60 YEARS AGO TODAY! • July 19, 1954 - Sun Records released the first Elvis Presley single, ‘That’s All Right’, a cover of Arthur Crudup’s 1946 tune.
During an uneventful recording session at Sun Studios on the evening of July 5, 1954, Presley, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black were taking a break between recordings when Presley started fooling around with an up-tempo version of Arthur Crudup’s song “That’s All Right, Mama”. Black began joining in on his upright bass, and soon they were joined by Moore on guitar. Producer Sam Phillips, taken aback by this sudden upbeat atmosphere, asked the three of them to start again so he could record it.
Black’s bass and guitars from Presley and Moore provided the instrumentation. The recording contains no drums or additional instruments. The song was produced in the style of a “live” recording (all parts performed at once and recorded on a single track). The following evening the trio recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” in a similar style, and it was selected as the to “That’s All Right” B-side.
Upon finishing the recording session, according to Scotty Moore, Bill Black remarked: Damn. Get that on the radio and they’ll run us out of town.
Sam Phillips gave copies of the record to local disc jockeys Dewey Phillips (no relation) of WHBQ, Uncle Richard of WMPS, and Sleepy Eyed John Lepley of WHHM. On July 7, 1954, Dewey Phillips played “That’s All Right” on his popular radio show “Red, Hot & Blue”. On hearing the news that Dewey was going to play his record, Presley went to the local movie theater to calm his nerves.
Interest in the record was so intense that Dewey reportedly played the record 14 times and received over 40 telephone calls. Presley was persuaded to go to the station for an on-air interview that night. Unaware that the microphone was live at the time, Presley answered Dewey’s questions, including one about which high school he attended: a roundabout way of informing the audience of Presley’s race without actually asking the question.
That’s All Right sold around 20,000 copies. This number was not enough to chart nationally, but the single reached number four on the local Memphis charts.
#elvis #elvispresley #thisdayinmusic #1954 #1950s #scottymoore #billblack #samphillips #sunrecords #rocknroll
July 19, 1975 - Paul McCartney and Wings went to No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Listen To What The Man Said’, his fourth US No.1. It sold a million copies in America. Wings also had the US No.1 album chart with ‘Venus And Mars’. Paul McCartney’s fourth No.1 album since The Beatles.
Listen to What the Man Said was recorded in early 1975 during their New Orleans sessions for Venus and Mars. McCartney had high hopes for the song but early recordings did not live up to expectations. After Dave Mason added guitar overdubs, the band was still dissatisfied. Once Tom Scott recorded the sax solo, the band was satisfied. The effect of a kiss smack heard on the track was recorded by engineer Alan O’Duffy, who taped Linda doing it.
Venus and Mars, the fourth album by Wings, was the follow-up to the enormously successful Band on the Run. It continued Wings’ string of success and was a springboard for a year-long worldwide tour. It was McCartney’s first post-Beatles release under the Capitol Records label.
After recording Band on the Run (1973) as a three-piece with wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine, McCartney added Jimmy McCulloch on lead guitar and Geoff Britton on drums to the Wings line-up in 1974. Having written several new songs for the next album, McCartney decided on New Orleans as the recording venue, and Wings headed there in January 1975. Before leaving for New Orleans, Wings had recorded three songs at Abbey Road Studios in London in November 1974: Letting Go, Love In Song and Medicine Jar.
As soon as the sessions began, the personality clash that had been evident between McCulloch and Britton during Wings’ 1974 sessions in Nashville became more pronounced, and Britton – after a six-month tenure – quit Wings, having only played on three of the new songs. American Joe English, was quickly auditioned and hired to finish the album.
John Lennon, often in a nostalgic mood during his Lost Weekend period, had told May Pang (his then girlfriend) that they would visit the McCartneys during the recording sessions for Venus and Mars, and considered writing with him again. Lennon’s planned visit never happened due to his reunion with Yoko Ono.
