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This Week In History: A Magical Mystery Tour, C’est Chic, & Thriller!

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Big-Jay-Sorensen Big Jay Sorensen
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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’s focus is A Magical Mystery Tour, C’est Chic, & Thriller.

The 1960s

The Beatles opened 1968 with an LP that wasn’t supposed to be an album in the first place. Capitol Records, always looking for ways to make the most of their biggest import, decided to release the six songs that were written exclusively for the British TV film Magical Mystery Tour; plus some recent singles and B sides. This was the second of an eventual eight weeks as the Pop LP chart-topper.

In merry-old England, the songs from the movie were released as double EP (Extended Play) singles. Those EP’s were released in Blighty about a week and a half later than the American album called Magical Mystery Tour. The idea of the “tour” was to have the Beatles rent a bus and travel the English countryside with a bunch of oddballs and character actors along for the ride. There was just a fundamental outline for the film, devised austerely by Paul McCartney. They ended up ad-libbing much of the film on the spot; leading the film to be called a debacle by critics when shown on BBC-TV in Great Britain. This was measured as the first flop the group had endured during their extraordinarily successful run.

The Lennon/McCartney songs written for the film (except where noted) included: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Fool On The Hill,” “Flying,” (the first song to have been written by all four members of the group) “Blue Jay Way,” from George Harrison, “Your Mother Should Know,” and “I Am The Walrus.” The American side-two of the LP featured phony stereo versions of previously released mono singles: “Hello, Goodbye,” “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane,” “Baby You’re A Rich Man,” and “All You Need Is Love.”

The 1970s

Nile Rodgers in the CBS-FM studio with "Brooklyn's Own" Joe Causi. Photo: E.J. Judge, CBS Local

Nile Rodgers in the CBS-FM studio with “Brooklyn’s Own” Joe Causi. Photo: E.J. Judge, CBS Local

C’est Chic from Chic was the top album again this week in ‘79 on the Hot Soul Album chart on Atlantic Records. This was the fifth of an eventual 11 nonstop weeks as that chart’s leader, from the late autumn ’78, into the first week of March of ’79. The track “Le Freak” became one of the biggest selling physical singles in the history of pop music in America and the highlight of the album. The song sold over four million copies and counting in America alone, adding another two million globally.

Though not nearly as stimulating, the follow-up single, “I Want Your Love” (originally intended for Sister Sledge) reached No. 5 on the Soul Singles chart later in the year. Another track, “Chic Cheer” was heard often in the dance clubs. The top-selling R&B LP of the year, C’est Chic was an enormous success for writers/producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson. The LP also featured the lead female voices of Alfa Anderson and Luci Martin with abundant guest musicians and vocalists, including Luther Vandross. Rodgers went on to produce albums for artists ranging from David Bowie and Diana Ross to Duran Duran and Madonna.

Nile dropped out of the music business due to immoderation for a while, but was pulled back into the studio after he cleaned up in 1995 at the insistence of Michael Jackson. Interestingly, the Chic Corporation was owned only by Rodgers and Edwards, and everyone else on their recordings and live appearances were salaried employees.

The 1980s

Thriller

This was (ho-hum) another week at No. 1 on the Pop Albums chart for Thriller; which reigned supreme commencing with the week ending on February 26, 1983. For the fifth time, Michael Jackson’s landmark album sat in the pinnacle position this week in ‘84, trading places temporarily with albums like: Flashdance (the film soundtrack,) Synchronicity by Police, Mental Health by Quiet Riot and finally Can’t Slow Down from Lionel Richie.

Here we were almost a year later—the second week in January of ’84—and Thriller was in the middle of yet another long run at the high point of the chart. In fact, it was in the 24th of an eventual non-consecutive 37 weeks at the crest; ending its run at the top with the week ending April 14, 1984.

Just as “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” was slipping down the Pop Singles chart (the sixth single from the album,) Epic Records released the title track “Thriller” as the seventh track for single release featuring the unquestionably eerie laugh of actor Vincent Price, a friend of producer Quincy Jones’ wife. The song’s writer, Englishman Rod Temperton (who had written “Rock With You” and “Off The Wall” for Jackson) originally wanted to name the song “Thriller” “Midnight Man” or “Starlight,” but ended up with what became the title cut. Eight Grammy® Awards later, the album Thriller certainly was just that.

–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM


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