The “pre-fab four” made their U.S. television debut tonight in 1966 as N.B.C. ran the first of 58 episodes of The Monkees. Lead singer and drummer (who did not know how to play when the show started, but learned along the way) Mickey Dolenz said the show was “…about a band that wanted to be the Beatles, that was never successful”, then later “The Monkees really becoming a band was like the equivalent of Leonard Nimoy really becoming a Vulcan.” The band had little to do with the music initially. Producer Don Kirshner assumed the role of musical director, and the songs were written by established hitmakers (Last Train to Clarksville: Boyce and Hart; Pleasant Valley Sunday: Gerry Coffin and Carole King; Daydream Believer: John Stewart of The Kingston Trio), but Michael Nesmith wrote some pretty good ones himself (Mary, Mary, and a song that later became a hit for Linda Ronstadt, Different Drum). At the peak of their popularity, The Monkees were outselling the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. After the death of Davy Jones earlier this year, the surviving Monkees, including the reclusive Nesmith, announced they are reuniting for a tour beginning in November.

The chaos of The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour filming continued today in 1967, as the bus they were using had already become a magnet for a convoy of Beatles fans and journalists. At one point the driver tired to take a shortcut to escape the rolling traffic jam they’d created, and ended up getting stuck on a bridge.

Guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter had become aware of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s intention to retire from touring and make Steely Dan exclusively a studio band, and joined The Doobie Brothers today in 1974. While working at the famous Manny’s Music Shop in Manhattan in the mid 60’s, Jeff had met Jimi Hendrix, and briefly played in his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, along with fellow Manny’s employee Randy California (who would go on to form Spirit). In the mid 80’s Baxter’s interest in recording technology and chatting at length with his aerospace engineer neighbor led him to fall into a second career as a self-taught defense consultant, starting it with a 5 page paper that proposed converting the ship based Aegis anti-aircraft computer system to missile defense. “We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said. “My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”

Jimmy Page was in a recording studio in Montreaux, Switzerland today in 1976 with John Bonham, using a new piece of technology…The Eventide Harmonizer…to use Bonham’s Moby Dick drum solo to trigger samples of Caribbean steel drums in what would become “Bonzo’s Montreaux“.

Paul and Linda McCartney’s third child James was born today in 1977. He spent the first two years of his life on the road touring with Wings, but later said his first inspiration to play the guitar came watching Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future. Dad was all too happy to give him his first instrument at age 9, a Fender Stratocaster that had once belonged to Carl Perkins.

Aerosmith released their 10th studio album Pump today in 1989. The album produced three major hits (Love in an Elevator, The Other Side, and Janie’s Got a Gun), and a landmark lawsuit brought by a small band named Pump. Aerosmith won.

Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie announced that they would be leaving Fleetwood Mac at the end of the tour they were on today in 1990.  They be back on stage with them a little over two years later at the inauguration of Bill Clinton.

The surviving members of Led Zeppelin announced today in 2007 that they would reunite for the first time in almost 20 years at a charity concert in honor of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, with John Bonham’s son Jason on drums. The show at London’s O2 Arena the following December set a Guinness World Record for “Highest demand for tickets for one music concert” (over 20 million requests), and sparked hope that the band would tour, but Robert Plant was not interested. Zep’s Official page on The Facebook lately has been running a countdown, using the roman numbers featured on their albums…today is a “I”…indicating that they will announce something tomorrow…most likely a release of the 2007 reunion in some form.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Guitarist, singer and songwriter from the British-American soft rock band America, Gerry Beckley is 60.

Drummer extraordinaire,  lyricist, and dual-sport motorcycle enthusiast Neil “The Professor” Peart (pronounced “Peert”) of Rush is also 60.





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