On this day in music history: September 6, 1986 - “Venus” by Bananarama hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Robbie Van Leeuwen, it is the biggest hit for the London based female vocal trio. Originally formed in 1979, Bananarama consists of childhood friends Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin, who meets Siohban Fahey when all three are college students. All have an avid interest in music, and are immersed in the punk rock and post punk scenes in London in the late 70’s and early 80’s, performing as an opening act, or singing backing vocals for numerous artists including The Jam and Iggy Pop. The trio become roommates, living above a rehearsal space used by former Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook. Jones and Cook help the girls record a demo for the song “Aie a Mwana” (#92 UK Pop) which get them signed to Demon Records who release it as a single. It is enough of a hit to attract the attention of Decca Records who sign Bananarama in 1982. They have a string of top five hits in their native country, which also garners them a cult following in the US. They finally score a major hit in the US in the Fall of 1984, after their single “Cruel Summer” (#9 Pop), is featured in the film “The Karate Kid”. For their third album, Bananarama pair up with the production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman (Stock, Aitken & Waterman) after hearing their work on Dead Or Alive’s number one UK single “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”. The team produce two tracks for their album “True Confessions”. The group cover the pop classic “Venus”, originally recorded by the Dutch band The Shocking Blue, whose original version is a huge worldwide hit in late 1969/early 1970 hitting number one in the US in February of 1970. Bananarama’s version is released in early June of 1986, and quickly takes off. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 28, 1986, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. When “Venus hits the top of the charts, it is only the fourth time in the history of the rock era that the same song has hit number one on the US pop singles chart by two different artists. The Bananarama version of "Venus” is later used in an episode of the animated series “American Dad!” in 2009. Titled “Moon Over Isla Island”, the song is declared the national anthem of a “banana republic” island also re-named Bananarama (making it a double in-joke), by Roger who is posing as the country’s dictator after the real one dies from accidentally choking to death on a corn dog.


A new Donna Summer CD singles box set is coming out on October 2nd 2015.

This limited edition 24 CD box set collates the Singles originally released on Geffen Records and Atlantic Records from the albums ‘The Wanderer’, 'Donna Summer’, 'Cats Without Claws’, 'All Systems Go’, 'Another Place And Time’ and 'Mistaken Identity’. 

To preserve the authenticity in this CD Singles Box Set, the tracks included on these CD Singles appeared on the various formats of the official international versions, so there will be instances where different B-sides were released, as well as the inclusion of a duplication of tracks from previous singles. Also included is a Bonus 4-track CD featuring remixes, which although were on the Club/DJ circuit, have not been previously available commercially.

The individual re-mastered re-issues, are packaged in replica mini-sleeves from across Donna Summer’s international releases and feature a newly authored liner note by noted US writer Christian John Wikane, with brand new interviews undertaken with, amongst others, Bruce Sudano, Matt Aitken, Jellybean Benitez, Harold Faltermeyer, Lisa Fischer, Siedah Garrett, Pete Hammond, Sylvester Levay, Melba Moore, Ray Parker Jr., Brenda Russell, Martyn Ware and Pete Waterman, as well as extracts from archive interviews with Donna Summer by Christian John Wikane.