#paulmccartney #thisdayinmusic #1975 #1970s #wings #lindamccartney #DennyLaine #JimmyMcCulloch #tomscott
July 19, 1980 - Billy Joel held the top position of both the US albums and singles charts. His album Glass Houses contained ‘It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me’, his first and biggest No.1 hit.
The song is a cynical look at the music industry as a publicist/manager begs the protagonist (Joel) to remain hip for the younger crowd (“What’s the matter with the car I’m driving? / “Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”), and the protagonist’s refusal to change, claiming his music will remain relevant regardless of his appearance. The song was a stab by Joel at the new music genres that were around in the late 1970s (punk, funk, new wave) and uses a new wave sound, and was inspired by the realization that, after reading a review about a particular (unnamed) band, Billy had no idea what their music sounded like. The music video depicted Joel mixing elements of new wave, punk, and funk as he records a music video. The single reached Platinum certification from the RIAA for sales in the U.S.
During the Top of the Pops 2 Billy Joel Special, Billy revealed that he wrote the song in the back of the car taking him to a recording session, because he didn’t have anything written down.
Glass Houses is the 41st best selling album of the 1980s, with sales of 7.1 million copies in the US alone. In 1981, Joel won a Grammy Award for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” for his work on Glass Houses. This album was the third collaboration between Joel and producer Phil Ramone, following The Stranger and 52nd Street.
Opening with the sound of glass shattering, Glass Houses has more of a hard rock feel than Joel’s previous albums. The cover shows Joel poised to throw a rock through the two-story window of his real-life waterfront glass house in Oyster Bay. On some versions, the back cover shows Billy looking through the hole that the rock made in the glass.
#billyjoel #thisdayinmusic #1980 #1980s #philramone #columbiarecords
July 19, 1986 - Genesis went to No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Invisible Touch’. It is the most successful single in the band’s lengthy history and was their first No.1 single in the United States. The song also remained for three consecutive weeks at the top on the Billboard Hot 100 airplay. The song also was the first of five consecutive US top five singles from the album of the same name.
Coincidentally, the multi-Grammy nominated ‘Sledgehammer’ by the Genesis’ former lead singer Peter Gabriel was at No.2. ‘Sledgehammer’ eventually succeeded ‘Invisible Touch’ in the No.1 position on the Billboard Hot 100.
Invisible Touch came about during a jam for the second part of “Domino,” Rutherford playing a riff while Collins improvised the line “She seems to have an invisible touch”. It was recorded at The Farm in Surrey during 1985 and 1986 and produced by Hugh Padgham.
#genesis #thisdayinmusic #1986 #1980s #philcollins #mikerutherford #tonybanks #HughPadgham #atlanticrecords
Happy Birthday, Martha Reeves! • July 18, 1941 - Born on this day, Martha Reeves. During her tenure with The Vandellas, they scored over a dozen hits, including “Nowhere to Run”, “Jimmy Mack”, and their signature “Dancing In The Street”. From 2005 until 2009, Reeves served as an elected council woman for the city of Detroit.
With her brassy gospel-reared alto vocals, Martha Reeves helped Martha & the Vandellas ascend from background singers with early songs such as “Come and Get These Memories” and “Heat Wave” distinguishing the group from contemporaries and label mates The Marvelettes and The Supremes, who were more influenced by doo-wop. Though the group’s early recordings under their different monikers were doo-wop oriented, the majority of songs released under the Vandellas’ name produced a rougher, soulful sound with powerful musical backing from The Funk Brothers.
After “Heat Wave” became the group’s first million-seller, Martha and the Vandellas quickly rose to become one of the label’s top draw both as recording stars and as a successful live act. Martha was the one consistent member of the group staying throughout all the group’s lineups. After the exits of original members Annette Beard and Rosalind Ashford, members replacing them included Betty Kelly, Sandra Tilley and Martha’s youngest sister Lois Reeves.
Despite their success, The group was overshadowed, as Motown focused its promotional muscle behind The Supremes and the group’s lead singer, Diana Ross in particular, more so than the Vandellas. Many of the group’s recordings remain in the vaults of Motown.
