When I started this blog here in October of 2011, it was to indulge and share my passion for music with others. In just a few years, “Behind The Grooves” has grown from just a handful of followers to over 21,000 here on Tumblr alone. These posts require extensive research and many hours to write and edit, and are the product of my own personal diligence and dedication.
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On this day in music history: December 5, 1987 – “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” by Belinda Carlisle hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Rick Nowels and Ellen Shipley, it is the biggest hit for the singer from Thousand Oaks, CA. As the lead singer of The Go-Go’s, Belinda Carlisle achieves major success with the band, releasing three albums including the chart topping “Beauty And The Beat”. However, infighting between the five band members including heavy drug use and squabbles over money and media attention cause The Go-Go’s to implode in 1985. Carlisle continues on as a solo act, scoring a hit right out of the box with “Mad About You” (#3 Pop) and her debut solo album “Belinda” in 1986, she leaves IRS Records shortly after, signing a new deal with MCA Records. Paired with producer Rick Nowels (Stevie Nicks, Madonna, Jewel, Nelly Furtado), they begin work on Carlisle’s second album. Nowels collaborates with songwriter Ellen Shipley on two songs for the album including “Circle In The Sand” (#7 Pop) and titled “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”. When Carlisle hears “Heaven”, she loves it immediately and agrees to record it. After it is recorded, Nowels is unhappy with parts of the song, and it is re-written with the original version being scrapped. Once the re-recorded version is complete, all agree that it is a hit. The song is accompanied by a music video directed by actress Diane Keaton. Released as the first single from “Heaven On Earth” early September of 1987, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #72 on September 26, 1987, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. The success of “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” helps to propel the album “Heaven On Earth” to Platinum status in the US.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1984 – “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton is released. Written by Alexander Nevermind (aka Prince), it is the thirteenth US (sixteenth UK) single release for the pop vocalist from Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Making a conscious effort to shed her “sweet and innocent good girl” image, Sheena Easton looks to shake things up with her sixth album “A Private Heaven”. While working on the album with her producer Greg Mathieson, Easton receives an unexpected message from Prince. At the time, he’s putting the final touches on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack and film. On January 20, 1984, Prince records the basic track for a new song he has written titled “Sugar Walls” at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. The track is originally intended for singer Jill Jones, but the musician changes his mind when he sees Sheena that same night on television, performing on The Tonight Show. Impressed by her performance, the musician will say to himself, “Ya, I gotta write something for that girl”. The next day, Prince contacts Easton through recording engineer David Leonard, whom both are working with at the time. Sheena likes the track immediately, and agrees to work with Prince on the song. Easton records her vocals at Sunset Sound’s sister studio The Sound Factory on January 22, 1984. Getting on well immediately, Easton and Prince finish recording the vocals in one session. Following up the sexy first single “Strut” (#7 Pop), the even more provocative “Sugar Walls” is issued next. Poppy and undeniably funky, laced with Sheena’s equally sexy vocals, it draws immediate attention from fans and radio. Credited to the pseudonym “Alexander Nevermind”, it doesn’t take long for the public to realize that Prince, is the one behind this sexy musical confection. It also doesn’t take long for listeners to figure out the title is a euphemism for a woman’s privates. However, this doesn’t stop it from becoming an across the board smash on pop and R&B radio, as well on club dance floors. “Sugar Walls” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #60 on December 22, 1984, peaking ten weeks later at #9 on March 2, 1985. It’s an even bigger hit on R&B stations, peaking at #3 on the R&B chart on March 9, 1985, and topping the Club Play chart for one week on February 23, 1985. After it peaks on the charts, “Sugar Walls” is the subject of further controversy and infamy, when it is singled out by the PMRC (Parents Music Research Center), as one of its “Filthy Fifteen” along side Prince’s “Darling Nikki”. The success of the collaboration between Sheena Easton and Prince leads to future musical collaborations. Easton later appears on the hit “U Got The Look” (#2 Pop, #11 R&B), co-writing the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” B-side “La, La, La, He, He, Hee”, and “The Arms Of Orion” on the “Batman Soundtrack”.