Category: children’s music

On this day in music history: November 7, 1982 – “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” (aka “The E.T. Storybook”) is released. Produced by Quincy Jones, it is recorded at Westlake Audio in Los Angeles, CA from June – August 1982. In early 1982, director Steven Spielberg and record producer Quincy Jones meet while Spielberg is in post production on the film “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”. The director approaches Jones who at the time is working with Michael Jackson on “Thriller”, to record a song for an audio storybook version of “E.T.”. Inviting Jones and Jackson to see the film prior to its opening, they enthusiastically accept Spielberg’s offer. Quincy Jones pairs songwriter Rod Temperton with lyricists Marilyn and Alan Bergman to write “Someone In The Dark”, which is sung by Michael. Blown away by Jackson’s affecting and highly emotional vocal performance, Spielberg asks them to also record the narration, condensing the film into a forty minute long record for release on MCA Records. Though they are under a very tight deadline to finish “Thriller” for a pre-Christmas release, they work on both concurrently. When word gets back to CBS president Walter Yetnikoff, he is furious. Yetnikoff threatens to block the release, feeling that it is keeping Jackson from completing “Thriller” on time, and that MCA and Universal had not obtained permission for him to do the project. Jones’ friend and Tabu Records founder Clarence Avant acts as an intermediary, brokering a deal to allow E.T. to be released. MCA agrees to pay CBS $1 million to release the album with certain caveats. It is limited to a million copies manufactured worldwide, they are not allowed to release a single, and must wait until after Christmas of 1982 so as not to be in direct competition with either “Thriller” and its first single “The Girl Is Mine”, then climbing the charts. MCA agrees, then almost immediately violates the terms by not only releasing E.T. three and a half weeks before “Thriller”, but also issuing “Someone” as a promotional single to radio. The lavish boxed package list priced at $11.98 features a twenty page booklet, also comes with a 22" x 22" poster of MJ with E.T.. CBS is successful in having the album withdrawn from record stores shortly after its release, and does not re-appear again until nearly five years later when the label is allowed to sell off the remaining stock. CBS also winds up keeping the money MCA pays them, paying neither Jackson or Jones for their work on the project. In spite of this, the record is nominated for and wins the Grammy Award for Best Recording For Children in 1984. Of the eight Grammys Jackson receives that night, he states that the one for “E.T.” is the one he is most proud of. Though the storybook album has never been reissued, “Someone In The Dark” appears as a bonus track on the 2001 special edition release of “Thriller”, and on the 2004 box set “Michael Jackson – The Ultimate Collection”.

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On this day in music history: July 2, 1979 – “Mickey Mouse Disco” is released. Produced by Jymn Magon, it is recorded at Audio Media Recording Studios in Nashville, TN from Early – Mid 1979. With disco permeating the culture unlike anything before it, its influence is everywhere. Eventually the Walt Disney Studios jumps on board to cash in. In January of 1977, Disney revives The Mickey Mouse Club as “The New Mickey Mouse Club” as a syndicated TV series. Featuring a new group of Mouseketeers that includes future Facts Of Life star Lisa Whelchel, Allison Fonte, Curtis Wong, Kelly Parsons, and Scott Craig, the series runs for 130 episodes through January of 1979. During its first season, the actors record an up tempo discofied version of the “Mickey Mouse March”. Titled “Disco Mouse (Mickey Mouse March)”, the song is released as a single by Buena Vista Records. Though not a success, it sets the wheels in motion for an even more ambitious project. Producer Jymn Magon proposes that Disney record a disco album aimed at children, featuring both original songs and four on the floor covers of evergreens like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, “It’s A Small World” and “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Disney executives join forces with a company called Odyssey Productions out of Nashville, TN to record the album. Musicians and studio singers including Dennis Burnside, Pat Patrick, Paul Whitehead and Jack Jackson are hired to play on the album and write new songs. Titled “Mickey Mouse Disco”, the nine song album is ironically titled as the voice of Mickey Mouse is not heard on it. Though other Disney characters like Donald Duck (“Macho Duck”) and Goofy (“Watch Out For Goofy!”), are represented. Issued at a time when the disco is on the wane, the album initially attracts little attention. Then Disney’s marketing department comes up with the idea of promoting the record with TV commercials, as well as offering it for sale as a direct mail order item as well as at retail. The plan works brilliantly, and by April of 1980, “Mickey Mouse Disco” races past the Gold mark in sales. Realizing that they’re on to something unique, Disney also sells numerous merchandising tie-ins. It also spins off a program, featuring classic Disney animated footage synched up to the music. Aired incessantly on the Disney Channel during the 80’s, it also propels the album’s sales. Its blend of kitsch, humor and family friendly appeal turn it into one of the biggest children’s albums of all time, selling more than two million copies in the US alone. Reissued briefly on CD in 1995, “Mickey Mouse Disco” is reissued as a limited edition vinyl LP for Record Store Day in April of 2019, for its fortieth anniversary. “Mickey Mouse Disco” peaks at number thirty five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 22, 1958 – “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” by The Chipmunks & David Seville hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Following the chart topping success of the single “Witch Doctor” in April of 1958, David Seville (birth name: Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.), follows it up with his most popular and enduring creation. Seville’s youngest son Adam provides the inspiration, for what becomes “The Chipmunk Song”. The idea for the song comes about, when the young boy asks his father in September “if it’s Christmas yet?”. Seville takes the idea and runs with it. He creates the characters Alvin, Simon, & Theodore, three cartoon chipmunks who are named after Liberty Records executives Al Bennett and Si Waronker, and recording engineer Ted Keep. Employing the same tape vari-speed technique used on “Witch Doctor”, the vocals on the song are sung by Seville by recording his voice with the tape running at 1/3 normal speed, producing the high pitched “chipmunk like” vocals upon playback. Released right before Thanksgiving in November of 1958, the single is an instant and massive success. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on December 1, 1958, it pole vaults to the top of the chart three weeks later. At the time of its release, “The Chipmunk Song” becomes one of the fastest selling singles of all time, when it sells over 4.5 million copies in seven weeks. At the first Grammy Awards in 1959, it wins three awards including Best Comedy Recording, Best Engineered Recording and Best Children’s Recording. The record re-charts on the Hot 100 three more times between 1959 and 1962, peaking at #41, #45 and #39 respectively. The huge success of the single spins off several hit albums including “Christmas With The Chipmunks”, released by Liberty Records in 1962. Out of print since the early 80’s, it is reissued on vinyl in 2014 replicating the original foil LP sleeve and Liberty LP labels with The Chipmunks’ faces printed on them. A limited edition release on split red and green vinyl, is issued as an exclusive through Newbury Comics in 2016. When interest is revived in Alvin and the Chipmunks in December 2007 with the release of the film “Alvin And The Chipmunks”, the original recording of “The Chipmunk Song” re-enters the Hot 100, peaking at #66. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.