “Dark Horse” peaks at number four 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: December 9, 1972 – “Hot August Night”, the tenth album by Neil Diamond is released. Produced by Tom Catalano, it is recorded at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA on August 24, 1972. It is Diamond’s second live album, the twenty two track double LP set is taken from a single performance recorded on August 24, 1972 at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA, in the middle of a run of ten sold out shows at the famed outdoor venue. It is a huge critical and commercial success for Diamond, and establishes his reputation for dynamic live performances captured on the album. It also is his final release for MCA Records before signing a lucrative and long term contract with Columbia Records. The album spins off three sequels released in 1977 (“Love At The Greek”), 1987 (“Hot August Night II”) and 2009 (“Hot August Night/NYC”). The album is remastered and reissued as a two CD set in 2000, and again in 2012 for its fortieth anniversary with additional tracks that were cut due to the time constraints of vinyl. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, the original version is reissued by UMe in 2012, and reissued again in 2017. “Hot August Night” peaks at number five 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: December 9, 1966 – “A Quick One”, the second album by The Who is released (US release is in May 1967 under the title “Happy Jack”). Produced by Kit Lambert, it is recorded at IBC Studios and Pye Studios in London from September – November 1966. Issued one year and one week after their debut release “My Generation”, The Who’s second full length is an important turning point in the band’s career, as it marks Pete Townshend’s first foray into composing a “rock opera” in the form of the title track. The nine minute long suite of songs at the end of the album’s second side tells a story about a wife’s infidelity while her husband is away. “A Quick One While He’s Away” is also semi autobiographical, as it is the first time that Pete Townshend writes about the periods of separation from his parents as a young boy (in the opening movement “Her Man’s Been Gone”), living with his maternal grandmother, and the sexual abuse he suffers at the hands of one of her male friends (“Ivor The Engine Driver”). The mini opera is the genesis for Townshend’s later works “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”. The other three members of the band also contribute songs to the album including John Entwistle’s “Boris The Spider”. The band’s US label Decca Records retitles the album “Happy Jack”, after their then current single (#24 Pop) which is added to the track listing. The cover artwork is illustrated by British pop artist Alan Aldridge (The Beatles, Elton John). Released on CD in 1988 with its original mono mix, the US CD release is issued in stereo with five tracks in re-channeled stereo. It is remastered and reissued in 2005, with some tracks newly remixed into stereo. The track “Whiskey Man” is still in fake stereo with the majority of the remaining tracks in mono. The mono version of the album is reissued as 150 and 200 gram vinyl pressings by Classic Records in 2005, with another reissue in 2015. “A Quick One/Happy Jack” peaks at number four on the UK album chart and number sixty seven on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: December 9, 1966 – “Fresh Cream”, the debut album by Cream is released. Produced by Robert Stigwood, it is recorded at Rayrik Studios and Ryemuse Studios in London from July – October 1966. The first release by the British rock super group is the first release on manager/producer Stigwood’s newly formed Reaction Records in the UK, and will be released by Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco in the US. Featuring a mixture of covers and original material, it includes some of the bands’ signature songs including their first single “I Feel Free” and the blues standards “I’m So Glad”, “Spoonful” and “Rollin’ And Tumblin’”. The US version of the album differs from its UK counterpart by deleting “Spoonful”, replacing it with “I Feel Free” and moving the latter to the start of the first side. When the album is reissued by RSO Records in 1977, it is restored to its original UK track listing. A later LP reissue in 1985 reinstates “I Feel Free” to the track listing, with all subsequent CD releases containing both songs. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the album’s original release, it is releases a three CD + Blu-ray audio disc box set in January of 2017. The first three CD’s feature remastered versions of the original mono and stereo mixes of the album, single versions, alternate takes, and BBC radio broadcast recordings. The Blu-ray disc features high definition audio (24 bit/96k) of the mono stereo mixes, B-sides. It is also issued as a limited edition six LP vinyl set. “Fresh Cream” peaks at number six on the UK album chart,  number thirty nine 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: December 9, 1964 – “All Day And All Of The Night” by The Kinks is released. Written by Ray Davies, it is the third single release for the rock band from London, UK. With the chart topping success of their breakthrough single “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks’ UK label Pye Records pressure them to follow it up with a similar sound-a-like. Feeling that they’re in no position to argue, they do just that. Bandleader Ray Davies takes the original riff from “You Really Got Me”, flips it over sideways, and creates another hard rocking power pop gem. The lyrics on the other hand, are something different. Titled “All Day And All Of The Night”, it borders on the songs’ male protagonist being completely obsessed (and borderline neurotic) over his girl, not wanting to be away from her for even a moment. The track matches the lyrics in intensity, powered by another crunchy main riff, played by guitarist Dave Davies. To achieve that signature guitar sound, Dave plays an Epiphone Casino through a pair of Peavey Mace amplifiers. Working again with producer Shel Talmy, “All Day” is recorded at Pye Studios (Studio No. 2) in London on September 23, 1964. Initially, Pye Records are not enamored of the song, rejecting it on the grounds of being “too blue-collar, too working-class”, and that the guitar riff sounded like “a dog’s bark”. In spite of this opinion, “All Day And All Of The Night” is  released in the UK exactly one month later on October 23, 1964. Any doubts about its hit potential are quickly squashed, when the single is an instant smash, peaking at #2 for two weeks on the UK singles chart behind The Supremes’ “Baby Love”. The Kinks’ american label follows suit immediately, releasing “All Day And All Of The Night” just two weeks after “You Really Got Me” peaks at #7 on the pop chart late November. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on December 26, 1964, it peaks at #7 six weeks later on February 6, 1965 (holding for three consecutive weeks), matching the chart position of its predecessor. Becoming one of The Kinks’ most popular and enduring songs, “All Day And All Of The Night” inspires other musicians as well. The Doors’ second number one single “Hello, I Love You” bares similarities to The Kinks’s song, to the point where the band’s song publisher wanted to sue The Doors. However, Ray Davies steadfastly refuses to take any legal action. Ironically, Davies borrows from himself again, when he recycles the riff of “All Day” in the song “Destroyer” in 1981. Acknowledged as a rock classic, “All Day And All Of The Night” has been covered many times over, including versions by Gary Lewis & The Playboys, The Remains, The Stranglers, and Quiet Riot.

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Pink Floyd photographed by Andrew Whittuck, 1967.