On this day in music history: September 25, 1981 – “Mama Used To Say” by Junior is released (US release is on December 11, 1981). Written by Norman “Junior” Giscombe and Bob Carter, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the R&B singer and songwriter from London, UK. The son of Jamaican parents, Norman Washington Giscombe is born in Wandsworth, London in 1957. Nicknamed “Junior”, Giscombe displays singing and performing talent from an early age, and is encouraged by his parents to pursue his interest in music. Singing in various bands beginning in his teens, he receives his first major break in the music business when he is hired as a background vocalist for the UK R&B band Linx (“You’re Lying”, “Intuition”) in 1980. Also harboring an ambition to establish himself as a solo act, Junior begins writing songs with keyboardist Bob Carter. The songs lead to him signing a contract with Mercury/Phonogram Records in the UK in 1981. Among the material the duo come up with includes the infectious and funky “Mama Used To Say”. Recorded at Scorpio and Good Earth Studios in London in mid 1981, the track features Carter on keyboards and backing vocals along with Linx drummer Andy Duncan, Keith Wilkinson (later of Squeeze) (bass), A.T. Wilmhurst (guitars), Chris Hunter (saxophones) and Guy Barker (trumpet, flugelhorn). Issued as a single in the UK in the Fall of 1981, initially “Mama Used To Say” falls flat and does not chart. Though the US branch of Mercury Records sees the songs’ hit potential, hiring legendary American club DJ Tee Scott (Better Days) to remix the song. Issued in the US in December of 1981, it quickly leaps off of club dance floors on to R&B radio. Entering the Billboard R&B singles chart at #86 on January 16, 1982, it races up the chart, spending two weeks at #2 beginning on April 17, 1982 behind Stevie Wonder’s smash “That Girl”. The single also peaks at #4 on the Billboard Club Play chart, crossing over on the Hot 100, peaking at #30 on April 24, 1982. Off the back of its US chart success, Mercury/Phonogram reissues “Mama Used To Say” with the edited version of Tee Scott’s remix, and it shoots to #7 on the UK singles chart on May 30, 1982. The single also puts Junior’s debut album “Ji” on the R&B and pop album charts (#15 R&B, #71 Pop). Scoring another hit with the follow up “Too Late” (#8 R&B, #20 UK), Junior’s time in the spotlight is relatively brief in the US, though he continues to have chart hits in his home country through the rest of the 80’s. Acknowledged as an R&B and club classic, “Mama Used To Say” has been sampled numerous times and interpolated into R&B and Hip Hop songs. Artists sampling or borrowing hooks from the song include Warren G., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Positive K., Heavy D. & The Boyz, Shinehead, The Jungle Brothers and Double Dee & Steinski among them.
On this day in music history: September 25, 1980 – “Triumph”, the thirteenth album by The Jacksons is released. Produced by The Jacksons, it is recorded at Capitol Studios, Hollywood Sound, Davlen Sound, Devonshire Sound, Westlake Audio in Hollywood, CA and Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA from June 1979 – June 1980. Even before the release of his landmark album “Off The Wall”, Michael Jackson reunites with his brothers in the Summer of 1979 to begin work on the follow up to the Platinum selling “Destiny”. With the huge success of that album, the group take full creative control of the new project (the previous album was supervised by former Blood, Sweat & Tears drummer Bobby Colomby and Mike Atkinson, listed as executive producers), handling the production chores and writing all nine of the new album’s songs themselves. The group are supported by a team of top notch studio musicians, many of whom have played on the previous album including Michael Sembello, David Williams, Phil Upchurch, Paul Jackson, Jr. (guitars), Nathan Watts, Mike McKinney (bass), Ollie E. Brown (drums), Paulinho DaCosta (percussion) and The Seawind Horns (Jerry Hey, Kim Hutchcroft, Bill Reichenbach, and Larry Hall). It is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, and is regarded as one of The Jacksons’ best efforts. It spins off four singles including “Lovely One” (#2 R&B, #12 Pop, #1 Club Play), “Heartbreak Hotel” (later re-titled “This Place Hotel” on later pressings) (#2 R&B, #22 Pop), “Can You Feel It” (#30 R&B, #77 Pop, #1 Club Play), and “Walk Right Now” (#50 R&B, #73 Pop, #5 Club Play). The Jacksons also supports the album with an extensive tour in 1981 that is recorded for the double live album “Jacksons Live!”, released in November of 1981. “Triumph” is remastered and reissued on CD in November of 2008 (exclusively through Circuit City, before going into wide release in February of 2009) with three bonus tracks. “Triumph” spends two weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart (becoming their first chart topping album since “Maybe Tomorrow” in 1971), peaking at number ten on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1983 – “In A Special Way”, the third album by DeBarge is released. Produced by El DeBarge, it is recorded at Kendun Recorders in Burbank, CA and Westlake Audio in West Hollywood, CA from Late 1982 – Mid 1983. Buoyed by the success of their sophomore release “All This Love”, the family vocal group from Grand Rapids, MI are granted more creative freedom in the studio. Only twenty one years old at start of recording, lead singer El DeBarge oversees the sessions as the sole producer and bandleader, with brothers James and Mark and sister Bunny all writing songs that are included on the completed album. Aided by a group of seasoned studio veterans including Greg Phillinganes (keyboards), Harvey Mason, Ricky Lawson, Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums) “Ready” Freddie Washington, James Jamerson, Jr., Nathan East (bass), Charles Fearing, Paul Jackson, Jr., Carlos Rios (guitars), and Paulinho DaCosta (percussion), the sessions are highly productive. Motown label mate Stevie Wonder (harmonica) also makes a guest appearance on the title track. The finished album is an artistic triumph and is widely regarded as the group’s best. It spins off two singles including “Time Will Reveal” (#1 R&B, #18 Pop) and “Love Me In A Special Way” (#11 R&B, #45 Pop). The album receives further belated attention more than a decade after its release when the album tracks “Stay With Me” and “A Dream” are widely sampled and interpolated by numerous Hip Hop and R&B artists during the 90’s including The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Ashanti. Originally released on CD in the early 90’s, it is remastered and reissued as part of the compilation package “Time Will Reveal: The Complete Motown Albums” in 2011. “In A Special Way” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart, also peaking at number thirty six on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1982 – “1999” by Prince is released. Written and produced by Prince, it is the eleventh single release for the singer, songwriter, musician and producer from Minneapolis, MN. Written about “a party at the end of world”, the lyrics touch on widespread fears of the escalation of “The Cold War”, and the impending threat of global thermal nuclear war between the United States and the then Soviet Union (Russia). The song’s message encourages listeners to enjoy the time we do have, best expressed in the lyric “life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last”. The somewhat dark undercurrent present in the lyrics are masked by the exuberant, funky track, with its point being missed by many who only viewed it as a party song. One of the last songs recorded for the album, the basic tracks are recorded at Prince’s home studio on Kiowa Trail (“The Purple House”) in Chanhassen, MN in late July/early August of 1982. The song features Prince sharing lead vocals with band members Lisa Coleman, Jill Jones, and Dez Dickerson. Initially, he had planned for everyone to sing the entire song in unison, but during mixing of the single he hits upon the idea of having them sing lines on their own then all together on the chorus. The songs music video is directed by Bruce Gowers (Queen, Michael Jackson), and is shot at the Minneapolis Armory (with the full stage set up) during rehearsals for the “Triple Threat Tour”. It is one of three promotional clips filmed that week along with “Automatic” and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”. The single is backed with the non album B-side “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore”. Featuring Prince singing lead and background vocals to his own piano accompaniment, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA on April 26, 1982. “How Come” is included on the compilation “The Hits/B-sides” in 1993, and on the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film “Girl 6” in 1996. “1999” peaks at #4 on the Billboard R&B singles chart in December of 1982 also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on December 4, 1982, and initially peaking at number #44 on the Hot 100. After the top ten chart success of “Little Red Corvette”, Warner Bros re-promotes “1999” at US top 40 pop radio in the late Spring of 1983. It re-enters the Hot 100, and peak at #12 on July 23, 1983. Prince re-records “1999” in late 1998, releasing it on his NPG Records imprint (as a seven track EP) after Warner Bros reissues the original version. The original re-charts again, peaking at #40 on the Hot 100 on January 16, 1999, with the remake peaking at #58 on the R&B album chart, and #150 on the Top 200 on February 20, 1999.