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On this day in music history: August 12, 1968 - Cheap Thrills, the second album by Big Brother And The Holding Company is released. Produced by John Simon, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City (studio tracks) and the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (live tracks) from March - May of 1968. Following the band's breakthrough performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, they will be approached by Clive Davis, then the head Columbia Records, who is eager to sign them. At the time, Big Brother is signed to independent label Mainstream Records, who will release their self titled debut album in August of 1967. It will take several months for the band to be extricated from their Mainstream contract and sign with Columbia, which will take place in early 1968. Once freed from their prior obligations, they will be paired with producer John Simon (The Band), and they will begin work on their second album. The initial plan is to record Big Brother in concert, producing an album that captures the band's electric live performances. When the results are lackluster, they will record much of the album in Columbia's New York recording studio, with the closing track "Ball And Chain" being recorded at Winterland in San Francisco (though the original release will erroneously credit it being recorded at the Fillmore East in New York). Originally titled Sex, Dope, and Cheap Thrills, Columbia Records will refuse to release it with that title, and make the band revise it. The album's iconic cover art by underground artist Robert Crumb (Zap Comix) is first intended to appear on the back of the LP jacket with a photo of Janis Joplin on the front. Joplin is so enamored with Crumb's artwork that it will be put on the front instead. Anchored by the hit single "Piece Of My Heart" (#12 Pop), it will be major success. When Columbia originally issues the LP along with the standard stereo version, the label will press a very limited amount of the mono version (an estimated 3,000 - 5,000 copies only), before quickly deleting it, turning it into a highly priced and sought after collector's item. The mono version of the album will be reissued in November of 2012 as a limited edition 180g vinyl LP pressing. Cheap Thrills will spend eight weeks (non-consecutive) at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, and to date has been certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 12, 1972 - "I'm Still In Love With You" by Al Green hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for two weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on September 2nd. Written by Al Green, Al Jackson, Jr., and Willie Mitchell, it is the second R&B chart topper for the legendary soul singer from Forrest City, AR. Green along with drummer Al Jackson, Jr. and producer Willie Mitchell will compose the song on a trip to Hot Springs, AR during a break in Green's busy recording and touring schedule. Recorded at producer Mitchell's Royal Recording Studio in Memphis, the track features the singers' regular studio band including Jackson on drums, Mabon "Teenie" Hodges and Charles Hodges om guitars, Leroy Hodges on bass, and Howard Grimes on percussion. Released in June of 1972, right on the heels of Green's third consecutive million seller "Look What You've Done To Me," the single will continue the singer's hot streak of soulful hits. "I'm Still In Love With You" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 12, 1978 - "Three Times A Lady" by The Commodores hits #1 on both the Billboard R&B singles chart and the Hot 100 for two weeks each. It will also top the Adult Contemporary chart for three weeks on August 19th. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the fifth R&B and first pop chart topper for the R&B band from Tuskegee, AL. Richie will come up with the concept for the song after witnessing his father express his appreciation for his mother at their 37th wedding anniversary party. Inspired by his father's moving speech, he'll reflect on how he hasn't told his own wife (at the time) Brenda how much he loved and appreciated her, and how many other men had not verbally expressed their feelings for the women in their lives. When Richie plays the song for his bandmates, they will unanimously agree that it should be included on their next album Natural High. The over six-and-a-half minute long track, trimmed down to three-and-a-half minutes for single release, is issued in late May of 1978, quickly becoming a multi-format smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #73 on June 10, 1978, it will climb to the top of the chart eight weeks later. "Three Times A Lady" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 12, 1981 - Never Too Much, the debut album by Luther Vandross is released. Produced by Vandross, it is recorded at Media Sound Studios in New York City from late 1980 - early 1981. Following his recent success singing lead on the hits "The Glow Of Love" and "Searching" by Change, the highly successful commercial jingle and background singer will once again pursue his dream of solo stardom, which has eluded him for years. After trying and failing numerous times to secure a solo recording contract, Vandross will take another approach. He will self finance and produce his solo debut album, overseeing all aspects of its production himself. The singer will assemble a group of top notch New York studio musicians and vocalists (all having previously worked with Vandross) that include Marcus Miller, Anthony Jackson, Nat Adderley, Jr., Bashiri Johnson, Cissy Houston, Tawatha Agee, Michelle Cobbs, Fonzi Thornton, and Norma Jean Wright. Epic Records executive Jerome Gasper (who has known Vandross since the early '70s) will bring him to the attention of his boss, CBS Records R&B exec Larkin Arnold who will immediately sign the singer upon hearing the finished recording. The album will spin off three singles including "Don't You Know That" (#10 R&B), "Sugar and Spice (I Found Me a Girl)" (#72 R&B), and the title track. "Never Too Much" will hit #1 on the Billboard R&B album chart, #19 on the Top 200, also earning two Grammy nominations including Best New Artist. Never Too Much is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 12, 1986 - Graceland, the seventh album by Paul Simon is released. Produced by Paul Simon, it is recorded at Ovation Studios in Johannesburg, Republic Of South Africa, The Hit Factory in New York City, Amigo Studios in Los Angeles, Abbey Road Studios in London, and Master-Trak Enterprises, Crowley, LA from October 1985 - June 1986. Following the poorly received Hearts And Bones album, Paul Simon will be given a cassette of Township Jive music by the South African group The Boyoyo Boys. His interest will be piqued by an instrumental called “Gumboots” (which he will later write lyrics for and record). The music will inspire Simon to travel to South Africa and record with a group of South African musicians, causing controversy at the time as the country is still ruled by a separatist system of Apartheid. The album also includes contributions and guest appearances by Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt, and The Everly Brothers. When it is released, it is enthusiastically received, garnering great critical acclaim and commercial success. The album spins off three singles including “You Can Call Me Al” (#23 Pop), “The Boy In The Bubble” (#86 Pop), and the title track (#81 Pop). The album will win two Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year in 1987 and Record Of The Year for the title track in 1988. Graceland will peak at #3 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 12, 1991 - The eponymously titled fifth album by Metallica is released. Produced by Bob Rock, James Hetfield, and Lars Ulrich, it is recorded at One On One Recording Studios in North Hollywood and Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver, B.C., Canada from October 6, 1990 - June 16, 1991. Impressed with his work on labelmate Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood album, the veteran metal band will hire producer Bob Rock to produce the follow up to their successful fourth album ...And Justice For All. Musically, it will differ from previous Metallica albums, with many of the songs having slower tempos than the band's trademark high velocity "thrash metal" style. The recording sessions with Rock will often be tense as he pushes the band members outside their normal comfort zone within the studio. The intense atmosphere will spread to their personal lives as well with Hetfield, Ulrich, and bassist Jason Newsted all winding up divorced from their spouses by the time recording is completed. In spite of all of the turmoil, the album will be a huge critical and commercial success, launching Metallica into the mainstream on a worldwide basis. Nicknamed "The Black Album" by fans (for its stark black cover featuring the band's logo and a coiled snake in dark grey print), it will spin off six singles including "Enter Sandman" (#16 Pop, #10 Mainstream Rock), "Sad But True" (#98 Pop, #15 Mainstream Rock), "The Unforgiven" (#35 Pop, #10 Mainstream Rock), and "Nothing Else Matters" (#34 Pop, #11 Mainstream Rock). The album will win a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 1992. Metallica will spend four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 16x Platinum by the RIAA.