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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

February 5, 1986

When I came to the decision to make the month of February Black History Month in this blog, I went into it knowing that I would have to make the Tuesday Timeline entries reflect that.  I would have to make sure that the date that I chose had to have something to do with Black History (or at the very least featured someone of African ancestry).

There are four Tuesdays in February, and for three of the four weeks, finding topics of discussion were very easy. 

This week was the only one that gave me a bit of a struggle.

After doing hours of research, and visiting what seemed like hundreds of “This Day in History” websites, I couldn’t come up with a topic.

That is until I stumbled upon a website on music history, and came up with a passable topic.  Believe me, February 5 was not a date in which there was much going on in the subject of Black History.

However, there was quite a lot that did happen on this date...

62 A.D. – Earthquake in Pompeii, Italy

1597 – A group of early Japanese Christians are killed by the new government of Japan for being a societal threat

1631 – Roger Williams emigrates to Boston

1778 – South Carolina becomes the second state to ratify the Articles of Confederation

1782 – Spanish defeat British forces and capture Minorca

1818 – Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte ascends to the thrones of Sweden and Norway

1848 – American outlaw Belle Starr is born in Carthage, Missouri

1852 – One of the largest and oldest museums in the world, The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, opens to the public

1869 – The largest alluvial gold nugget in history is unearthed in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia

1900 – The United Kingdom and the United States sign a treaty for the Panama Canal

1909 – Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, announces his new invention, Bakelite (the world’s first synthetic plastic)

1917 – On the same day that Mexico adopts its current constitution, the United States Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917, which forbade immigration from nearly all of South and Southeast Asia

1918 – Stephen W. Thompson shoots down a German airplane, but on the same day, SS Tuscania is torpedoed off the coast of Ireland, which killed 210, including several Americans

1919 – Film company United Artists is launched by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith

1924 – The Royal Greenwich Observatory begins broadcasting hourly time signals known as the “Greenwich Time Signal”

1937 – Franklin D. Roosevelt proposes a plan to enlarge the Supreme Court of the United States

1941 – During World War II, Allied forces begin Battle of Keren

1958 – A hydrogen bomb is lost by the United States Air Force (the Tybee bomb) off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, and has never been found

1971 – Astronauts aboard Apollo 14 land on the surface of the moon

1972 – Bob Douglas is elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame, the first African-American to achieve the honour

1976 – The Swine Flu Outbreak of 1976 originates in Fort Dix, New Jersey

1988 – Manuel Noriega is indicted on drug smuggling and money laundering charges

1994 – Sixty people are killed and another 200 are injured after a mortal shell slams into a Sarajevo marketplace during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina

1997 – A $71 million fund to aid Holocaust survivors and their families is established by three of Switzerland’s largest financial institutions

2008 – A major tornado outbreak occurs in the Southern United States, killing fifty-seven people

So, aside from the one event that happened in 1972, there wasn’t a lot to choose from.  Sure, I could have done a feature on the Baskeball Hall of Fame, but because I know very little about basketball, I didn’t think I could do it justice.

There’s also a lot of celebrity birthdays for February 5, and the following people are turning one year older today...Al Worthington, Hank Aaron, Don Cherry, Stuart Damon, Larry Hillman, Jane Bryant Quinn, Dick Warlock, David Selby, Roger Staubach, Cory Wells (Three Dog Night), Nolan Bushnell, Michael Mann, Craig Morton, Al Kooper, Charlotte Rampling, Darrell Waltrip, Christopher Guest, Barbara Hershey, Errol Morris, Tom Wilkinson, Jonathan Freeman, Cliff Martinez (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Mike Heath, David Wiesner, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Laura Linney, Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses), Chris Parnell, Roberto Alomar, Bobby Brown, Sara Evans, Adam Carson (AFI), Brian Moorman, Adam Everett, Ahmad Merritt, Shawn Reaves, Brian Russell, Diedra Dionne, Brian Everett, Nate Salley, Lindsey Cardinale, Crystal Hunt, Paul Vandervort, Ashley Simmons, Jeremy Sumpter, and Davis Cleveland.

So, what date have I decided to finally settle on?

Well, it’s this one.  February 5, 1986.

Twenty-seven years ago on this date, a particular song made its way onto store shelves, radio stations, and MTV.  The song was recorded by an already established African-American star who had released eight albums of varying success.  Although his first few albums didn’t exactly make a dent on the charts, as time went on, he quickly rose up in the ranks of pop music, and soon found himself competing against other artists of colour including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Tina Turner.

And, on February 5, 1986, he released his thirty-first single, which would eventually become his third #1 Billboard hit.  Ironically enough, the song appeared on the film soundtrack that our featured singer also starred on...which didn’t exactly get a lot of positive attention.  Though, I suppose when you consider that the song was the best part of the whole movie, I guess it can’t be all bad news.

So, here’s the deal.  I did find a copy of the music video that I will post here for now, but don’t be surprised if you see this video disappear soon after, as this man is pretty much against all video sharing sites.  So, I just want to tell you all to enjoy the video while it lasts because it might not be staying put.

