On this day in music history: November 17, 1992 – “The Bodyguard – Original Soundtrack Album” is released. Produced by David Foster, Robert Clivilles, David Cole, Narada Michael Walden, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Daryl Simmons, BeBe Winans, Walter Afanasieff, Ian Devaney, Andy Morris, Danny Kortchmar, Charlie Midnight and Roy Lott, it is recorded from Mid 1991 – Early 1992. The album serves as the soundtrack for the hugely successful film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. The film written by Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Body Heat”, “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”), is one of the first screenplays written by the Academy Award nominated screen writer, producer and director. Originally conceived as a film vehicle starring Diana Ross and Ryan O’Neal in the late 70’s, the script is stuck in development at Warner Bros for nearly two decades before it is finally made. With pop and R&B superstar Houston and Oscar winner Costner cast in the lead roles, the film is directed by Mick Jackson (“L.A. Story”). The accompanying soundtrack album features six tracks by Houston including the smash “I Will Always Love You”, which breaks the then current record of thirteen weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 set Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road”. The album also features tracks by Curtis Stigers, Lisa Stansfield, Kenny G. & Aaron Neville, The S.O.U.L. System (featuring Michelle Visage), Joe Cocker (featuring Sass Jordan), and score composer Alan Silvestri. The soundtrack sells over forty four million copies worldwide, making it the biggest selling soundtrack of all time. The soundtrack wins three Grammy Awards including Record and Album Of The Year in 1994. “The Bodyguard” spends twenty weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 17x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 15, 1985 – “Living In America” by James Brown is released. Written by Dan Hartman and Charlie Midnight, it is the one hundred seventy fifth single release by the R&B music icon from Barnwell, SC. Though respected as one of the most influential musicians of all time, by the 80’s most consider James Brown’s best years to be behind him. The “Godfather Of Soul” lands his last big R&B hit with “Get Up Offa That Thing” in 1976, and on the pop top ten hit with “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”, in 1968. Though managing to stay in the public eye appearing in the films “The Blues Brothers” and “Doctor Detroit”, there is very little else to suggest that he will reclaim any of his former glory. In 1984, Brown duets with Hip Hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa on the single “Unity” (#87 R&B). During this time, Brown is approached by Sylvester Stallone to make an appearance in “Rocky IV”, the fourth installment of the lucrative franchise, and Brown signs on. Originally a member of the Edgar Winter Group in the 70’s, Dan Hartman establishes himself as solo star later in the decade with the disco classics “Instant Replay”, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” as well as producing singer Loleatta Holloway (“Love Sensation”). Hartman is hired to write a song for the “Rocky IV” soundtrack after scoring his biggest solo hit with “I Can Dream About You” (#6 Pop) from the film “Streets Of Fire”. Hartman and writing partner Charlie Midnight successfully capture Brown’s spirit in the funky up tempo “Living In America”, with James demonstrating that he is still “The Godfather”, even name checking comedian Eddie Murphy, who had lampooned Brown in his stand up act. He performs the song as Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) enters the ring to fight Russian boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). With the film becoming an instant smash during its Thanksgiving weekend release in 1985, “Living In America” gets swept up in the fervor. Issued as the second single from the soundtrack, the song and film help introduce James Brown to a new and younger audience who are unfamiliar with his past work. It gives the singer his biggest hit in many years peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the R&B chart in early 1986. It also wins Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance in 1987, his first since winning in that category previously in 1966 for “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”. The success of the song leads him signing with Scotti Brothers Records, the label behind the “Rocky IV Soundtrack”. Also included on the album “Gravity”, James has even greater R&B chart success in 1988 with the follow up “I’m Real” produced by Full Force. That album spins off hits with the title track (#2 R&B) and “Static” (#5 R&B), playing off of Brown’s major influence on rap music, Hip Hop culture and dance music, as his music is being widely sampled. “America” is also parodied by “Weird Al” Yanokovic in 1986 as “Living With A Hernia.
