Monday, November 22, 2004

History Lesson: The Way I Like It

November 22, 1968: The Beatles is released. Known to one and all as the White Album, this double-disc set contains some of the most bizarre and disturbing music the group ever did. Yet a pall hangs over even the happier tunes. The group's breakup was underway during the making of the White Album, and you can hear the psychological effects of the impending divorce on every track. Key tracks: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," "Blackbird," "Birthday."

November 22, 1967: Sam and Dave's single "Soul Man" reaches gold-record status. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know how much we dig the music of Stax Records in Memphis. What you may not know is that one of the men responsible for creating a lot of it was Isaac Hayes, who along with David Porter wrote and produced Sam and Dave's greatest hits, such as "Soul Man," "Hold On I'm Comin," and "I Thank You." Hayes went on to a successful recording career of his own, and an Oscar for "Theme from Shaft." His role as the voice of Chef on South Park will be a footnote someday.

November 22, 1955: RCA Records signs a Memphis-based singer named Elvis Presley to the most lucrative contract in history up to that time: $40,000. The singer, of course, was never heard from again.

Birthday Today: Steven Van Zandt of the E-Street Band and the Bada Bing is 54. In the early 80s, he led a band called Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, which is one of the all-time great band names.

Number One Songs on This Date:

1981: "Physical"/Olivia Newton-John. Yeah, some people got upset about the "explicit" lyrics, but they're all dead now, because if "Physical" upset them, there were literally dozens of hit records in the 90s and 00s would have been fatal.

1975: "That's the Way (I Like It)"/KC and the Sunshine Band. I know KC can't sing, and I know most of their hits are repetitive to the point of inducing stupidity, but KC and the Sunshine Band remains one of my great guilty pleasures anyhow.

1970: "I Think I Love You"/Partridge Family. The "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" of the late boomer generation--the record that changed the way you listened to the radio, and/or made you want to listen more and more.

1960: "Stay"/Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. A classic hit from rock's early era, and the shortest single ever to make it to the top, clocking in at 1:50. Memorably covered by Jackson Browne in 1978.

1938: "Begin the Beguine"/Artie Shaw. This was the first hit for Shaw, a clarinetist and bandleader notable for being married eight times and being linked extra-maritally to some of the most celebrated women of the 1940s. He gave up his career 50 years ago while still one of the biggest names in the business, claiming to be bored by it, and is still alive and living in California, aged 94.

Note: This blog will be on hiatus until the week of November 29. Explore the links at the right. You won't be sorry.


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