On this day in music history: April 19, 1980 – “Call Me” by Blondie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Written by Giorgio Moroder and Deborah Harry, it is the second chart topping single for the New York based New Wave/Rock band fronted by lead singer Debbie Harry. Written as the theme song for the Richard Gere film “American Gigolo”. Moroder originally approaches Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac to co-write and perform the song, but declines when her label Modern Records will not grant permission for her to participate on the project. Next, Moroder asks Blondie lead vocalist Debbie Harry if she is interested. She agrees and begins working with the producer. Originally titled “Man Machine”, with a rough lyric written in by Moroder, Debbie feels the original words don’t transfer well to English. After looking at rough cut of the film, it gives the singer the proper inspiration to write new lyrics and melody. Harry writes the lyrics and records her vocals in just a few hours of studio time. Released in early February of 1980, the single is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on February 16, 1980, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Call Me” is ranked the top single of year by Billboard Magazine. Three versions of the song are released. The version released on the “American Gigolo” soundtrack on Polydor Records runs 8:04 and is also serviced as a promotional 12" single to club and radio DJ’s. Blondie’s label Chrysalis Records releases the single edit clocking in at 3:32, and the third being a Spanish language version titled “Llámame” released on Salsoul Records on a 12" single. “Call Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: March 28, 2000 – “Romeo Must Die: The Album” is released. Produced by Timbaland, Ant Banks, Irv Gotti, Lil’ Rob, Joe Thomas, Joshua Thompson, Donnie Scantz, Kevin Hicks, B-12, Playa, Eric Seats, Rapture Stewart and Stanley Clarke, it is recorded at Manhattan Center Studios, The Hit Factory, Right Track Recording Studios, Soundtrack Studios, Battery Studios in New York City, Front Page Recorders in Glendale, CA, Soundcastle Studios in Los Angeles, CA, The Hit Factory Criteria Studios in Miami, FL and Mastersound Studios in Virginia Beach, VA from Early – Late 1999. It serves as the soundtrack to the martial arts action thriller starring Jet Li and is the film debut for R&B singer/actress Aaliyah. The R&B and Hip Hop based compilation features tracks by Destiny’s Child, Ginuwine, Mack 10, Chante Moore, Joe, and two tracks from Aaliyah including the hits “Come Back in One Piece” (featuring DMX), and “Try Again” (#1 Pop, #4 R&B). “Romeo Must Die: The Album” spends one week at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, number three on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 9, 1965 – “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, the tenth album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is released. Produced by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson, it is recorded at Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA and Fantasy Recording Studios in San Francisco, CA in October 1964 and November 1965. Beginning modestly, in only nine newspapers around the US on October 2, 1950, cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip “Peanuts” grows into a worldwide phenomenon. By the 1960’s, the strip hits its stride and expands beyond the news page. That expansion begins in 1960, when The Peanuts Gang appear in a series of print ads and commercials for the Ford Falcon automobile. In 1963, Schulz is approached about a documentary about Peanuts. Titled “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” it is never aired, but spins off an album titled “Jazz Impressions Of A Boy Named Charlie Brown” by San Francisco based jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi in 1964. TV comes calling again when executives from Coca Cola, ask Schulz and commercial producer Lee Mendelson to create a half hour animated Christmas special, after Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy appear on the cover of Time Magazine on April 9, 1965. Schulz agrees to the special, writing it over the course of a weekend. It immediately goes into production with Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez at the helm. Vince Guaraldi is hired to compose the music. Though Guaraldi is credited with musicians Colin Bailey (drums) and Monty Budwig (bass), other uncredited musicians including Jerry Granelli (drums) and Fred Marshall (bass), also perform on the tracks. A children’s chorus from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, CA, perform on three songs. The track “Christmas Time Is Here” features lyrics written by Lee