On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 - “Quarterflash”, the debut album by Quarterflash is released. Produced by John Boylan, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA and Westlake Audio in West Hollywood, CA from Early - Mid 1981. Originally formed in 1980 and led by the husband and wife duo of Marv and Rindy Ross, the Portland, OR based sextet is first known as Seafood Mama. The band will generate major buzz in their hometown when they record an early version Marv’s song “Harden My Heart”, releasing it on local label Whitefire Records. The single will attract the attention of Geffen Records who sign them. Paired with producer John Boylan (Boston), the will record their major label debut during the first half of 1981. The album also features Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles providing additional background vocals on several tracks as well as percussionist Paulinho DaCosta. It will spin off two hits including “Harden My Heart” (#3 Pop) and “Find Another Fool” (#16 Pop). “Quarterflash” will peak at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1981 - “Dare”, the third album by The Human League is released. Produced by Martin Rushent and The Human League, it is recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading, UK from March - September 1981. The Sheffield, UK based synth-pop bands’ third release marks the beginning of their transition away from their more experimental avant garde electronic music toward more a mainstream pop sound. The band will utilize a number of different synthesizers including the Roland Jupiter-4, MC-8, Korg Delta, 770, Casio M10, VL-1, and the Linn LM-1 drum machine. The end result will propel them to superstar status in their native country, and establish them on a worldwide basis. In the UK, it will spin off four hit singles including “Love Action (I Believe In Love)” (#3 UK), and “Open Your Heart” (#6 UK). The final single released from the album is “Don’t You Want Me” which will become their biggest hit. It will spend five weeks at number one, selling over 1.4 million copies, and paving the way for their US breakthrough (spending three weeks at number one in July 1982). “Dare” will hit number one on the UK album chart and is certified 3x Platinum, number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1980 - “Boy”, the debut album by U2 is released. Produced by Steve Lillywhite, it is recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland from March - September 1980. The Irish rock band’s first album was originally to have been produced by Joy Division producer Martin Hannett, but he will drop out of the project still bereaved over the suicide of JD’s lead singer Ian Curtis. Many of the albums’ songs focus on the trials and tribulations experienced during adolescence. The album will spin off two singles including “I Will Follow” which will give the Irish band a toehold in the US, peaking at #20 on the Mainstream Rock charts. They will support the album by touring the UK and US. The original European release of the album features a photograph of a young Irish boy named Peter Rowen. He is the younger brother of Virgin Prunes vocalist “Guggi” (aka Derek Rowen), a childhood friend of lead singer Bono. Peter will also be featured on the cover of several other U2 albums and singles over the years including on the cover of “War” in 1983. The original US LP cover will instead include a photo of the band when the American arm of Island Records fears the band will be accused of pedophilia by featuring a bare chested, waifish looking pre-pubescent child on the cover. “Boy” will peak at number sixty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1979 - “Rise” by Herb Alpert hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also spending 1 week at the top of the Adult Contemporary chart on September 22, 1979, and peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on October 27, 1979. Written by Andy Armer and Randy (Badazz) Alpert, it will be the second number one single for the co-founder of A&M Records. Recorded in Studio D at A&M Records in Hollywood, the song will be one of the first hit records to be recorded on digital recording equipment, when the 3M Corporation lends the label one of its first 32-track tape machines to experiment with. Alpert will initially begin by attempting to record a disco remake of his first hit “The Lonely Bull”. When the musicians realize the new version isn’t working, Alpert’s nephew Randy will give his uncle a demo tape with some songs he as written with his friend Andy Armer. Herb will love the instrumental titled “Rise” and agree to record it. Originally written an uptempo dance track, it will be recorded at a slower tempo for the finished recording. The track will be recorded almost completely live in the studio in just a few takes. After its release, the single will get off to a slow start until it is prominently featured on the daytime soap opera “General Hospital”. The exposure the song receives on the show will jump start interest in it, spreading to radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on July 28, 1979, it will climb to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. The single will win Alpert a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1980. The song will also become the basis of The Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous chart topper “Hypnotize” in 1997. “Rise” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1977 - A chartered plane carrying members of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and their crew crashes into a swamp near Gillsburg, MS. The band is on tour in support of its latest album “Street Survivors” released just three days before. The Convair CV-300 plane is in route from Greenville, SC to Baton Rouge, LA when it runs out of fuel and crashes into a heavily wooded area. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, singer Cassie Gaines (Steve’s older sister), assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray are all killed on impact. The other members of the band and crew will all sustain serious injuries from the crash. Drummer Artimus Pyle and two members of the road crew, though all injured will be able to climb from the wreckage and get help for the remaining survivors. The cause of the plane crash will be determined to have been caused by a malfunctioning ignition device on one of the engines and by pilot error when the pilots accidentally dump the remaining fuel instead of transferring it to the still working engine. After the accident, the bands’ label MCA Records will quickly withdraw the original cover artwork of “Street Survivors” which shows the band surrounded by flames. The background will be airbrushed black on all subsequent repressings until it is reissued on CD when the original artwork is restored. Lynyrd Skynyrd will not perform again for ten years, until the surviving members reform the band in 1987, with Ronnie Van Zant’s younger brother Johnny taking over as lead vocalist.
