On this day in music history: May 25, 1985 - “Everything She Wants” by Wham! hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #12 on the R&B singles chart on June 8th. Written and produced by George Michael, it is the third consecutive US chart topper for the London based pop music duo. Originally released in the UK in December of 1984 as a double A-sided single with the seasonal holiday song “Last Christmas”, it will peak at #2 on the UK singles chart behind Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (which Michael also appears on). “Everything” is a significant release in the groups’ career, having been previously derided by critics as a mere “teen pop group”, it will further solidify George Michael’s reputation as a songwriter and producer with its unique production style, and lyrical narrative about the pressure faced by a young man trying live up to the material wants and needs of his partner. The single will also receive heavy airplay on US R&B stations, solidifying a base of popularity with African American music fans that will reach its zenith with Michael’s debut solo album “Faith”. Issued in the US on March 8, 1985 as the third single from Wham’s second album “Make It Big”, it will be an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #60 on March 23, 1985, it will climb to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Everything She Wants” will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 25, 1973 - “Tubular Bells”, the debut album by Mike Oldfield is released. Produced by Tom Newman, Simon Heyworth, and Mike Oldfield, it is recorded at The Manor in Oxfordshire, UK from Autumn 1972 - Spring 1973. The album consists of two side long movements (running a total of nearly 49 minutes) featuring Oldfield playing nearly all of the instruments. Vivian Stanshall (of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) is featured as the voice of the “master of ceremonies”. The eclectic piece merging progressive rock with what will later become known is “new age” music, is rejected by numerous record labels as being “unmarketable” and “non-commercial”, until Richard Branson, the owner of The Manor Studios hears the album and agrees to release it. It will be the first release on the newly established Virgin Records label, and will become the cornerstone to the companies’ development into the multi-billion dollar corporation it is today. The album will receive a major boost when director William Friedkin uses part of the first movement in his film “The Exorcist”. Its exposure in the film (also issued as a edited single #31 UK, #7 US Pop) will lead to its worldwide popularity. The single will also win Oldfield a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition in 1975. The albums’ iconic cover artwork featuring a bent “tubular bell” is designed by graphic artist Trevor Key. The album will be released in several different editions over the years including in quadraphonic stereo, though the first 40,000 copies pressed will not be a true multi-channel mix, instead being an altered version of the original stereo mix. Later copies will contain the true quadraphonic mix including a boxed set edition including remastered versions of the two different mixes. “Tubular Bells” will hit #1 on the UK album chart, #3 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 25, 1968 - “Bookends”, the fourth studio album by Simon & Garfunkel hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 7 weeks (non-consecutive). Produced by Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and Roy Halee, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studio in New York City from September 1966, January 1967, June 1967, October 1967 - February 1968. The songs on the albums’ first half have a unifying theme, following life’s journey from childhood to old age. The other half are songs that have mostly been released as singles over the previous year prior to the albums’ release. It will spin off four singles including “Mrs. Robinson” (#1 Pop), “At The Zoo” (#16 Pop), and “A Hazy Shade Of Winter (#13 Pop). It will be the last Simon & Garfunkel album to released in both mono and stereo, with the former having noticeable differences over its stereo counterpart, also being pressed in far smaller quantities before being deleted shortly after its release. Original pressings will also come packaged with a large fold out poster. The album’s iconic black & white cover photo of the duo was taken by famed photographer Richard Avedon, which will go on to be one of the most imitated and parodied of all time. In 2001, a remastered CD of the album will include two bonus tracks including “You Don’t Know Where Your Interests Lie” (the non-LP B-side of “Fakin’ It”) and the demo version of “Old Friends”. “Bookends” will be certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 25, 1968 - “The Horse” by Cliff Nobles & Co. is released. Written and produced by Jesse James, it is the lone hit single for the Philadelphia, PA based studio band. The track is the instrumental version of the song “Love Is All Right”, with the non-vocal side being named after the popular dance. Though it is credited to Cliff Nobles, he does not actually appear on the instrumental side (being a vocalist only). The track features members of the rhythm section that will later become known as MFSB and is arranged by Philly Soul legend Bobby Martin. (The Manhattans, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, L.T.D.). Released on Philadephia based Phil-La Of Soul Records (distributed by Jamie/Guyden Records), DJ’s will prefer the instrumental side of the single and will rocket up the charts. “The Horse” will peak at #2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart in July of 1968, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. In later years, the song will become a staple of sporting events, most often being played by marching bands.
