Music History Monday: September 23

Posted by Jeff Harris, September 23, 2013 12:35pm | Post a Comment

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Born on this day: September 23, 1926 - Jazz music icon John Coltrane (born John William Coltrane in Hamlet, NC). Happy Birthday to this jazz giant on what would have been his 87th Birthday.

Born on this day: September 23, 1930 - "The Genius" Ray Charles (born Ray Charles Robinson in Albany, GA). Happy Birthday to this musical icon on what would have been his 83rd Birthday.

Born on this day: September 23, 1949 - Rock music icon Bruce Springsteen (born Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen in Long Branch, NJ). Happy 64th Birthday to the Boss!

On this day in music history: September 23, 1967 - “The Letter” by The Box Tops hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. Written by Wayne Carson Thompson, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Memphis quintet fronted by lead singer Alex Chilton. Songwriter Thompson ("Always On My Mind") will be inspired to write "The Letter" when his father comes up with the lyric "give me a ticket for an aeroplane." Thompson will quickly write the rest of the lyrics and melody around that line. Once the song is complete, Thompson will take it to his friend, producer Chips Moman who also owns American Recording Studios in Memphis. Moman in turn will tell his songwriting partner Dan Penn about the song. Penn is working with a young rock band featuring a sixteen-year-old lead vocalist Alex Chilton. Penn will hear the song and decide that it is perfect for his young charges first release. Recorded in the spring of 1967, the band (with songwriter Thompson also playing guitar on the session) will cut the track in about eight hours, recording 30 takes to come up with the final master. For the final touch, Penn will overdub the sound of a airplane flying over toward the end of the song. When Moman objects to the addition, Penn will threaten to cut up the tape with a razor blade rather than remove the sound effect. Moman will allow it to remain on the finished record. At the time the band records the single, they do not have a name. One of the members will jokingly suggest that people “send in 50 cents and a box top” with their possible group name. From that, the band will be dubbed "The Box Tops." Released in July of 1967 on Bell Records' Mala imprint, “The Letter” will enter the Hot 100 at #85 on August 12, 1967, leaping to the top of the chart six weeks later. The song will be covered by a number of artists including The Arbors, The Ventures, and Don Fardon. Joe Cocker will have the second most successful recording of the song when his version hits #7 on the Hot 100 in June of 1970. The Box Tops' version of "The Letter" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: September 23, 1967 - "People Are Strange" by The Doors is released. Written by Robby Krieger and Jim Morrison (credited to The Doors), the song is issued as the first single from the band's second album Strange Days. Written in early 1967, the initial idea for the song will come while Morrison and Kreiger are hiking to the top of Laurel Canyon. Feeling depressed at the time, Morrison's lyrics will reflect his feelings of alienation, outsider status, and vulnerability. The musical portion of the song is also inspired and influenced by The Doors' fascination with European cabaret music (explored on tracks such as "The Crystal Ship" and their cover of Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill's "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" on their debut album). "People Are Strange" will peak at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 28, 1967.

