On this day in music history: November 5, 1966 - “Last Train To Clarksville” by The Monkees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, is the first number one single for “The Pre-Fab Four”. Working as staff writers for music supervisor Don Kirshner’s publishing company, Boyce and Hart use The Beatles then recent hit “Paperback Writer” as the initial inspiration for “Clarksville”. Bobby Hart mistakenly believes that The Beatles were singing about a “last train”. When he realizes that isn’t correct, he still likes the imagery enough to begin writing a song around it. The track is recorded at RCA Victor Studio B in Hollywood, CA on July 25, 1966. With The Monkees themselves spending as much as twelve hours a day filming the series, the music tracks are cut with studio musicians (though band members Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork are both accomplished musicians) in order to make the recordings as quickly as possible. The group would then be brought into the studio to record their vocals. The single is released on August 16, 1966, one month before their top rated TV series debuts on NBC on September 12, 1966. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on September 10, 1966, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Clarksville” is the first of three chart topping singles, and six top ten singles for The Monkees. “Last Train To Clarksville” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 21, 1972 - “Superfly - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Curtis Mayfield hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 4 weeks, also topping the R&B album chart for 6 weeks on October 14, 1972. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, it is recorded at RCA Studios in Chicago, IL and Bell Sound Studios in New York City from Late 1971 - Early 1972. Written as the score to the Gordon Parks, Jr. directed blaxploitation film about a drug dealer trying to get out of the dealing game, it provides an arresting counterpoint to the accompanying film. It marks the pinnacle of Mayfield’s career both artistically and commercially, becoming his biggest selling album. The album is so successful in fact, that it actually surpasses the film itself in profits. In time, “Superfly” is widely regarded a landmark recording and one of the greatest R&B albums of the ‘70’s. It spins off two singles including “Freddie’s Dead” (#2 R&B, #4 Pop) and the title track (#5 R&B, #8 Pop) both being certified Gold. The original vinyl LP package features a unique die cut cover that opens up to reveal the track listing for the album. Later re-pressings of the LP do away with this feature, and the portion with the title graphics and actor Ron O'Neal are printed flat on a single pocket sleeve. First reissued on CD in 1988 by Ichiban Records, the landmark soundtrack is remastered and reissued as a double CD deluxe edition by Rhino Records for its 25th anniversary in 1997. The first disc features the original nine track album, plus the single mixes/edits of “Freddie’s Dead” and “Superfly”. Disc two includes extended versions of the underscore from the film, alternate and extended versions of the released album tracks, two rare radio advertisements for the soundtrack, and a brief interview with Curtis Mayfield on the film and about his songwriting. The booklet included in set features detailed and extensive annotation by A Scott Galloway. The deluxe CD reissue is released in a digi-pak, with a die cut cover that mirrors the original vinyl LP release. During the 2000’s, “Superfly” is also reissued numerous times on vinyl, with two limited edition pressings on colored vinyl. The landmark soundtrack is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Superfly - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA
“Sam the snowman tells us the story of a young red-nosed reindeer who, after being ousted from the reindeer games because of his beaming nose––after befriending a lovely doe named Clarice––teams up with Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius, a prospector. They run into the Abominable Snowman and find a whole island of misfit toys. Rudoph vows to see if he can get Santa to help the toys, and he goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. Santa’s sleigh is fogged in, but when Santa looks over Rudolph, he gets a very bright idea.
The TV special, with the teleplay by Romeo Muller, introduced several new characters inspired by the song’s lyrics. Muller told an interviewer shortly before his death that he would have preferred to base the teleplay on May’s original book, but could not find a copy. Other than Burl Ives, all characters were portrayed by Canadian actors recorded at RCA studios in Toronto under the supervision of Bernard Cowan. The Japanese company that handled animation made several copies of each puppet, since they didn’t last long under the constant handling of stop-motion posing.
Since those involved with the production had no idea of the value of the figures used in the production, they were not preserved. Santa and Rudolph were given to a secretary, who gave them to family members. Kevin Kriess bought Santa and Rudolph in 2005 and, because they were in such bad condition, had them restored by Screen Novelties International. The figures have been shown at conventions since then.
Unlike other specials that also air on several cable channels (including ABC Family), Rudolph only airs on CBS. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the television special and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the United States Postal Service in November.
In the original TV version of the show, Rudolph, Hermey the elf and Yukon Cornelius visit the Island of Misfit Toys and promise to help them, but the Misfits are never mentioned again. After it was shown, the producers were inundated with letters from children complaining that nothing had been done to help the Misfit Toys. In response, Rankin-Bass produced a new short scene at the end of the show in which Santa and his reindeer, led by Rudolph, land on the Island and pick up all the toys to find homes for them, which has ever since been the standard version of the show run during the holidays.
When Yukon Cornelius throws his pick axe into the ground and takes it out and licks it, he’s checking neither for gold nor silver. The original concept for the special stated that Yukon was in fact searching for the elusive peppermint mine.