ARTIST:  Prince and the Revolution
SONG:  Kiss
ALBUM:  Parade:  Music from the Motion Picture “Under the Cherry Moon”
DATE RELEASED:  February 5, 1986
(NOTE:  I cannot post the video in the actual blog...sorry.)

Now, I have a confession to make.  “Kiss” is not my favourite Prince song.  I’m more of a “Raspberry Beret” kind of guy.  But since the song was released exactly twenty-seven years ago, and I was trying to come up with a suitable topic for the Tuesday Timeline, I figure that I’d go with it.

But before I go ahead with the song discussion, how about a brief biography of the singer who took this song to the top of the charts?

It seems hard to believe but Prince Rogers Nelson is going to be turning fifty-five years old this year!  According to his bio, he was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  That’s absolutely mind-boggling to me that Prince is turning 55.  Where did time go?

Prince was one of those people that seemed destined for a career in music, writing his very first song at the age of seven.  Ten years later, he was a part-time member of his cousin’s band, 94 East, recording a few songs with them before deciding to try his hand at a solo career.  He had a few unsuccessful attempts with demo tapes, but in 1978, he released his first album, “For You”.  His next three albums, 1979’s “Prince”, 1980’s “Dirty Mind”, and 1981’s “Controversy” all had varying levels of success, and in 1982, Prince released “1999”, which many people might consider his true breakout hit album, with the title track and “Little Red Corvette” doing extremely well on the charts, and on MTV.

In 1984, Prince began to refer to his band as “The Revolution”, and its members were comprised of Lisa Coleman, Doctor Fink, Bobby Z, Brown Mark, Dez Dickerson, and Jill Jones.  When Dickerson left the group, Wendy Melvoin was brought in as a replacement.

TRIVIA:  Wendy Melvoin is the woman that plays the guitar next to a dancing Prince in the “Kiss” video.

I would say that 1984 was the year that Prince catapulted himself into a household name.  Not only did he star in the cult classic “Purple Rain” (which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score), but the soundtrack album of the same name sold thirteen million copies, had four Top 10 singles (including the #1 songs “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”), and is ranked at #76 of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.  I know that I own a copy of “Purple Rain”, and I’m sure that many of you reading this can claim the same.

With the success that Prince had with “Purple Rain”, many wondered if he would be able to have repeat success when he starred in the 1986 film “Under the Cherry Moon” in the role of a gigolo going by the name of Christopher Tracy.  After all, he was also doing the music for the film, which would be compiled in an album with the title of “Parade”.

Well, unfortunately for Prince, “Under the Cherry Moon” proved to be a dud at the box office.  Made on a budget of $12 million, the film only managed to rake in just a little over $10 million, resulting in a loss of nearly two million.  And, instead of winning Academy Awards, it won five Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Actor, Worst Director (both of whom went to Prince himself), and Worst Picture.  Though, to be fair, the “honour” for Worst Picture was shared with the asinine “Howard the Duck”.

All the movie was a disaster.  The film’s soundtrack album on the other hand...well, it did a lot better.  It didn’t quite match the success of “Purple Rain”, but it managed to sell enough copies for it to land at the #3 position on the Billboard 200 Album Charts.

I think “Kiss” was the main reason why the album did quite well.  As I said before, “Kiss” may not be my personal favourite of Prince’s songs, but I can admire the fact that it sounded a lot different compared to his earlier releases.  Whereas most of his songs were dominated by heavy guitar riffs and dance beats, “Kiss” was almost simplistic by comparison.  In fact, “Kiss” was actually a last minute addition to the soundtrack album. 

“Kiss” began as a minute long acoustic demo in late 1985, with just a verse and chorus fully completed.  He actually intended for the song to be recorded by someone else other than him, so he gave the demo to funk band Mazerati to be used for their debut album.

The group reworked the song, and recorded it in such a way that when Prince heard the demo, he was blown away by what they had done to the song, and decided to take the song back for himself!

(I would hope that he at least gave them credit for the song in the liner notes of the album.  I don’t have a copy of it handy on me, so I have no idea.  If anyone does know if they were credited, let me know in the comments section below!  J )

EDITED TO ADD:  Okay, after doing some research, I did discover that he in fact did credit the band for their backing vocals. 

Anyway, Prince re-recorded the song using his own vocals, added a guitar riff in between the second chorus and third verse, and added the song to the soundtrack at zero hour. 

Would you believe that Warner Brothers (the record company that Prince was signed to at the time) were not willing to release the single at all?  They believed that he should release “Mountains” instead (which eventually became the second single release from “Parade” in May 1986).  But, Prince refused to back down, and he ended up getting his way.  “Kiss” was released in February, and by the spring, became his third #1 hit.

The song also helped Prince add a Grammy Award to his growing collection (minus the Razzies, of course).  He won the award for “Best R & B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group”, and was nominated for “Best R & B Song”.

The song itself is a frequent staple at many of Prince’s concerts, and it was recently placed on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, charting at position number 461.’s still within the Top 500.

And, the song has since been covered by several artists...the most famous example being Tom Jones’ collaboration with Art of Noise in 1988, which can be seen below.

And, that’s what happened on February 5, 1986. 

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