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Today in Music History August 4

Prince – Purple Rain

1984 Prince’s 6th album, Purple Rain begins a 24 week run at the top of the US album charts.  Think about that for a second – from Aug 4, 1984 through January 12, 1985, Purple Rain was the #1 album in America.  Kind of hard to believe in today’s world where if an album sells 100,000 its first week and then disappears, it’s considered a success.  Of course there was no such thing as streaming in 1984, but still.  Michael Jackson’s Thriller had held the top spot for 15 weeks from the beginning of the year (after being at #1 for 22 weeks in 1983), followed by the Footloose soundtrack for 10 weeks, Sport by Huey Lewis and the News for a week, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen for 4 weeks, and then it was Prince the rest of the year in January 1985.  As of 2008, it has sold over 25 million copies.

The album, the soundtrack to the film of the same name, and the first with his band The Revolution, spun off two #1 singles ‘When Doves Cry‘ and ‘Let’s Go Crazy‘, the #2 single ‘Purple Rain‘, and the top 10 single ‘I Would Die 4 U‘.  While Prince was already a major star at this point, Purple Rain launched him into the stratosphere, just as Thriller and Born in the USA had done for Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen (and all in the span of the same year).

Before Purple Rain, Prince‘s work had mainly been centered in  R&B and funk – Purple Rain pushed him more into a amalgam of pop, rock, R&B, dance, and psychedelia that blended together produced a classic set of songs and served as a preview of the wide stylistic directions he would take for the remainder of his career.

In 2012, the Library of Congress added Purple Rain to its National Recording Registry, which includes songs that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”

Here are some videos to remember the album.





Sources: This Day in; Wikipedia’ Billboard; Library of Congress

Today in Music History July 30

1954 Elvis Presley, in his first live concert appearance, appears on the show Hillbilly Hoedown, opening for Slim Whitman.  According to reports, Elvis was so nervous that he stood on the balls of his feet and shook his leg in time to the music.  After he came offstage, he wanted to know why the audience was yelling at him.  They were reacting to the leg shaking, and a signature move was born.

July 30, 1954 advertisement in the Memphis Press Scimitar

1955, Johnny Cash begins recording ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ at Sun Recording Studio in Memphis.  The song was inspired by a movie about the prison that Cash had seen while serving in the US Air Force in West Germany.


1966, The Troggs cover of ‘Wild Thing’ starts a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart.  Interestingly, the same song had been released by an American band, The Wild Ones, a year earlier but failed to make the charts.


2003 Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records and Sun Recording Studio, dies of respiratory failure in Memphis, Tennessee. Phillips discovered Elvis Presley, and worked with other legends of rock and roll, including Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, as well as Ike Turner and blues legend B.B. King.

Image result for sam phillips

Source: This Day in, Wikipedia, YouTube, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Elvis Presley Music



Today in Music History July 28

1948 So you say its your birthday –  Gerald Casale, vocalist, bass guitar/synthesizer player, and a founding member of the Devo. The band blazed the trail of new wave music with their 1980 hit ‘Whip It’.


1969 Moscow police dealt with thousands of calls reporting vandals destroying public phone booths.  Apparently a Russian youth magazine had shown how to use phone parts to convert acoustic guitars to electric ones.

1979 Bob Geldolf’s Boomtown Rats reach #2 in the UK with ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’.  The song was written about a mass shooting in San Diego, CA, in which the shooter, in explaining their actions, was quoted as saying “I don’t like Mondays, this livens up the day.”


Sources: This Day in; Wikipedia


Today in Music History July 27

1944 Today is the birthday of Bobbie Gentry, US singer and songwriter, whose song ‘Ode to Billie Joe‘ came out of nowhere in 1967 and knocked the Beatles (All You Need is Love) out of the #1 spot on the US singles chart.  She was one of the first female country artists to compose and produce her own material.  ‘Ode to Billie Joe’s Southern gothic story line left listeners with a mystery – what was thrown off the Tallahatchie Bridge and who was with Billie Joe.  The song was Gentry’s only hit.  For more on the song and the artist, check out this Rolling Stone story.


1974 Paul McCartney‘s post-Beatles group Wings started a seven-week run at No.1 on the UK album chart with Band On The Run. The two singles off the album, ‘Jet’, and ‘Band on the Run’ helped the album become one of the top selling albums of 1974.


1976 Bruce Springsteen sued his manager Mike Appel for fraud and breach of trust in a attempt to get out of his contract with Appel’s Laurel Canyon Ltd.  Appel in turn counter sued Springsteen, leading a judge to issue an injunction against Springsteen being able to record.  Coming on the heels of the success of Born to Run, this was potentially disastrous for Springsteen’s career.  The case dragged on for over 10 months, resulting the year after in an out of court settlement giving Springsteen control of his recordings and career.  But Springsteen’s next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, wasn’t released until 1978, and showcased a much different writing style than Born to Run.  Gone were the sweeping musical and lyrical epics, replaced with tighter, sparer, grittier character portraits.

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Sources: This Day in; Wikipedia.

Today in Music History July 22

1965 Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones were fined £5 each in a London court after being found guilty of ‘insulting behaviour’ at a British gas station. The three had all urinated against a wall after the  station attendant had refused them the use of the facilities.  More at Rolling


1967 The Doors perform ‘The Crystal Ship’ and ‘Light My Fire’ on American Bandstand. Cultures clash….


1977 Tony Orlando announces his retirement from music on stage in Massachusetts, shocking the audience and his group Dawn.  Two months later he is back at work, although he never was as popular again.  Music fans rejoice.