On this day in music history: May 21, 1966 - “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears”, the debut album by The Mamas And The Papas hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 1 week. Produced by Lou Adler (Carole King, Cheech & Chong), it is recorded at United/Western Recorders in Hollywood, CA in Late 1965 - Early 1966. The first album by the pop vocal group contains a mixture of original songs written by group members John & Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty as well as covers of The Beatles’ “I Call Your Name”, Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance”, Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem”, and Dobie Gray’s “The “In” Crowd”. The album cover features a shot of the group sitting in a bathtub with a toilet situated to the right. Shortly after its release, copies of the album with this cover are pulled from record stores, being deemed as indecent. The reprinted LP jackets feature the same shot with a white scroll covering the toilet, listing the inclusion of the song “California Dreamin’”. In addition, a third version of the album cover will be printed with the photo cropped showing only the group members faces. The original cover will become sought after collectors item years later. The original artwork for the album will be restored on a 2010 vinyl LP reissue and limited edition CD in 2011(by Sundazed Records) which features the first release of the original (and superior) mono mix since going out of print in 1968. The album will spin off three singles including “Go Where You Wanna Go”, “California Dreamin’” (#4 Pop) and, “Monday, Monday” (#1 Pop). “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 17, 1967 - The documentary film “Don’t Look Back” is released. Directed by D.A. Pennebaker (“Monterey Pop”, “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”), the film documents Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of the UK, and provides a rare, intimate glimpse into the personal life of the prolific, but enigmatic musician. It also features appearances from numerous people in Dylan’s inner circle including manager Albert Grossman, Joan Baez, Donovan, and poet Allen Ginsburg. The opening scene of the film includes the now iconic “music video” for the song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” featuring Dylan standing in an alley way displaying cue cards of various lyrics from the song. This segment will be often parodied over the years by various artists. The film will have its premiere screening at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco, CA. “Don’t Look Back” will selected for preservation by the United States National Registry by the Library Of Congress in 1998 for its historic and cultural significance.
Born on this day: May 10, 1946 - Singer, songwriter, and musician Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch in Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland. Happy 67th Birthday, Donovan!!
On this day in music history: May 7, 1966 - “Monday, Monday” by The Mamas And The Papas hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by John Phillips, is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles, CA based folk/rock group. The song will be the last recorded for the groups’ debut album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears”. Initially Cass, Michelle, Denny, and producer Lou Adler are initially not in favor of the song, but John is able to persuade them to record it. Phillips’ intuition about the song is confirmed when radio stations begin playing it as an album cut while their previous single “California Dreamin’” is still riding the charts. Shipped as a single by Dunhill Records in late March of 1966, it will be an immediate smash, selling over 150,000 copies on its first day of release. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on April 9, 1966, it will rocket to the top of the chart four weeks later. “Monday, Monday” will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA, and will win The Mamas And The Papas a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1967.
On this day in music history: April 16, 1968 - “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden”, the fifth album by Donovan is released (US release is in December 1967). Produced by Mickie Most, it is recorded at Pye Studios in London circa 1967. Originally released as two separate albums titled “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” and “For Little Ones”, it is one of the first rock albums to be issued as a box set. The songs on “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” are electric based pop songs, while “For Little Ones” are acoustic based children’s songs. The set is lavishly packaged with a full color booklet including photos and printed lyrics, “A Gift From A Flower To A Garden” will peak at #13 on the UK album chart and #19 on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: April 6, 1968 - “The Graduate - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 9 weeks (non-consecutive). Produced by Teo Macero, the album serves as the soundtrack for the Mike Nichols film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. It features new and previously released songs by Simon & Garfunkel as well as film score pieces written by Dave Grusin. Many of the previously released songs were originally used as “temporary tracks” chosen by director Mike Nichols and remain in the film when Paul Simon (who is busy touring with Art Garfunkel at the time) is unable to come up with more new material. The soundtrack includes two versions of S&G’s current hit “Mrs. Robinson” featured in the film, though neither is the hit single version which is included on the duos’ “Bookends” album, which will temporarily bump the soundtrack from the #1 spot. “The Graduate” will be certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 5, 1988 - The self-titled debut album by Tracy Chapman is released. Produced by David Kershenbaum, it is recorded at Powertrax in Hollywood, CA in Late 1987 - Early 1988. The young singer/songwriter will be brought to the attention of record executive Charles Koppelman by his son Brian who is a student at Tufts University where Chapman is also attending school. Chapman will work with veteran producer David Kershenbaum (Joe Jackson, Supertramp) on her first release. A number of producers pass on working on the project, not sharing Chapman’s vision of how the songs should be arranged and produced. The album will be a huge critical and commercial success upon its release, spinning off three singles including “Fast Car” (#6 Pop), and “Baby Can I Hold You” (#48 Pop). Chapman will also win three Grammy Awards for the album including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and Best New Artist. “Tracy Chapman” will hit #1 (for 1 week) on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 6x Platinum by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 5, 1972 - “Graham Nash/David Crosby” by Graham Nash & David Crosby is released. Produced by David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Bill Halverson, it is recorded at Wally Heider #3 in Los Angeles, CA in Early 1972. The album is recorded during the period following the break up of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, when all of the members record solo or side projects. Crosby and Nash are joined in the studio by musician friends such as Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann and guitarist Dave Mason. It will spin off the single “Immigration Man” (#36 Pop), which is inspired by an unpleasant encounter that Nash has with a US Customs official. The customs official will treat Nash very rudely, holding him up for unnecessarily. Only when others in line recognize the famous musician (asking him for his autograph) that customs allows him to go through. The album is dedicated to Graham Nash’s former girlfriend Joni Mitchell who will be acknowledged as “Miss Mitchell” on the back of the album cover. “Graham Nash/David Crosby” will peak at #4 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 3, 1968 - “Bookends”, the fourth album by Simon & Garfunkel is released. Produced by Simon & Garfunkel and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Studios in New York City between September 1966 - February 1968. The first half of the album contains songs about life from childhood to old age, while the second half includes songs originally intended for “The Graduate” soundtrack but were rejected by the film’s producers. It will spin off four singles including “Mrs. Robinson” (#1 Pop) and “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” (#13 Pop). Original pressings will also come packaged with an oversized poster of the duo with an image of the 59th Street (aka Queensboro) Bridge and flowers superimposed on top of the portrait. It will also be the last Simon & Garfunkel album to be issued with separate mono and stereo mixes. The mono LP has many noticeable differences from its stereo counterpart, and is pressed in much smaller quantities, making it a sought after collector’s item among fans. “Bookends” will spend 7 weeks (non-consecutive) at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: April 1, 1987 - “Solitude Standing”, the second album by Suzanne Vega is released. Produced by Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye, it is recorded at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY and RPM Studios in New York City from Late 1986 - Early 1987. After the release of her acclaimed self-titled debut album, Vega will once again work with former Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo on the follow up. It will be the breakthrough release for the California born/New York City raised singer and songwriter. The album will spin off two singles including the title track (#94 Pop) and “Luka” (#3 Pop). It also includes the original acappella version of the song “Tom’s Diner” which will be remixed by UK producers DNA in 1990, becoming a huge hit (#5 US Pop, UK #2). “Solitude Standing” will peak at #11 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.