Category Archives: For The Record

For The Record – ‘Jack Your Body’

Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley is a pioneering producer, and songwriter in House music, whose song ‘Jack Your Body’ has an interesting story. In 1986, Hurley released ‘I Can’t Turn Around’, which was a cover of the classic 1975 Isaac Hayes song. His best friend, Farley Keith, stole the track before distribution licenses were arranged, changed the lyrics, released it as ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’, and hit the top ten in the UK Singles Chart. Needless to say, that was the end of their friendship…

Hurley got his own back though later in 1986, when he released ‘Jack Your Body’, and it became the very first UK House record to reach Number 1 in the charts. It also became the first UK number one single in the budding 12″ format, and paved the way for Acid House.

Despite all this success, Hurley never had another song (under his own name) reach the Top 75 in the UK. His other minor hits in 1987 were released under the alias JM Silk.

For The Record – ‘Sixteen Tons’

January 20, 1956 – the number one song across the land was ‘Sixteen Tons’ by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

The little tune about a coal miner spent ten weeks at the top of the Country charts before making its way into the mainstream, where it spent another eight weeks at the top of the Pop charts.  The song was originally written and recorded ten years earlier by Merle Travis in 1946, but Ford’s version became the definitive one.

Since then, ‘Sixteen Tons’ has been covered by more than 20 different artists, including Rock versions, Soul versions, Spanish versions, Punk versions, and a cappella versions.  The Clash borrowed the song, and played it as the introduction to all of their shows on ‘The 16 Tons Tour’ in 1980.  Currently, the song is featured in the Broadway play ‘Million Dollar Quartet’.

Ford continued recording steadily for another 20 years, and enjoyed substantial success, but he was never able to match the level of his signature song again.  Although, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1990 for his lifetime contributions to music.

For The Record – ‘Relax’

What do you get when you release your debut single that contains racy lyrics and an overtly sexual record sleeve? If you are Frankie Goes To Hollywood, you get banned by the BBC!

‘Relax’ was released in October of 1983, enjoying moderate sales and radio airplay. Then, an appearance on Top Of The Pops in January of 1984 lifted sales of the single. One week later, the song was being played on Radio 1, when the DJ spotted the cover and really listened to the lyrics. He was disgusted. He allegedly stopped the song, while playing it on air, and called it ‘obscene’. Two days later, on January 13, the BBC imposed a ban on the record that helped shoot it straight to Number One in the UK charts. It stayed there for five weeks, sold nearly two million copies, and became one of the top ten best-selling records in the history of the UK Singles chart.

The dust had barely even settled from ‘Relax’, when Frankie came roaring back with their second single, ‘Two Tribes’ in May. The song went straight to Number One, and sold nearly 1.5 million copies.

As if that wasn’t enough success, FGTH released ‘The Power Of Love’, their third single from the album ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’, at the end of 1984. For the third time in less than one year, they earned the Number One spot in the charts, making them the first band to achieve chart-topping success with their first three singles, since Gerry & The Pacemakers did it in 1963.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there, and the band quickly disappeared from the limelight. Internal tensions, disillusionment, and the failure to equal their initial success led to the break-up of the band in 1986. Their music lives on though, and so does their T-shirt collection, which includes ‘Frankie Say Relax’ and ‘Frankie Say War Hide Yourself’…

For The Record – ‘Heroes’

Today in 1977, David Bowie released his second installment of the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ in the UK (the US release followed one week later). ‘Heroes’ picked up where ‘Low’ had left off and, once again with the help of Brian Eno, Bowie pushed things into a more raucous and positive direction.

The album was recorded entirely in Berlin in a studio about 500 yards from the Berlin Wall. The title track, one of Bowie’s best known songs, was written about two young lovers who meet at the Wall. The producer, Tony Visconti, has said that during the recording of the album German Guards would watch the proceedings in the control room with powerful binoculars. Inside, Bowie was cementing his place as the pioneer of what-would-soon-become-known-as New Wave music, while paying tribute to his German influences Kraftwerk and Neu!. Both groups inspired several songs on the album.

