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On this day in music history: February 4, 1956 - "Please, Please, Please," the debut single by James Brown & The Famous Flames, is recorded. Written by James Brown and Johnny Terry, it is the first major hit for "The Godfather of Soul." Having previously recorded a version of it in 1955, the song is recorded again at King Studios in Cincinnati and is produced by Ralph Bass, the man who signs Brown to King Records. The label's founder Syd Nathan hates the finished record so much that he nearly fires Bass. Nathan will release the record anyway and, to his great surprise, it is a smash! The single will peak at #6 on the Billboard R&B chart and sells over one million copies. "Please, Please, Please" will also be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1966 - "19th Nervous Breakdown" by The Rolling Stones is released in the UK (US release date is on February 12th). Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it is the sixth US top ten single for the British rock band. Mick and Keith will write the song during the Stones tour of the US in 1965, with Jagger lyrics being a narrative about a spoiled girl who doesn't appreciate what she has. The songs' signature guitar riff (played by Brian Jones) is inspired by Bo Diddley's "Diddley Daddy." "Breakdown" is recorded at RCA Recording Studios in Hollywood on December 3rd & 8th of 1965 during sessions for the bands forthcoming album Aftermath. "19th Nervous Breakdown" will be released as a stand alone single peaking at #2 on both the UK singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1968 - The Beatles record "Across The Universe" at Abbey Road Studios in London in Studio Three. Written by John Lennon (credited to Lennon and McCartney), it is originally in contention to be the bands Spring single release, though it is passed over in favor of "Lady Madonna." Lennon will write the song in late 1967 - early 1968, during his initial interest in Transcendental Meditation, adding the mantra "Jai guru deva om" as a central part of the song. The basic track will be recorded in seven takes during a marathon run of sessions prior to The Beatles trip to India. Paul McCartney will select Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease, two female fans standing outside the studio, to come in and sing the high harmony vocals on the song. "Across The Universe" will initially surface in December 1969 on the charity album No One's Gonna Change Our World. The track is originally released in mono only, with bird sound effects added to beginning and end of the track. It will be dramatically remixed by Phil Spector and included on the Let It Be album, removing the female background vocals, sound effects, and slowing the song down to more closely mirror its original speed.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1977 - Rumours, the 11th studio album by Fleetwood Mac is released. Produced by Fleetwood Mac, Ken Calliat, and Richard Dashut, it is recorded from early - late 1976. Following the bands marathon tour in support of their previous album, all of the members will be affected by personal conflicts, including John and Christine McVie getting divorced, drummer Mick Fleetwood splitting from his wife Jenny Boyd, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham also ending their long term relationship. In spite of the obvious tension, it also sees the band at its creative peak, with Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie all writing songs about the breakdown of their relationships. Proceeded by the single "Go Your Own Way" (#10 Pop), it will be an immediate critical and commercial hit upon its release, spinning off four top 10 singles including "Dreams" (#1 Pop), "Don't Stop" (#3 Pop), and "You Make Loving Fun" (#9 Pop). The album is certified 19x Platinum in the US by the RIAA. Rumours will spend 31 weeks (non-consecutive) at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and win the Grammy for Album of The Year.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1978 - "Stayin' Alive" by The Bee Gees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, also peaking at #4 on the R&B singles on February 18th. Written by Barry, Robin, & Maurice Gibb, it is the fifth US chart topper for the trio of brothers from the Isle Of Man, UK. Composed as the theme song for the film Saturday Night Fever, The Bee Gees will write the song during the sessions for their contributions for the film at the Chateau d'Herouville in France. Not having seen any of the film prior to writing and recording it, they take inspiration from the rough story outline as described to them by their manager and label boss Robert Stigwood. Before recording can start on the song, the Bee Gees drummer Dennis Bryon is forced to leave the sessions temporarily, returning to the US to attend his father's funeral. Without a suitable drummer available, engineer Karl Richardson will hit upon the idea of creating a drum track by copying part of the drums from the already cut "Night Fever," creating a drum loop from it. The loop works perfectly and the rest of the rhythm track is cut around it. The same loop will also be used for "More Than A Woman" and later Barbara Streisand's #1 hit "Woman In Love." Not long after the soundtrack arrives in record stores, RSO Records is forced to rush release "Stayin' Alive" as a single in mid-December before "How Deep Is Your Love" hits #1. Demand for the single is stoked when the song is heard on the film's teaser trailer that features John Travolta walking down the street with the song playing in the background. "Stayin' Alive" will be certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA, selling over 2 million copies and spending 27 weeks on the Hot 100.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1978 - "Theme From Which Way Is Up" by Stargard hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for two weeks, also peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 on April 1st. Written by Norman Whitfield, it is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles-based female R&B trio. Coming off the huge success from writing and producing the soundtrack of the film Car Wash, Whitfield will be asked by director Michael Schultz to write the theme song for his next film Which Way Is Up, starring Richard Pryor. The track is recorded at Sound Factory West in Los Angeles and features members of Rose Royce providing the musical backing. The Funk Brothers percussionist Jack Ashford will also play on the track providing the distinctive "wobble board" sound heard on the song's intro using a plastic "do not disturb" door sign taken from a hotel.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1984 - "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks. Written by Michael Craig, Roy Hay, Jon Moss, George O'Dowd, and Phil Pickett, it is the biggest hit for the British pop band fronted by lead singer Boy George. George will compose the song's ambiguous lyrics about his often stormy relationship with drummer Jon Moss (which is not public knowledge at the time). The bands' producer Steve Levine will run into technical problems while recording overdubs. The songs' rhythm is programmed on a Linn LM-1 drum machine and Levine will discover that the drum machine has sped up after recording it. This will cause major problems when "flying in" the chorus sections of the song (which had only been recorded once on the multitrack), by copying the vocal tracks to another tape running at 15 ips (inches per second), then manually dropping them in the correct places. "Karma Chameleon" will be the band's biggest hit in the US and UK where it will spend five weeks at #1 and be ranked the top single of the year. Issued as the second single from the bands' second album Colour By Numbers, it will be rush released in the US in late November of 1983 when radio stations begin giving it heavy airplay as an LP cut while the first single "Church of the Poison Mind" (#10 Pop) is still climbing the charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #52 on December 3, 1983, "Karma" will race up the charts, hitting the top nine weeks later.
On this day in music history: February 4, 1989 - "When I'm With You" by Sheriff hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week. Written by Arnold Lanni, it is the lone hit for the Canadian rock band fronted by lead singer Freddy Curci. Keyboardist Lanni will write the song as a Valentine's Day gift to his girlfriend Valerie (who will later become his wife). Lanni will play the song for his other bandmates and they will quickly record the basic track. Curci amazingly completes his vocals on the song in just one take, including the songs final note which he holds for 25 seconds. The song is originally released in the US in February 1983. It will only make a minor dent in the charts, initially peaking at #61 on June 11, 1983. In late 1988, a radio station in Las Vegas will dust off the five year old song and begins giving it heavy airplay. Listener response is so great that it spreads to stations in other cities, encouraging Capitol Records to reissue the single and album. Re-entering the Hot 100 at #84 on November 26, 1988, it reaches the top of the chart ten weeks later. "When I'm With You" will be certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.