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1980 – “Trombipulation”, the ninth studio album (tenth overall) by Parliament is released. Produced by George Clinton, William “Bootsy” Collins, Ron Dunbar and Ron Ford, it is recorded at United Sound Studios and Super Disc, Inc. in Detroit, MI, The Power Station and Sigma Sound Studios in New York City from Late 1979 – Mid 1980. After more than a decade, it is clear that the mothership is rapidly running out of gas. In spite of achieving major success, the P-Funk Thang is dogged by various lawsuits and financial disputes. Numerous key members including Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas, Eddie Hazel, Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, Glenn Goins, DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight and Walter “Junie” Morrison have all left. Adding to the chaos, Casablanca Records is in also flux as their greatest ally, founder Neil Bogart is ousted for his reckless spending and management. With Clinton still at the helm, he comes to rely more on Bootsy Collins who plays nearly all of the instruments on several tracks. Ron Dunbar and Ron Ford also co-write songs and co-produce. Musically, “Trombipulation” breaks no new ground, feeling like a rehash of Parliament’s past glory, though there are bright spots. The first single, the punning “Agony Of Defeet” (#7 R&B) musically recalls Funkadelic’s classic “One Nation Under A Groove”. Clocking in at six and a half minutes on the album, is also released in its full uncut version (running 9:05) as a promo only 12" single in the US. “New Doo Review” also features new P-Funk recruit Lige Curry on bass. It spins off a second single with “Crush It” in early 1981. Originally packaged in a gatefold LP sleeve, the front and back covers feature photos of George Clinton, hair styled in a pompadour and wearing an elephant trunk. Past elaborate extras like posters or comic books are eliminated for this release. Instead, the inner sleeve features illustrations by artist Overton Loyd. Though it gets off to a decent start, interest tapers off quickly and is the first Parliament album not to go Gold in the US since “Chocolate City”. Not surprisingly, it is the band’s final release before finally parting ways. Several years later, “Trombipulation” is rediscovered when its grooves are sampled by numerous Hip-Hop artists, most notably Digital Underground. The Oakland, CA based group use the track “Let’s Play House” as the basis for their smash “The Humpty Dance”, and “Agony Of Defeet” on “Doowutchyalike”. “Defeet” is also sampled by Ice Cube on “How To Survive In South Central”, “Step Daddy” by Too Short" and “Buss ‘N Rocks” by Snoop Dogg. First reissued on CD in 1990, the album is remastered and released as a SHM-CD by Universal Music Japan in 2015. “Trombipulation” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart and number sixty one on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1973 – “Band On The Run”, the third album by Paul McCartney & Wings is released. Produced by Paul McCartney, it is recorded at EMI Studios in Lagos, Nigeria, ARC Studios in Ikeja, Nigeria, and AIR Studios in London from August – September 1973. McCartney wanting to change locales to record his next album, chooses the EMI recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. Prior to and during the trip to Africa, they suffer a series of setbacks, which include band members Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough quitting on the eve of the trip, barely adequate recording facilities, inclement weather, being held up at knife point, and McCartney having a minor health scare. In spite of this, recording goes very well with the basic tracks being completed in Lagos. Vocals, overdubs and final mixing are completed in London in the following weeks. The albums’ iconic cover photo (taken by photographer Clive Arrowsmith) features a shot of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine caught in a prison searchlight with television host Michael Parkinson, actor James Coburn, boxer John Conteh, actor Christopher Lee, singer and actor Kenny Lynch, and columnist and British Parliament member Clement Freud. The album receives great critical praise and commercial success from critics and fans alike, spinning off three singles including “Jet” (#7 Pop) and the title track (#1 Pop). The US version of the album adds the previously released single “Helen Wheels” (#10 Pop), at the suggestion of then Capitol Records executive Al Coury. It is widely regarded as Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles album. “Band” also wins a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus in 1975. The album is remastered and reissued in 2010, winning a Grammy Award for Best Historical Album for the Deluxe Edition release in 2012. In and out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is most recently reissued as a limited edition pressing on white vinyl, and standard black vinyl in 2017. “Band On The Run” spends four weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1970 – “The Tears Of A Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on December 12, 1970. Written by Stevie Wonder, Henry Cosby and Smokey Robinson, it is the second R&B and lone pop chart topper for the Detroit based R&B vocal group led by singer, songwriter and producer Smokey Robinson. Stevie Wonder and his then producer Hank Cosby write the music for the song in the Fall of 1966, but are not able to come up with suitable lyrics for it. They play it for Smokey at the annual Motown Christmas party that year and ask if he can write some lyrics for it. Upon hearing the instrumental track, the intros’ calliope like sound reminds Robinson of the circus. He’ll begin to write lyrics about Pagliacci The Clown, the central character in the Ruggero Leoncavallo opera, “Pagliacci”. The man in the song compares himself to the famed clown who brought joy to many, but himself is sad and lonely because he doesn’t have a woman who loves him. The track is recorded at Motown’s Studio A on September 26, 1966, with members of The Funk Brothers providing musical support. The