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 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.
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: October 25, 1977 – “Once Upon A Time”, the sixth album by Donna Summer is released. Produced by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belotte, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany from Late 1976 – Mid 1977. The first of four consecutive double LP sets for “The Queen Of Disco”, it is Donna Summer’s third release centered around a central theme that tie the individual songs together. “Once Upon A Time” is a concept album forming a narrative that is a modern day retelling of the fairy tale “Cinderella”. The album sides are split into four separate “acts”, as the story unfolds. The LP’s gatefold packaging further emphasizes this theme with a photo of Summer wearing a white dress posed against a night sky. It spins off three singles including “Rumour Has It” (#53 Pop, #21 R&B, #1 Club Play) and “I Love You” (#37 Pop, #28 R&B, #1 Club Play). Originally released on CD in 1987, it is remastered and reissued as an SHM-CD by Universal Japan in 2012. The limited edition Japanese release comes packaged in a mini-LP gatefold sleeve, replicating the original vinyl LP packaging. “Once Upon A Time” peaks at number twenty six on the Billboard Top 200. and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 25, 1975 – “To Each His Own” by Faith, Hope & Charity hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #50 on the Hot 100 on September 20, 1975. Written and produced by Van McCoy, it is the biggest hit for the R&B/Disco vocal group from Tampa, FL. Originally known as The Lovelles and consisting of vocalists Zulema Cusseaux, Albert Bailey and Brenda Hilliard, the group are given their name “Faith, Hope & Charity” by producer Bob Crewe (The Four Seasons). But it is with another star producer that the trio have their greatest success. In 1970, they sign to Maxwell Records and begin working with Van McCoy. The collaboration pays off quickly when their score their first hit single “So Much Love” (#14 R&B, #51 Pop) in the Spring of 1970. Cusseaux leaves the group in 1971 to pursue a solo career, while Bailey and Hilliard continue on as a duo, moving to Sussex Records. In 1974, Faith, Hope & Charity gain a new member with the addition of Dianne Destry. Along with that change also comes a change of record label, when the group move to RCA Records in 1975 after the demise of their former label Sussex Records. With Van McCoy back at the helm production wise, they begin work on their debut album for RCA at their studios in New York City. McCoy writes or co-writes seven of the nine songs on the album including the mid tempo groove “To Each His Own”. Having scored his own recent smash with “The Hustle”, the producer utilizes many of the same musicians that played on that classic including Steve Gadd (drums), Eric Gale, David Spinozza (guitar), Gordon Edwards (bass), Richard Tee, Leon Pendarvis (keyboards) and Gene Orloff (string arrangement). Buoyed by the trio’s spirited and soulful vocals, “To Each His Own” quickly becomes a smash on club dance floors and hits on R&B radio after its release as a single in August of 1975. McCoy also utilizes their vocal talents on another project he’s producing at the same time, when they sing on former Temptation David Ruffin’s comeback smash “Walk Away From Love” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop). The group score more chart hits in the US with the follow up “Don’t Go Looking For Love” (#38 R&B), and a cover version of Doris Troy’s “Just One Look” (#15 UK) in the UK. Faith, Hope & Charity land their last sizable hit in 1978 with “Don’t Pity Me” (#20 R&B), after which Dianne Destry leaves the group, which splits following her departure. Acknowledged as a disco classic, “To Each His Own” is also covered by bandleader and composer Enoch Light, and also a version released by Van McCoy himself.
On this day in music history: October 13, 1978 – “Cheryl Lynn”, the debut album by Cheryl Lynn is released. Produced by David Paich and Marty Paich, it is recorded at Studio 55, Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA, Western Recorders in Los Angeles, CA and CBS Recording Studios in New York City from Late 1977 – Mid 1978. Born Lynda Cheryl Smith in Los Angeles, CA, Cheryl Lynn grows up singing in church. She gets her first major break in the national touring company of “The Wiz”. Eventually she is promoted to a starring role, portraying Evillene, The Wicked Witch Of The West. Also that year, Lynn appears on the amateur talent program “The Gong Show”. Singing “You Are So Beautiful”, Cheryl Lynn earns a perfect score and wins the top prize. Little does she realize that TV appearance will change her life. After the show airs, she begins receiving phone calls from record executives, including Ahmet Ertegun from Atlantic Records. When Ertegun is unable to meet with the singer, she instead meets with execs from Columbia Records. Lynn is quickly signed by veteran A&R man Bruce Lundvall, who pairs her with David Paich of the band Toto. Paich works on Cheryl’s debut with his famous father, arranger and bandleader Marty Paich. A virtual “A-Team” of musicians are assembled for the sessions, including Ray Parker, Jr., David T. Walker, Steve Lukather (guitar), David Shields, Chuck Rainey (bass), James Gadson, Bernard Purdie (drums), Bobbye Hall, Harvey Mason, Joe Porcaro (percussion), Dick Hyde, Chuck Findley, Ernie Watts, Pete Christlieb, Gary Grant and Steve Madaio (horns). The album is led by the instant classic “Got To Be Real” (#1 R&B, #12 Pop), quickly establishing Lynn as a force to be reckoned with. It spins off two more singles including “Star Love” (#16 R&B, #62 Pop) and “You Saved My Day”. “Star Love” is unique in the fact that it is recorded almost completely live in the studio. Though not a hit at the time, “You Saved My Day” becomes an underground club classic over the years, with Columbia issuing the full unedited version as a promotional only 12" in the US. Over time, the rare single becomes a highly prized and expensive collector’s item, among club DJ’s and fans. “Day” is released as a limited edition 12" for Record Store Day in April of 2018. Originally released on CD in 1987, it is given a long overdue remastering and reissue in 2014 by UK reissue label SoulMusic Records. Produced and annotated by veteran music historian and journalist David Nathan, it features four additional bonus tracks including the shorter initial single release of “Got To Be Real”, also featured on the first pressing of the album, but eventually replaced with the longer “Disco Mix”. It also features the 12" and single edits of “Star Love” and promo 12" mix of “You Saved My Day”. “Cheryl Lynn” peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty three on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 9, 1976 – “A Fifth Of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the R&B singles chart on October 16, 1976, and peaking at #13 on the Adult Contemporary chart on July 10, 1976. Written and produced by Walter Murphy, it is the biggest hit for the New York City born and raised musician and arranger. Inspired by studio band Apollo 100’s rearrangement of Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” (released as “Joy” in 1972 #6 Pop), Murphy creates a disco arrangement of the first movement of the composers famous Fifth Symphony. After being turned down by several labels, the record is picked up by Private Stock Records. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on May 29, 1976, it makes a long, slow climb up the chart, reaching the top nineteen weeks later. A year after its chart topping success, the song is prominently featured in the film and on the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever”, which wins the Grammy Award for Album Of The Year in 1979. Murphy has continued to have success as a composer and conductor, recording under the name Uncle Louie for TK Records offshoot Marlin Records in the late 70’s (“Full Tilt Boogie”, “I Like Funky Music”), and writing the music for the Emmy award winning animated series “Family Guy” since its debut in 1999, as well as “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad”. “A Fifth Of Beethoven” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 1, 1977 – “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” by Barry White hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on November 12, 1977. Written by Nelson Pigford and Ekundayo Paris, it is the fifth and final chart topping single for the R&B music icon also known as “The Maestro. Previously best known for singing on Bill Conti’s Oscar nominated "Gonna Fly Now”, the theme from the film “Rocky”, session singer Nelson Pigford collaborates with songwriter Ekundayo Paris (The Grass Roots’ “Sooner Or Later”) on some songs, hoping to get them recorded by someone. The “someone” in particular that their demo lands in the hands of is none other than Barry White. One of the songs on the tape, simply titled “Ecstasy” piques his interest, though after hearing it, he also instinctively knows that it needs some work for it to realize its full potential. White will give it a dramatic rearrangement which bares almost no resemblance to the original composition. Now re-titled “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me”, the track is cut at Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA in the Spring of 1977. Even before the vocals are recorded, it is obvious to all involved that the song will be a smash. Released as the first single from White’s seventh album “Barry White Sings For Someone You Love” in mid July of 1977, it races up the R&B chart and pop singles charts. “It’s Ecstasy” also becomes a hit again in sample form as the basis of Mary J. Blige’s “You Bring Me Joy” in 1994, and Robbie Williams’ “Rock DJ” in 2000. “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 1, 1977 – “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on October 22, 1977. Written by John Williams, it is the biggest hit for the classically trained musician from Johnsonburg, PA. Musician and record producer Domenico “Meco” Monardo, impressed with composer/conductor Williams’ score for the blockbuster film “Star Wars”, re-arranges the entire score and condenses it into a fifteen minute long disco suite that is released on the album “Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk” (issued on Casablanca subsidiary Millennium Records). The track features a group of seventy five musicians including a number of first call studio players such as Steve Gadd, Will Lee, Marcus Miller, Anthony Jackson, Neil Jason, David Spinozza, John Tropea, Alan Rubin, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Suzanne Ciani, and Gene Orloff. The main theme and “Cantina Band” are extracted from the extended track and edited down under three and a half minutes for the 45 release. It is also released as a promotional only 12" single featuring an edit running 7:35. The track is the first project to be mixed at the newly opened Power Station recording studios in New York City, a former Con Edison substation in Hell’s Kitchen converted into a state of the art recording facility. Released in July of 1977, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on August 6, 1977, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. It’s also a big hit internationally, peaking at #7 on the UK singles chart. Out of print for many years following the demise of Casablanca Records, the promo 12" edit of the “Stars Wars Theme/Cantina Band” is reissued on “The Casablanca Records Story” box set in 1994. The album “Star Wars And Other Galactic Funk” is remastered and makes its CD debut in 1999, featuring contents of the original LP along with the promo 12" and 45 edits by Hip-O Records. It is also reissued on vinyl by UMe in 2015. “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 24, 1977 – “Keep It Comin’ Love” by KC & The Sunshine Band hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on October 1, 1977. Written by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the R&B Disco/Funk band from Hialeah, FL. With the back to back chart topping singles “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s The Way (I Like It)” under their belts, KC & The Sunshine band continue their hit streak into 1976 when they release their fourth studio album titled “Part 3”. The lead single “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” released ahead of the album in May quickly become the bands third number one pop and R&B hit. Two more singles “I Like To Do It” (#4 R&B, #37 Pop) and their fourth chart topper “I’m Your Boogie Man” (#1 Pop & R&B) follow. Employing a similar writing technique used on “That’s The Way (I Like It)”, KC and bassist Richard Finch use the title “keep it comin’ love” along with the refrain “don’t stop it now, don’t stop it no, don’t stop it now, don’t stop” as repetitive hooks to sear it in the listeners memory. The song is the final track on the album, directly segueing out of “I’m Your Boogie Man”. With many club DJ’s playing both cuts back to back, it is a natural for a future single release. After “Boogie Man” peaks, KC & The Sunshine Band’s label TK Records issues “Keep It Comin’ Love” nine months after the initial release of “Part 3” in July of 1977. It quickly follows its predecessor up the charts, becoming the bands fourth million selling single, with the album also crossing the million mark in sales. It stops short of the top on the Hot 100, holding at #2 for three weeks when it is unable to unseat either Meco’s “Star Wars/Cantina Band” and Debby’s Boone’s “You Light Up My Life”.