Thursday, October 22, 2020

Music History Today: October 23, 2020

October 23, 1990: AC/DC's Back In Black album is certified Diamond for US sales of 10 million.

For many bands, the sudden and horrific death of their lead singer at the peak of their popularity would be a career-ender. AC/DC took a few weeks to regroup and then recorded one of the biggest albums of all time.

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Back in Black is claimed in equal measure by the jocks, the stoners, the nerds, the delinquents, and the teachers. Nashville studios used it to test their acoustics. The title track boasts nothing less than one of the most gloriously elemental riffs ever devised—the perfection of the form, the ne plus ultra of jock jams, destined to be clumsily chunked out for eternity by teens testing fuzz pedals in God’s own Guitar Center. 

Read more: Pitchfork

October 23, 1961: It was only October, but Jimmy Dean would have the final Number 1 song for the year on the Easy Listening chart as "Big Bad John" ruled for its first of 10 weeks on this date.

Jimmy Dean was a country singer who also worked as a radio host. 

Jimmy Dean

The story of “Big Bad John” is that he needed a fourth song to record during a session, and he sketched out its lyrics on a plane when he was flying to that session. The country legend Roy Acuff helped him polish them up, and Floyd Cramer, hired to play piano on the song, had the idea that he should hit a piece of steel with a hammer instead.
Read more: Stereogum

October 23, 1963: Bob Dylan began to record "The Times They Are A-Changin'" at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City. 

When Dylan first hit the music scene, Joan Baez was the reigning queen of folk. 

L-R: Joan Baez & Bob Dylan
March on Washington DC 1963
She would soon fall in love with both the man and his music — but even today, Baez doesn't pretend to know what went on in Dylan's head when he wrote the song "The Times They Are a-Changin' " in 1963. Though it may have become an anthem, she doubts that's what he set out to create.
Read more: NPR

October 23, 1976: Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" hit number one in America, on its way to becoming their biggest selling record. 

Before “If You Leave Me Now,” Chicago didn’t have a clear front-man. The different members of the band all wrote songs, and most of them sang, too. 1972’s “Saturday In The Park,” the band’s highest-charting single to that point, basically summed up the kind of thing they did. It’s a song that manages to be both upbeat and mellow, folding in a slight patina of Latin influence and a gritty-ish vocal from pianist and songwriter Robert Lamm about spending a pleasant afternoon in a park. 

“If You Leave Me Now,” on the other hand, is memorable, though that doesn’t necessarily make it good. Bassist and singer Peter Cetera wrote the song, and it’s a breezy ballad about attempting to stave off a breakup: “How could we end it all this way/ When tomorrow comes and we’ll both regret/ The things we said today?” Cetera sings the song in a high, feathery tenor, and there’s not really a chorus; the whole thing is basically one extended soft-focus hook.    

Read more: Stereogum

October 23, 1999: Carlos Santana had his first number one hit with "Smooth."

Carlos Santana was staring down a mid-career crisis. Despite years of steady output and critical acclaim, he felt out of touch with younger audiences and regretful that his teenage children no longer heard him on commercial radio. So, acting on the advice of his wife, Santana arranged to meet with the record producer Clive Davis at a lavish bungalow in the Beverly Hills Hotel. “Give me half the album and trust that I will find material that is integral to your artistry,” Davis told Santana. “The other half of the album will be whatever you want it to be.”

Carlos Santana & Rob Thomas
The result was Supernatural, which featured a buffet of ‘90s hitmakers, including Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Dave Matthews. “Smooth” was the very last single Davis and his team delivered to Santana, who at first thought it sounded too rough, “like a painting that needed to be completed,” he said. It also reminded him of “Guajira,” a slinking, piano-driven track with a similar intro, from his 1971 album Santana III. He wasn’t sure about the fit, or the vibe, or even Rob Thomas. It wasn’t the sort of song his band was in the habit of playing. In retrospect, that was precisely the point. 
Read more: Esquire

Back in Black
AC/DC

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