On this day in music history: November 13, 1965 – “The Sound Of Music – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks. Produced by Neely Plumb, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Hollywood, CA in Late 1964. Recorded over just a few days in the Fall of 1964, the soundtrack album is produced by RCA Records A&R man Neely Plumb (father of actress Eve Plumb). The score to the film adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical is written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and features vocal performances by the films’ cast including Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Along with the film, the soundtrack album is a runaway success in both the US and is an even larger success in the UK where it spends seventy weeks (non-consecutive) the top of the chart over a three year period. The original vinyl LP comes packaged with a booklet featuring liner notes on the cast and composers, and still photos taken during filming on location in Austria. Reissue pressings of the LP are released in gatefold sleeves (originals feature a single pocket jacket), with the booklet contained inside. The front of the sleeve also features an Academy Award statuette printed on the front, also indicating the awards won by the film. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music wins the Academy Award for Best Adapted Score in 1966. “The Sound Of Music – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.
On this day in music history: November 10, 1980 – “The Jazz Singer – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Bob Gaudio, it is recorded at Arch Angel Studios, The Record Plant Mobile 3, Dawnbreaker Studios in Los Angeles, CA, Sunset Sound and Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid 1979 – Early 1980. Issued as the soundtrack to the film starring Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier, it is a contemporary remake of the 1927 film starring Al Jolson, the first motion picture to feature a synchronized soundtrack. While the film receives mixed reviews and tepid box office returns, like Diamond’s soundtrack for the ill-fated “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, the album is a huge success. It spins off three singles including “Love On The Rocks” (#2 Pop), “America” (#8 Pop) and “Hello Again” (#6 Pop), becoming Neil Diamond’s biggest selling album. Originally released by Capitol Records in 1980, the rights to the soundtrack album revert to Diamond’s long time record label Columbia Records in 1996, when it is remastered and reissued on CD. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a limited 180 gram LP by Capitol Records in 2017, both to commemorate Neil Diamond’s 50th anniversary as a recording artist, and the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records. “The Jazz Singer – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 9, 1985 – “Miami Vice Theme” by Jan Hammer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart on November 23, 1985. Written and produced by Jan Hammer, it is the biggest hit for the composer and musician from the Czech Republic. Born in Prague, Jan Hammer’s interest in music begins at age four when he begins playing piano, advancing to formal lessons two years later. Initially intending to become a doctor like his father, the desire to play music has a stronger pull. Hammer eventually decides to pursue an education in music, enrolling in the Prague Academy of Musical Arts in 1968. When the Warsaw Pact invades his native country, Hammer leaves for the US to study at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston. Completing his studies, Hammer quickly makes a name for himself as a touring with legendary jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan as well as recording with Elvin Jones and Jeremy Steig. In 1971, he becomes a founding member of the influential jazz fusion band the Mahavishnu Orchestra with guitarist John McLaughlin, drummer Billy Cobham, violinist Jerry Goodman, and bassist Rick Laird. Hammer remains with the band until late 1973, then collaborating with Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie and Jeff Beck. In early 1984, Hammer is approached by Michael Mann to compose music for television series he’s developing called “Miami Vice”. The police drama stars Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas as detectives fighting crime against the glamorous and visceral back drop of Miami, FL. The series is unlike anything before it, visually or otherwise. Hammer’s distinctive scoring provides the perfect accompaniment to the on screen action. Utilizing the most advanced musical technology of the day, including the Fairlight CMI, Synclavier II and Yamaha DX7 synthesizers, Jan Hammer’s music becomes like an additional character in the series. He composes an explosive and brash theme for the show which immediately grabs the public’s attention from the first episode. The original “Miami Vice Theme” is only a minute long, but it is expanded to just under two and a half minutes when public demand for its release becomes too great to ignore. The theme is released as a single in August of 1985, and quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on September 7, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The single propels the “Miami Vice Soundtrack” to the top of the Billboard Top 200, spending eleven weeks at number one, becoming the most successful TV soundtrack album since Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn” in 1959. It holds the record until 2006, when it is overtaken by the soundtrack to “High School Musical”. The “Miami Vice Theme” also wins Jan Hammer two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition in 1986. It is the last time an instrumental tops the US singles chart until “Harlem Shake” by Baauer in 2013.