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1977 – “Keep It Comin’ Love” by KC & The Sunshine Band hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on October 1, 1977. Written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the R&B Disco/Funk band from Hialeah, FL. With the back to back chart topping singles “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s The Way (I Like It)” under their belts, KC & The Sunshine band continue their hit streak into 1976 when they release their fourth studio album titled “Part 3”. The lead single “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” released ahead of the album in May quickly become the bands third number one pop and R&B hit. Two more singles “I Like To Do It” (#4 R&B, #37 Pop) and their fourth chart topper “I’m Your Boogie Man” (#1 Pop & R&B) follow. Employing a similar writing technique used on “That’s The Way (I Like It)”, KC and bassist Richard Finch use the title “keep it comin’ love” along with the refrain “don’t stop it now, don’t stop it no, don’t stop it now, don’t stop” as repetitive hooks to sear it in the listeners memory. The song is the final track on the album, directly segueing out of “I’m Your Boogie Man”. With many club DJ’s playing both cuts back to back, it is a natural for a future single release. After “Boogie Man” peaks, KC & The Sunshine Band’s label TK Records issues “Keep It Comin’ Love” nine months after the initial release of “Part 3” in July of 1977. It quickly follows its predecessor up the charts, becoming the bands fourth million selling single, with the album also crossing the million mark in sales. It stops short of the top on the Hot 100, holding at #2 for three weeks when it is unable to unseat either Meco’s “Star Wars/Cantina Band” and Debby’s Boone’s “You Light Up My Life”.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1966 – “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on October 1, 1966. Written by Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland, is the fourth R&B chart topper for the Motown vocal quintet. Written early on in his tenure as a staff songwriter and producer at Motown, Norman Whitfield collaborates with fellow songwriter Eddie Holland on “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”. The instrumental track is originally recorded on April 14, 1964 in Motown Studio A in Detroit, featuring The Funk Brothers providing instrumental support, specifically bassist James Jamerson and “Master Of The Shuffle”, drummer Richard “Pistol” Allen, and is arranged by Paul Riser. For unknown reasons, the track is shelved for over two years before The Temptations record their vocals. Other versions of the song are released by The Miracles and Jimmy Ruffin (the brother of Tempts lead vocalist David Ruffin) before The Temptations rendition. Billie Jean Brown, head of Motown’s Quality Control selects the song for single release, initially over the groups objections, who think it will not be a hit. Released on August 4, 1966, the group are quickly proven wrong as it races up the R&B and pop singles charts simultaneously, becoming the third of four number one R&B hits The Temptations score during 1966. “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1978 – “Got To Get You Into My Life” by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on September 16, 1978. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the fourth chart topping single for the legendary R&B/Funk band led by musician, singer, songwriter and producer Maurice White. In 1977, Earth, Wind & Fire are asked by film director Michael Schultz (“Car Wash”, “Which Way Is Up?”) and producer Robert Stigwood to be part of an ambitious musical film adaptation of The Beatles music. The film in question is “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, with the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton leading an all star cast of actors and musicians. After agreeing to record a song and appear in the film, Earth, Wind & Fire are given a choice of two songs. They choose “Got To Get You Into My Life”, from the 1966 album “Revolver”. The Beatles version is belatedly released as a single in 1976, ten years after “Revolver”, to promote the compilation album “Rock ‘N’ Roll Music”. It becomes a surprise hit, peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on July 24, 1976. Featuring one of the first uses of brass instruments on a Beatles record, the song is a natural for EWF to do, possessing one of the greatest horn sections around in The Phenix Horns (Don Myrick, Louis Sattterfield, Rahmlee Michael Davis, Michael Harris). Not content to do just a straight ahead cover version, bandleader Maurice White and the other members of Earth, Wind & Fire proceed to put their own distinctive and unique musical stamp on The Fab Four’s R&B flavored classic. Just as the band are completing work in their next studio album “All ‘N’ All”, “Got To Get You Into My Life” is recorded at Northstar Studios in Boulder, CO in October of 