On this day in music history: February 14, 198…

On this day in music history: February 14, 1981 – “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” by The Gap Band hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #84 on the Hot 100 on April 11, 1981. Written by Lonnie Simmons, Charlie Wilson and Rudy Taylor, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B/Funk band from Tulsa, OK. Before making their commercial breakthrough in the late 70’s, The Gap Band spend years backing musicians like Leon Russell and D.J. Rogers, recording two unsuccessful albums in 1974 and 1977. The Gap Band’s fortunes change when they meet producer Lonnie Simmons in 1978. Signed to Mercury Records that same year, the band write and record their self-titled third album spinning off the hits “Shake” (#4 R&B) and “Open Your Mind (Wide)” (#13 R&B) in early to mid 1979. Their second album released in late 1979 is even more successful, becoming their first Gold album. The Gap Band begin writing material for their third album while touring in support of “Gap Band II” in 1980. The idea for what becomes “Burn Rubber On Me” comes from one of the bands roadies. The roadie’s girlfriend asks him to get her something from the store, and when he returns, finds that she has left him and emptied their closet. The film “Smokey And The Bandit” also provide inspiration when the phrase “put the pedal to the metal and burn rubber” is spoken by actor and musician Jerry Reed. Simmons, Gap Band keyboardist Rudy Taylor and lead singer Charlie Wilson write the song together, with the band recording it at Lonnie Simmons’ Total Experience Studios in Hollywood, CA in the Fall of 1980. For the song’s intro, they record the sounds of a car starting up and then peeling out in the parking lot behind the studio, actually using two cars. The distinctive start up of a Volkswagen Beetle (belonging to keyboardist Cavin Yarbrough of Yarbrough & Peoples) and another car to record the skidding sound effects. When Lonnie Simmons delivers the track to Polygram, Mercury Records parent company, executives asks him to remove the car sound effects from the single version of “Burn Rubber On Me”, fearing that radio might not play the record with that extended intro on the front. So reluctantly, he complies with their wishes, only to have them come back a couple of weeks later and tell him that “the public wants the original version” and not the version with the sound effects cut from the intro. The huge success of “Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)” propels “The Gap Band III” album to Platinum status in the US.