On this day in music history: October 18, 1969 – “I Can’t Get Next To You” by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 5 weeks on October 4, 1969. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the ninth R&B chart topper and second pop number one for the Motown vocal quintet. On a roll after changing lead vocalists and going in a bold new musical direction in 1968, The Temptations continue their hot streak into 1969. Much like their groundbreaking single “Cloud Nine”, the groups hit from earlier in the year, producer Norman Whitfield arranges the song so that all five members of the Tempts rotate singing lead through the course of the song, borrowing the template from Sly & The Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music”. The basic track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on June 23, 1969 with members of The Funk Brothers playing on it. Further overdubs are recorded on June 24, 27, 30, and July 2, 1969. The Temptations add their vocals on July 3, 1969. Released on July 30, 1969, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on August 16, 1969, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. An instrumental mix of the song is featured on the Deluxe Edition of the soundtrack for “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” in 2002. “I Can’t Get Next To You” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 16, 1976 – “Songs In The Key Of Life” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 14 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the R&B album chart for 20 weeks (non-consecutive) on the same date. Produced by Stevie Wonder , it is recorded at Crystal Sound Studios, The Record Plant in Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, and The Hit Factory in New York City from Spring 1975 – Fall 1976. Recorded over a period of nearly two years, “Songs” becomes only the third album in US chart history to debut at #1 (Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Rock Of The Westies” are the first two.). It spins off four singles including “I Wish” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “Sir Duke” (#1 Pop, #1 R&B), “As” (#36 Pop and R&B) and “Another Star” (#32 Pop, #18 R&B). “Songs” wins four Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year, making Stevie Wonder one of only three artists in history to win the Album Of The Year prize three times (Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon are the others). The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002, and is also added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2005, for its ongoing historic and cultural significance. “Songs In The Key Of Life” is certified 10x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, earning a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: October 14, 1982 – “Zapp II”, the second album by Zapp is released. Produced by Roger Troutman, it is recorded at 5th Floor Recording Studios in Cincinnati, OH, and Sound Room East Studios in Detroit, MI from Late 1981 – Mid 1982. Following the success of the band’s Gold selling debut and Roger’s solo debut “The Many Facets Of Roger” (also going Gold), Troutman and the rest of Zapp returns to the studio in late 1981 to work on their sophomore release. Preceded in the summer by the single “Dance Floor (#1 R&B, #62 Pop), it is another smash for the Dayton, OH based funk band. It spins off another hit with the follow up "Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)” (#10 R&B). Originally released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Warner Music Group Japan in 2015, as part of their Warner 80’s Soul Classics Best Collection 1000 Series. "Zapp II" peaks at number five on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty five on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 14, 1981 – “Controversy”, the fourth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Uptown Studio (Kiowa Trail Home Studio) in Chanhassen, MN, Sunset Sound and Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA from April – July 1981. Released one year to the week after of his previous album, the ribald and controversial “Dirty Mind”, the fourth release by Prince marks the beginning of major changes in the prolific musicians sound and songwriting. Much like his previous albums, it features Prince playing nearly all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals by himself. Much of the album is recorded in Prince’s home studio in Chanhassen, MN (aka “The Purple House”), upgrading the studio with an Ampex 24-track multi-track recorder and Soundcraft 3B console. The remaining songs, overdubbing and final mixing is completed at Sunset Sound and Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA. “Controversy” is the first album in which he uses his newly acquired Linn LM-1 drum machine, which becomes a cornerstone of Prince’s classic 80’s era work. The albums eight songs run a diverse gamut from fans and the media’s obsession with Prince’s private life, sexuality and personal beliefs (the title track), the musicians then unfettered obsession with sex (“Sexuality”, “Do Me Baby”, “Private Joy”,“Jack U Off”), to commentary about the then recent news stories like the Atlanta child murders, the Abscam Scandal, the assassination attempt on President Reagan, the murder of John Lennon (“Annie Christian”), and his concerns over the escalation of the Cold War between the United States and the then Soviet Union (“Ronnie Talk To Russia”). The title track “Controversy” (#3 R&B, #70 Pop) like “Uptown” from the previous album, touches upon the public and the media’s intense obsession with the enigmatic star’s personal life, race, religious beliefs and sexuality. It spins off three singles including “Let’s Work” (#9 R&B) and “Do Me Baby”. The track “Sexuality” is issued as a single outside of the US only, but the music video shot for the song is seen by American fans on various video shows. The original LP pressing also