A relentless recording and touring schedule and other matters led to a breakdown in 1968; this led to a brief disbanding of the Vandellas which Ashford left for good. When Reeves was well enough to return, she recruited Sandra Tilley and the lineup of Martha and Lois Reeves and Tilley continued until 1972 when the group disbanded shortly after issuing the Black Magic album. In 1973, Martha planned to continue releasing solo work with Motown, but when the label moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, Reeves negotiated out of her contract with Motown, ending her 12-year association with the label.
#marthareeves #thisdayinmusic #hbd #happybirthday #marthaandthevandellas #motown #singer #pop #rnb #soul
July 18, 1964 - The Four Seasons started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Rag Doll’, the group’s fourth No.1 and a No.2 hit on the UK chart.
According to songwriter Bob Gaudio, the recording was inspired by a dirty-faced girl who cleaned the windshield of his automobile for change. When Gaudio reached into his wallet, all he had were notes, none smaller than $20. He gave the girl a twenty dollar bill. (Gaudio has also said it was a $5 or a $10). Her astonishment stayed in Gaudio’s mind as he approached the recording studio. “Rag Doll”, with a few tweaks by Bob Crewe, was the result.
#frankievalli #fourseasons #thisdayinmusic #1964 #1960s #bobgaudio
Happy 75th Birthday, Dion! • July 18, 1939 - Born on this day, Dion DiMucci, US singer.
Dion, is a singer-songwriter whose work incorporated elements of doo-wop, pop oldies music, rock and R&B styles—and, most recently, straight blues. He was one of the most popular American rock & roll performers of the pre-British Invasion era. He had more than a dozen Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 60s. He is best remembered for the 1961 singles, “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”, written with Ernie Maresca.
The founders of Mohawk Records who signed Dion, signed Dion’s friends, the Belmonts (Carlo Mastrangelo, Fred Milano, and Angelo D’Aleo), a vocal group named for nearby Belmont Avenue, and teamed them, with Dion singing lead. The group’s breakthrough came in 1958, when “I Wonder Why” made No.22 on the U.S. charts.
Their initial hit was followed by “No One Knows” and “Don’t Pity Me”, which also charted the Billboard Top 100. This success won Dion and the Belmonts a place on the tragic “The Winter Dance Party” tour with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper and other performers. On February 2, 1959, after a concert stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, Holly and others decided to take a flight to the next venue rather than travel on the tour bus. Dion was invited but decided that he did not want to spend $36 for the flight, as it was the same monthly rent his parents paid for his childhood apartment and he couldn’t justify the indulgence.
Their next single, “A Teenager in Love”, was released in March 1959, hitting No.5 on the U.S. pop charts. There were musical, personal and financial differences between Dion and the Belmonts. In October 1960, Dion decided to quit for a solo career.
Dion’s popularity waned in the mid-1960s due to the public’s changing taste in pop music and in part due to personal difficulties he had during this period. But toward the end of the decade, he shifted his style and produced songs with a more mature, contemplative feeling, such as “Abraham, Martin and John”. He became popular again in the late 1960s and into the mid-1970s, and he has continued making music ever since.
Dion was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
#dion #thisdayinmusic #hbd #happybirthday #diondimucci #dionandthebelmonts #doowop #rocknroll #pop #rnb #blues #singer #songwriter
July 17, 1967 - American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane died from liver cancer at Huntington Hospital in Long Island, New York, aged 40.
Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and was later at the forefront of free jazz. He organized at least fifty recording sessions as a leader during his career, and appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension.
In 1955, Coltrane married Juanita Naima Grubbs, a Muslim convert, for whom he later wrote the piece “Naima”, and came into contact with Islam. They were separated by 1963. Not long after that, Coltrane met pianist Alice McLeod. He and Alice moved in together and had two sons before he was “officially divorced from Naima in 1966, at which time John and Alice were immediately married.
Coltrane’s death surprised many in the musical community who were not aware of his condition. Miles Davis said: Coltrane’s death shocked everyone, took everyone by surprise. I knew he hadn’t looked too good… But I didn’t know he was that sick—or even sick at all.
