On this day in music history: June 19, 1965 – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” by The Four Tops hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the R&B singles chart for 9 weeks on June 5, 1965. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the first chart topping single for the Detroit based R&B vocal quartet. The writing and production team Holland/Dozier/Holland take inspiration from one of their previous hits when they write “I Can’t Help Myself”. The Supremes number one smash “Where Did Our Love Go?” being the song in question. HDH use same chords while writing it, changing the progression around and writing a completely different melody over those chords. Released on April 23, 1965, “I Can’t Help Myself storms the pop and R&B charts quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on May 15, 1965, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. Ironically, or perhaps not so much, The Four Tops single replaces The Supremes’ "Back In My Arms Again” at number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts, also written and produced by HDH. After its first week on top, the single is temporarily bumped from the top by The Byrds “Mr. Tambourine Man” on June 26, 1965, but returns to the top for a second week on July 3, 1965. “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” becomes one of The Four Tops signature songs, and one of many in this era that come to define “The Motown Sound”.
On this day in music history: June 18, 1967 – The Jimi Hendrix Experience make their American performance debut at The Monterey International Pop Music Festival. Hendrix are booked to perform on the recommendation of Paul McCartney, having seen Hendrix and the Experience perform at the Saville Theatre in London two and a half weeks earlier (opening their set with The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). The bands set at Monterey climaxes with Hendrix setting fire to his Fender Stratocaster and smashing it on the stage. The performance becomes legendary, and is captured in the D.A. Pennebaker film “Monterey Pop”. It quickly launches Hendrix into rock superstardom in the US and worldwide.
On this day in music history: June 18, 1966 – “Hold On, I’m Comin’” by Sam & Dave hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written and produced by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, it is the first chart topping single for the dynamic R&B duo. The song’s title is inspired while working in the studio one day. Isaac Hayes yells at his songwriting partner David Porter to hurry up and come out of the bathroom, and Porter responds with “hold on, I’m comin’”! After hearing Porter utter the phrase, Hayes immediately thinks that it would make a good song title and they get right to work. The pair sit down at the piano and write the song in about five minutes. Recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis, TN, the track features Booker T. & The MG’s providing instrumental support. At first, the duo are not fond of the song, feeling that the title and lyrics are too “corny and hillbilly”. Sam Moore can be heard laughing out loud when Dave Prater sings the lyric “I’m on my way, your lover, if you get cold yeah, I will be your cover”, on the finished record. Released as a single in March of 1966, “Hold On, I’m Comin’” quickly rises up the charts, becoming their first R&B number one and first top 40 pop hit. The song is covered numerous times over the years with Sam & Dave’s original version featured in the films “The Blues Brothers” and “American Gangster”.
On this day in music history: June 17, 1966 – “Bus Stop” by The Hollies is released (US release date is on July 8, 1966). Written by Graham Gouldman, it is the twelfth single release (ninth US) for the pop band from Manchester, UK. Formed in 1962 by childhood friends Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, The Hollies is an outgrowth of the pair having begun as a duo years earlier during the skiffle craze that has swept England during the late 50’s. Naming themselves in tribute to musical hero Buddy Holly, the bands line up is solidified by 1963, and also includes Eric Haydock (bass), Tony Hicks (lead guitar) and Bobby Elliott (drums). The Hollies are signed to EMI subsidiary Parlophone Records after being seen at the Cavern Club in Liverpool by Ron Richards, who also becomes their producer. The band score ten top twenty hits in the UK over the next two years, but are barely able to make a dent in the US charts. That changes in late 1965 with the release of “Look Through Any Window” (#4 UK, #32 US Pop), penned by songwriter and future 10cc bassist Graham Gouldman. It is the then nineteen year old Gouldman that writes The Hollies first major American hit. The initial idea for what becomes “Bus Stop” comes while Graham is riding the No. 95 bus from his day job at a men’s outfitters, back to his family’s home in Broughton Park, Salford. Already having the title, he tells his playwright father Hyme about his idea. Mr. Gouldman comes up with the songs opening line “bus stop, wet day, she’s there I say, please share my umbrella”. Inspired by his father’s words, much of the rest of the song falls into place quickly. Graham writes the songs middle eight section, while riding the bus on the same route to work the next day. A short time later, Graham shows the song to The Hollies, who immediately agree to record it. “Bus Stop” is recorded at Abbey Road Studios (Studio Three) in London on May 18, 1966, with the band cutting the final version within an hour and fifteen minutes. Released in the UK first, “Bus Stop” is an immediate smash, climbing to #5 on the singles chart. Issued three weeks later by The Hollies American label Imperial Records, it becomes their big breakthrough hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #98 on July 23, 1966, it peaks at #5 on September 17, 1966, matching its UK chart peak. The success of “Bus Stop” not only continues their run of hits in their home country, but also paving the way to their success on a worldwide basis. The song is also covered by Herman’s Hermits, Gene Pitney, The Classics IV, and Material Issue who record it for The Hollies tribute album “Sing Hollies In Reverse” in 1995.
Born on this day: June 15, 1941 – Singer, songwriter and musician Harry Nilsson (born Harry Edward Nilsson III in Brooklyn, NY). Happy Birthday to this brilliant and visionary artist on what would have been his 77th Birthday.
On this day in music history: June 15, 1968 – “Think” by Aretha Franklin hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Aretha Franklin and Ted White, it is the sixth R&B chart topper for “The Queen Of Soul”. Writing it with then husband Ted White, Aretha Franklin pens “Think” as a message of empowerment to women. Recorded on April 15, 1968 at Atlantic Studios in New York City, it features members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section including Spooner Oldham (organ), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson, and Tommy Cogbill (guitar). Bassist Jerry Jemmott also plays on the track and features background vocals by The Sweet Inspirations. Released as the first single from Franklin’s third Atlantic album “Aretha Now!”, it is an instant smash, racing up the R&B and pop charts simultaneously. The song becomes Aretha’s sixth single to reach the summit on the R&B singles chart in just fifteen months. Much like Franklin’s hit “Respect”, “Think” is adopted as a pro civil rights and pro-feminist anthem. Aretha records the song again for her appearance in the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers”. She also records it again in 1989 on the album “Through The Storm”. The song is also sampled by 3rd Bass in 1989 as the basis of the their hit single “The Gas Face”. “Think” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 15, 1966 – “Gettin’ Ready”, the fourth studio album by The Temptations is released. Produced by Smokey Robinson, Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, Robert Staunton and Robert Walker, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from Late 1965 – Mid 1966. The album marks a major turning point in the career of the superstar Motown group career as producer Norman Whitfield takes over duties as The Tempts main producer from Smokey Robinson. Berry Gordy challenges Robinson and Whitfield to see who can score a bigger hit on the pop charts for the group. Robinson responds with the song “Get Ready” which tops the R&B charts, but falls short on the pop chart peaking at #29. Whitfield gets his shot with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”. It also hits #1 on the R&B chart, peaking at #13 on the pop chart, leading him to being the groups producer almost exclusively for the next seven years. The album also includes the first recording of the song “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” which becomes a big hit for Marvin Gaye three years later. “Gettin’ Ready” spends six weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, and peak at number twelve on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: June 15, 1963 – “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura, it is the biggest hit for the pop singer and actor from Kawasaki, Japan. With lyrics composed by songwriter Rokusuke Ei, the song is inspired while Ei is attending Waseda University in Tokyo. The words come to him while walking home from a student demonstration, protesting US Army presence in Japan. After writing the lyrics, the music is written by fellow songwriter Hachidai Nakamura. The original Japanese title of the song is “Ue o Muite Arukō” which translates to English as “I Look Up When I Walk”. The songs lyrics speak of a man holding his head high so that his tears won’t fall. Over the years, somewhat ambiguous tone of the lyrics have led to numerous interpretations on what they mean. It has been described as everything from a story of love gone wrong, to a man on his way to his execution. “Ue o Muite Arukō” is first performed by Kyu Sakamoto on the television program Yume de Aimashō on August 16, 1961. The response from the television viewing audience is so great, that it generates demand for it to be released as a record. Sakamoto records the song and it is released by Toshiba-EMI Records in October of 1961, and is an instant smash in Japan. The single races to the top of the charts, and becomes the biggest selling record of the year. It is first released outside of Japan in the form of an instrumental version by UK bandleader Kenny Ball. Ball’s record label believing the original title is too difficult to pronounce, give it the generic name “sukiyaki”, a Japanese hot pot dish consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables. In the US, a DJ named Rich Osborne at KORD in Pasco, WA acquires a copy of Sakamoto’s version and begins playing it on his radio show. The response so overwhelmingly positive that Capitol Records picks up the US distribution rights for the single from Toshiba-EMI, its sister label in Japan. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on May 11, 1963, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. The success of “Sukiyaki” turns Kyu Sakamoto into a worldwide star. Nearly two decades later, R&B band A Taste Of Honey scores a major hit with an English language cover, topping the Billboard R&B singles chart (on May 9, 1981), and peaking #3 on the Hot 100 on June 13, 1981, exactly eighteen years to the week that Sakamoto’s version tops the US pop chart. Tragically, Kyu Sakamoto is killed in a plane crash aboard Japan Airlines Flight 123 while flying from Tokyo to Osaka on August 12, 1985. The single deadliest air crash in aviation history, Sakamoto is among the 520 passengers and flight crew who perish in the accident. In 1993 the Kyu Sakamoto Memorial Hall opens in Kuriyama, Hokkaido, Japan, featuring memorabilia, clothing and other artifacts owned by the beloved performer. “Sukiyaki” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.