On this day in music history: September 23, 1967 – “People Are Strange” by The Doors is released. Written by The Doors, it is the third single release for the rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Written in early 1967, the initial idea for “People Are Strange” comes while Jim Morrison and Robby Kreiger are hiking to the top of Laurel Canyon. Feeling depressed at the time, Morrison’s lyrics reflect his feelings of alienation, outsider status, and vulnerability. Though the song is penned by Morrison and Krieger alone, the entire band receives writing credit. The musicial portion of the song is also inspired and influenced by The Doors’ fascination with European cabaret music (explored on tracks such as “The Crystal Ship” and their cover of Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” on their debut album). The song is issued as the first single from the bands second album “Strange Days”, two days before the LP. “People Are Strange” peaks at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 28, 1967. “Strange” is covered a number of times over the years, most notably by Echo & The Bunnymen, whose version appears in the film “The Lost Boys” in 1987.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1967 – “The Letter” by The Box Tops hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Wayne Carson Thompson, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Memphis, TN quintet fronted by lead singer Alex Chilton. Songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson (“Always On My Mind”) is inspired to write “The Letter” when his father comes up with the lyric “give me a ticket for an aeroplane”. Thompson quickly write the rest of the lyrics and melody around that line. Once the song is complete, Thompson takes it to his friend, producer Chips Moman who also own American Recording Studios in Memphis, TN. Moman in turn tells his songwriting partner Dan Penn about the song. Penn is working with a young rock band featuring a sixteen year old lead vocalist named Alex Chilton. Penn hears the song and decide that it is perfect for his young charges first release. Recorded in the Spring of 1967, the band (with songwriter Thompson also playing guitar on the session) cut the track in about eight hours, recording thirty takes to come up with the final master. For the final touch, producer Dan Penn overdubs the sound of an airplane flying over toward the end of the song. When Moman objects to the addition, Penn threatens to cut up the tape with a razor blade rather than remove the sound effect. Moman allows it to remain on the finished record. At the time the band records the single, they do not have a name. One of the members jokingly suggests that people “send in 50 cents and a box top” with their possible group name. From that, the band are dubbed “The Box Tops”. Released in July of 1967 on Bell Records Mala imprint, “The Letter” quickly becomes a huge hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on August 12, 1967, it leaps to the top of the chart six weeks later. The song is covered by a number of artists including The Arbors, The Ventures and Don Fardon. Joe Cocker has the second most successful recording of the song when his version hits #7 on the Hot 100 in June of 1970. “The Letter” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 23, 1957 – “That’ll Be The Day” by The Crickets hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 1 week. Written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison, it is the biggest hit for the rock & roll quartet from Lubbock, TX. Recorded in February 1957 at producer Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, NM, the song is inspired after Buddy Holly sees the John Ford western “The Searchers” when John Wayne utters the now famous line “that’ll be the day”. Holly had originally recorded the song in Nashville in 1956 while under contract to Decca Records. The deal he signs legally prohibits him from re-recording any of his songs for five years, whether they are released or not. Producer Norman Petty gets around this by crediting the re-recorded “hit” version to The Crickets rather than under Buddy Holly’s name. Released on Brunswick Records (ironically a subsidiary of Decca) in May of 1957, the song becomes a smash. When Decca discovers that The Crickets and Holly are one in the same, they sign him to their Coral Records subsidiary for his solo releases. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #21 on August 18. 1957, it climbs to the top of the chart five weeks later. “That’ll Be The Day” becomes a rock & roll standard and is covered numerous times over the years by artists such as Linda Ronstadt and The Everly Brothers. The song is also one of the first recordings made by the pre-Beatles group The Quarrymen (consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Colin Hanton and John “Duff” Lowe) in 1958. Regarded as one of the most important and influential songs of the rock era, The Crickets version of “That’ll Be The Day” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “That’ll Be The Day” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 22, 1992 – “Broken”, the first EP by Nine Inch Nails is released. Produced by Trent Reznor and Flood, it is recorded at Hell Studios in New Orleans, LA, Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, WI, South Beach Studios in Miami Beach, FL, The Village Recorder in West Los Angeles, CA, A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA and Le Pig Studios in Beverly Hills, CA from March – August 1992. Spending nearly two years touring in support of the debut album “Pretty Hate Machine”, Trent Reznor begins altering the arrangements of those songs, taking on an even more aggressive feel. A major turning point comes when the band are invited to perform on the first Lollapalooza Tour. NIN’s energetic and often chaotic sets, becomes one of the most talked about acts on the tour. Reznor faces pressure from his label to record a second album, and repeat the same formula. Reznor refuses, and asks to be released from his contract. They refuse, and he goes into hiding. Working with engineer and producer Flood (aka Mark Ellis), Reznor records under assumed names to prevent TVT from seizing the tapes and releasing them. Trent rents and sets up a studio in the former home of director Roman Polanski and actress Sharon Tate at 10050 Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon, the scene of the grisly murders of Tate and four others by members of the Manson Family. The eight songs that appear on “Broken” are a radical departure from “Pretty”. Put through layers of distortion and effects, then edited and sequenced on an Apple MacIntosh computer, they become the sonic back drop for Reznor’s equally intense vocals. With the EP completed, Reznor starts his own label Nothing Records, aligning with Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine, who strikes a deal with TVT to release him from his contract. The EP is an immediate critical and fan favorite, spinning off two singles including “Happiness In Slavery” (#13 Modern Rock) and “Wish” (#25 Modern Rock). The latter wins NIN their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1993. The CD version is originally released with six of the tracks on the main disc, with the last two “Physical” and “Suck” on a bonus 3 inch CD limited to 250,000 copies. The disc is reconfigured with a track listing from 1 to 99, with ninety one second tracks of silence before the final two tracks play. “Broken” spins off a companion six track EP titled “Fixed”. Originally given only limited commercial release on vinyl in 1992, “Broken” is remastered and reissued in August of 2017. The current vinyl release faithfully replicates the original single sided 12" EP, but features a spiral etching of various song lyrics, instead of a silent groove on one side. The EP also comes packaged with the original bonus 7", and adds a newly created booklet with photos and liner notes. “Broken” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 22, 1984 – “Missing You” by John Waite hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Mark Leonard, Chas Sandford and John Waite, it is the biggest solo hit for the British rock vocalist. The former lead singer of the UK rock band The Babys, Waite writes the song about the aftermath of a relationship with a woman he had been involved and his denial over his true feelings for her. Released as the first single from his second album “No Brakes”, there are actually two different mixes of the single issued during the songs run on the charts. The first is the original album version. When the music video for “Missing You” is released, it features a remix of the song remixed and edited by veteran remixer John Luongo (an extended version of this remix is also issued as a 12" single). EMI-America Records quickly replaces the original pressing of the single with the remix, becoming the definitive version of the record. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 23, 1984, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. “Missing You” is also featured in numerous movies, television programs and commercials over the years. While the single is a current hit, John Waite performs the song on the short lived ABC night time soap opera “Paper Dolls”, appearing as himself on several episodes. The song is also heard on the third episode (titled “Heart Of Darkness”) of “Miami Vice” in its first season. It is also featured on the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”. Tina Turner records a cover version of “Missing You” on her album “Wildest Dreams” in 1996. Waite also cover the song as a duet with bluegrass musician Alison Krauss in 2007, with that version peaking at #34 on the Billboard Country Singles chart.