On this day in music history: October 20, 1962 - “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Bobby Pickett and Leonard Capizzi, it will be the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Somerville, MA. The novelty classic will be recorded in the garage studio of producer/label owner Gary S. Paxton, and also features musician Leon Russell on piano. The record will be rejected by several labels before Paxton works out a distribution deal with London Records and releases it on his own Garpax label. The song is an immediate hit upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 8, 1962, it will rocket to the top of the chart just six weeks later. On its initial release in the UK, the BBC will actually ban the record for being “too morbid”, though it will later peak at #3 on its re-release in 1973. “Monster Mash” will also make chart history as the only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times. After its first run in 1962, it will peak at #91 in September of 1970. The single will actually make the top 10 a second time, peaking at #10 in August of 1973. “Monster Mash” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 19, 1987 - “Kick”, the sixth album by INXS is released. Produced by Chris Thomas, it is recorded at Rhinoceros Studios in Sydney, Australia and Studio De La Grande Armée in Paris, France from Late 1986 - Mid 1987. Following the success of their previous album “Listen Like Thieves”, INXS will return to the studio with producer Chris Thomas to work on the follow up. From the outset, the band will write and record the album will the goal of every track being a potential single. Though initially, Atlantic Records reportedly hates the album (saying it was only suited for “black radio”), and offers the band a million dollars to scrap it and record another one. INXS will stand their ground and steadfastly refuse to conform to their record labels’ wishes. The band will be vindicated when it receives universal praise by fans and critics alike upon its release, becoming the biggest selling album of their career. It will spin off four top 10 singles in the US including “New Sensation” (#3 Pop), “Devil Inside” (#2 Pop), “Never Tear Us Apart” (#7 Pop) and “Need You Tonight” (#1 Pop). “Kick” will peak at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 19, 1985 - “Part Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on November 2, 1985. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is the sixteenth R&B and ninth pop chart topper for the Motown icon. Issued as the first single from “In Square Circle” in August of 1985, it will be an instant smash. The single will make chart history as the first record to hit the top of the Pop, R&B, Dance, and Adult Contemporary charts. The track also features background vocals from Luther Vandross, Philip Bailey and Syreeta Wright. Wonder will publically debut “Part Time Lover” on May 19, 1985 three months before its release, when he performs the song on the television special “Motown Returns To The Apollo” with Boy George of Culture Club. Released in late August of 1985, it will quickly become a smash. At the time that the single reaches the top of the pop singles chart, it will put Wonder in a tie for fourth place with the Bee Gees and Paul McCartney among the artists with the most number ones. In late 1985, the only other artists ahead of them were The Beatles (20), Elvis Presley (17), and The Supremes (12). The success of “Part Time Lover” will help drive sales of “In Square Circle” to 2x Platinum status in the US.
On this day in music history: October 19, 1985 - “Take On Me” by a-ha hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Morten Harket, Magne Furuholem, and Pål Waaktaar, it will be the biggest hit for the Norwegian pop music trio. The version of “Take On Me” that becomes a worldwide hit is actually not the first version of the song recorded. The band first will record and release the song as a single in Europe in 1984 which will fail to attract any attention or chart. They will re-record it with producer Alan Tarney (Cliff Richard, Leo Sayer) and will it still fail to make an impact. Only after they make the now iconic video directed by Steve Barron (“Billie Jean”, “Don’t You Want Me”, “Money For Nothing”, “Electric Avenue”, “Africa”) will record enter the charts and climb to number one. Taking nearly four months alone to finish the clips’ distinctive rotoscoped animation, Warner Bros will spend over $200,000 on the promotional video. Once MTV puts the clip in heavy rotation, the buzz generated by the songs’ innovative visuals will spread to radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #91 on July 13, 1985, it will climb to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. The success of “Take On Me” will drive sales of a-ha’s debut album “Hunting High And Low” to Platinum status in the US and several other countries. “Take On Me” will spend twenty seven weeks on the Hot 100, tying with Diana Ross’ “Missing You” for the longest run on the chart that year. The video is nominated for eight MTV Video Music Awards (winning six) including Best New Artist and Best Concept Video in 1986.
On this day in music history: October 19, 1979 - “Damn The Torpedoes”, the third album by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers is released. Produced by Jimmy Iovine and Tom Petty, it is recorded at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA and Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, CA from Late 1978 - Mid 1979. Widely regarded as one of the best rock albums of the era, it will not have an easy birth. During the making of the record, Petty’s former label Shelter Records (distributed by ABC Records) is sold to MCA. Petty is unhappy with the change and will try to extricate himself from his contract, resulting in him filing for bankruptcy. Eventually, Petty will be able negotiate a deal with MCA (with the band’s recordings being released on the label’s Backstreet imprint), and work on the album will continue. Initially hired as a recording engineer, Jimmy Iovine (future co-founder and chairman of Interscope Records/IGA Group) will work his way into being the album’s co-producer. The finished album will be a huge success spinning off three singles including “Don’t Do Me Like That” (#10 Pop) and “Refugee” (#15 Pop). In 2010, Universal Music Group will release a deluxe edition of the album in various configurations including a newly remastered 2 CD set, 2 LP vinyl edition, and a Blu-ray audio edition. “Damn The Torpedoes” will spend seven weeks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.