It’s not the kind usually written about here, but the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was rock-and-rolling today in 1940. The four-month-old suspension bridge, third-longest in the world at the time, moved so much in high winds it had already been nicknamed “Gallopin’ Gertie” by ironworkers building it, who sucked lemons to combat motion sickness. Whenever the wind was “right” traffic jams would form from thrill-seekers wanting to drive the span, but everyone considered it “safe”…right up until today in 1940 at about 11 AM when the center section collapsed, the “Pearl Harbor Of Bridge Engineering”. The only fatality was a dog that bit it’s owner when he tried to get it out of the car he was abandoning.
Rockbilly guitarist Eddie Cochran hit the charts in the U.S. and Britain (#’s 8 and 18 respectively) today in 1958 with a song that would later be a hit for The Who and country singer Alan Jackson: Summertime Blues. He was killed in a car crash at age 21 while touring in England with Gene Vincent.
The Beatles traveled to Dublin Ireland today in 1963 for the only two shows they would ever play in that country. Backstage at the Adelphi Cinema they hooked up with screenwriter Alun Owen, who had been given the task of scripting their as-yet-unnamed upcoming movie (It’s title would come from a Ringo-ism: A Hard Day’s Night), and jotting down notes on their hectic lifestyle.
Pianist and singer Reg Dwight and his lyric-writing partner Bernie Taupin signed a publishing deal today in 1967, paving the way for a recording contract. Their signatures had to be witnessed by their parents as they were both under 21. Reginald, who later legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John, had found Taupin through an ad placed in New Musical Express. They have done over 30 albums together.
The Rolling Stones kicked off their 6th North American tour today in 1969 at Fort Collins State University in Colorado. By this time, they were big enough that they could bring some of their early heroes along as opening acts: Chuck Berry, B.B. King, and Ike and Tina Turner.
Paul McCartney was on the cover of Life Magazine today in 1969, with the headline Paul Is Still With Us. Interviewed at his farm in Scotland, Paul called B.S. on the “clues” cited in rumors that he had died in a 1967 car crash and was replaced by a look-alike, and added “Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately. I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for ten years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”
Ted Nugent won a national squirrel-shooting contest today in 1974, nailing a bushy-tailed rodent at 150 yards. Over the three day event, Ted shot and killed 27 other animals as well.
Guns-N-Roses rhtyhm guitarist Izzy Stradlin quit today in 1991. The newly sober Stradlin was having difficulty remaining so around perpetually intoxicated bandmates Slash, Duff McKagen, and Matt Sorum, and he’d had enough of Axl Rose’s toxic personality. He was replaced by Gilby Clarke.
Jimmy Page appeared at the MTV-Europe Awards today in 2001 at the invitation of lesser-talents Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit and Wes Scantlin of Puddle Of Mudd, who were apparently being given awards for sucking. The three played Led Zeppelin’s Thank You together, then went backstage to ogle blonde bombshell singer Kylie Minogue.
Though such antics are usually reserved for Stanley Cup hockey games, 12 Vancouver BC natives were arrested for rioting today in 2002 after Guns-N-Roses show at BC place was cancelled unexpectedly. But for once it wasn’t singer Axl Rose’s fault: His flight from Los Angeles had been delayed.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Guitarist John Ramistella is 70, and still playing occasionally to this day better known by the stage name he changed to at the suggestion of DJ Alan Freed in 1958: Johnny Rivers.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter-guitarist Joni Mitchell is 69 and comfortably retired from music living north of us in British Columbia. Mostly a folk singer, she’s best known in rock and roll circles for writing Woodstock from TV news reports on the festival from her hotel room after she blew it off to appear on The Tonight Show, and from reports from her then-boyfriend Graham Nash.
KISS’s replacement for lead guitarist Ace Frehley, Tommy Thayer is 52.