The music history books are vast and full of interesting bits of knowledge. “Big” Jay Sorensen gives you a recap of the biggest and most interesting music news from the week; something from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
This week Big Jay remembers the the BIG breakthrough for the Rolling Stones, a touch of McCrae magic on the charts and the ascent of Def Leppard to metal greatness.
This week in 1965, the Rolling Stones ruled the roost on the Pop singles chart with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” on London Records. The first number one song in the U.S. for the Rolling Stones came shattering out of transistor AM radios across the land, as it enjoyed its third uninterrupted week (out of an eventual four) as a new trend-setter of the enduring British Invasion.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was at first thought of as a folk song, but with a brass instrument backing, similar to the sound coming out of Motown Records in Detroit and Stax Records in Memphis at the time. The Stones originally laid down the fundamental tracks of the song at the Chess Studios in Chicago; the second time they visited their blues heroes’ hallowed haunts. The group continued on to at additional studio in Los Angeles and completed the work they started on the track that Keith Richards didn’t think was hefty enough to be the hit side of a single, as he thought it sounded too comparable to “Dancing In The Street,” a 1964 hit by Martha & The Vandellas.
The guitar hook was famously formulated by guitarist Richards after he couldn’t sleep at a Clearwater, Florida hotel and tried out some chords onto a new cassette tape contraption next to his bed. When he awakened that afternoon, he played the tape and was able to get the rest of the group interested, never thinking it would be a smash hit.
Just how did he get that noise that replaced the horns? The guitar was fed through what was called a Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone box, creating that instantly recognizable electric sound we love to this day. Co-writer Mick Jagger claimed the song—with its fuzzy resonance—turned the band into a “huge, monster band.” He was SO correct.
A disco anthem was traversing toward the top of the Pop singles chart this week in 1974, as “Rock Your Baby” by George McCrae replaced another early dance hit, “Rock The Boat” by Hues Corporation. You can point to the moment—three and a half years before Saturday Night Fever came into the public’s perception, and really before the word disco’itself became extensively known—and claim “Rock Your Baby” from George McCrae helped ignite the concept of a new kind of dance music into our communal heads.
Along with “Rock The Boat” by Hues Corporation, the summer of 1974 brought about a pop phenomenon after R&B music with a strong beat materialized from places like South Florida. That was the also the home of KC & The Sunshine Band, which actually had about a years head start with this new sound and a song called “Sound Your Funky Horn.” Truth be told, Harry Casey (KC) and his songwriting associate, Richard Finch, originally wanted their band to record the “Rock Your Baby,” but because KC himself couldn’t hit the high notes suitably, the duo wanted Gwen McCrea (George’s wife) on the track. Gwen didn’t get to the studio in time for the session, so her husband George happened to be there and got a crack at the 6:24 mark.
Edited down to a radio-friendly 3:16 for the Henry Stone-owned TK Records single release, a so-called Miami-Sound was broadcast to the world. His wife Gwen did manage to have a hit soon after with her future number nine Pop and number one Cat Records Hot Soul single “Rocking Chair,” similar in consistency to “Rock Your Baby.” Neither George nor Gwen had much pop triumph after their rockin’ dance songs. However, Gwen was quite fashionable in the U.K. for many years to come. Both McCreas had been discovered by another soul vocalist, Betty Wright, best known for her big hit “Clean Up Woman,” a million-selling single from 1971.
This week’s number one album in 1988 was to become the largest in Def Leppard‘s career, much to the chagrin of some of their original British fans who thought the group sold-out to American listeners by being more commercial. The heavy metal band has lineage in the Sheffield, England area and, at the onset, called Deaf Leopard.
Being commercial allowed Hysteria to ultimately sell over 12 million copies on vinyl, cassette, CD and downloads in the U.S. alone; its global sales have topped 20 million. That record had been released roughly a year prior in August of 1987 on Mercury Records, but with the accomplishment of the singles after “Women,” “Animal” and the title track “Hysteria,” the group burst through with the hit “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” moving the album to the top of the chart. There were even more singles to come: “Love Bites” (the album’s only chart-topping single) later in 1988, followed by “Armageddon It” and “Rocket.”
Robert “Mutt” Lange had produced the Australian heavy metal group AC/DC and began collaborating with Def Leppard, beginning with their second album High ‘n’ Dry in 1981 and their hugely triumphant predecessor to Hysteria called Pyromania. The latter elevated the band to incredible success.
But it was Hysteria that pushed them into the outer limits of rock. That adoration led them to win the 1989 American Music Awards for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album and Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist. The band is now considered the biggest of the so-called New Wave of British Heavy Metal. But, do yourself a favor and by no means say to a member of the band that they are a Glam Metal band. You could get seriously hurt.
–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM
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