America’s Biggest Band Plays First Show, Graham Opens Fillmore, Sax Invents Ophone: This Day In Classic Rock [Video]

British invasion in reverse? American invasion? They didn’t make anywhere near as big a splash as their English counterparts did here, but The Beach Boys were on their first tour of The Misty Isles today in 1964, and appeared live on ITV’s Ready! Steady! Go!

The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane were headliners at the first rock show put on by promoter Bill Graham tonight in 1965 at a theater at the corner of Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street in San Francisco, the Fillmore Auditorium. Two years later the popularity of San Francisco’s music scene would outgrow the smallish hall, and Graham would move to the larger Carousel Ballroom nearer downtown at Van Ness and Market, which Graham renamed the Fillmore West to compliment the Fillmore East, which he had opened in New York’s Greenwich Village. The Fillmore West closed in 1971 and was bulldozed to make way for a car dealership. The original location carried on as The Elite Club,  hosting shows by San Francisco punk bands like The Dead Kennedys before being re-aquired by Graham.  The building was damaged in the 1989 earthquake, and though Graham died in a 1991 helicopter crash his friends carried out his wishes in rebuilding, and the venue survives to this day, managed and booked by the corporate giant Live Nation, who are currently extending the brand to other cities. Some Fillmore traditions that survive include a chronological progression of psychedelic poster art in the lobby, a tub of free apples near the entrance, and a greeter who welcomes each guest with “Welcome to the Fillmore!”

The Rolling Stones had their second American #1 hit today in 1965 with Get Off Of My Cloud, which knocked the Beatles Yesterday from that spot.

Joe Cocker was at number one in England today in 1968 with a reworking of a Beatles song, With A Little Help From My Friends, featuring studio musician Jimmy Page on lead guitar. Joe would remain mostly unknown in America until the concert film of the Woodstock festival made him a superstar.

The Monkees feature film Head opened in New York tonight in 1968. Costing three-quarters of a million dollars to produce, the film strayed from the band’s TV show teenybopper image and into dark psychedelic existentialism, as written by director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson. Even with parts played by Frank Zappa, Dennis Hopper, and Toni Basil critics hated it, and it flopped at the box office.

Aerosmith played their first ever show tonight in 1970 at Nipmuc Regional High School outside of Boston in Mendon, Massachusetts. They went on to sell over 150 million records, making them the most popular American rock band of all time.

Former Byrds crew members Michael Martin and Phil Kaufman were in court in Los Angles today in 1973, being fined $300 each for the theft of a coffin from LAX airport containing the body of Gram Parsons. The two told the court they were merely carrying out Parson’s wishes in their botched attempt at cremating him at Joshua Tree National Monument.

Seattle’s Pearl Jam were at #1 on the U.S. album charts today in 1993 with their second album Vs. Selling just under a million copies in its first week, it still holds the U.S. debut-week record sales record.

Rock and Roll Birthdays

Flute and clarinet player Adolphe Sax would be 198 today, and completely forgotten for his playing but not for the instrument he invented that bears his name: The Saxophone.

George Young is 66, guitarist and songwriter in The Easybeats and producer of early albums by his little brothers Angus and Malcolm’s band AC/DC.

Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey is 63.

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