60's musicals

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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 is the biggest hit for the singer and songwriter from Somerville, MA. The novelty classic is recorded in the garage studio of producer/label owner Gary S. Paxton, and also features musician Leon Russell on piano. The record is rejected by several labels before Paxton works out a distribution deal with London Records and releases it on his own Garpax label. “Monster Mash” is an immediate hit upon its release. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 8, 1962, it rockets to the top of the chart just six weeks later. On its initial release in the UK, the BBC bans the record from radio and television airplay for being “too morbid”. The ban is lifted in that country when the single is reissued in 1973. “Mash” becomes a belated smash peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart. “Monster Mash” makes chart history as the only single to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times. After its first run in 1962, it peaks at #91 in September of 1970. The single actually makes the top ten a second time, peaking at #10 in August of 1973. “Monster Mash” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: October 20, 1967 - “Pandemonium Shadow Show”, the second album by Harry Nilsson is released. Produced by Rick Jarrard, it is recorded at RCA Victor’s Music Center in Hollywood, CA from February 17 - June 30, 1967. Making in roads in the music business as a songwriter while making early unsuccessful attempts at a recording career himself, Harry Nilsson is signed to a $50,000 multi-album contract with RCA Records in late 1966. A profoundly gifted songwriter, Nilsson is also blessed with a pitch perfect and pure tenor voice capable of reaching dazzling heights. “Pandemonium Shadow Show” features the musician being supported in the studio by members of the legendary Wrecking Crew studio collective including Mike Melvoin (keyboards), Mike Deasy (guitar), Lyle Ritz (bass) as well as then unknown musician from New Orleans named Mac Rebbennack (aka “Dr. John”) (guitar, keyboards). Nilsson’s early supporters and music publishers Perry Botkin, Jr. and George Tipton also write arrangements for the project. The album is a well balanced mixture of originals written by Harry along with some well chosen covers. Among those original songs is the autobiographical “1941”, with the singer telling the story of his own early life in which his father abandons the family (when Harry is only three years old), leaving his mother to fend for herself and young son. Other songs that are standouts include the clever and rousing opening track “Ten Little Indians”, and “Without Her” which is later covered by Blood, Sweat & Tears and by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. “Cuddly Toy” is also covered by The Monkees on “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.”. Also a huge fan of The Beatles, Harry also puts his own unique stamp on “You Can’t Do That” and “She’s Leaving Home”. In spite of a significant promotional push by RCA, “Pandemonium” fails to generate any hits in the US or chart, though it finds pockets of support, becoming a hit in Canada. And as fate would have it, it also catches the ear of a member of The Beatles inner circle. The band’s publicist Derek Taylor is in Los Angeles with his wife Joan, when he happens to hear “1941” on the radio. After finding out who the artist is, Taylor goes to a local record store and purchases whole case of Nilsson’s album to give to friends, including The Beatles themselves. John, Paul, George and Ringo are immediately impressed by Nilsson, and sing his praises in the press, helping to heighten his public profile. Falling out of print in the 70’s, the album makes its US CD debut in 1995. It is remastered and reissued in 2013 as part of the box set “Nilsson - The RCA Albums Collection”, featuring both the original mono and stereo mixes. The mono version of the album, out of print since being deleted in 1968, is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by Sundazed Music in 2014.