When the film was first released, in 1964, the technology of using an articulated metal armature inside the figures was considered so amazing that TV Guide devoted four pages to the story. They failed to mention that the “new” technology had been pioneered 31 years before, most prominently inside the gorilla King Kong (1933).”
Written by Michael Nesmith, Gerry Goffin, Carole King Lead vocal: Michael Nesmith Backing vocals: Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Unknown Guitars: Peter Tork, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Michael Deasy Bass: Bob West Dano bass: Peter Tork, James Burton, Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Mike Deasey Drums: Hal Blaine, Frank DeVito, Jim Gordon Violin: Jimmy Bryant Percussion: Gary Coleman Piano: Larry Knechtel Recorded at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, California; July 18, 1966 (8:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.) Producer: Michael Nesmith
On this day in music history: November 13, 1965 - “The Sound Of Music - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks. Produced by Neely Plumb, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Hollywood, CA in Late 1964. Recorded over just a few days in the Fall of 1964, the soundtrack album is produced by RCA Records A&R man Neely Plumb (father of actress Eve Plumb). The score to the film adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical is written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and features vocal performances by the films’ cast including Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Along with the film, the soundtrack album is a runaway success in both the US and is an even larger success in the UK where it spends seventy weeks (non-consecutive) the top of the chart over a three year period. The original vinyl LP comes packaged with a booklet featuring liner notes on the cast and composers, and still photos taken during filming on location in Austria. Reissue pressings of the LP are released in gatefold sleeves (originals feature a single pocket jacket), with the booklet contained inside. The front of the sleeve also features an Academy Award statuette printed on the front, also indicating the awards won by the film. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music wins the Academy Award for Best Adapted Score in 1966. “The Sound Of Music - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.
On this day in music history: March 24, 1962 - “Twistin’ The Night Away” by Sam Cooke hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Sam Cooke, it is the third chart topping single for the R&B and pop vocal icon from Clarksdale, MS. Making the move from independent label Keen Records to major player RCA Records in 1960, Sam Cooke doesn’t miss a beat in the transition, scoring a big hit with the classic “Chain Gang” (#2 R&B and Pop). Though with the exception of “Cupid” (#20 R&B, #17 Pop), Cooke hits a slump in 1961, when five of his singles chart poorly or not at all. Looking for something to pull himself out his chart stagnation, the singer turns to the latest pop cultural phenomenon for inspiration. A sensation in the US and worldwide since Chubby Checker emerges on the scene with “The Twist”, Checker’s record achieves the unheard of feat of topping the Billboard Hot 100 in two separate runs on the charts in September 1960 and January 1962. Also in late 1961, New Jersey based band Joey Dee And The Starliters are quickly moving up the charts with “Peppermint Twist Pt. 1”, which replaces “The Twist” at number one after its second time at the top. Cooke writes “Twistin’ The Night Away”, and plays the finished song for his producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. Hugo and Luigi agree with Cooke that it’s a hit, and quickly move to record it. “Twistin’” is recorded at RCA Studios in Hollywood, CA on December 18, 1961, with members of the famed Wrecking Crew studio collective including arranger Rene Hall (Marvin Gaye), Earl Palmer (drums), Tommy Tedesco, Clifton White (guitars), Red Callender (bass), Ed Beal (piano), Jackie Kelso, John Ewing, Jewell Grant (saxophones) and Stuart Williamson (trumpet). Released on January 9, 1962, the song quickly demonstrates that Sam Cooke is far from over. Entering the Hot 100 at #70 on February 3, 1962 and #20 on the R&B singles chart on February 17, 1962, the single rises up both charts quickly. “Twistin’ The Night Away” becomes one of Sam Cooke’s most popular and beloved songs, later being featured in films like “Animal House”, “Innerspace” and “The Green Hornet”. Rod Stewart records the song for his album “Never A Dull Moment” in 1973, re-recording it for the soundtrack of “Innerspace”, appearing along side Cooke’s original version in the film. Drag performer and actor Divine also records a Hi-NRG dance version “Twistin’” in 1985.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1966 - “The Monkees”, the debut album by The Monkees hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 13 weeks. Produced by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Jack Keller and Michael Nesmith, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studios A, B, & C and Western Recorders in Hollywood, CA from July - August 1966. Featuring songs written by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, David Gates, Gerry Goffin, Carole King and Mike Nesmith, the album is a huge success, driven by both the hit single “Last Train To Clarksville (#1 Pop) and their highly rated TV series. It is also a huge hit overseas also topping the UK album chart as the series goes on the air there. Early pressings of the LP erroneously credit the track “Papa Gene’s Blues” as “Papa Jean’s Blues”. The album has seen reissues on CD and vinyl in 1994, 1996 and in 2006. On November 11, 2014, Rhino Records releases a two CD Deluxe Edition as well as a limited edition three CD Super Deluxe Edition of the album. Both sets feature the original mono and stereo mixes, as well as outtakes, alternate versions, demos and other rarities. The reissue sets are annotated by Andrew Sandoval. “The Monkees” is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 6, 1965 - “Get Off Of My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it is the second US chart topper for the legendary rock band. First signing with Decca Records in the UK in 1963, the band are naive about the business end of the music industry, having signed a contract that pays them a very low royalty rate in spite of having sold several million records in a short period of time. After the huge worldwide success of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, The Rolling Stones seek a much better deal with the label. The deal is brokered by a savvy New York accountant named Allen Klein, then known for having managed major stars including Sam Cooke and Bobby Darin. Though the deal reportedly gives them the best royalty rate of the day (even surpassing the contract The Beatles have with EMI), by 1971 they lose the rights to their masters and publishing to Klein’s company ABKCO Music in order to break their contract with him. “Cloud” is The Stones’ first release under their newly renegotiated contract with Decca. Written while the band are in Los Angeles in the Fall of 1965, “Get Off Of My Cloud” is recorded at RCA Studios in Hollywood, CA on September 6-7, 1965. Entering the Hot 100 at #64 on October 9, 1965, it poles vault to the top of the chart just four weeks later. Initially issued as a stand alone single, the song appears on the US compiled album “December’s Children (And Everybody’s)” in December of 1965.