Miracles record their vocals in early 1967 and the song is first released as a track on the album “Make It Happen”, which goes largely unnoticed by the public. It is first released in the UK as a single in early September 1970 after a successful re-release of “The Tracks Of My Tears”. “Clown” hits number one in the UK selling over 900,000 copies, leading to its US release. Before it’s issued in the US, Motown makes new stereo and mono mixes of the song, the latter being used for the US 45, which includes a newly recorded bass line. The stereo remix appears on the album “One Dozen Roses” released in August of 1971. Released in the US on September 24, 1970, “The Tears Of A Clown” sells over a million copies, and its popularity extends Robinsons’ stay in The Miracles, who prior to the songs’ release had planned to leave the group in order to spend more time at home with his wife and family before launching his own solo career. The song is covered numerous times over the years with versions by Petula Clark, The (English) Beat, Nnenna Freelon, Phil Collins, Eumir Deodato, Marc Cohn, and Boyzone. “The Tears Of A Clown” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1969 – “Let It Bleed”, the eighth UK (tenth US) album by The Rolling Stones is released. Produced by Jimmy Miller, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London and Elektra Studios in Los Angeles, CA from November 1968, February – November 1969. After the success of “Beggar’s Banquet”, The Rolling Stones begin work on the follow up. The first track recorded is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, first surfacing as the B-side of “Honky Tonk Women” in July of 1969. After a brief break, the sessions continue in February of 1969. With Brian Jones sidelined by drugs and alcohol, he only plays on “You Got The Silver” and “Midnight Rambler” before he is fired. His replacement is Mick Taylor, who becomes a major asset to the band. Originally scheduled for a Summer release, numerous delays result in the album not being completed until later in the year. While recording in L.A., Mick and Keith decide that the song “Gimme Shelter” requires a little something extra. Background vocalist Merry Clayton is brought into the studio. Very pregnant at the time, she arrives in her nightgown, hair in rollers in a scarf and wearing a fur coat. Clayton records her highly memorable vocals in just a couple of takes. “Bleed” also features appearances by Ry Cooder, Nicky Hopkins, Al Kooper, Doris Troy, Madeline Bell, Leon Russell and Bobby Keys, the latter of whom becomes a sideman for The Stones for the next forty years. The albums’ iconic cover is designed by artist Robert Brownjohn, and features a photo of the LP being played with a vintage phonograph tone arm, with numerous items including a cake with figurines of the band stacked on top of a turntable spindle. The back cover reveals the aftermath, with the record is being smashed and the other items in disarray. Original LP’s come with a poster and an insert for The Stones fan club. No singles issued are from it in the US, though several become rock radio staples, and is widely regarded as one of their best albums. It is remastered and reissued on CD in 2002 as a hybrid SACD, then as a standard redbook CD. The vinyl LP is reissued in 2013, with a high resolution Blu-Ray disc released in 2014. The mono version of the album, released only in the UK and other foreign territories, is remastered and reissued as part of “The Rolling Stones In Mono” box set on CD and 180 gram vinyl in September of 2016. To commemorate its 50th anniversary, it’s released as a Super Deluxe edition on November 15, 2019. The set includes the stereo and mono versions on hybrid SACD’s and vinyl LP’s, an 80 page hardcover book, a poster, lithographs, and a reproduction of the US 7" of “Honky Tonk Women”. “Let It Bleed” spends one week at number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1966 – “It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston is released. Written by William “Mickey” Stevenson and Sylvia Moy, it is the twenty second single for Gaye and the tenth single release for Weston. By late 1965, Marvin Gaye is riding a wave of hits including the back to back R&B chart topping million sellers “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar, co-penned and produced by Smokey Robinson. With Robinson being busy with his own group The Miracles, as well as writing for other artists, Marvin is handed off to another producer. At Motown since 1959, Mickey Stevenson is given the assignment to produce a project for the singer. Stevenson already has a significant history with Gaye, having co-written the hits "Pride And Joy”, “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” and “Dancing In The Street” with him. Having recorded an album with Mary Wells in 1964, Stevenson suggests another duets album, but this time with his then wife and fellow Motown artist Kim Weston. It isn’t the first time they’ve have sung together, recording “What Good Am I Without You” (#28 R&B, #61 Pop) in 1964. Weston scores her biggest solo hit in 1965 with “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” (#4 R&B, #50 Pop). For the duet album, Stevenson pairs up with songwriter and producer Sylvia Moy. Making her breakthrough co-writing Stevie Wonder’s smash “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, Moy works on some original material for it. Those songs include “It Takes Two”. Mickey Stevenson co-produces “It Takes Two” with Stevie Wonder’s then producer Henry “Hank” Cosby. It is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on November 27, 1965 with The Funk Brothers playing on the track. The strings provided by The Detroit Symphony are recorded on December 6, 1965 and finally Marvin and Kim overdub their vocals on March 2, 1966. With the rest of the album titled “Take 2” completed, it released in late August of 1966. Initially, no single is released, during which time Stevenson leaves Motown when he is offered a lucrative position at MGM Records, also taking his wife Kim with him. Motown finally decides to release “It Takes Two” in early December, and it takes off. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #88 on January 7, 1967, and #50 on the R&B singles chart on January 21, 1967, it rises up both charts simultaneously. The single peaks at #14 on the Hot 100 on March 4, 1967 and #4 on the R&B chart on March 18, 1967. It also becomes Gaye’s first Top 20 hit in the UK, peaking at #16. A Motown evergreen, “It Takes Two” is covered numerous times, with versions by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas, Donny & Marie Osmond, and by Rod Stewart & Tina Turner. Marvin Gaye includes a cover version in a medley with Florence Lyles on the album “Live At The London Palladium” in 1977, and Kim Weston re-records the song with Marvin’s brother Frankie in 1989.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1964 – “Ringo” by Lorne Greene hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Canadian born actor. Born Lyon Himan Green in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on February 12, 1915, Lorne Greene becomes a huge star on the iconic western TV series “Bonanza” as family patriarch Ben “Pa” Cartwright. One of the most popular television series of all time, the show runs for fourteen seasons between September 12, 1959 and January 16, 1973. With the show at or near the top of the Nielsen ratings through much of its run, in 1963 the show’s network NBC comes up with the idea of producing an album featuring members of the cast. Titled “Welcome To The Ponderosa”, the album features a track about the notorious western outlaw Johnny Ringo titled “Ringo”. Not being a natural singer, Greene recites a dramatic monologue about Ringo with a chorus of singers (supposedly either The Mello Men or The Jordanaires) backing him up. The track does not receive much notice until after The Beatles breakthrough in the US. Though the song is not about drummer Ringo Starr, a DJ in Lubbock, TX discovers the song in the Fall of 1964, and begins playing it. It generates such a huge response, that RCA Records releases it as a single in October of 1964. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on October 31, 1964, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. The popularity of “Ringo” inspires numerous parody records including “Gringo” by songwriter Marty Cooper and released under the name El Clod. It is also parodied by comedian Frank Gallop in 1966 as “The Ballad Of Irving” (#34 Pop) on the comedy album “When You’re In Love And The Whole World Is Jewish”. Lorne Greene releases several more singles and albums throughout the 60’s and into the 70’s, but none come close to matching the huge success of “Ringo”.
On this day in music history: December 5, 1960 – “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry is released. Written by Robert Guidry (aka Bobby Charles) and Paul Gayten, it is the fifth single release, and biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and musician from New Orleans, LA. Breaking through in early 1957 with the rhythm & blues novelty classic “Ain’t Got No Home”, Clarence “Frogman” Henry hits the road with a six piece band to promote his hit record. Following up that song proves to be problematic, when Henry’s next three singles all fall flat on the charts. But Chess Records A&R man Paul Gayten, the man who signed Clarence Henry to the label doesn’t give up on him. Gayten finds a song titled “I Don’t Why”, written by Cajun musician Bobby Charles. Influenced by his own native cajun and country and western music, Charles is discovered by Fats Domino when he’s only fifteen years old. Before he’s out of his teens, Bobby pens several rhythm & blues and rock & roll standards including “See You Later, Alligator”, “It Keeps Rainin’” and “Walking To New Orleans”. Written by Charles in a more laid back country style, “I Don’t Know Why” is given a dramatic revamping when Clarence “Frogman” Henry records it. Gayten hires a twenty two year old musician named Allen Toussaint to write the new arrangement. In Toussaint’s hands, the song is given a swaggering, jazzy New Orleans back beat, complete with a brass section. When the single is released on Chess Records Argo imprint under its original title, it doesn’t take off immediately. In early February of 1961, the title is amended to “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” (also as “But I Do”), it takes off. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #90 on February 20, 1961 and #27 on the R&B chart on March 6, 1961, it becomes a crossover smash. “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” peaks nine weeks later at #4 on the Hot 100 and after an erratic up and down chart trajectory, peaks eight weeks later at #9 on May 8, 1961. Clarence “Frogman” Henry scores two more sizable hits with the follow ups “You Always Hurt The One You Love” (#11 R&B, #12 Pop) and “Lonely Street” (#19 R&B, #57 Pop), before tapering off again. Acknowledged as an R&B and pop classic, “(I Don’t Know Why Love You) But I Do” is covered by several artists including Bobby Vinton, The Walker Brothers, Tom Jones, Timi Yuro, Ronnie Milsap, Lou Rawls, and by its author Bobby Charles. Henry’s classic version is also featured prominently in the the films Forrest Gump and Mickey Blue Eyes.