Today would’ve been Don Kirshner’s 80th birthday, a fellow who was often called “The Man with the Golden Ear” for his ability to hear a hit, and while he could be as fallible as the next guy on that front, there’s a mountain of evidence available – or certainly a jukebox’s worth, anyway – to support the validity of his nickname.
Born in the Bronx in 1934, Kirshner’s career found him bouncing through different aspects of the music business, including management, production, and songwriting, even hosting his own TV series (Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert), but it was his work as a publisher that gained him the most fame over the years, thanks to the part he played in the so-called Brill Building scene. Granted, the company he founded with Al Nevins, Aldon Music, actually started out a block away and across the street from the building in question, but with songwriters like Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamon, Paul Simon, Phil Spector, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Jack Keller all part of the mix at some point or other, there’s no question that Kirshner recognized talent.
Kirshner had a hand in a trio of record labels over the years (Chairman, Calendar, and Dimension) and also spent time as president of COLGEMS as well, but – to use that as a tie-in – here at Rhino, he’ll always be most fondly remembered for his part in the story of the Monkees, namely helping to provide the material that started them on the road to chart success.
This Saturday is Record Store Day, but it’s highly unlikely that this information is any sort of revelation to you, since we suspect that most folks who’d frequent a record label’s website are the same sort of folks who’d have circled the third Saturday of April on their calendar the day they bought their calendar. But, hey, just in case you’re one of the few who’ve been steered this way by a friend and have no clue what we’re on about, we’ll go ahead and offer a few paragraphs from the event’s official website – and, yes, it is www.recordstoreday.com – to fill you in:
Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.
This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities.
Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records, and on and on.
It’s Dusty Springfield’s birthday today, which is certainly a cause for celebration, even if it’s also an occasion to be sad that she’s not here to share it with us.
Born in West Hempstead, London in 1939, Dusty started life quite some distance away from being a Springfield: her birth name was actually Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. The new moniker came about several years down the line, when, after having spent some time as part of the Lana Sisters, she started a pop-folk trio with her brother, Tom O’Brien, and Tim Feild. After christening the group The Springfields, all three members adopted the band’s name as their surname, with Mary O’Brien giving herself a new first name as well and transforming into – you guessed it – Dusty Springfield.
The Springfields had quite a run in the early 1960s, being honored as the Top British Vocal Group by NME in both ’61 and ’62 and earning two top-five hits in the UK with “Island of Dreams” and “Say I Won’t Be There.” (Somewhere in there, Tim left and was replaced by Mike Hurst.) By the end of ’63, Dusty decided to leave the group in favor of pursuing a solo career. It proved to be a wise move for all parties concerned, since Mike became a successful producer, Tom wrote songs for the New Seekers, including “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “The Carnival is Over,” and “Georgy Girl,” and Dusty…well, she did all right for herself, too.
The Stooges are here! Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, these guys were ignored or derided in the ‘60s, only to see their influence become ubiquitous a few decades later.They were loud, rude, dangerous, funny and really really good. Stripping rock ‘n’ roll back to its primal essence, Iggy & co. helped keep music from crawling too far up its own ass. The Stooges also walked the walk. Sadly, the excesses of the era have taken their toll, as most of the band has now passed on to the other side. But the Ig is still here and so is the music. And, it is glorious, my friends, truly glorious. So, let’s all get loose and listen!
New this week in the iTunes Rhino Catalog Room:
Graham Central Station, Graham Central Station (1974) / Release Yourself (1974): Man, could there possibly be a better opening track to Graham Central Station’s self-titled debut? When you consider how long the band’s fans have been waiting for this material to get the digital-release treatment, it’s almost a little too apropos to hear them singing, “We’ve been waiting for so long / Waiting to play for you some of our songs.” Well, now’s their chance, as both of the band’s 1974 albums, Graham Central Station and Release Yourself, have joined Rhino’s digital catalog, giving you new access to such classic tracks as “It Ain’t No Fun to Me,” “Feel the Need,” “Release Yourself,” and “Can You Handle It?” Oh, but that’s far from all the funk we’ve got for you this week…
Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, My Radio Sure Sounds Good to Me (1978) / Star Walk (1979): We’re jumping ahead a bit with this next batch, but we’ve also added the first albums to be released after Graham Central Station frontman Larry Graham decided it was time to put his own name in front of the band’s…and why not, really? Given his history as one of the key members of Sly and the Family Stone, he’d certainly earned the right. The title tracks from both of these albums scored some airplay, as did the singles “Sneaky Freak,” “(You’re a) Foxy Lady,” and “Is It Love?” There’s plenty of outstanding bass-slapping going on in these grooves…and yet, if you can believe it, there’s still even more funk to come!
Rhino’s rolling out a box set today that collects Black Sabbath’s studio albums from 1970 through 1978... and if that announcement is giving you a strange sense of déjà vu, allow us to freely acknowledge that, yes, we have done this before. But it’s been awhile since we released the so-called Black Box, which collected the band’s output from the same time frame, and that was also a set designed to appeal to both to fans and collectors. This set, meanwhile, is more for those who want the kick-ass music but don’t necessarily care about the kick-ass packaging offered by the previous box. (Also, the other one’s out of print, so if you missed out on that one, this is the only way to get all of the albums in one handy-dandy package.)