His funeral was held at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in New York City. The service was opened by the Albert Ayler Quartet and closed by the Ornette Coleman Quartet. Coltrane is buried at Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.
Coltrane influenced innumerable musicians, and remains one of the most significant saxophonists in music history. In 1965, Coltrane was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1972, A Love Supreme was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over half a million copies in Japan. This album, as well as My Favorite Things, was certified gold in the United States in 2001. In 1982 he was awarded a posthumous Grammy for “Best Jazz Solo Performance” on the album Bye Bye Blackbird, and in 1997 he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007 citing his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”
#johncoltrane #thisdayinmusic #1960s #saxophone #jazz #hardbop #rip #restinpeace
July 17, 1959 - Billie Holiday died in a New York City hospital from cirrhosis of the liver after years of alcohol abuse, aged 44.
Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. Her delivery made Billie Holiday’s performances recognizable throughout her career. Her improvisation compensated for lack of musical education.
Frank Sinatra was influenced by her performances on 52nd Street as a young man. He told Ebony in 1958 about her impact: With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me. Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years.
In early 1959 Holiday had cirrhosis of the liver. She stopped drinking on doctor’s orders, but soon relapsed. By May she had lost 20 pounds. Friends Leonard Feather, Joe Glaser, and Allan Morrison unsuccessfully tried to get her to hospital.
On May 31, 1959, Holiday was taken to Metropolitan Hospital in New York with liver and heart disease. She was arrested for drug possession as she lay dying, and her hospital room was raided. Police guarded her room. Holiday stayed under police guard until she died from pulmonary edema and heart failure caused by cirrhosis of the liver on July 17, 1959. In her final years, she had been progressively swindled out of her earnings, and she died with $0.70 in the bank and $750 (a tabloid fee) on her person. Her funeral mass was at Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City. She was buried at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery.
#billieholiday #thisdayinmusic #1959 #1950s #rip #restinpeace #ladyday
Happy Birthday, Stewart Copeland! • July 16, 1952 - Born on this day, Stewart Copeland, (aka Klark Kent), drummer, Curved Air, (1971 UK No.4 single ‘Back Street Luv’), Police, (1983 UK & US No.1 single ‘Every Breath You Take’ plus four other UK No.1 singles). The re-formed Doors.
Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia, the youngest of four children of CIA officer Miles Copeland, Jr. and Scottish archaeologist Lorraine Adie. The family moved to Cairo, Egypt, a few months after his birth, and Copeland spent his formative years in the Middle East. In 1957, the family moved to Beirut, Lebanon, and Copeland attended the American Community School there. He started taking drum lessons at age twelve and was playing drums for school dances within a year. Later he moved to England and attended Millfield from 1967 to 1969. Copeland went to college in California, attending United States International University and UC Berkeley. Returning to England, he worked as road manager for the progressive rock band Curved Air’s 1974 reunion tour, and then assumed drumming duties for the band during 1975 and 1976.
In 1977, Copeland founded the Police with singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani (who was soon replaced by Andy Summers), and it became one of the top bands of the 1980s. The Police’s early track list was mostly made of Copeland’s compositions, including the band’s first single “Fall Out” (Illegal Records, 1977) and the flip side “Nothing Achieving”. Though Copeland’s songwriting contribution was reduced to a couple of songs per album as Sting started writing more material, he continued to co-arrange all the Police’s songs with his two bandmates. Amongst Copeland’s most notable songs are “On Any Other Day” (where he sang lead vocals too), “Does Everyone Stare” (later to be used as the title of his documentary on the band Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out), “Contact”, “Bombs Away”, “Darkness” and “Miss Gradenko”. Copeland also co-authored a number of songs with Sting, including “Peanuts”, “Landlord”, “It’s Alright for You” and “Re-Humanize Yourself”.
#stewartcopeland #thisdayinmusic #hbd #happybirthday #thepolice #sting #andysummers