Music History Monday: April 14

Posted by Jeff Harris, April 14, 2014 11:21am | Post a Comment

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On this day in music history: April 14, 1973 - "Masterpiece" by The Temptations hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for two weeks, also peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on April 28, 1973. Written and produced by Norman Whitfield, it is the 11th R&B chart-topper for the veteran Motown vocal group. Songwriter and producer Norman Whitfield will give the song its title when he feels that all of the combined elements of the piece add up to a "masterpiece," though the word does not appear in the lyrics. Whitfield will write "Masterpiece" as a sequel to the Grammy-winning smash "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" (and the album All Directions), and features members of The Funk Brothers providing musical support and is arranged by Paul Riser. The single and album are recorded during a period where there is ever-mounting tension between the highly-strung producer and The Temptations, who are unhappy at having no say in the creative process and are being referred to by music critics as "the Norman Whitfield Choral Singers." "Masterpiece" will be edited down from its nearly 14 minute epic length down to under four and a half minutes for single release. Though the Tempts will top the R&B chart three more times with "Let Your Hair Down," "Happy People," and "Shakey Ground," in 1974 and 1975 respectively, "Masterpiece" will be will be the group's last top ten pop hit for 18 years. It returns to the upper reaches of the chart when they collaborate with Rod Stewart on "The Motown Song" peaking at #10 in September of 1991. "Masterpiece" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Music History Monday: March 24

Posted by Jeff Harris, March 24, 2014 07:30am | Post a Comment

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On this day in music history: March 24, 1975Chicago VIII, the eighth album by Chicago is released. Produced by James William Guercio, it is recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO from August - September 1974. The band's eighth album in just six years, compounded by non-stop exhaustive touring will find them short of new material. Many of the new album's songs will be written in the studio during the sessions for VIII. The album will also be first to feature percussionist Laudir de Oliviera. It will spin off two singles including "Old Days" (#5 Pop) and "Harry Truman" (#13 Pop). The original LP package will come with an iron on decal of the album cover art and a poster. In 2002, the album will be remastered and feature two previously unreleased tracks recorded during the original sessions but were left off of the original release. Chicago VIII will spend two weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: March 24, 1979 - "Tragedy" by The Bee Gees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. Written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, it is the eighth US chart-topper for the three brothers from the Isle of Man. Recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami in the Spring of 1978, the song is written during a particularly prolific period for the brothers Gibb. "Tragedy" is written in mid-1977 while The Bee Gees are filming Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. During this time they also write "Too Much Heaven" and "Shadow Dancing." The song's climactic explosion sound effects are created by the engineer recording several overdubs of Barry Gibb cupping his hands over the microphone while making the explosion sound with his mouth, combined with keyboardist Blue Weaver playing random notes on the bottom end of the piano with the sounds being heavy processed in the mix. Issued as a single in late January of 1979,  prior to the release of their first post-Saturday Night Fever album Spirits Having Flown, it is another immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #29 on February 10, 1979, it will streak to the top of the chart six weeks later. "Tragedy" is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA. 

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Amoeba's Zak Wilson On New "Art Gods" Documentary And Tower Records' 1980's Art Displays, Part II

Posted by Billyjam, December 12, 2013 09:09am | Post a Comment

Last week here on the Amoeblog was the first half of an interview piece with Amoebite Zak Wilson on the subject of the wonderful new documentary that he is featured in: Art Gods (An Oral History of the Tower Records Art Department). Over the weekend the film premiered at San Francisco's Balboa Theatre and this week Art Gods has been released on DVD and is available in each of the three Amoeba Music stores: Berkeley, San Francisco, and Hollywood.

As its full title implies Art Gods is a documentary about the art department at the now defunct Tower Records chain that began in Sacramento in the early sixties when Russ Solomon opened the first Tower Records store. Zak Wilson (that's him above back in the day at Tower), who is among those featured in the engaging doc, worked at Tower in Berkeley during its 80's heyday and has many stories to share from those times - as you will see in the Q+A below that is accompanied by numerous photos of Tower in the 80's and some of their legendary displays - all courtesy of Zak Wilson's photo collection that is featured in Art Gods.

Amoeblog: Many people thought of Tower Records as a big chain run like any other large music chain. But was that really an accurate view of Tower? And was owner Russ Solomon a hands on boss or someone you never saw?

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Amoeba's Zak Wilson On The New "Art Gods" Documentary About Tower Records' Legendary Art Displays, Part I

Posted by Billyjam, December 6, 2013 01:33pm | Post a Comment


Amoebite Zak Wilson, who I last talked with here a few years back when he offered his invaluable insights on the world of guitar picks for the Amoeblog, is always busy working on some new project. His latest, of which he is one of several contributors, is the wonderful new documentary Art Gods (An Oral History of the Tower Records Art Department). As its title implies, Art Gods is about the art display department of the now defunct Sacramento-based record store chain during its 1980's heyday (when Wilson worked in their art department). 

This documentary is an engaging time capsule of a bygone era in both the record business (when records were the primary format) and in the pre-computer/pre-digital age of art displays. The film premieres tonight and tomorrow (Dec 6th and 7th) at San Francisco's Balboa Theatre.  Next week, Art Gods will arrive in Amoeba and other stores on DVD. This is part one of a two-part interview with Zak about the film, along with pictures of some of those great album art-based record store displays. Part two will run next week to coincide with the release of the documentary on DVD.


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Music History Monday: June 17

Posted by Jeff Harris, June 17, 2013 12:30pm | Post a Comment

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Born on this day: June 17, 1943 - Singer, songwriter, producer and musician Barry Manilow (born Barry Alan Pincus in Brooklyn, NY). Happy 70th Birthday, Barry!


On this day in music history: June 17, 1978 - "Shadow Dancing" by Andy Gibb hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. Written by Barry, Robin, Maurice, and Andy Gibb, it is the third consecutive chart topper for the singer and songwriter from The Isle of Man, UK. While his debut single "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" and the accompanying album Flowing Rivers are steadily climbing the charts in the US and abroad, singer Andy Gibb, with the assistance of his older brothers The Bee Gees will begin work on his second album. All four brothers will collaborate on the Shadow Dancing album while The Bee Gees are filming Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in L.A. in mid-1977. Recording will begin at Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles with overdubs and final mixing completed at Criteria Studios in Miami. Released as a single in April of 1978, it will quickly become a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on April 15, 1978, it will rise to the top of the chart nine weeks later. Gibb, at only twenty years old, will become the first solo artist in history to have his first three singles reach #1 in the US, achieving this feat in just 11 months. "Shadow Dancing" is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA, selling over 2.5 million copies in the US alone, and will be ranked at the top single of 1978 by Billboard Magazine.

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