Superstar producer Phil Spector went to see Ike Turner. He told Ike that he wanted to record a song with Tina that would become a number one smash on the pop charts and break them bigger. However, Ike could have nothing to do with the recording. Ike agreed, provided his name was still on the record label, which led to the awkwardly phrased Ike & Tina Turner featuring Tina. The track, “River Deep—Mountain High,” was recorded over five sessions. At various times during the recordings, studio guests included Mick Jagger, Brian Wilson, and Dennis Hopper. After subjecting Tina to take after take, Spector finally got what he wanted. He knew he had a smash on his hands.
In the US, the single debuted on the Hot 100 at number 98. The following week it was up to number 94. The next week, number 93. Then number 88. And that was that. Its chart run was over. In the UK the record went to number 2, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Spector, who retreated from music production for the next couple of years.
The late great Tina Turner was born on this date in 1939. Lots of Tina on today’s playlist.
Learning that Jeff Beck was a fan of his, Stevie Wonder invited the guitarist to the studio to jam with him. Beck played on Stevie’s composition “Lookin’ For Another Pure Love,” recorded for what was to be Wonder’s next album, Talking Book. As a thank you, Wonder wrote a song for Beck to record: “Superstition.” Wonder told Beck he can release his version prior to Wonder’s version, which would appear on Talking Book.
Motown heard Stevie’s recording and knew it would be a hit single. Stevie wanted his song “Big Brother” to be the album’s first single, but he hadn’t finished recording it by the time Motown needed a 45 to release in advance of the full-length record. Stevie begged Motown to not put out a “Superstition” single, as he promised it to Beck, whose album release was delayed. Motown ignored their superstar’s pleas. The label released the single, and scored Stevie a number one single on the US pop and r&b charts.
Beck wasn’t too happy about that turn of events, though the two men eventually sorted things out, playing the song together at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th-anniversary ceremony.
Stevie Wonder turns 73 today. He is well-represented on today’s playlist.
Today’s playlist celebrates the November 26 birthdays of The Supremes’ Jean Terrell, Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie, Tina Turner, Garnet Mimms, DJ Khaled, Hashim, Rhythm Heritage’s Michael Omartian, The Fendermen’s Jim Sundquist, and Tom Archia; and the November 27 birthdays of Jimi Hendrix, The Streets’ Mike Skinner, Das EFX’s Skoob, 100 gecs’ Dylan Brady, Jam & Spoon’s Mark Spoon, Teri DeSario, Dozy, Eddie Rabbitt, and Ed O.G.
For many years I’ve been saying that 1986 was a crap year for music. I prove myself wrong with this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist. Listen to these gems! How did I get this so wrong until now? My theory is this: In 1986 I was still listening to top 40 radio more than other formats. While there were many great hit songs in ’86 (as evidenced by the playlist below), there was also a lot of garbage songs that were successful on the pop chart. My thoughts of all those garbage songs outweighed my fond memories of all of the good songs. Well, no more, missy! Nineteen eighty-six was a good year for music. The proof is in the pudding (pudding meaning this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist).
I missed Prince’s debut album, For You, when it was released in 1978. My first exposure to him was hearing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on the radio. It became a hit when I was in high school. Good song. Then I saw the video. Not what I expected. Before then I thought Prince was a trio of Black women, like The Emotions. My first visual exposure to Prince and already he was throwing my expectations.
His third album, 1980’s Dirty Mind, got a fair amount of press in music magazines, and its cover art made an impression. I was interested in the guy.
“Controversy” was a single my freshman year in college. The song grabbed me, and so I bought the 45, my first Prince record.
The life-changing moment came the following year, when I heard “1999” on KISS-FM in Boston. Holy crap! It blew my mind. It sounded like nothing else on the radio at that time or any other time. At that moment I became a big fan. I got a ride into Harvard Square, went to the Harvard Coop (the university’s bookstore/ record store/ probably other things I can’t remember store) and bought the 1999 album. (The same day I bought Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Can you believe the two albums came out a month apart? What a time to be alive!)
From that point on I was a certified Prince fanatic. I bought the first four albums. I bought subsequent albums on the days of release. I bought the twelve-inch singles, and eventually the CD singles. And for quite a stretch there Prince continued to blow my mind. I’m still awed by his genius and marvel at how he thought to do unconventional things with his music, such as removing the bassline from “When Doves Cry,” the only number one on the dance chart to not have a bassline.
I’ve met many great talents over the years. Brian Wilson. Tina Turner. Smokey Robinson. Norman Fell. But nothing compared 2 meeting Prince. It was in 1988. He didn’t say a word, though he did sign my work stationery:
Putting together a Prince playlist and disciplining myself to keep it to thirty songs is a tough task, especially as a Prince fanatic, but I persevered. I’m not saying these are his thirty best songs, nor are they his thirty most popular songs, nor are they my thirty favorites of his songs. It’s a mixture of all three of those categories (which, of course, have a lot of overlap). I threw in some of the hits others had with songs he wrote. It’s by no means complete, but it’s a start.
(The Spotify embed feature is STILL broken. Here is the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3TrbpWDHR6CzcYRHmvSrRA?si=4367f868ddcf4e52)
The Grammy Awards are being presented tonight. Woo. It’s billed as “music’s biggest night,” just as May 7 through May 16 is billed as “the biggest week in American birding,” if only because ten days is a lot for one week. Birders. Am I right, people? Performers at this year’s Grammys include Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak doing their new song, because what better way to celebrate the music of 2020 than with a single that was released last week? Performers I’m looking forward to include Miranda Lambert, Cardi B, HAIM, Megan Thee Stallion, Brittany Howard, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish, whose “Everything I Wanted” is up for Record of the Year. That’s my favorite of the nominees, though I think the award will go to Beyoncé for “Black Parade,” and I have no problem with that. However, if the award goes to that record I never heard of until I started typing this sentence, sneakers will be thrown at my television (though that record may be good for all I know). For Album of the Year my vote goes to Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, as it was handily the best album of 2020. It probably won’t win, seeing as it wasn’t nominated. What was nominated over Apple’s album? That Coldplay album you forgot about and the Jacob Collier album you never heard of until you started reading this sentence (though that album may be good for all you know). Of the albums nominated, I’d pick HAIM’s. It’s very good. Not Fetch The Bolt Cutters good, but very good nonetheless. If HAIM win I hope they hand their award to Fiona Apple live on the telecast, which would be super impressive, seeing as they won’t be in the same room. I’m sure tonight’s show will include a tribute to dead people done by living people who are no match for said dead people. I’d rather want a montage of clips of the dead people performing when they were living people. <Fill in the blank> screaming is not representative of what made Aretha Franklin amazing. No disrespect to <fill in the blank>, but there’s more to being the Queen of Soul than having a mic and ovaries.
It’s easy to shit on the Grammys, as they are so shittable, but to be fair, not every Record of the Year is as terrible as 1988’s recipient, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Here are thirty of the better winners: