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, ’80s and ’80s.
Here’s a special year end edition of Big Jay’s This Week in History — FIRST Hits of the ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s — featuring B.J. Thomas, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Phil Collins!
First No. 1 Hit of the ‘70s
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”
Replacing the last No. 1 song of the ‘60s, “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & the Supremes (which was really just Diana Ross with a couple of hired back-up vocalists) was the main theme from the Paul Newman and Robert Redford flick Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid; “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”
This was the first Pop song to reach No. 1 in 1970s. The B.J. Thomas (pictured above in studio at CBS-FM with Broadway Bill Lee) classic was written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Recorded at the A&R Recording Studios in Manhattan, the track was one of the first major audio productions from the legendary Phil Ramone, who went on to produce Billy Joel and many other superstars through the 2000s. Thomas, who had several hits from the middle of the ‘60s through the ‘70s, was chosen to sing this theme song by Burt Bacharach, after Ray Stevens (“Guitarzan,” “The Streak”) turned down the chance. Rumors about Bob Dylan being invited to sing “Raindrops” are erroneous, according to Bacharach. And the person responsible for hooking-up Burt with B.J. Thomas was Dionne Warwick; then on the same roster at Scepter Records. Bacharach ended up signing Thomas to a deal to manage the singer. This song is now in the Grammy® Hall of Fame and won an Academy Award® for Best Song.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” was the first of two No. 1 songs on the Hot 100 for B.J. Thomas; although he would later cross over to the Country lists, as he was born in Oklahoma, but raised in South Texas near Houston. In fact, his first Pop hit was a Country & Western song most associated with the iconic singer Hank Williams with “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The Thomas re-make (along with a group called the Triumphs) peaked at No. 8 in ’66 and was given national distribution on Scepter Records, after it was originally released on a local south Texas label owned by Huey P. Meaux called Pacemaker Records. Thomas is also known for the hits: “Hooked On A Feeling” (No. 5 Pop) another million-selling 45 RPM, recorded in Memphis, featuring an electric sitar played by legendary session player (the late) Reggie Young. The decade of the ‘70s’ first No. 1 song from Butch Cassidy was followed-up with another Bacharach & David tune called “Everybody’s Out Of Town” (No 26 Pop) and another legendary songwriting couple, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil wrote hit another Top 10 Pop hit (No. 9) called “I Just Can’t Help Believing.” During a few lean and troubled years, Thomas had a few hits including: “No Love At All” (No. 16 Pop in ‘71) “Rock And Roll Lullaby” (No. 15 Pop & No. 1 Easy Listening in ‘72) another Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil tune, with guest vocalists Dave Somerville from the Diamonds of “Little Darlin’” fame on the ultra-high notes, along with the R&B vocal group the Blossoms and the master twangy guitar master Duane Eddy plucking the strings. Billy Joe Thomas wasn’t done on the Pop lists yet, as he had one more million-selling tune “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” in ’75 on the ABC Records label after Scepter Records went belly-up. On the Pop side, Thomas had just one more Top 20 hit in ‘77 with a remake of the Beach Boys song, “Don’t Worry Baby” reaching No. 17 on MCA Records. He was the male vocalist on both versions of the theme song from the TV show Growing Pains called “As Long As We Got Each Other” first singing it with Jennifer Warnes of “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”-fame) and then with Dusty Springfield for one season. Thomas had many Gospel hits and a huge Country career after his major Pop status. He still tours, and has a full schedule lined up for 2016.
First No. 1 Hit of the ‘80s
“Please Don’t Go”
KC and the Sunshine Band
The first No. 1 record of the 1980s was a comeback effort from the Hialeah, Florida-based ensemble, K.C. and the Sunshine Band with a BALLAD called “Please Don’t Go.” Wait—what? Yeah, it was a ballad from those disco/funk mavens of the ‘70s. But somehow, this record resonated with music lovers. Harry Wayne Casey (K.C.) formed what would become known as the Sunshine Band in 1973; initially with just his songwriting partner Richard Finch. I played their early recordings in the clubs at the Jersey Shore in late ’73 at the very, very start of what would become known as Disco music. Several musicians were added as the years went on for recording and live appearances. While on vacation in the spring of ’75, I remember sitting on the sands of Miami Beach and hearing a song called “Get Down Tonight” on the R&B stations of Miami. I turned to my then fiancé and said, “That will be a No. 1 Pop song by the summer. As you know, your Big Jay is rarely wrong, and indeed it was on top of the Hot 100 for a sole week in the summer of ’75. That was followed by “That’s The Way (I Like It)” at No. 1. A follow-up to that was a stinker on the Pop lists called “Queen Of Clubs.” But K.C. and Finch came up with another No. 1 smash “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” in ’76 on TK Records. Another stinker called “I Like To Do It” failed. Not to be deterred, “I’m Your Boogie Man” yielded yet another Pop chart-topper in ‘77, followed by “Keep It Comin’ Love” just missing the apex that year; stalling at No. 2. For some reason, after that hit, K.C. and the Sunshine Band couldn’t even reach the Top 30. However, “Boogie Shoes” a cut from the groups’ second album called K.C. and the Sunshine Band was resurrected from just being an album track to becoming a single and a key component to the film and soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever in 1978. And yet, after that was a charting 45 RPM, they still couldn’t duplicate its success. During the spring of ’79, K.C. and Finch wrote “Please Don’t Go” and included that on an album called Do You Wanna Go Party on TK Records. When released as a single in August of 1979, it seemed as if it wouldn’t catch on, being the first true ballad from the Disco mavens. But persistence paid off for not only TK Records and K.C. and the boys, becoming the very first No. 1 Pop hit of the 1980’s.