Mendelson, when Guaraldi is unable to come up with any himself. The soundtrack is recorded over three sessions, and is completed shortly before the TV special is scheduled to air. When screened by executives at CBS, they initially hate it and Guaraldi’s jazzy score. Fate has other plans when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs on December 9, 1965. The special is a ratings blockbuster, coming in at #2 in the ratings for the week behind “Bonanza”. The music also becomes instantly iconic, turning into one of the best selling holiday albums of all time, as the special has become a Christmas staple. Reissued multiple times, Fantasy Records alters the original cover artwork in 1978, but is restored in the early 2000’s as it is remastered and reissued on CD, vinyl, DVD-A and SACD. It is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002, and is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2012. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 8, 1980 – “Flash Gordon – Orginal Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released in the UK (US release is in February 1981). Produced by Queen and Reinhold Mack, it is recorded at Advision Studios, The Townhouse, The Music Centre, Utopia Studios and Anvil Studios in London from October – November 1980. The album features a complete song score composed and performed by Queen which is inter cut with dialogue from the live action film adaptation of the science fiction comic strip which stars Sam J. Jones and Max von Sydow and Timothy Dalton. The soundtracks’ US release is delayed by two months so that is not in direct competition with Queen’s then current album “The Game”. The single “Flash (Flash’s Theme)” (#10 UK, #42 US Pop) is widely sampled over the years most notably by Public Enemy on “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic” in 1988, and also performed live by My Chemical Romance and Tub Ring,with Tenacious D using the song as the intro their live shows. Original vinyl copies of Queen’s soundtrack come in a gatefold sleeve with embossing on the front cover, also coming with a cardboard photo insert and custom inner sleeve and labels. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is remastered and reissued in 1991, with a remix of the “Flash Theme” remixed by Mista Lawnge of Black Sheep. To commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2010, it is released as a combination Blu-ray + CD set (Europe only), featuring a new high definition transfer of the film along with a CD of the soundtrack. In the US, the soundtrack is reissued on CD in 2011 with an additional CD EP containing six additional bonus tracks. “Flash Gordon” peaks at number ten on the UK album chart, peaking at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 1, 1968 – “Head”, the sixth album by The Monkees is released. Produced by The Monkees and Gerry Goffin, it is recorded at California Recorders, Wally Heider Studios, and Original Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA from February – August 1968. Issued as the soundtrack to the band’s feature length film of the same name, it is compiled by actor Jack Nicholson who also co-wrote the script. Influenced by the work of musician Frank Zappa (who also appears in the film), the album features songs intercut with dialogue from the film (in a fashion similar to The Mothers Of Invention’s “We’re Only In It For The Money”). The albums’ highly experimental and psychedelic sound alienates the bands’ teen fan base and is resoundingly ignored by radio. The albums’ unique packaging using aluminized polyethylene film (designed to look like a mirror) creates major manufacturing problems for RCA Records, causing their printing presses to break down. In spite of its poor commercial performance during its initial release, in time both the film and album attains cult classic status among Monkees fans. It spins off one lone single with the Gerry Goffin and Carole King penned “Porpoise Song” (#62 Pop), and its B-side “As We Go Along” (#106 Pop), written by King and Toni Stern. In 2010, Rhino Records’ Rhino Handmade label issues a three CD boxed edition of the album both the mono and stereo mixes of the album, as well as previously unreleased alternate takes, an open ended interview (originally released to radio stations), and a bonus 7" single with instrumental versions of “Porpoise Song” and “As We Go Along”. The album is also reissued in 2011, with the album cover art replicating the original 1968 reflective “mirror” cover. It is reissued again, pressed on clear vinyl as part of “The Monkees Classic Album Collection” for Record Store Day in April of 2016.
The album is reissued on vinyl again in July of 2019, as part of Rhino’s “Summer Of ‘69” series, pressed on silver vinyl.
“Head” peaks at number forty five on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 30, 1985 – “Separate Lives (Love Theme From White Nights)” by Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary singles chart for 3 weeks on November 16, 1985. Written by Stephen Bishop, it is the fourth chart topping single the British pop superstar and lone chart topper for the pop vocalist from Louisville, KY. Fresh off of the success of his 1984 film “Against All Odds”, director Taylor Hackford begins work on his next project “White Nights” starring Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The film had been in development since 1982, being rejected by several studios before being given the green light by Columbia Pictures. During the early stages, Hackford asks singer and songwriter Stephen Bishop (“On And On”, “It Might Be You”), if he will write and perform a song for the soundtrack. He agrees, writing “Separate Lives” which is inspired by Bishop’s break up with then girlfriend actress Karen Allen. Bishop ends up bowing out of recording it himself, and gives the song to his friend Phil Collins, who by this time had scored his first solo number one with the title song from “Against All Odds”, also directed by Taylor Hackford. Doug Morris, the head of Collins’ US label Atlantic Records hears the song, and suggests that it be a duet. At the time, Morris is working with a singer named Marilyn Martin who had previously worked as a background singer for several major artists including Stevie Nicks, Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. After hearing Martin’s voice on a demo tape, Collins signs off on the duet. The track is produced by Phil Collins, Arif Mardin and Hugh Padgham and recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City. “Separate Lives” is released as the first single from the “White Nights” soundtrack in September of 1985, two months ahead of the film. Entering the Hot 100 at #45 on October 5, 1985, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. Stephen Bishop receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song in 1986, but loses to the films’ other major hit, Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me”. Shortly after her chart topping success, Marilyn Martin releases her self-titled debut album, scoring a top 30 hit with the single “Night Moves” (#28 Pop). Her second album “This Is Serious” fails to chart or generate any hits, and Martin is dropped by Atlantic. Still singing and recording today, Marilyn Martin released her most recent album “Trust, Love, Pray” in 2012.
On this day in music history: November 28, 1992 – “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 11 weeks on December 5, 1992, and topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks on December 19, 1992. Written by Dolly Parton, it is the biggest hit for the pop and R&B vocal superstar from Newark, NJ. Having established herself as a megastar in music, Whitney Houston sets her sights on the movies. She is hired to play the female lead opposite actor Kevin Costner (“Bull Durham”, “Field Of Dreams, “Dances With Wolves”) in “The Bodyguard”. Written by screenwriter and director Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Silverado”), the screenplay has been floating around for nearly fifteen years before it is finally made. For the soundtrack, Houston cuts “I Have Nothing”, “Run To You” and “Queen Of The Night”, three original songs penned for the film, a cover of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and the hymn “Jesus Loves Me”. Whitney is to also record of a cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s Motown classic “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted”, but is scratched when it’s discovered that it had been recorded by Paul Young for the film “Fried Green Tomatoes”, released while “The Bodyguard” is still filming. Costner suggests that Whitney cover Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. Parton writes the song in 1973 after splitting with her mentor Porter Wagoner. It tops the Billboard Country singles chart in June of 1974. Dolly records it again for the film “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, taking it to #1 on the country chart again. Producer David Foster re-arranges the song as an pop/R&B ballad, using Houston’s touring band led by musical director Rickey Minor to cut the basic track. Jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum is the featured soloist. When Arista Records hears the finished track, they like it, but feel that the forty five second long a cappella intro might hurt its chances for radio play. Their fears are unfounded when it is released on November 3, 1992, becoming an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #40 on November 14, 1992, it pole vaults to the top of the chart two weeks later, making the third highest jump to number one from outside the top ten in Billboard chart history from #12 to #1. It sells over four and a half million copies in the US alone, propels the soundtrack to 18x Platinum status. “The Bodyguard” soundtrack shatters the worldwide sales record held by “Saturday Night Fever”. “I Will Always Love You” also wins two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year in 1994. After Houston’s untimely passing in February of 2012, the words “The Voice” and the title of her biggest hit are written on her epitaph. “I Will Always Love You” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 28, 1987 – “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 4 weeks on November 21, 1987. Written by Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz, it is the biggest hit single from the film and soundtrack “Dirty Dancing”. Previte, a member of the New Jersey based pop/rock band Franke & The Knockouts, is approached by Jimmy Ienner, the bands’ former label boss at Millennium Records and the soundtrack supervisor for “Dirty Dancing” to write some music for the film. Without a record contract at the time, Previte at first turns him down, but Ienner persists and finally he agrees. It is selected for the films’ finale by choreographer Kenny Ortega and Miranda Garrison, along with “Hungry Eyes” which is given to singer Eric Carmen to record. Released as the lead single from the soundtrack in September of 1987, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #73 on September 26, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The huge success of the film and the song drive sales of the “Dirty Dancing” soundtrack to over 11x Platinum status in the US, selling over thirty two million copies worldwide. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” wins numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Medley and Warnes also win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1988. “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA..
On this day in music history: November 25, 1995 – “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” by Whitney Houston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also spending 8 weeks at #1 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written and produced by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, it is the eleventh and final chart topping pop single and the seventh R&B chart topper for the New Jersey born superstar vocalist. Issued as the lead single from the soundtrack and film to “Waiting To Exhale”, which stars Houston with Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon and Loretta Devine. First time director, actor Forest Whitaker meets Babyface backstage after a show (while on tour with Boyz II Men) at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, CA. Whitaker asks the singer, songwriter, and producer if he will score and write songs for the film adaptation of Terry McMillian’s book “Waiting To Exhale”. Edmonds agrees, helping to assemble a top notch group of female R&B vocalists that include Chaka Khan, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Chante Moore, Brandy, and TLC for the soundtrack album. Face writes the films’ title song especially for Whitney to sing along with “Count On Me” (a duet with gospel singer CeCe Winans). At first, Houston is not fond of “Exhale” particularly the songs’ chorus, but she eventually warms up to it. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” is an instant smash, debuting at number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts. The single also wins Babyface a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song in 1997. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1995 – “Beatles Anthology 1” by The Beatles is released. Produced by Tony Meehan, George Martin and Jeff Lynne, it is recorded at Phillips’ Sound Recording Services, Liverpool, UK, 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton, Liverpool, UK, Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Hamburg, Germany, Decca Studios, BBC Maida Vale Studios, The London Palladium, Prince of Wales Theatre, IBC Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London, CBS Television Studio, The Dakota in New York City and The Mill Studios in Peasmarsh, East Sussex, UK from July 1958 – March 1994. The first of three double CD sets (also released as a three LP vinyl set), the sixty track compilation album is the audio accompaniment to the three part mini series on the history of the iconic rock band. It features outtakes, alternate versions and rare live performances of some of their best known songs and earliest recordings. Among the early recordings is the first made by the pre-Beatles era skiffle band The Quarrymen, which includes Lennon, McCartney and Harrison along with school mates John “Duff” Lowe and Colin Hanton. On July 12, 1958, the band record a cover of Buddy Holly & The Crickets’ “That’ll Be The Day” on with “In Spite Of All The Danger” (written by Paul and George), at Percy Phillips’ Phillips’ Sound Recording Services. The two songs are recorded directly on to a 78 RPM acetate disc, with the record being passed around to all of the group members to listen to. Eventually it ends up with “Duff” Lowe who holds on to the disc for nearly twenty five years, until Paul McCartney buys it back from him. The album also includes “Free As A Bird”, the first new song from The Beatles in twenty five years. It is constructed from a home cassette demo recorded by John Lennon in 1977, then completed by the surviving members (in February – March 1994). The single peaks at #6 on the Hot 100 on January 6, 1996, winning two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and Best Shortform Video in 1997. “Anthology 1” debuts at number one on the Billboard Top 200, spending three weeks at the top, and is certified 8x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.