It was today in 1958 that California latino-rock band The Champs released a single that would later become a staple for Tacoma’s Ventures, and the signature tune of the U.W. Husky Marching Band. Tequila would be their only hit.
The Who released their first single as The Who today in 1965, though they had already put out I’m The Face b/w Zoot Suit as The High Numbers. I Can’t Explain sounded a whole lot like The Kinks hit of the previous year, All Day And All Of The Night. Pete Townsend later said, “It can’t be beat for straightforward Kink copying. There is little to say about how I wrote this. It came out of the top of my head when I was 18 and a half.” Produced by the Chicago-born Shel Talmy, who also worked with The Kinks, it featured background vocals by a three-man singing group called The Ivy League, and rhythm guitar by a studio musician who would go on to become quite famous in his own right, Jimmy Page. There is some controversy as to whether Page’s contribution made it to the final mix, but Page remarked “What a privilege it was to be a part of that pure adrenaline rush.”
The Rolling Stones appeared on CBS’s Ed Sullivan Show tonight in 1967, their 5th appearance since Ed swore they’d never be back after fans trashed the theater. This time he insisted they change the racy lyrics to their song Let’s Spend The Night Together to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together”. Unlike Doors frontman Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger went along with the request, but made a point of rolling his eyes at the camera while singing the alternate lyrics. This infuriated Ed who again said the band would never play his show again. They would be back in 1969, and two of the show’s producers said that Sullivan had asked them to wear matching suits “for a cleaner look” at that performance. The band showed up in rented Nazi uniforms, which again infuriated the host.
George Harrison called a five-hour meeting with John, Paul, and Ringo today in 1969, to make clear that he was fully prepared to quit The Beatles and was totally unhappy with their plans for live performances including the Let It Be film project.
James Gang and solo guitarist Joe Walsh was officially announced as The Eagles replacement for founder Bernie Leadon today in 1976.
A new pop-music show premiered on British television tonight in 1983 called Gastank, hosted by former Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman.
Elton John’s longtime bass player Dee Murray died of a stroke at age 45 today in 1992 after a long battle with skin cancer. Dee had been in Elton’s heyday band since the Tumbleweed Connection album, and also worked in Los Angeles and Nashville as a session player, and with Rick Springfield, Procul Harum, and Alice Cooper.
Singer, songwriter, and keyboard player Harry Nilsson died of a heart attack at 52 today in 1994. He had a couple of big hits as a solo artist, and also wrote big hits for Three Dog Night, The Monkees, and the theme songs to the movie Midnight Cowboy and the TV show The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. In 1973 he became notorious for hanging out with John Lennon during his separation from Yoko Ono: John had intended to produce Harry’s new record, but the two ended up on an L.A. drinking binge that got them thrown out of nightclubs (most famously the Troubadour, where they were tossed for heckling the Smothers Brothers) and causing extensive property damage.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Don Van Vliet would be 72, better known by his stage name Captain Beefheart. He died just before his 70th birthday from complications of Multiple Sclerosis, and though he developed a huge cult following is most famous for his collaborations with Frank Zappa which started when they were both teenagers.
Lynyrd Synyrd’s original lead singer and lyricist Ronnie Van Zant would be 65 today had he not been killed in the 1977 plane that nearly ended the band at age 29. Had he not been interested in music, he might well have become a boxer, professional baseball player, or stock-car racer. Lynyrd Skynyrd these days is fronted by his younger brother Johnny, and middle brother Donnie fronts .38 Special.
Electric Light Orchestra’s cellist and occasional keyboard player Melvyn Gale is 61.