On this day in music history: September 4, 1965 – “Help!” by The Beatles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the ninth chart topping single in the US for the legendary rock band from Liverpool, UK. The song is the theme for the bands second film and soundtrack of the same name. The song is primarily written by John, with the lyrics reveal his feelings of insecurity and depression in The Beatles rise to fame. The films working title is “Eight Arms To Hold You” but is changed after the song is recorded. The band record the track in the number two studio at Abbey Road Studios on April 13, 1965, completing it in twelve takes. The vocals are re-recorded at CTS Studios in London six weeks later on May 24, 1965. The new vocal overdubs are mixed down into mono and used for the films opening title sequence. With these overdubs existing only on this mix, results in noticeable differences in the mono single and stereo LP mixes of the song. The single release of “Help!” is issued with the non-LP B-side “I’m Down”. Written primarily by Paul McCartney, the uptempo rocker is recorded at Abbey Road Studios on June 14, 1965. “Down” is recorded during the same session as the ballads “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, standing in stark contrast to that raucous rave up. Though “I’m Down” does not chart on the US singles charts (oddly being one of the few Beatles B-sides that does not during this period), it is performed on The Beatles final Ed Sullivan Show appearance in September of 1965, and on their last two world tours in 1965 and 1966. Released on July 19, 1965 (UK release date is on July 23, 1965), it follows up the bands previous chart topper “Ticket To Ride”, also featured in the film. Entering the Hot 100 at #41 on August 7, 1965, it rockets to the top just four weeks later. “Help!” also receives a Grammy nomination in 1966 for Best Performance By Vocal Group. Infamously, The Beatles lose the award to the Anita Kerr Singers bland, middle of the road country pop album “We Dig Mancini”. Their win causes an uproar, due in part to Kerr being a charter member of the Grammy voting committee. It instigates a drive by NARAS to bring “younger and hipper” Grammy members into the voting pool to better reflect current tastes in popular music. In 2011, a replica of the original US 45 and picture sleeve is reissued in a limited edition box set (w/ a T-shirt), through the Target retail chain. “Help!” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 29, 1987 – “La Bamba” by Los Lobos hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Ritchie Valens, it is the biggest hit for the East Los Angeles, CA based band. Recorded as the theme song to the biopic of Mexican American rock & roll icon Ritchie Valens, the traditional Mexican folk song is based on the Son Jarocho style of music native to the state of Veracruz, and is often played at weddings. Valens rock & roll version (#22 Pop) is recorded in 1958 and is issued as the B-side of his biggest single “Donna” (#2 Pop). When Los Lobos records their version for the film (who also make a cameo appearance), they use Valens’ arrangement of the song, adding a reprise at the end of the traditional folk arrangement. Released six weeks ahead of the film in early June of 1987, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on June 27, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The accompanying soundtrack album also hits number one on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks (on September 12, 1987), and to date has been certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 28, 1984 – “The Woman In Red – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Stevie Wonder is released. Produced by Stevie Wonder, it is recorded at Wonderland Studios in Los Angeles, CA, Townhouse Studios and Roundhouse Studios in London, Marcadet Studios in Paris, France, Far Studios in Frankfurt, Germany, Union Studios in Munich, Germany, Jacob Studios in Surrey, UK, Brunwey Studios in Hamburg, Germany and Dierks Remote Truck in Pulheim, Germany from Early 1984 – Summer 1984. Featuring music from the comedy starring and directed by Gene Wilder (co-starring Kelly LeBrock, Charles Grodin and Gilda Radner), Wilder asks Wonder if he will write a few songs for his film. Stevie commits to the project, also inviting his friend Dionne Warwick to sing on three songs on the album. The musician works on the film music mostly in between dates on his European tour during the Spring and Summer of 1984. He works on the music right up until the last possible moment, nearly missing the deadline to submit the songs to the films distributor Orion Pictures, who have to hold up the manufacturing of film prints to movie theaters for its August 15, 1984 release date. The soundtrack spins off three singles including “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (#1 Pop and R&B) and “Love Light In Flight” (#4 R&B, #17 Pop). “I Just Called To Say I Love You” wins Wonder an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1985. The duets “It’s You” and “Weakness” featuring Warwick are also included on her album “Finder Of Lost Loves”, released in early 1985. “The Woman In Red” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number four on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1995 – “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 12 weeks on the same date. Written by Seal , it is the biggest hit for the British born Nigerian/Afro-Brazilian singer, songwriter and musician. Originally written for his second self-titled album released in 1994, “Kiss From A Rose” is almost left off of the album when Seal and his producer Trevor Horn feel initially that it sounds “too different” from the other songs on the album, planning to drop it from the final track sequence. A friend of Seal’s hears the song and insist that he include it. When a Warner Bros A&R exec hears “Kiss”, he plays it for Gary LeMel, the president of music for Warner Bros movie division. LeMel plays the song for Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher who loves the song and asks to use it in the film. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on June 24, 1995, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The song drives both Seal’s second self titled album and the “Batman Forever” soundtrack to multi-platinum status, as well as winning three Grammy Awards including Record and Song Of The Year for 1995. “Kiss From A Rose” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 26, 1978 – “Grease” by Frankie Valli hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #40 on the R&B singles chart on September 16, 1978. Written by Barry Gibb, it is the second solo chart topper for legendary lead vocalist of The Four Seasons born Francesco Castelluccio. Following the Bee Gees work on the soundtrack for “Saturday Night Fever” and as the group are wrapping up filming on the Robert Stigwood helmed “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, Barry Gibb is asked by Stigwood to write the theme song for film adaptation of the long running hit musical “Grease”. Gibb quickly writes the song on his own, cutting the track at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL in April of 1978. Guitarist Peter Frampton, Gibb’s co-star in “Sgt. Pepper” plays guitar on the track. Barry Gibb is also instrumental in bringing in Frankie Valli to sing the title song to the film. Released as the second single from the “Grease” soundtrack on May 6, 1978, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on May 27, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. “Grease” is Valli’s second solo number one (seventh overall) giving him a span of nearly sixteen years since his first number with The Four Seasons in 1962. The success of the song drives sales of the “Grease” soundtrack to over 8x Platinum in the US, and worldwide sales of over twenty eight million copies. At the time of its domination of the charts, it is the second largest selling soundtrack album of all time after “Saturday Night Fever” (eventually displaced to second and third place by “The Bodyguard” Soundtrack). “Grease” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 24, 1985 – “Power Of Love” by Huey Lewis & The News hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Huey Lewis, Chris Hayes and John Colla, it is the first chart topping single for the Marin, CA based rock band fronted by lead singer Huey Lewis (born Hugh Anthony Cregg III). In late 1984, film producers Bob Gale and Neil Canton approach Huey Lewis about writing and performing a song for the film “Back To The Future” directed by Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”, “Cast Away”) and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. Initially, the band write a song called “In The Nick Of Time” which Gale and Canton love. But the song is given away to the Richard Pryor comedy “Brewster’s Millions”, when negotiations between Lewis’ manager, lawyers and Universal take too long. In place of “In The Nick Of Time”, Lewis and the band offer up the songs “Back In Time” and “Power Of Love” for the “Back To The Future” soundtrack. The producers of the film are not fond of “Love” initially, but quickly warm up to it. Lewis himself also makes a brief cameo appearance in the film as a school administrator that rejects Michael J. Fox’s band, who in a bit of tongue in cheek irony are playing a hard rock cover of “Power Of Love” in an audition to the play the school’s dance. Released in tandem with the films June 1985 opening, the song is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #46 on June 29, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single also receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song in 1986, though it loses to Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me”. “Power Of Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 22, 1992 – “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men hits #1 on the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 13 weeks on August 15, 1992. Written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Daryl Simmons, it is the third R&B, and first pop chart topper for the vocal harmony quartet from Philadelphia, PA. After writing and producing hits for the likes of artists such as The Whispers, Pebbles, TLC, The Boys and Paula Abdul, Hollywood comes calling. Director and producers Reginald and Warrington Hudlin (“House Party”) ask L.A. and Babyface to contribute to the soundtrack for the romantic comedy “Boomerang” starring Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, and Halle Berry. Impressed by their debut album “Cooleyhighharmony”, L.A. and Face specifically ask to work with Boyz II Men on a song for the soundtrack. Written primarily by Babyface, he takes inspiration from scene he sees in a rough cut of the film, quickly recording his ideas as a rough demo. Reid and their frequent collaborator Daryl