On this day in music history: November 17, 1987 – “You Can Dance” by Madonna is released. Produced by Madonna, Stephen Bray, Nile Rodgers, Reggie Lucas, Mark Kamins and John “Jellybean” Benitez, it is recorded from May 1982 – September 1987. The seven track compilation is the first remix album from Madonna, and features tracks from her first three albums remixed by John “Jellybean” Benitez, Shep Pettibone, Bruce Forest, Frank Heller, Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. The set is filled out by the track “Spotlight” which is a previously unreleased outtake from the “True Blue” sessions. The album is sequenced so that the tracks are mixed together in a continuous sequence on both sides to emulate a DJ’s club set. A promotional version of the album is released to radio that features edited versions of the tracks with cue banding between the songs. Warner Bros also issues three promo 12" singles (“Where’s The Party” b/w “Spotlight”, “Into The Groove” b/w “Everybody” and “Holiday” b/w “Over And Over) to club DJ’s that become heavily sought after by collectors. The CD and cassette releases are expanded from the seven track vinyl LP. The other configurations featuring the extended dub versions of "Holiday”, “Into The Groove” and “Where’s The Party”, which are only available on vinyl on the promotional 12" singles. The album also features liner notes written by music journalist Brian Chin that are printed on the “belly band/OBI strip” wrapped around the album jacket on the original vinyl pressing. Out of print on vinyl since its original release in 1987, it is remastered and reissued as a limited edition on Record Store Day on April 21, 2018. LP release is pressed on red vinyl and faithfully replicates the original release packaging, including the OBI strip, and comes with an over sized poster of the cover artwork, issued with some foreign pressings. “You Can Dance” peaks at number fourteen on the Billboard Top 200, spending one week at number one on the Club Play chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 15, 1975 – “Fly Robin Fly” by Silver Convention hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 3 weeks on September 27, 1975, and topping the Hot 100 for 3 weeks on November 29, 1975. Written by Silvester Levay and Stephen Prager, it is the biggest hit for the German based studio band. The band is helmed by producers Silvester Levay and Michael Kunze and also features future producer Keith Forsey (Donna Summer, Billy Idol, Simple Minds) on drums, with the vocals being performed by uncredited studio singers. Originally titled “Run, Rabbit, Run”, Levay and Prager have a change of heart and re-title it before its recorded. Cut at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany, the single is picked up for release in the US by RCA Records subsidiary Midland International. It quickly becomes a smash in the clubs before crossing over to radio. The producers enlist vocalists Linda G. Thompson, Penny McLean and Jackie Carter to front the group live, and to sing on subsequent releases. The single wins a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance in 1976. “Fly Robin Fly” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1984 – “Like A Virgin”, the second album by Madonna is released. Produced by Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station in New York City from April – May 1984. By early 1984, with her self titled debut finally gaining significant sales and chart momentum, Madonna is anxious to begin work on her sophomore release. She wants to produce the project herself, after being left in the lurch by producer Reggie Lucas when he quits before sessions for the first album are complete. Madonna’s record label Warner Bros isn’t willing to grant her full creative control, and insists that a seasoned professional be in charge of the sessions. Being a huge fan of the band Chic, she asks guitarist Nile Rodgers to produce her. The pair get to work right away, selecting songs for the album. Madonna pens five of the nine songs, co-writing four of those with former boyfriend and Breakfast Club band mate Stephen Bray. The rhythm section consists of Nile Rodgers on guitar and Synclavier, along with former Chic band mates Bernard Edwards (bass), Tony Thompson (drums) and Rob Sabino (keyboards). Even with Rodgers firmly at the helm, Madonna is also very hands on, being present at all sessions, observing and making suggestions to Rodgers and the other musicians. Once recording is completed, the album is held back for several more months as Madonna’s debut is still generating hits. Released at last in mid-November, “Like A Virgin” is an immediate smash. It spins off four top five pop singles including “Material Girl” (#2 Pop, #49 R&B, #1 Club Play), “Angel” (#5 Pop, #71 R&B, #1 Club Play), “Dress You Up” (#5 Pop, #64 R&B, #1 Club Play) and the title track (#1 Pop, #9 R&B, #1 Club Play). The album’s iconic cover, back cover and inner sleeve photos are taken by fashion photographer Steven Meisel (Seventeen, Vogue). The original US and Canadian promo LP copies are pressed on pure white “virgin” vinyl (originally intended for stock commercial copies also, but deemed too expensive) with custom art labels. “Virgin” establishes Madonna as a pop superstar on a global basis, and becomes her biggest selling album, moving over twenty one million copies worldwide. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2001 with the 12" mixes of “Material Girl” and the title track as bonus tracks. The album is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2016, and as a limited edition clear vinyl pressing in the UK (exclusively through Sainsbury’s) in 2017. It is also reissued as a limited edition white vinyl LP, as part of Rhino’s “Back To The 80’s” series in July of 2018. “Like A Virgin” spends three weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number ten on the R&B album chart, and is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “C’est Chic”, the second album by Chic is released. Produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is recorded at The Power Station Studios in New York City from Mid – Late 1978. Buoyed by the success of their their Gold selling debut album, Chic returns to the studio in the Spring of 1978 to work on their sophomore release. With original lead vocalist Norma Jean Wright departing the band for a solo career, Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin become the lead voices for Chic. While working on their own album, Edwards and Rodgers also concurrently produce an album for Philadelphia based family group Sister Sledge after Atlantic Records executives let them choose whatever act on the company roster they want to work with. The song “He’s The Greatest Dancer”, originally intended to go on Chic’s album is given to Sister Sledge, while “I Want Your Love” (#5 R&B, #7 Pop) written with the intent of giving it to the Sledges, is instead placed on “C’est Chic”. The albums’ cornerstone track, “Le Freak” (#1 Pop and R&B) is inspired by an incident at the legendary Studio 54 disco on New Year’s Eve of 1977, when the producers are invited by singer Grace Jones to discuss working with her. Edwards and Rodgers are met with the club’s infamous “velvet rope” door policy and are not admitted. They instead go to Nile’s apartment around the corner, and begin jamming on a riff that starts with the refrain “ahhh, f*** off!!!, which evolves into “ahhh, freak out!!” With “Le Freak” being issued as the lead single, the album quickly takes off, becoming Chic’s biggest seller and today is regarded as a landmark album of the Disco Era. The front and back cover photos are taken by legendary photographer Joel Brodsky (The Doors, Ohio Players, Funkadelic). Beyond the albums’ two hit singles, the lead track “Chic Cheer” also becomes a dance floor favorite, later being sampled on singer Faith Evans’ hit “Love Like This” in 1998 and on Fatman Scoop’s “Be Faithful”. Originally issued on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Warner Japan in 1998, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve (w/ HDCD encoding). Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, the album is reissued as a 180 gram LP by Friday Music in 2013. The album is remastered again, by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios. It’s reissued as part of the box set “The Chic Organization: 1977 -1979” as a five CD, or four LP + 12” single half speed mastered vinyl set, on November 23, 2018. The vinyl edition is also issued separately, coming with an OBI strip detailing the half-speed mastering process. “C’est Chic” spends eleven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number four on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “I’m Every Woman” by Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 on December 23, 1978. Written by Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, it is the first solo chart topper for the lead singer of the R&B band Rufus. After recording five albums with Rufus, Chaka Khan begins work on her first solo album with producer Arif Mardin (Aretha Franklin, Average White Band, the Bee Gees) in early 1978. While searching for material to record, Mardin finds the song “I’m Every Woman”, written by Ashford & Simpson, who Khan had recently collaborated with on Quincy Jones’ R&B chart topper “Stuff Like That”. The husband and wife duo play the demo for Mardin off of an acetate disc they had recorded some years before. The producer writes out the chord changes and lyrics, before coming up with a new arrangement. Recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City, the track features musicians such as AWB members Steve Ferrone (drums), Hamish Stuart and Onnie McIntyre (guitars and background vocals), bassist Anthony Jackson, guitarist Phil Upchurch and keyboard player Richard Tee. An instant R&B radio and club classic upon its release in September of 1978, it also crosses over into the pop Top 30 before the end of the year. Whitney Houston covers “Woman” (#4 Pop and R&B) for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack in 1992, and Khan makes a cameo appearance in the music video. “I’m Every Woman” is the first of three solo number one singles for Chaka Khan, with that single propelling the accompanying album “Chaka” to Gold status in the US.
On this day in music history: November 11, 1978 – “MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Jimmy Webb, it is the first number one single for the legendary “Queen Of Disco”. The song is originally written in 1967 by songwriter Jimmy Webb (“Up, Up And Away”, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”) for The Association, and is conceived as part of a side long cantata for the bands’ album “Birthday”. When The Association pass on recording the cantata, Webb excerpts “MacArthur Park” from the piece and record it with actor Richard Harris. His version, clocking in at a then unheard of 7:20, is a huge hit (#2 Pop) in spite of its length. Donna Summer records the song in 1978 as part of a seventeen and a half minute long suite for the fourth side of her double album “Live And More!”