1977. Following the sessions to cut the song, the band film their performance for “Sgt. Pepper’s”, before embarking on another tour. Chosen as the first single from soundtrack album in July of 1978, it is an immediate smash. However, the film does not fare nearly as well, going down in history as an epic cinematic disaster. Though Earth, Wind & Fire emerge from the carnage completely unscathed, in fact receiving praise for their spirited appearance in the film. The success of EWF’s cover gives them their fourth R&B chart topper, helping the “Sgt. Pepper’s” soundtrack cross the 3x Platinum mark in the US. That album is ironically also regarded as a failure due to RSO Records pressing and shipping over eight million copies, two thirds of which are returned to distributor Polygram within weeks of its release. “Got To Get You Into My Life” is also included on “The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire Volume 1” in November of 1978, which to date has sold over six million copies in the US alone. “Got To Get You Into My Life” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 21, 1985 – “Oh Sheila” by Ready For The World hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 and Hot Dance Club Play charts for 1 week on October 12, 1985. Written by Melvin Riley, Jr., Gordon Strozier and Gerald Valentine, it is the biggest hit for the R&B/Funk band from Flint, MI. The band get their start in 1982 when they are discovered by local radio personality The Electrifying Mojo from WJLB in Detroit. The following year, they record and release their debut single “Tonight” on their own Blue Lake record label. The amount of local airplay it receives attracts the attention of MCA Records R&B executive Jheryl Busby, who quickly signs them and re-releases the song nationally. “Tonight” peaks at #6 on the R&B singles chart in early 1985. The follow up “Deep Inside Your Love” peaks in the same position a few months later. “Oh Sheila” is released as their third single from their self-titled debut album in July of 1985, quickly rising up the R&B charts and becoming a crossover smash. Many misconstrue the song as being about singer/musician Sheila E., as well as for its Prince influenced sound, but the band deny that it is true.
On this day in music history: September 21, 1982 – “Janet Jackson”, the debut album by Janet Jackson is released. Produced by Rene Moore, Angela Winbush, Bobby Watson, Foster Sylvers and Jerry Weaver, it is recorded at Allen Zentz Recording Studios, Media West Studios, Studiomasters in Los Angeles, CA, Davlen Sound Studios in North Hollywood, CA, Conway Studios, Larrabee Sound Studios, Spindletop Recording Studios and Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood, CA from May – August 1982. Janet Jackson begins her career in the entertainment business at seven years old, performing live with her superstar brothers The Jackson 5 during a residency at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Wowing audiences with impressions of screen icon Mae West and pop superstar Cher, she demonstrates a natural charisma and stage presence early on. However, her initial interest is to pursue acting and not to follow her brothers into the music business. Janet lands the role of Penny Gordon Woods on the hit sitcom “Good Times”, playing the character on the shows last two seasons. Then in 1980, she begins her recurring role as Charlene Duprey, the girlfriend of actor Todd Bridges’ character Willis on “Diff’rent Strokes”. During this time, Jackson’s father and manager Joe Jackson negotiates a deal for Janet to record an album for A&M Records. Initially reluctant to embark on a singing career, the then sixteen year old Janet dives in with both feet. For her initial solo release, she is paired with a group of talented songwriters and producers including Rene Moore and Angela Winbush (Rene & Angela), Rufus bassist (and Moore’s step-brother) Bobby Watson, Foster Sylvers and Jerry Weaver. Consisting of mostly uptempo dance oriented R&B/Pop, the album receives mixed reviews and only modest sales, barely hinting at the huge success Janet achieves with her third album “Control” just a few years later. It spins off three singles including “Young Love” (#6 R&B, #64 Pop), “Come Give Your Love To Me” (#17 R&B, 58 Pop) and “Say You Do” (#15 R&B). The albums striking front and back cover photos are taken by fashion photographer Harry Langdon (Diana Ross, Donna Summer). The photos taken in the swimming pool at Jackson’s family home in Encino, CA, are inspired by photos of a young Elizabeth Taylor submerged in a pool. Originally released on only vinyl LP and cassette, the CD release of album Jackson’s debut released in the early 90’s, features the longer 12" dance remix of “Say You Do”, instead of the original LP version. “Janet Jackson” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number sixty three on the Top 200.