Simmons helps complete the lyrics. With Boyz II Men about to go on the road for another tour, the producers fly to the groups native Philadelphia to record their vocals. Working very quickly, they record all of the lead and background vocals in only three hours of studio time. Released as the first single from the “Boomerang” soundtrack on June 30, 1992, the song is a monster right out of the box. Rising up the R&B and pop charts simultaneously, “End Of The Road” top both charts within five weeks of entry. On the Hot 100, the single shatters the previous chart record set by Elvis Presley thirty six years earlier with “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog”, which spent 11 weeks at number one. “Road” wins two Grammy Awards including Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group and Best R&B Song in 1993. Both the original English and Spanish language versions of “End Of The Road” are added to an expanded reissue of the “Cooleyhighharmony” album in 1993. “End Of The Road” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 22, 1987 – “Who’s That Girl” by Madonna hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written and produced by Madonna and Patrick Leonard, it is the sixth chart topping single for the pop music superstar. Director James Foley (“At Close Range”) asks Madonna to record some new songs for the films soundtrack. Madonna in turn calls upon her collaborators Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray to write “some uptempo material” that might work in the film. Madonna later writes the melody and lyrics for the songs they have written. Inspired by her own recent top five hit “La Isla Bonita”, she writes based on the Latin feel of that song. Recorded as the theme song to her third film (originally titled “Slammer”), the films title is changed before its release to “Who’s That Girl”. Issued as the first single from the soundtrack on June 30, 1987, it quickly becomes another smash for Madonna. Entering the Hot 100 at #43 on July 11, 1987, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. Though the film opens to bad reviews and disappointing box office, the success of “Who’s That Girl”, and its follow up single “Causing A Commotion” propel the soundtrack album to 2x Platinum status in the US.
On this day in music history: August 21, 1990 – “Graffiti Bridge”, the twelfth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA, Lake Minnetonka Home Studio in Minnetonka, MN, and Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, MN, circa 1983 – 1990. Issued as the soundtrack to Prince’s third film, the album features material written as far back as the “Controversy” recording sessions in 1981. Other tracks originate from various projects such as the abandoned “Dream Factory” album (which evolved into the “Sign O’ The Times” album), “Parade”, and “Crystal Ball”. Prince begins forming the concept for “Graffiti Bridge” in 1987, with the only songs written specifically for the film being “Thieves In The Temple”, “Round And Round” (recorded by Tevin Campbell), and “New Power Generation”. The completed album features songs performed by The Time, Mavis Staples and Tevin Campbell, along side Prince’s songs. The soundtrack album is much better received than the film which is widely panned upon its release, and is a box office disappointment. The album spins off five singles including “Thieves In The Temple” (#1 R&B, #6 Pop) and “Round And Round” (#3 R&B, #12 Pop). Also issued at the time as a limited double vinyl LP, the album quickly goes out of print in that format, and remains unavailable more than twenty five years later. “Graffiti Bridge” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 15, 1981 – “Endless Love” by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on August 22, 1981, and the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on September 5, 1981. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the theme for the Brooke Shields film of the same name. The duet comes about when Richie is asked by director Franco Zeffirelli and producer Jon Peters to write an instrumental theme for their film. The two change their minds and request that the song have lyrics and make it a duet with a female artist. Motown executive Suzanne DePasse suggests Diana Ross, though at the time has just recently left Motown for RCA Records. Hearing Lionel’s song, Diana agrees to sing the duet. Both singers have to adjust their busy schedules in order to record together. Ross is in the middle of a concert engagement in Lake Tahoe at the time, and Richie is also busy recording “In The Pocket”, his final album with the Commodores. The two arrange to record their vocals at a small recording studio in Reno, NV, only fifty miles away from the casino where Ross is performing. The two begin recording their vocals at 3:30 in morning and within an hour and a half complete their work on the track. Though the film itself is not well received, the title song is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #54 on July 11, 1981, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. “Endless Love” receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song, with Diana Ross and Lionel Richie performing the song on the live Oscar telecast in 1982. The song becomes a major hit once again when it is covered by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey in 1994 (#2 Pop, #7 R&B).“Endless Love” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.