comes packaged with a poster of Prince standing in his shower clad in only black bikini underwear. The album is reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2011 by Warner Bros/Rhino Records, making the title available on vinyl for the first time in nearly twenty years. It replicates the original album packaging including the poster. It is also reissued on cassette tape along with several other classic Prince albums in 2016. “Controversy” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, number twenty one on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 14, 1980 – “Faces”, the tenth album by Earth, Wind & Fire is released. Produced by Maurice White, it is recorded at George Massenburg/ARC Studios in West Los Angeles, CA, AIR Studios in Montserrat, W.I., Davlen Sound Studios in North Hollywood, CA, Wally Heider/Filmways Studio in Hollywood, CA and Royce Hall – UCLA in Westwood, CA in May – September 1980. Issued as the follow up to the multi-Platinum selling “I Am”, the fifteen track double album features band members Maurice and Verdine White, Al McKay, Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Ralph Johnson either writing songs together, or with outside collaborators including Brenda Russell, David Foster, and James Newton Howard. Coming off of seven platinum or multi-platinum selling albums in a row, the initial response to “Faces” by the public and critics is somewhat muted since it does not yield a major hit single. This is due in part to CBS Records’ lackluster promotional support of the project. Frustrated by the labels lax support of the project, Maurice White voices his displeasure to the company. He is then bluntly told by a CBS executive, “if your records don’t sell themselves, don’t expect us to sell them for you”. In later years, it is reassessed and regarded as one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s finest and most stylistically diverse works. White himself sites “Faces” as his personal favorite out of Earth, Wind & Fire’s catalog. It is also the last album to feature rhythm guitarist Al McKay who leaves the band shortly after it is released. Also, it is the first Earth, Wind & Fire album not to be supported by an accompanying tour which affects its sales. It spins off three singles including “Let Me Talk” (#8 R&B, #44 Pop), “You” (#10 R&B, #48 Pop), and “And Love Goes On” (#15 R&B, #59 Pop). Original LP pressings feature the artist name and title embossed in gold ink on the gatefold jacket, coming packaged with an oversized poster of the band. It is remastered and reissued on CD by UK reissue label BBR Records in 2010, featuring the single edits of “You”, “And Love Goes On” and the promo 12" mix of “Let Me Talk” as bonus tracks. It is also reissued on CD in 2011 (minus bonus tracks) as part of the box set “Earth, Wind & Fire – The Columbia Masters”. “Faces” peaks at number two on the Billboard R&B album chart, number ten on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 13, 1992 – “The Love Symbol Album”, the fourteenth album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded at Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis, MN from Late 1991 – Mid 1992. The second album credited to Prince & The New Power Generation, the albums title is actually an unpronounceable symbol that the artist changes his name to the following year. The album is originally conceived as a “fantasy rock soap opera” with spoken segues between tracks. However, when Prince adds the track “I Wanna Melt With U”, the segues are cut from the sequence of the album when the running time is too long to fit on one CD. The album is also the first to feature the artists’ “muse”, dancer and vocalist Mayte Garcia, who he is married to from 1996 – 1999. It spin off three singles including “Sexy MF” (#66 Pop, #76 R&B), “My Name Is Prince” (#36 Pop, #26 R&B), and “7” (#7 Pop, #61 R&B). The original press run of CD’s the love symbol glyph embossed on the jewel case in gold ink. Subsequent re-pressings have the symbol either printed on the CD booklet or not at all. Prince also released the direct to video film “3 Chains O’ Gold” (in September 1994) which featured several songs from the album. The single “Sexy MF” is also released as a VHS video single at the time of the albums release, featuring the extended version of the clip. The music video for “My Name Is Prince” which features a cameo appearance by actress Kirstie Alley (“Cheers”) as a news reporter, is parodied to humorous effect on “In Living Color, with comedian Jamie Foxx playing Prince. Originally released on vinyl only in Europe, the album was scheduled to be reissued by Rhino Records in December of 2016. As of this date, the reissue has been put on indefinite hold without a new release date being given. "The Love Symbol Album” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 13, 1979 – “(Not Just) Knee Deep (Part 1)” by Funkadelic hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #77 on the Hot 100 on November 10, 1979. Written by George Clinton and Walter “Junie” Morrison, it is the biggest hit for the legendary R&B/Funk band. Released as the first single from Funkadelic’s eleventh album “Uncle Jam Wants You” in August of 1979, the nearly fifteen and a half minute long track is edited and split into two parts for single release. Also featuring vocals from former Spinners lead vocalist Philippé Wynne, the seminal funk track goes on to become one most influential and widely sampled songs in the bands catalog. Over the years “(Not Just) Knee Deep” is sampled by a number of rap artists including EPMD, Digital Underground, 2Pac, Everlast, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Most notably it is used as the basis of De La Soul’s “Me, Myself & I” which hits number one on the R&B singles chart almost ten years after Funkadelic tops the chart with the song. The chart topping success of “(Not Just) Knee Deep” propels the accompanying album “Uncle Jam Wants You” to Gold status in the US.