Upon it’s release, everyone hailed the album as a classic. Critics loved it. Fans adored it. Other musicians revered it. John Lennon was quoted as saying the album served as his inspiration during the recording of his last album ‘Double Fantasy’ in 1980.

‘Lodger’ would follow two years later and complete the ‘Berlin Trilogy’, but ‘Heroes’ was David Bowie’s last great record of the 1970s. The album ended a creative streak that saw Bowie continually mesmerize and baffle everybody with his originality and self-reinvention that was second to none.

For The Record – ‘Johnny Cash At San Quentin’

On this day in 1969, Johnny Cash reached the top spot in the Album Charts with his live LP ‘Johnny Cash At San Quentin’. The album was recorded in California’s oldest prison that year, at a show in February, and then released in June; just over one year after his first surprisingly successful live album, ‘Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison’.

Cash created and maintained an outlaw image throughout his entire career and, although he never actually served a prison sentence, his numerous brushes with the law gave him a deep compassion for prisoners. He began performing in prisons in the late 1950s with his first ever prison concert on January 1, 1958 at San Quentin State Prison.

From that time, Cash had the desire to release a live album of one of his performances within a penitentiary, but an uninterested record label and a severe drug-addiction meant that the project did not come to fruition until 1968. By that time, Cash had turned his career around by controlling his drug abuse, marrying June Carter and establishing new relationships with the personnel in Columbia Records.

‘At Folsom Prison’ rejuvenated Cash’s career and his subsequent release, ‘At San Quentin’, became his first album to reach the Number One position in the Pop Charts. It also provided him with a hit single in ‘A Boy Named Sue’. This success ultimately led to an offer from ABC that gave Cash his very own television show from 1969 – 1971.

At the age of 37, the ‘Man In Black’ was back.

For The Record – ‘The Prince’

Madness burst onto the scene on this day in 1979 with their first single, ‘The Prince’. It was released on 2 Tone Records and paid tribute to the Jamaican Ska singer Prince Buster, who was one of their major influences. In fact, the group took their name from one of his songs.

The band had formed three years earlier but went through several personnel changes before settling on six members (later seven), including Graham McPherson (aka Suggs) on vocals.

‘The Prince’ was recorded for a mere 200 pounds and released on The Specials’ founder/keyboardist Jerry Dammers’ label. The single was a surprise hit because the band were completely unknown at the time. However, an appearance on Top Of The Pops quickly spread the word and they soon found themselves touring with The Specials and The Selector.

Later that same year, the band recorded their debut album, ‘One Step Beyond’, which remained in the charts for over a year and eventually made them one of the prominent bands of the Ska revival.

“With a rock-steady beat, an earthquake is erupting”…

For The Record – ‘Purple Rain’

On this day in 1984, Prince assumed the Number One album slot with his masterpiece ‘Purple Rain’. The record had been released at the end of June and in six short weeks sold nearly one million copies. It spent 24 weeks in the top slot and has sold, to date, more than 13 million copies.

Later that same year, Prince became the first singer to achieve three simultaneous Number One positions with the Number One album (‘Purple Rain’), Number One single (‘When Doves Cry’) and the Number One film (‘Purple Rain’).

In 1985, he scooped up awards everywhere he went including, the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, the Grammy for Best Album of Original Score Material and an Oscar for Best Original Song Score – all for ‘Purple Rain’, of course.

Although Prince wrote all of the songs, he credited his backing group, known as The Revolution, for the first time on this record. From the avant-garde feel of ‘When Doves Cry’, which did not contain a bass line, to the psuedo-psychedelic, hard(ish)-rock riffs in ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, Prince and The Revolution combined electronic elements/effects with full-band performances to produce an album that crossed and conquered almost every single genre of music. Today, ‘Purple Rain’ is consistently regarded as one of the best albums of all-time.

Interestingly, after the massive success of ‘Purple Rain’, Prince chose to release his next album, ‘Around The World In A Day’, in 1985 without any publicity or the promotion of an official single. However, his success continued when the album went to Number One and ‘Raspberry Beret’ reached the Number Two position on the Billboard Charts in America.