On this day in music history: November 6, 1982 – “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart on October 30, 1982. Written by Jack Nitszche, Buffy Saint-Marie and Will Jennings, it is the biggest hit for the British born rock vocalist and American born pop vocalist. While director Taylor Hackford is working on his film “An Officer And A Gentleman”, he decides that it needs a song for the final scene when Richard Gere walks into the factory where his co-star (and love interest) Debra Winger is working, sweeping her off of her feet and carrying her out the door as the factory workers cheer them on. With the soundtrack consisting of pre existing songs by artists including Pat Benatar, Van Morrison and ZZ Top, there is little budget or time to come up with an original song to fit the bill. Lyricist Will Jennings is shown a rough cut of the end sequence on a Friday afternoon, inspiring him to begin writing lyrics. He uses parts of two instrumental pieces from composer and arranger Jack Nitszche’s and folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie’s film score as the music to his words. By Monday, it is completed, and the search for a singer is on. The manager of pop singer Jennifer Warnes (“The Right Time Of The Night”, “It Goes Like It Goes”), suggests her to sing the song. Initially, the director rejects the idea, feeling that Warnes’ voice is “too sweet”. The manager also suggests the song could work as a duet, and he should ask Joe Cocker. In the interim, Hackford shows the film to Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who agrees that Cocker is a great choice. The singer says yes to the duet, but is touring at the time. He flies to Los Angeles to record with Warnes, completing their vocals in just a few hours. Joe Cocker’s gruff rock and blue eyed soul voice combined with Warnes’ sweet and ethereal voice compliment each other perfectly, providing a brilliant musical contrast. Initially, the film’s co-producer Don Simpson, doesn’t feel that it’s a hit. He is overruled and the song it used in the film’s climactic scene. Released as a single in August of 1982, it is an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on August 21, 1982, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. “Up Where We Belong” wins the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1983, with Joe Cocker And Jennifer Warnes winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance By Duo Or Group, also turning in a memorable performance of the song on the Grammy telecast. “Up Where We Belong” becomes an iconic song of the era, being used in several television programs including “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”. “Up Where We Belong” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 5, 1988 – “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Mike Love, Terry Melcher, John Phillips and Scott MacKenzie it is the fourth chart topping single for the legendary pop band from Hawthorne. CA. Though still drawing big crowds as a live act, by the late 80’s, many believe that The Beach Boys years as hit makers are long behind them. In 1987, The Beach Boys are working with producer Terry Melcher. The son of actress Doris Day, Melcher has produced hits for The Byrds, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and was one half of the duos Bruce & Terry and The Rip Chords, the latter scoring a top five hit with the hot rod classic “Hey Little Cobra” (#4 Pop) in early 1964. While working with Melcher, the band are contacted by the Vice President Of Music for Touchstone/Walt Disney Pictures to use some of their music for an upcoming film. The film is “Cocktail” starring Tom Cruise. The Beach Boys are commissioned to come up with a brand new song. Melcher calls his old friend, John Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas) and asks if he has any songs that might be suitable for The Beach Boys. Phillips comes up with a demo called “Kokomo” that he has co-written with his former Journeymen band mate Scott MacKenzie (“San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair”)). Written by the pair in 1986, “Kokomo” is originally recorded as a duet between MacKenzie and former Mamas & Papas’ lead vocalist Denny Doherty. Their version goes unreleased (until 2010). Lead singer Mike Love and Terry re-write some of the lyrics to better suit the songs’ inclusion in the film. Recording their own demo, Touchstone gives the Beach Boys the green light to record a final version. The master version of “Kokomo” features numerous studio veterans playing on the track including Jim Keltner (drums), Jeff Foskett (acoustic guitar), Rod Clark (bass) Joel Peskin (saxophone) and slide guitar great Ry Cooder. Initially, executives at Elektra Records (the soundtrack albums’ distributor) is not keen on releasing “Kokomo” as a single, believing that Top 40 pop radio won’t play it. The song is first serviced to AC radio stations where it receives a strong positive response from listeners. From there, Elektra releases it as a single in August of 1988, and works it at CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). Entering the Hot 100 at #96 on September 3, 1988, it races to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Kokomo” becomes the second chart topping single from the “Cocktail” Soundtrack after Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, propelling the album to #2 on the Top 200, and to quadruple Platinum status in the US. At the time, it gives The Beach Boys the longest span between their first and last number one hits in Billboard chart history, of twenty four years and four months between “I Get Around” and “Kokomo” topping the charts. “Kokomo” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 1, 1963 – “Fun In Acapulco”, the nineteenth album by Elvis Presley is released. Produced by Joseph Lilley, it is recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA and RCA Studio B Nashville, TN from January 22, 23 and May 26, 27, 1963. Issued as the soundtrack