On this day in music history: October 12, 1974 – “Papa Don’t Take No Mess (Part 1)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #31 on the Hot 100 on September 28, 1974. Written by James Brown, Fred Wesley, John Starks and Charles Bobbit, it is the seventeenth and final R&B chart topper for “The Godfather Of Soul”. After scoring the blaxploitation cult classics “Black Caesar” and “Slaughter’s Big Rip Off” in 1973, James Brown is asked by the film producers of “Caesar” to write music for the sequel “Hell Up In Harlem”. Brown and his band The JB’s enter the studio in the Summer of 1973 to record the soundtrack. Among the songs written for the film is “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”, recorded at International Studios in Augusta, GA on August 23, 1973. The producers of “Hell Up In Harlem” end up rejecting Brown’s music, feeling “it’s more of same”, and instead hire Motown staff songwriters Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell (of “The Corporation”) to score the film instead. James Brown takes his rejected soundtrack music, and releases it as the follow up to “The Payback” album in June of 1974. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” is chosen as the second single from the double album titled “Hell” in August of 1974. The nearly fourteen minute long track (taking up the entire fourth side of the album) is edited down significantly, and split into two parts for single release. “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” is the singers’ third consecutive R&B chart topper in 1974 following “The Payback” and “My Thang”. It becomes one of Brown’s most popular and frequently sampled songs, later forming the basis of Janet Jackson’s chart topping single “That’s The Way Love Goes” in 1993.
On this day in music history: October 8, 1980 – “Dirty Mind”, the third album by Prince is released. Produced by Prince, it is recorded in Uptown (Wayzata Home Studio) in Wayzata, MN and Hollywood Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA from May – June 1980. After having his first taste of mainstream success with his self-titled second album, Prince takes a stylistic left turn. The musician records an album of raw, stripped down funk and rock songs on a 16-track multi-track recorder set up in his home studio on Lake Minnetonka. Recording begins after Prince completes a tour, as the opening act for fellow R&B star Rick James. At first, Warner Bros Records are taken aback at the sexually explicit lyrics of tracks such as “Head” and “Sister”, but eventually agree to release the album after the raw tapes are remixed by Prince and engineer Mick Guzauski. The track “Partyup” is co-written by Prince and his friend and former high school band mate Morris Day, and is the catalyst for Prince putting together the band The Time around Day. Initial pressings of the album also carry a disclaimer sticker on the front, to advise those of its explicit content. Though sales wise it is much less successful than his previous release, the album and the subsequent tour in support of it attracts the attention and universal praise from the rock press helping to widen his fan base beyond his core R&B audience.
To promote the album, Prince plays a series of live shows in venues traditionally hosting rock acts, including now legendary performances at The Stone in San Francisco, and The Ritz in New York City.
It spins off two singles including “Uptown” (#5 R&B, #101 Pop) and the title track. Initially selling around 300,000 copies at the time of its release. The album eventually reaches Gold status in the US less than one week before the release of “Purple Rain” (the soundtrack) in June of 1984. The album is reissued on 180 gram vinyl by Warner Bros’ Rhino Records reissue division in 2011. The vinyl release is remastered and reissued again in 2016 by NPG/Warner Bros, along with a cassette tape reissue of the classic title. “Dirty Mind” peaks at number seven on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty five on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: October 7, 1997 – “The Velvet Rope”, the sixth album by Janet Jackson is released. Produced by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Janet Jackson and Rene Elizando, Jr., it is recorded at Flyte Tyme Studios in Edina, MN, The Hit Factory in New York City and the Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA from January – July 1997. During the first half of the 90’s, Janet Jackson’s superstar status is repeatedly validated, breaking sales records and earning numerous awards. In 1996, Jackson renews her contract with Virgin for an unprecedented $80 million. Even with all of these major career achievements, all is not well with Janet personally. Suffering from low self esteem and self worth since childhood, it sends her into a deep depression. Again working with Jam and Lewis along with then husband (though unknown publicly at the time) Rene Elizando, many of the songs on “The Velvet Rope” are a stark contrast from her previous work. On it, Janet confronts her own issues with depression and self worth, along with themes centering around sexuality, homophobia, and other social and emotional subjects. The album title is a metaphor for the emotional barriers people put around themselves, to conceal their true feelings from others. It is led by “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” featuring rapper Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, and based around a sample of Joni Mitchell’s classic “Big Yellow Taxi”. Though not issued as a commercial single in the US, it is accompanied by a visually striking music video directed by Mark Romanek (“Scream”). Set in a club during the 70’s apartheid era South Africa (actually filmed at the Hollywood Palladium), the clip wins a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Video in 1998. At the time of its release, it receives mixed reviews from critics and fans, many of whom believe that it is her most mature and accomplished work to date. But others are unsure how to react to the sometimes dark and explicit nature of some of the material, leading to it being tagged with a Parental Advisory sticker. As a result, it sells about half of the previous albums’ tally in the US in spite of spinning off three singles including “Together Again” (#1 Pop, #1 Club Play, #8 R&B), “I Get Lonely” (#3 Pop, #1 R&B, #10 Club Play) and “Go Deep” (#28 Pop, #1 Club Play, #11 R&B). Promotional CD copies of “Velvet” come with a bonus disc featuring an interview with Janet conducted by music journalist Paul Sexton, and another with the regular issue packaged in a red velvet drawstring bag with gold embossing on the front. Some international releases include a bonus CD with remixes. “The Velvet Rope” spends one week at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number two on the R&B album chart, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.