On this day in music history: August 18, 1956 - “Don’t Be Cruel” / “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 11 weeks. Written by Otis Blackwell / Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is third chart topping single for Presley. Penned by songwriter Otis Blackwell (“Great Balls Of Fire”, “All Shook Up”, “Return To Sender”), “Cruel” is recorded at RCA Studios in New York on July 2, 1956, with the master version being the twenty eighth take. The flip side “Hound Dog”, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952 for R&B legend Big Mama Thornton, is recorded by Presley during the same session. A big fan of Big Mama’s version as well as the answer record “Bear Cat” by Rufus Thomas, Presley decides to record “Hound Dog” after an ill fated performance engagement in Las Vegas. While playing an two week stint in Las Vegas during the Spring of 1956, Elvis sees the lounge act Freddie Bell And The Bellboys performing a comedy burlesque cover of “Hound Dog” in their show. Liking their arrangement, Presley decides to record himself. Elvis and his band along with vocal group The Jordanaires record thirty one takes of the song before finally capturing the master take. The single is released eleven days later on July 13, 1956, and is an immediate smash. Technically the B-side of the single, it is listed along with “Hound Dog” beginning the week of August 11, 1956 when the it reaches #2, then topping the chart the following week. The double A-sided singles run at the top of the charts is unprecedented in the rock era. The record remains unbroken until 1992 when “End Of The Road” by Boyz II Men holds the number one spot for 13 weeks beginning on August 15, 1992, thirty six years to the week that Presley hits number one. “Don’t Be Cruel” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.
On this day in music history: April 25, 1960 - “Stuck On You” by Elvis Presley hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Aaron Schroeder and J. Leslie McFarland, it is the thirteenth chart topping single for the rock & roll icon from Tupelo, MS. Following his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army on March 5, 1960, Elvis’ record label RCA Records and his manager Colonel Tom Parker move swiftly to get the singer back into the recording studio. The track is recorded at RCA Studios in Nashville, TN on March 20, 1960, as part of a two day marathon session in which he cuts “Stuck” and five other songs including the B-side “Fame And Fortune”. RCA racks up advanced orders of 1,275,077 copies (even before retailers know the title of the record), making it the highest pre-release order for a record in history to that date. The single is Presley’s first to be issued in stereo, along side a standard mono version. “Stuck On You” is also issued in a special custom sleeve (with a die cut hole in the center rather than a non die cut picture sleeve) baring the legend “Elvis’ 1st new recording for his 50,000,000 fans all over the world”. Entering the Hot 100 at # 84 on April 4, 1960, it leaps to the top of the chart only three weeks later. Elvis also performs both songs on the Frank Sinatra hosted television special “The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis” taped on March 26, 1960 and broadcast on May 12, 1960. “Stuck On You is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 15, 1957 - “Elvis’ Christmas Album”, the third album by Elvis Presley is released. Produced by Steve Sholes, it is recorded at RCA Victor Studios in Nashville, TN and Radio Recorders in Hollywood, CA from January - September 1957. Presley’s first holiday album consists of eight Christmas songs and four gospel songs (the latter previously released as the EP “Peace In The Valley”). The LP’s lavish original packaging is designed to look like a photo album and contains a photo booklet with publicity stills from Elvis’ latest film “Jailhouse Rock”. First press run copies also come with a gold “gift tag” affixed to the front of the LP jacket (which also adds to original pressing’s collectible value). Upon its release, the album is the subject of some controversy when songwriter Irving Berlin, the composer of the classic “White Christmas” objects to Presley’s recording of the song, going as far as requesting that radio stations ban it from airplay. Some others feel that Elvis recording gospel songs is “sacrilegious”. One disc jockey is actually fired for playing the album on the air. In spite of all this, it becomes a classic and a perennial holiday favorite over the years, being reissued every year. After its first year, the albums artwork is changed for the first of several times before the original album packaging is restored in 1985 as part of RCA’s reissue program (some vinyl copies are pressed on red or green vinyl) to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Presley’s birth. “Elvis’ Christmas Album” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, and is certified 13x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, receiving a Diamond Certification.