to his thirteenth film (and the third in a series of travelogue films in tropical locales that includes “Blue Hawaii” and “Girls! Girls! Girls!), it also stars Ursula Andress ("Dr. No”), Elsa Cárdenas (“Giant”) and Alejandro Rey (“The Flying Nun”). It also contains two additional tracks (“Love Me Tonight” and “Slowly But Surely”, both tracks from a canceled album release recorded in May of 1963) not included in the film, but the original LP still clocks in at a paltry twenty nine and a half minutes. The album spins off the hit single “Bossa Nova Baby” (#8 Pop) (written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller), and includes “Love Me Tonight” and the title track. “Bossa Nova Baby” is used in an ad campaign for Heineken in 2014. “Fun In Acapulco” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: October 30, 1984 – “Chess – A Concept Album” is released. Produced by Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Tim Rice, it is recorded at Polar Music Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, CTS Studios, Olympic Studios and Roundhouse Studios in London in November 1983 – March 1984. Following the end of pop supergroup ABBA, its chief creative forces Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson take on a new project. In early 1983, They collaborate with lyricist Tim Rice on a musical concept album. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, it involves two chess grandmasters, one American and one Russian, with the pair competing for the affections of a woman who falls for both of them. The plot is especially timely, as relations between the US and Russia are at an all time low, and the ominous threat of nuclear war looming. The album is conceived to secure financing for its eventual staging, “Chess” follows the pattern of development for “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita”, which Rice had collaborated on with Andrew Lloyd Webber. For the role of “The American”, Murray Head is cast in the role, having portrayed Judas Iscariot on the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” concept album. The other principal roles are played by Tommy Körberg (The Russian), Elaine Paige (Florence), Barbara Dickson (Svetlana), Denis Quilley (Molotov) and former Blue Swede lead singer Björn Skifs (The Arbiter). Lavishly packaged and issued as a double LP, “Chess” receives a rapturous response upon its release. Issued along with the album, is the first single “One Night In Bangkok” (#3 US Pop, #5 US Club Play, #35 US AC, #12 UK). Performed by Murray Head, it becomes a huge pop radio and club smash in the US. It is quickly covered by Canadian singer and actress Robey, whose version charts in the US and internationally(#77 Pop, #5 Club Play). The second single “I Know Him So Well” performed by Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson spends four weeks at #1 on the UK singles chart. It is later covered by Whitney and Cissy Houston in 1987. The musical makes its debut in London’s West End in 1986, and enjoying a three year long run. “Chess” makes its US debut on Broadway in 1988, but is changed significantly from its original London stage production. Over the years, “Chess” continues to play around the world, with a new cast album being recorded by the Danish touring company (in English), and a live album titled “Chess in Concert” recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in 2009. To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2014, the original 1984 album is remastered and reissued on CD in expanded form. The double CD set features three additional bonus tracks, and a bonus DVD with a documentary and the five music videos originally issued on the short form VHS home video “Chess Moves”. “Chess – A Concept Album” peaks at number forty seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 30, 1979 – “Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants”, the nineteenth studio album by Stevie Wonder is released. Produced by Stevie Wonder, it is recorded at I.A.M. Studios in Irvine, CA, Crystal Recording Studios and Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA, Lyon Recording Studio in Newport Beach, CA, Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, PA, and Studio In The Country in Bogalusa, LA from February – September 1979. Issued as the long awaited follow up to “Songs In The Key Of Life”, it also serves as the score and the soundtrack album to the documentary film “The Secret Life Of Plants”, based on the best selling book by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. The film’s producer Michael Braun describes the visual images to Wonder in great detail, who then composes and scores the music to those descriptions. With Motown shipping over a million copies to record stores that Fall, the twenty track double LP set is panned by critics, and is confusing to many fans not prepared for the dramatically contrasting experimental and ambitious work. It initially performs well on the charts, but drops off quickly due to the public’s reaction to the album. As a result, it becomes a cut out bin staple for many years with Motown receiving large amounts of returns after the initial layout. Though in time it is re-evaluated, and comes to be regarded as one of Stevie Wonder’s finest works. It spins off three singles including “Send One Your Love” (#4 Pop, #5 R&B, #1 AC) and “Outside My Window” (#52 Pop, #56 R&B). The song “Overjoyed” is originally recorded during sessions for the album, but is left off of “Journey”, and is later revamped and included on the “In Square Circle” album in 1985. The original LP is packaged in a lavish three panel gatefold sleeve with embossed cover artwork and graphics, with the artist name and title also embossed in braille on the front. Out of print on vinyl since its original release, it is remastered and reissued in September of 2018. “Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants” peaks at number four on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart.