April 17 – Nelson & Sheeley, Vangelis ‘Chariots’, Prince ‘Gold’

1958

Ricky Nelson records rockabilly tune Poor Little Fool. It becomes his first US#1, his tenth top-40 single.
 
A fine singer, Nelson is among the first rockers who could be truly called a teen idol, thanks in part to singing on his parents’ TV show, which lasts 14 years.


Eddie, Sharon

Poor Little Fool was written by the first teen to write a US#1, Sharon Sheeley. (*)
In 1958, she is 18 and the ex-fiancee of Eddie Cochran. Hallelujah 
She later collaborates with hit machine and singer Jackie DeShannon. World Needs Now 

▷Songfacts▹  ( Nelson site ▷Rockabilly HoF:Sheeley▹  ( DeShannon site

1982

Greek electronic composer Vangelis (Evangelos Papathanassiou) album Chariots of Fire begins 4 weeks atop the US charts.
 
Written as the opening theme for the 1981 (4-Oscar, including Best Picture) film Chariots of Fire, the single Chariots of Fire will make US#1 on May 8 (CA#4,UK#12) … the only song by a Greek artist to do so.
 
Much as Tomita had done, Vangelis uses synthesizers as an orchestra; a couple of years later he will be able to create MIDI tracks then record them all simultaneously to tape. The AFI nominated this album and Vangelis’ 1982 (not released ’til 1994) Blade Runner soundtrack on its list of 250 top film scores.
 
 ( Website

1994

Prince makes UK#1 (worldwide top-5) with single The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.
 
It’s found on his Sep. 26, 1995 17th studio album The Gold Experience. Prince’s first Gold Experience was with 1979 3rd album Dirty Mind, although it took five years.  ( Fansite

April 16 – Laurel & Hardy ‘Music Box’, Dekker ‘Israelites’

1932

The Music Box staircase in 2009

Hal Roach(*) Studios release Laurel and Hardy favorite, The Music Box.
 
The story is simple: the boys are delivering a piano … as always, the hard way.
 
One of the their best-loved films, it receives a 1932 Oscar for Best Short Subject, Comedy — the first such film to be honored. In 1997 it’s added to the U.S. National Film Registry.
(*)
 
Much of the clever, affable music so important to the popularity of Roach’s early short films is written by Minnesota-born composer Leroy Shield (*). Roach repeatedly re-used music he commissioned; themes common to L&H comedies are also heard, for example, in children’s comedy series Our Gang.
 
 ( Website  ( Website  ( Laurel and Hardy Central fansite

1969
 Ska becomes Reggae 
 

Dekker

Backed by The Aces, Jamaican singer-songwriter Desmond Dekker has the first UK#1 reggae hit with Israelites (US#9;CA,NL,DE#1).
 
It had been 5 years since Millie Small‘s ska hit My Boy Lollipop (US,UK#2). In the next year Dekker had UK hits with It Miek (UK#7) and Jimmy Cliff‘s You Can Get It If You Really Want.
 
Iconic Cliff film The Harder They Come is released on July 7, 1972. In 2003 Rolling Stone names the film’s soundtrack — which includes music by Dekker and The Slickers — as #119 of its top 500 albums.
Johnny Too Bad     ( Skazine site

See also: Mento, Rocksteady

April in music history #2 – Wurlitzer ‘Sideman’, Joni Mitchell

1959

Wurlitzer begins promoting its new Wurlitzer Sideman on NBC’s ‘Today Show’ and the ‘Jack Paar Show’.
 

The Sideman is the first mass-manufactured drum machine. Designed as an accompaniment for solo organ players — with 10 different sounds produced by 10 vacuum tubes — it costs $375 ($2760 in 2009 dollars).
 
WS demonstration  ▷Synthmuseum▹ ▷120 years of EM▹

1970

Canadian singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell releases masterpiece third album Ladies of the Canyon. (UK#8,CA#16,US#27)

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their T.V.
So they passed his music by
I meant to go over and ask for a song
Maybe put on a harmony
I heard his refrain
As the signal changed

He was playing real good for free

It includes the song Woodstock; in early April a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young cover charts on its way to US#11.
 
Mitchell’s next five studio albums, crafted, tuneful and original, make the top-20 in the US and CA. Notable is 1974’s Court and Spark in which she adds jazz inflections; it includes her biggest hit single Help Me. Over the years she wins 8 Grammies, including a 2002 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
 
 ( Website Both Sides Now  Charlie Rose Greenroom 

April 13 – Handel & Messiah, Hamburg’s Star Club

1743

Young Handel

German-British composer George Frideric Handel‘s oratorio Messiah has its world premiere in Dublin, Ireland. (*)
LSO, For unto us 
 
Born in Halle, Germany on Feb. 3, 1685, in his early years he was a musician in Hamburg. He becomes a kapellmeister in 1710, then moves to England in 1712. He devotes years of his life to writing Italian operas (beginning when he was 19, writing over 40 of them!). In the 1730s he turns increasingly from the fickle fashions of theatre to concert music, writing the English-language choral works and concertos for which he’s remembered. (*)
 
Increasingly popular, Christmas and Easter performances of Messiah (reportedly written in 3 weeks) grow larger and larger; one in 1883 is said to have included 4000 singers and 500 instruments. (*) Other often-recorded works include the Water Music of 1717, and Music for the Royal Fireworks of 1749.
 
He never marries; he collects prints and paintings. In 1824 Beethoven calls him “the greatest composer who ever lived.” (*) Hard to beat that compliment.
 
Pastoral symphony (LPO)  Complete (2008, NY Phil. 1h 54m) 
 
 Edward Dent bio  ( London Handel House site  ( Halle Handel House site

1962

Electrician Manfred Weissleder opens the Star-Club on Große Freiheit Strasse in Hamburg, Germany. (*)

 
The Beatles (playing Hamburg since 1960) are there beginning a seven-week stint (*) which includes Roy Young on piano and a visit from Gene Vincent.
 
Before the club  —  located near the Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli quarter  — closes in 1969, many ‘rock giants’ play there, including Black Sabbath, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Jimi Hendrix and more.
 
The Fabs earlier played to their exi fans at the nearby Indra Club, Kaiserkeller and Top Ten Club.
 
 ( Voorman site

See also: The Beatles in Hamburg

April 12 – Tomita ‘Snowflakes Are Dancing’

1974

Japanese film and TV composer Isao Tomita (*) releases his first album, a electronic realization of Claude Debussy‘s music called Snowflakes Are Dancing.
Arabesque #1  Snowflakes 
 
It’s created on a Moog synthesizer. Because of his experience writing for orchestra, Tomita had

a better appreciation of the ambience needed to create a recording as strong as that of a symphony orchestra…. [He] used phasing and flanging to add movement to an analog sound…. a great majority of the sounds … are processed in some way …. and any tendency to thinness in the basic wave shapes is removed. Tomita was also a master of adding reverberation and excelled at placing sounds and moving them across the stereo [field].
Mark Jenkins, Analog Synthesizers

Since there were no polyphonic synthesizers available (back then, all made only one sound at a time) — and since he was a craftsman — Tomita had taken 14 months to create the album one part at a time.
 
Despite being originally released by RCA in the 4-speaker (Quadraphonic) format (which few would ever own), its amazing and delicately detailed performance is soon recognized as the best  realization since CarlosSwitched-On Bach. The album is nominated for 4 Grammies in 1975. (*)
 
Tomita takes this as a positive sign, and goes on to create 22 more albums by 1996, all equally as delightful. His synthesizer score for 2002 Japanese film The Twilight Samurai (the film wins 37 awards) earns him the 2003 Japan Academy Prize. ‘Samurai’ sample 
 
 ( Website  ( (Japanese) fansite

April 11 – James Brown and Famous Flames ‘Please Please Please’

1956
 Godfather of Soul 

22 year-old South Carolina singer-songwriter James Brown‘s first recording Please, Please, Please hits the charts, where it rises to USR&B#5.

Written with singer Johnny Terry, backed by pianist Bobby Byrd‘s Famous Flames (*), the impassioned performance eventually sells over 3 million. It’s the title track on his 1959 debut studio album, which includes his first USR&B#1, Try Me.

In the next 50 years Brown plants over 40 singles in the US top-40. In 2003 Rolling Stone names six of his songs among its 500 greatest. I Got You (1965) 

Rolling Stone also numbers 1963 album Live at the Apollo (recorded Oct. 24, 1962) at #24 of its top-500 albums; it’s added to the National Recording Registry in 2004, along with Muddy Waters song Hoochie Coochie Man and The PenguinsEarth Angel.

In 2012 Byrd and the Flames are inducted into the Rock HoF.

▷Rock HoF:James Brown (1986)▹
▷Russ & Gary:James Brown ▹
 ( Super Fan Club fansite )

▷NPR:Concerts and interviews▹

April 9 – Oldest known sound recording, Dancing Queen

1860

The world’s oldest known sound recording is made in Paris on the phonautograph (patented by French printer, bookseller Leon Scott on March 25, 1857).
▷Studio 360:Phonautogram▹
 
This 10-second recording of a singer performing ‘Au Clair de la Lune’ is the earliest known recording of a human voice to be played back.
▷NYT story▹ ▷Birth of the recording industry▹ ▷First Sounds▹

1977

Swedish pop group ABBA‘s song Dancing Queen tops the charts in the US.
 
Within a year after its release on Aug. 16, 1976, Dancing Queen has topped the singles charts in at least 16 different countries from Sweden to Japan. It’s included on 1976 int’l #1 album Arrival (the UK’s best-selling in 1977). It becomes the group’s signature song, and has been covered googol times. (Reznor?) Dancing Queen 
 
It’s also heard in the 1999 musical and 2008 British-made film Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep.
 
In 1993 Anni-Frid Lyngstad sings an a capella version for Swedish Queen Silvia’s 50th birthday. Nice. The band’s final album The Visitors is rereleased in a Deluxe format on Apr. 23, 2012.
 
 ( Website ▷About:ABBA’s best▹
▷Classic Bands: Radio’s most-played artists▹  ~ ABBA  

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