For The Record – ‘Paperback Writer’

‘Paperback Writer’ was the eleventh single released by the Beatles, on this day in 1966 in the UK. The song went to straight to the Number 1 spot and stayed there for several weeks.

The single marks the beginning of the Beatles’ experimentation with sound and the use of studio equipment as additional instruments. Apparently, John had made some complaints about the low levels of bass on a lot of the Beatles’ records. So, they decided to use a loudspeaker as a microphone for Paul’s bass. The result, remarked one of the engineers, was that the bass sound was heard, “in all it’s excitement”.

The B-Side of ‘Paperback Writer’ was the song ‘Rain’, which utilised further experimentation. For this song, engineers recorded several tracks, including backing and lead vocals, faster or slower than normal. When played back at regular speeds, the tone was altered slightly. The song also contained, for the first time ever, backward vocals, which a tired John Lennon claimed happened by accident, when he unknowingly put a tape into a recorder that played the music backwards. He liked the sound so much that the technique was used for the last verse of the song.

The recording of both of these tracks was a hint at greater things to come, when the band moved into the studio to record their classic album ‘Revolver’ later that year.

For The Record – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

It was 43 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…

Like it or loathe it, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was an important album. It embraced the infantile Psychedelic Rock scene, ushered in the Summer Of Love and pushed the boundaries of studio recording practices and techniques.

The idea for Sgt. Pepper came from the band’s growing contempt towards touring. They were the world’s most successful Rock group and travelled the entire world, playing to constant sold-out crowds. Tired and worn-out, they decided they would record an album that they hoped, in effect, tour for them. Hence the fictious name of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – an alias they could hide behind and experiment under.

During the six months of recording, the Beatles made use of numerous known recording techniques such as echo, reverberation and reverse tape looping. They also employed many modular effects, which included; bouncing down (mixing multiple four track recordings into one), the use of wah-wah pedals and a fuzz box, running their voices and instruments through a special loudspeaker (for distortion), and varispeeding (combining various tracks on a multi-track tape with different speeds).

But the Beatles not only made the album sound good, they made it look good too. The front cover featured the band (in disguise) standing among more than 70 cardboard cut-outs of famous people, ranging from Sigmund Freud to Marilyn Monroe. They also, for the first time in Britain, printed all of the songs’ lyrics on the back cover.

The result was nearly universal popular and critical acclaim, when the album hit the shelves on June 1, 1967. The record went to Number 1 in countries all over the world and spent almost 200 weeks in both the UK and US Album Charts. Since then, it has appeared near the top in almost every single popularity poll and ‘Greatest Album Of All Time’ list that has ever been published.

Sadly, it was the last time the Beatles shared a common, collective sense of purpose on a recording. Afterwards they began to pursue different agendas and, although ‘The Beatles’ and ‘Abbey Road’ were still ahead of them, the band never functioned as well together in the studio as they did during the first half of 1967.

For The Record – ‘God Save The Queen’

Amid complete chaos, ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Sex Pistols was released on this day in 1977 and heralded as “punk’s crowning glory”.

The band had several tumultuous months in the build-up to the release. Glen Matlock was fired by the band and replaced by Sid Vicious on bass.  A&M Records signed the band in March only to break the contract a week later when they got drunk and wreaked havoc on the label’s offices. Workers in the pressing plant where the record was being made threatened to strike because of the song’s lyrics. This, however, was only the beginning of their problems.

Eventually, in May, the band signed with Virgin Records and the single was released to widespread public outcry. Several major record stores refused to stock the record. The BBC and most independent radio stations refused to play it. In light of all the censorship, Johnny Rotten was quoted as saying, “We are the only honest band that’s hit this planet in about two thousand million years.”

The single sold well but only reached Number 2 in the UK charts (behind ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ by Rod Stewart). To this day, there is still controversy over why the song never reached Number 1, despite having the sales to do so. However, Rolling Stone rated it as the top song of 1977 and it continually appears on every single ‘Greatest Songs Of All Time’ lists around the world.

One thing is for certain, the song and all of its controversy went a long way towards achieving the band’s goal, which was in Rotten’s words, “To destroy everything”.