On this day in music history: May 24, 1969 - “Get Back” by The Beatles With Billy Preston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks. Written by Paul McCartney (credited to “Lennon - McCartney”), it is the seventeenth US chart topper for “The Fab Four”. The single will be the first music to emerge from the recording sessions that produce the “Let It Be” album and documentary film. The “hit single version” of the track is recorded at Apple Studios in London on January 27, 1969, after weeks of rehearsing and recording various takes of the song. At the invitation of George Harrison, musician Billy Preston will play keyboards (mainly electric piano and organ) during the sessions for two weeks. The Beatles enjoy his playing and affable personality so much that they will give him co-billing on the single when it is released (the only time another musician is credited along side the band). “Get Back” will also be The Beatles first single to be issued in stereo in the US (mono in the UK). An alternate, shorter take of the song will appear on the “Let It Be” album when it is released a year later in May 1970. It is released the UK the Friday before Easter Sunday on April 11, 1969, with the US release date being on May 5th. The delay being caused by Paul McCartney deciding to remix the track again days before its scheduled release in the UK, with US release date also being pushed back. In spite of this, the single will be an immediate smash. The Beatles will tie their own previous record for the highest ever chart debut on the Hot 100 (set by “Hey Jude” eight months earlier) when “Get Back” enters the chart at #10 on May 10, 1969, leapfrogging to the top of the chart two weeks later. “Get Back” will be certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 23, 1975 - “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, the ninth studio album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO from June - July 1974. After the successful “Caribou” album, the prolific musician will return to the Caribou Ranch in the Colorado Rockies to record his next release. The concept album is an autobiographical account of Elton John and Bernie Taupin and the struggles they faced at the beginning of their musical careers. The single “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (#4 Pop), is about John’s half hearted suicide attempt while he’s engaged to a woman, faced with choosing her over his music career (and still struggling with his sexuality at the time). His friend and former bandmate Long John Baldry will convince him to break off the engagement. The album will also mark the last time that John records with drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray until the “Too Low For Zero” album in 1983. “Captain Fantastic will make history when it becomes the first album to ever enter the Billboard Top 200 at #1. For the original LP release, a limited number of promotional copies will be pressed on translucent brown vinyl, with each album jacket autographed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” will spend 7 weeks (non-consecutive) at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA.
On this day in music day in music history: May 23, 1972 - “Lookin’ Through The Windows”, the fifth studio album by The Jackson 5 is released. Produced by The Corporation and Hal Davis, it is recorded at The Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA in February 1970, and Motown/Hitsville USA West in Hollywood, CA from October 1971 - April 1972. The groups’ fifth album will see them beginning to move away from the trademark “bubblegum soul” feel of their earlier Motown hits toward a more mature sound. This period will also mark the beginning of the group’s dissatisfaction with Motown’s control over their career, in which they will not be allowed to have any say or creative input in their music. It will spin off two singles (three in the UK) including “Little Bitty Pretty One” (#8 R&B, #15 Pop) “Doctor My Eyes” (#9 UK), and the title track (#5 R&B, #16 Pop, #9 UK). “Lookin’ Through The Windows” will peak at #3 on the Billboard R&B album chart and #7 on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: May 23, 1960 - “Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on June 13th. Written by Don Everly and Phil Everly, it is the third and final US chart topper for the pioneering rock & roll duo from Brownie, KY. After a string of successful and memorable hits for Archie Bleyer’s Cadence Records, they will be signed by Warner Bros. Records to a long term contract worth over $1 million (an unprecedented sum at the time). Phil will come up with the initial idea for the song after they record eight songs, with none of which will be deemed suitable for their first release. Don will help his brother finish off the tune before going into RCA Victor Studio A in Nashville, TN to record it. Released in April of 1960, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on April 18, 1960, it will shoot to the top of the chart five weeks later. “Cathy’s Clown” will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. The single will be a big hit internationally also, topping the UK singles chart for 7 weeks in May and June of 1960. The Everlys will have a successful string of hits on Warner Bros through 1962. Following a stint in the Marines Corps Reserves, they will only have one more top 40 single in the next four years.
On this day in music history: May 22, 1980 - “diana”, the eleventh studio album by Diana Ross is released. Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station, Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and Motown/Hitsville USA Studios in Hollywood, CA from November 1979 - April 1980. Motown superstar Diana Ross will approach Edwards and Rodgers about producing her after her children take her to see Chic at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in the Summer of 1979. Never having worked with a major artist before, the producers will agree to do the project. Sessions will be arduous as the producers will clash with the singer over their working methods, with the situation coming to a head during one vocal session when Edwards tells Ross she’s singing flat. She’ll storm out of the studio, and not come back for several weeks (having gone to the south of France in the interim). After she returns, there will still be issues when she expresses her unhappiness with the way the album is initially mixed. The producers will make some slight alterations and then tell her that if she still isn’t happy, she can remix them herself. With veteran Motown mix engineer Russ Terrana, Ross will remix the entire album, which will create more friction between both sides. So much so, that Edwards and Rodgers will nearly ask to have their names removed from the production credits. Fortunately cooler heads will prevail. In spite of all of the behind the scenes drama, the album will be ecstatically received by the public, becoming her most successful album ever. Fans and critics will be further taken aback by the album’s striking cover photo (inner gatefold photo taken by Douglas Kirkland), taken by legendary fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo (Seventeen, Cosmopolitan). Instead of the normally high glamour look Ross is known for, she will be shown with her natural length hair, wet and swept back, in a white top and blue jeans (borrowed from model Gia Carangi). The album will spin off the hits “Upside Down” (#1 Pop & R&B), I’m Coming Out” (#5 Pop, #6 R&B), and a third in the UK (“My Old Piano” #5 UK). The album will be reissued in 2003 as a 2 CD Deluxe Edition with the original “Chic Mix” being released for the first time, with a second disc featuring rare and unreleased remixes of several Diana Ross dance floor classics. “diana” will spend 8 weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 22, 1976 - “Silly Love Songs” by Wings hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 1 week on May 29th. Written and produced by Paul McCartney, it is the fifth solo chart topper for the former Beatle. McCartney will write the song in response to critics who have frequently chided him in the press, feeling that his solo work is “lightweight” in comparison to his Beatles era material. Released on April 1, 1976, it is issued as the first single from Wings’ fifth studio album “Wings At The Speed Of Sound”, becoming an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on April 10, 1976, it will shoot to the top of the singles chart just six weeks later. After one week on top, it will be temporarily bumped from the top spot by Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” for two weeks. The single will then rebound, and return to the top for four more weeks. “Silly Love Songs” will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.