. Her medley consists of “MacArthur Park” as well as the songs “One Of A Kind” and “Heaven Knows” (the latter also being released as single in early 1979 (#4 Pop, #10 R&B). Edited down from its epic side long duration to a more radio friendly length, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on September 9, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. A few months later, Summer meets Webb while she is recording her next album “Bad Girls” in Hollywood. He takes her out to the parking lot, and shows her a brand new Ferrari he’s purchased, telling the singer with a big smile, “you bought me that!!”. “MacArthur Park” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 7, 1982 – “Living My Life”, the sixth album by Grace Jones is released. Produced by Chris Blackwell and Alex Sadkin, it is recorded at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, The Bahamas from Spring – Summer 1982. Issued as the third and final release in the “Compass Point Trilogy” series of albums that the singer records at the famed recording studio owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, Jones co-writes all but one track on the album. She once again collaborate with Sly Dunbar and Barry Reynolds, and members of the Compass Point All Stars that including Sly and Robbie, Wally Badarou, Steven Stanley and Uziah “Sticky” Thompson. It spins off three singles including “Nipple To The Bottle” (#17 R&B, #2 Club Play) and “Cry Now, Laugh Later”. Also released in extended form as a 12" single, the US 12" of “Nipple To The Bottle” is backed with a dub version of the track “My Jamaican Guy” (issued on the European 12" in edited form). Re-titled “J.A. Guys”, the dub mix is later sampled as the basis of LL Cool J’s hit “Doin’ It” in 1995. The albums’ striking cover art designed by Jean Paul Goude (Jones’ partner and frequent collaborator) and Rob O’Connor. It features a cut out photo of Grace trimmed with an exacto knife to make her face and the top of her head more angular, then superimposing a piece of tape over one eye. “Living My Life” peaks at number nineteen on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number eighty six on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 3, 1979 – “Ladies Night” by Kool & The Gang hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 on January 12, 1980. Written by George Brown, Ronald Bell, Robert Bell, James “J.T.” Taylor, Dennis Thomas, Charles Smith, Robert Mickens, Meekaaheel Muhammed and Earl Toon, it is the fourth chart topping single for the R&B band from Jersey City, NJ. By 1978, Kool & The Gang find themselves at a career crossroads, after their two previous albums “The Force” and “Everybody’s Dancin’” fare poorly. With their long time label De-Lite Records now a subsidiary of Polygram, the band realizes they must adjust to shifting musical tastes if they want to keep going. Not having a permanent lead singer in past years, vocalist James “J.T.” Taylor is hired as Kool & The Gang’s front man, after he is introduced to them by House Of Music Studios co-owner Stephan Galfas. Possessing smooth and versatile vocal chops as well as formidable songwriting talent, Taylor proves to be a perfect fit. For their first album with their new singer, the band works with Brazilian born jazz musician, arranger and producer Eumir Deodato (“Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)”). The idea for what becomes “Ladies Night” initially comes from bassist and band leader Robert “Kool” Bell who coins the title. Drummer George Brown develops the musical foundation of the song with the other band members pitching in ideas and helping write the lyrics. The track comes together quickly, and all agree that it is a hit. When “Ladies Night” is released as a single in late August of 1979, it is an immediate smash. Initial pressings of the single have the full LP version of “Too Hot” (#3 R&B, #5 Pop) as the B-side (edited and reissued as an A-side in January of 1980), but are quickly recalled and pressed with “If You Feel Like Dancin’” as the flip side. Though some of the bands’ original fans grumble that Kool & The Gang has “sold out” their R&B and funk roots for “disco and pop”, the record marks the beginning of a new era for the band, and the start of an unbroken hit streak that lasts for the next eight years. The huge success of “Ladies Night” drives the accompanying album to Platinum plus status in the US, giving them their biggest selling album since “Light Of Worlds” five years earlier. “Ladies Night” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 3, 1979 – “Pop Muzik” by M hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by M (aka Robin Scott), it is the biggest hit for the British born singer, songwriter and musician. Scott originally writes the song with a more R&B/Funk feel, but when he isn’t fully satisfied with that version, he re-arranges it into the electronic New Wave dance track that it becomes famous for. Synthesizer programmer John Lewis adds the crowning touch by creating the distinctive “bubble synth” sound that is one of the standout features of the song. The single features Scott (guitar and vocals) as well as keyboardist Wally Badarou and Level 42 drummer Phil Gould playing on the track, and is recorded at Mountain Studios (owned by the rock band Queen) in Montreaux, Switzerland. Entering the Hot 100 at #61 on August 11, 1979, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. “Pop Muzik” is also a big hit internationally reaching #1 in Canada and #2 on the UK singles chart. The picture sleeve for the single features a picture of Scott’s baby daughter Berenice who grows up to become a musician also. Though M himself becomes a one hit chart wonder in the US, his biggest single has enduring popularity. Over the years, the song is remixed, covered and sampled by the likes of Tricky and U2. “Pop Muzik” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.