Not long after this record was recorded, K.C. (Harry Casey) decided to embark on a solo career. At first, while he was producing an album for an old high school friend Teri DeSario, her label’s head Neil Bogart (Casablanca Record) heard that K.C. was working on having her sing a remake of the 1965 smash for Barbara Lewis called “Yes I’m Ready.” Bogart wisely suggested it be done as a duet, with DeSario and Harry Casey. The only reason her version (with K.C.) didn’t reach No. 1 on the Hot 100, was because “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” stopped it at No. 2 for two weeks. After a serious motor-vehicle accident, where Harry was seriously injured, K.C. recovered after months of rehab, and, as a solo artist did manage to have one more “comeback” record in him called “Give It Up,” in the dance style that he was most known for; this time on the small Meca Records label after his label at the time Epic Records refused to release it. K.C. still tours with new musicians and has done a few concerts in conjunction with CBS-FM! He’s a great showman for sure. A postscript to the K.C. and the Sunshine Band story is that K.C.’s one-time writing and producing partner Richard Finch was arrested and convicted of sexual contact with male teens in (ahem) Licking County, Ohio. Finch is still incarcerated at an Ohio state penitentiary as of this writing.
First No. 1 Hit of the ‘90s
“Another Day In Paradise”
Not bad for a guy who (as a young teen) was an extra in The Beatles’ 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night and the guy who replaced Peter Gabriel in Genesis in 1975. The very first hit of the ‘90s decade was the very last No. 1 Hot 100 hit for Phil Collins with “Another Day In Paradise” on Atlantic Records. It was also the last No. 1 record of the ‘80s, as it had been a chart-topper for the last two weeks of that decade. But it was a strong No. 1 single, lasting four survey-phases in total as the prime hit in America. The tune was the first single from the Collins LP …But Seriously, released in September of ’89. That album was also was the first No. 1 LP in the U.S. in the ‘90s. The song “Another Day In Paradise” was yet another foray into the plight of homelessness that Collins had already tackled on a song he recorded with Genesis (with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford) called “Man On The Corner” which only reached No. 40 on the Hot 100 back in 1981 from an otherwise fairly successful LP called Abacab. That album also featured the hits “No Reply At All” (No. 29 Pop in ‘81) and “Abacab” (No. 26 Pop, peaking in ‘82) on Atlantic Records. Back to “Another Day In Paradise”—the song featured singing legend David Crosby on backing vocals along with Dominic Miller on guitar, and Leland Sklar on bass.
“Another Day In Paradise” was Phil Collins’ seventh and final No. 1 single to date. The LP version of the song from …But Seriously, clocked in at over five minutes long; but was edited down to a more radio-friendly 4:04 for single release. “Another Day In Paradise” was eventually named Grammy® Record of the Year for 1990. It had also been nominated for Song of the Year, ultimately won by “From A Distance for songwriter Julie Gold, performed by Bette Midler, Best Music Video, Short Form, in the end won by the Paula Abdul song’s “Opposites Attract” video) and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, made victorious by the then recently deceased Roy Orbison for a remake of “Oh, Pretty Woman.” But it was the producer’s award that got Collins and co-producer Hugh Padgham their big winner at that ceremony in early ’91. Phil Collins and David Crosby performed the composition live on the night of the Grammy Awards® Show televised on NBC from Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Over in merry-old England, “Another Day In Paradise” won the BRIT Award® for Best British Single. His six other No. 1 songs include: “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” from ’84, “One More Night” from ’85, “Sussudio” from the same year, and “Separate Lives” also from ’85—a duet with Marilyn Martin, “Groovy Kind Of Love” a re-make of the Mindbenders ’66 hit (co-written by a young Carole Bayer Sager and Toni Wine—the female singer on “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, and “Two Hearts,” No. 1 in early 1989 co-written by the great Motown and beyond legend, Lamont Dozier, Earth, Wind & Fire’s lead singer Phillip Bailey’s collaboration with Collins on “Easy Lover” reached No. 2 on the Hot 100 for two weeks in early ’85 prevented from the No. 1 spot by Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is.” And, though it wasn’t a gigantic hit (No. 21 Pop) the last entry from Phil Collins in the 1990s (1999 to be exact) won him an Oscar® for Best Song for “You’ll Be In My Heart” from the motion-picture Tarzan. Phillip David Charles Collins was inducted into the class of 2010 of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis.
Collins announced the next year that he was retiring from the recording and live concert business due to health issues including arm troubles due to playing the drums for so many years and some personal issues. But during the spring of 2015, Collins announced he was coming out of retirement. He planned to re-release re-mastered versions of his eight solo LPs, and would write a new album and return to the concert stage. In addition, Phil plans to have an autobiography released sometime in 2016.
–Big Jay Sorensen/WCBS-FM