On this day in music history: September 23, 1977Aja, the sixth album by Steely Dan is released. Produced by Gary Katz, it is recorded at Village Recorders in West Los Angeles; Producer’s Workshop, ABC Recording Studios, and Sound Labs in Hollywood; Warner Bros Recording Studios in North Hollywood; and A&R Studios in New York City from January - July of 1977. Following the critically and commercially successful The Royal Scam, Steely Dan will record what will become the most musically ambitious and biggest selling album of their career. The album’s title will come from the name of a Korean woman married to the brother of one of Donald Fagen’s high school friends. The elegant and enigmatic cover photo (taken by photographer Hideki Fujii) is of Japanese fashion model Sayoko Yamaguchi. The album's seamless mixture of jazz and R&B-influenced pop will resonate with the public and critics alike. It will spin off three singles including “Peg” (#11 Pop), “Deacon Blues” (#19 Pop), and “Josie” (#26 Pop). In 2011, Aja will be added to the United States National Recording Registry (the Library of Congress), as being deemed culturally, historically, and aesthetically important. Aja 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: September 23, 1982The Nylon Curtain, the eighth album by Billy Joel is released. Produced by Phil Ramone, it is recorded at A&R Recording Studios and Media Sound Studios in New York City from February - June 1982. The album's creation and release comes during a period of major upheaval in Joel's life and career, which will see the end of his first marriage and a serious motorcycle accident. Much of the material is more introspective and darker than previous efforts. Several of the songs reflect on the then current state of America (under President Ronald Reagan) in the early 1980s, with many facing economic hardship and seeing the American Dream slipping away from them. Joel's ambition to create "a sonic masterpiece" will leave him physically and creatively exhausted by the end of the recording process. Joel will site the album as his personal favorite, and the one he is most proud of. It will be one of the first digitally recorded (mixed to analog tape) albums by a major artist. It will spin off three singles including "Pressure" (#20 Pop) and "Allentown" (#17 Pop). While not as huge sales-wise as some of his previous efforts, it will receive major acclaim from critics and fans upon its release, being regarded as one of Billy Joel's finest works. The Nylon Curtain will peak at #7 on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: September 23, 1986 - Third Stage, the third album by Boston, is released. Produced by Tom Scholz, it is recorded at Hideaway Studios in Boston from early 1980 - mid 1986. Over six years in the making, the album is released on MCA Records after a seven year long legal battle with CBS Records. CBS will accuse the band of being in breach of contract for taking so many years to deliver their third album and responds by putting a freeze on royalty payments for their first two albums. Believing that ploy will force Scholz to settle out of court, the guitarist will respond by setting up his own company, creating The Rockman compact guitar amplifier. The money earned from the device will provide him with income to continue recording and pay the mounting legal costs generated by the lawsuit. Eventually, the court will decide in the band's favor. They are awarded millions in back royalties and released from their CBS contract, leaving the band free to sign with MCA. The recording process will be long and arduous, due to Scholz's legendary perfectionism and because of numerous technical setbacks. For the track "Cool The Engines," Scholz will record the drums live and splice the final track together bar by bar from numerous takes for the final result. During the year spent working on that song, the multitrack tape has been run over the record and playback heads so many times, that the tape begins shedding oxide and sticking to the heads. At one point, an early version of the unfinished song "Amanda" will leak out of the studio in 1984, forcing the band to quickly send cease and desist letters to stations that had been playing it. In spite of Boston's lengthy hiatus, the album is very well received upon its release. It will spin off three singles including "Amanda" (#1 Pop) and "We're Ready" (#9 Pop). Third Stage will spend four weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: September 23, 2003Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, the fifth album by Outkast is released. Produced by Andre 3000, Big Boi, Carl Mo, Mr. DJ, Cutmaster Swiff, and Dojo5, it is recorded at Stankonia Studios in Atlanta and Larrabee Studios in Los Angeles from September 2001 - September 2003. Following the huge critical and commercial success of their previous album Stankoniareleased in 2000, the Atlanta based rap duo will take a year long hiatus before reconvening to work on their fifth release. Recorded over a two-year period, the 2 CD/4 LP set is technically two separate albums by Big Boi and Andre 3000 packaged together under the Outkast name. Musically diverse and eclectic throughout, it features a number of guest artists including Jay-Z, Cee-Lo Green, Norah Jones, Ludacris, Rosario Dawson, and more. It will receive major critical and commercial acclaim upon its release, spinning off five singles including "Hey Ya!" (#1 Pop, #9 R&B), "The Way You Move" (#1 Pop, #2 R&B), and "Roses" (#9 Pop, #12 R&B). The album will also win the duo three Grammy Awards including Album Of The Year (becoming only the second rap album in history to do so), and Best Rap Album. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below will spend five weeks (non-consecutive) at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, one week at #1 on the R&B album chart, and is certified 11x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Relevant Tags

John Coltrane (8), Ray Charles (7), Bruce Springsteen (25), The Box Tops (1), The Doors (15), Steely Dan (10), Billy Joel (7), Boston (9), Outkast (5), Andre 3000 (1), Big Boi (4)