On this day in music history: May 20, 1985 - “Youthquake”, the second album by Dead Or Alive is released. Produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman, it is recorded at PWL Studios in London from September 1984 - March 1985. Following the departure of founding member and guitarist Wayne Hussey to join the goth-rock band Sisters Of Mercy in mid-1984, Dead Or Alive continue on as a quartet. The Liverpool, UK based band completely abandon their early goth/post-punk sound which they had begun moving away from on their debut album “Sophisticated Boom Boom”. Dead Or Alive work with the fledgling production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aikten and Pete Waterman (aka Stock, Aitken and Waterman. The first product of the bands fully revamped Eurodisco/Hi-NRG sound is the single “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” (#1 UK Pop, #11 US Pop), which Epic Records has such disdain for it initially, that they refuse to fund its recording. Lead singer Pete Burns believes so deeply in the songs hit potential that he takes out a loan to record it independently of the label. After the song is recorded, Epic releases it, but again refuses to provide a budget to shoot a music video. The self financed clip directed by Vaughan Arnell and Anthea Benton (George Michael’s “Fastlove”, The Spice Girls’ “Say You’ll Be There”) begins to receive play on UK television and in clubs, helping the record move on to the charts in December of 1984. The song moves slowly up the charts until Dead Or Alive appears on Top Of The Pops in February of 1985. That lone television appearance helps propel the single to #1 on the UK singles chart in March, prompting its US release. The album meets with similar success as it spins off three additional singles including “Lover Come Back To Me” (#11 UK Pop, #75 US Pop), “In Too Deep” (#14 UK Pop), and “My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)” (#23 UK Pop). The albums striking cover artwork is designed by British graphic design firm Satori (Def Leppard, Thompson Twins), and features an enigmatic photograph of the flamboyant Burns on the front taken by famed fashion photographer Mario Testino. The original European CD and cassette versions of the album include the Performance Mix of “You Spin Me Round” and the extended dance mix of “Lover Come Back”, as well as the remastered release in 1994. The US and Japanese CD’s contain the original vinyl LP track listing. “Youthquake” peaks at number nine on the UK album chart, number thirty one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.


On this day in music history: May 15, 1976 - “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on May 29, 1976. Written by Pam Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod, it is the second R&B and fourth pop chart topper for the Motown superstar. With the departure of The Jackson 5 from Motown after the release of their album “Moving Violation”, producer Hal Davis is left without his top act after working together for five years. During this time he hears the original demo of “Love Hangover” in a Motown colleague’s office. Instantly excited about the songs hit potential, he cuts it right away. Recorded at Paramount Studios in Hollywood in mid 1975, it features musicians such as Joe Sample (keyboards), James Gadson (drums), and Henry Davis (of the band L.T.D.) (bass) playing on the track. Davis also comes up with the idea for the songs signature dual tempos, which the musicians are initially resistant to, but he convinces them otherwise. Shortly after, Davis plays the completed track for Berry Gordy who hears it as a smash for Diana Ross. Though initially, Ross doesn’t care for the song, but agrees to record it at Gordy’s urging. Upon arriving at the studio, Davis pours her a drink and they get to work. The producer has recording engineer Russ Terrana install a strobe light in the vocal booth to add some ambiance to the session, helping to put Ross in the proper frame of mind. The end results of which are heard on the finished record. “Love Hangover” is rush released as a single in March of 1976 when a competing version by The 5th Dimension is released on ABC Records just before it. Both versions enter the chart the same week on April 3, 1976, with The 5th Dimension’s version stalling at #80 on the Hot 100 the week of April 24, 1976, while Ross’ version soars to the top of the chart three weeks later. Ross’ version of “Love Hangover” also receives a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1977. The song is also remixed twice, first in 1988 by Phil Harding of PWL (Pete Waterman Limited), and again in 1993 by Frankie Knuckles and Joey Negro for a remix album titled “Diana Extended: The Remixes”.


On this day in music history: March 12, 1988 - “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on the same date, and topping the Club Play chart for 1 week on January 16, 1988. Written and produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, it is the debut single and the first US chart topper for the British pop singer from Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, UK. Initially working at producers Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s PWL Studios in London as an assistant engineer/“tea boy”, Waterman hears Astley sing and then offer him a chance to record himself. “Never Gonna Give You Up” is recorded on January 1, 1987 at PWL Studios in London. Released in the UK in early August of 1987, it is an instant smash. It tops the UK singles chart for five weeks, and becomes the biggest selling single of the year. His debut album “Whenever You Need Somebody” also debuts at number one and spins off five singles throughout the year. Off the back of its international success, the record is picked up for release in the US by RCA Records in late 1987. Much like when making his UK debut, US audiences initially assume that Astley is black, until the music video for the single begins airing. People are taken aback when they discover that deep, rich, soulful voice is actually coming from a thin white Englishman under six feet tall. Physical appearance aside, the song quickly becomes a big hit in dance clubs and quickly begins receiving radio play. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on December 19, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. One of the most popular singles of the 80’s, “Never Gonna Give You Up” garners renewed interest and further notoriety on the internet in 2007 when it becomes the subject of a prank called “rickrolling”, involving misleading online links that redirect the person to the music video for “Give You Up”. “Never Gonna Give You Up” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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