On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 - “Songs In The Key Of Life” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 14 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the R&B album chart for 20 weeks (non-consecutive) on the same date. Produced by Stevie Wonder , it is recorded at Crystal Sound Studios, The Record Plant in Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, and The Hit Factory in New York City from Spring 1975 - Fall 1976. Recorded over a period of nearly two years, “Songs” becomes only the third album in US chart history to debut at #1 (Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Rock Of The Westies” are the first two.). It spins off four singles including “I Wish” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “Sir Duke” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “As” (#36 Pop and R&B) and “Another Star” (#32 Pop, #18 R&B). “Songs” wins four Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year, making Stevie Wonder one of only three artists in history to win the Album Of The Year prize three times (Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon are the others). The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002, and is also added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2005, for its ongoing historic and cultural significance. “Songs In The Key Of Life” is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1960 - “Save The Last Dance For Me” by The Drifters hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks (non-consecutive). Written by Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman, it is the biggest pop single for the legendary R&B vocal quartet. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is also the last single to feature lead singer Ben E. King, who leaves the group for a solo career. There is some speculation among fans that a young Phil Spector assisted Leiber and Stoller on the production of this song, but has never been confirmed. Though the legendary songwriter and producer collaborates with King, and the production team on the classic “Spanish Harlem”. Entering the Hot 100 at #78 on September 5, 1960, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Save The Last Dance For Me” goes on to become a rock & roll standard and is covered numerous times over the years by various artists including Ike & Tina Turner, Jay & The Americans, Billy Joe Royal, and Emmylou Harris. The Drifters original version is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001. “Save The Last Dance For Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1964 - “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, it is the biggest hit for the London based pop quintet. Formed in 1962 by South African born keyboardist Manfred Mann, the band originally call themselves The Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. They establish themselves as part of the thriving British blues scene in London along with contemporaries including The Yardbirds, Alexis Corner, and The Rolling Stones. When they land a record contract with EMI Records HMV label in 1963, Manfred Mann’s producer John Burgess insists on a name change, and adapt their keyboardist and bandleaders name as their new moniker. After scoring a handful of hits in their native UK, they record a cover of the song “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, written by the husband and wife songwriting team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Newly married at the time it was written, Barry and Greenwich perfectly express their newly wedded bliss, with the title being a clever euphemism for a “sexual dalliance”. Originally written for and recorded by The Exciters (“Tell Him”) as “Do-Wah-Diddy”, their version is only a minor hit, peaking at #78 on the Hot 100 on January 25, 1964. Manfred Mann records their version after lead singer Paul Jones discovers the song in his record collection. Issued in the UK first in July of 1964, it is an immediate smash, leaping to number one on August 13, 1964. Licensed to Ascot Records (distributed by United Artists) in the US, it quickly becomes a hit on American radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #58 on September 5, 1964, it streaks to the top of the chart six weeks later. Regarded as one of the great party anthems of all time, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” is covered by a wide variety of artists including Jan & Dean, Andrew Gold, and the 2 Live Crew. Bill Murray and Harold Ramis sing the song during a marching sequence in the film “Stripes” in 1981.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1963 - The Beatles record “I Want To Hold Your Hand” at Abbey Road Studios in London. Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, it is the fifth UK single release for “The Fab Four”. The song is written in the Fall of 1963 while Paul McCartney is living at the home of his girlfriend, actress Jane Asher and her family, with John and Paul writing it together on the piano. “Hand” is recorded during sessions for the band’s second album “With The Beatles”, and is completed in seventeen takes. It is the first Beatles song recorded on Abbey Road’s four track multi-track tape machine, with previous recordings by the band being recorded using a two track machine. When it is released in the UK on November 29, 1963, it is an immediate smash, receiving advance orders of over one million copies. The single enters the chart at #2, at first unable to dislodge their previous release “She Loves You” from the top, finally taking the top spot two weeks later on December 12, 1963, spending five weeks at number one. The UK single is backed with the ballad “This Boy” which is recorded during the same session as “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. “Hand” becomes one of the best selling singles in history, selling over twelve million copies worldwide.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1970 - “Jesus Christ Superstar - A Rock Opera” is released (US release is on October 30, 1970). Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it is recorded at Olympic Studios, Advision Studios, Island Studios and Sport Production Studios in London from October 10, 1969 and Early - Mid 1970. Meeting each other in 1965, Webber and Rice find they share an interest in musical theater, and begin writing songs. Their first works are “The Likes Of Us” and “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Having written “Joseph” as musical re-telling of the biblical prophet, they mount an even more ambitious project. The pair write a rock opera about the last week in the life of Jesus.The idea initially has no interest from producers. The inspiration for “Jesus Christ Superstar” comes from the Bob Dylan song “With God On Our Side”, mentioning the savior’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot. The melody for “Superstar” comes to Webber while sitting in a restaurant. Hearing of a singer and actor named Murray Head, they approach him about singing the role of Judas and he accepts. After several rejections, Decca/MCA Records gives them the money to record “Superstar” as a single. It features members of Joe Cocker’s group The Grease Band, (Henry McCullough, Neil Hubbard, Alan Spenner, and Bruce Rowland), with a full orchestra and the Trinidad Singers. The executives at MCA initially object to its release, but eventually give their approval. Released on November 21, 1969 (US on December 1, 1969), it peaks at #47 on the UK chart, and #74 on the US pop chart. However, it hits #1 in Holland and makes the top ten in other countries. It inspires Decca to green light the full album. Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan is cast as Jesus, along with Yvonne Elliman as Mary Madgalene, Barry Dennen as Pontius Pilate, Victor Brox as Caiaphas, The High Priest, and Manfred Mann lead singer Mike d'Abo as King Herod. Working on a very tight budget, they offer everyone a percentage of future royalties, rather than a flat session fee. Many accept the offer except Elliman, who is paid £100 (but is later given royalties by the composers). The double album is a huge success, in spite of some outcry that it is blasphemous. The original UK LP is issued with a sleeve, that unfolds into the shape of a star. The US LP is first released as a box set (revised to a gatefold), emblazoned with the now iconic “praying angels” logo, and packaged with a 28 page libretto. “Superstar” (#14 Pop) is reissued, followed by “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” (#28 Pop). The latter is out charted by a cover version by Helen Reddy. The album becomes the launch pad for the long running musical, and for a hit film in 1973, cementing its pop cultural status. “Jesus Christ Superstar” spends three weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 17, 1964 - “12 x 5”, the second US album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, it is recorded at Regent Sound Studios in London and Chess Studios in Chicago, IL from February 25, May 12, June 10 - 11, 24 - 26 and September 28 - 29, 1964. The album includes the first songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (under the pseudonym “Nanker Phelge”), after manager Andrew Oldham tells them that if they want to build on their success, that they have to come with original material. Oldham literally locks the pair up in a kitchen and tells them that they can’t come out until they’ve written a song. While on their first trip to the US in the Summer of 1964, the band records several tracks at Chess Records studio in Chicago. The five songs the band records in the US are released in the UK as an EP titled “5 x 5”. The Stones US record label London takes those songs and expands it to a full LP with the singles “It’s All Over Now” (#26 Pop), and “Time Is On My Side” (#6 Pop), along with their respective B-sides and three other songs that are included on their second UK album “Rolling Stones No. 2”. When the album is remastered and reissued in 2002, it includes the full unedited version of the instrumental “2120 South Michigan Avenue”. It is also remastered and reissued on LP in 2014 pressed on clear vinyl, with the original mono version being re-released as part of the “Rolling Stones In Mono” box set on September 30, 2016. “12 x 5” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.